Lake Placid is a great place -- a quaint, picturesque village by the lake, surrounded by mountains. Yes, that's right, mountains.
Quite a place for a half-marathon.
We had been told to expect a "hilly" course, and the team even added some hill repeats to our weekly runs. But I don't think I was truly prepared for the hills (um, mountains) that we'd encounter.
The Lake Placid race was a good excuse for a team roadtrip. I rode up in Dave's car -- the official TnT-mobile (which also often serves as rolling support during training runs), complete with a TnT magnet on the door -- along with Nancy, Shawnna and Coach Jack.
When we reached the relatively small ferry to cross from Vermont to New York, we happened to bump into Matt and Seth -- both ready to tackle their first 13.1.
As we approached town, we remarked at the number of cyclists, also noting how challenging a bike ride would be on these hilly roads. Yes, many of the same roads we'd be running the next morning. Ready or not.
Being Inspired - Again
On the eve of a race, Tnt puts on an Inspiration Dinner -- and, as hokey as this may sound, it really is inspiring.
I've attended four or five of these dinners now, and I don't think there's one that doesn't give me goosebumps, bring a few tears to my eyes or just leave me in awe of what we do.
Our team runs are often so focused on training and mileage, that we often forget that we're part of something bigger -- part of a group of people that's raising literally millions of dollars to help fight blood cancers.
In all, about 350 TnT runners from the Northeast teams raised money and participated in the Lake Placid race. Not only did they train for a half or full marathon -- these athletes did so while raising an impressive $850,000.
And many of them did it while dealing with personal challenges.
Take Jennie, for example. Jennie is a vibrant, pretty, 30-something-year-old who's already dealt with more than any of us ever will. She's a mom of four and her husband, Rhett, was battling leukemia when she signed up for TnT earlier this year.
A month or so into our training, Rhett lost his battle and Jennie, like a rock, continued with her training and her fundraising, all with a smile. Although her job prevented her from attending many team runs, we'd check in on her to make sure she was on track. She always was.
A photo of Jennie and Rhett flashed across the screen at the Lake Placid Inspiration Dinner. It looked like they were at a bonfire or a cookout. They were smiling -- Rhett's arms around Jennie as she leaned against him. It made me realize again that TnT isn't just about running or friendships. It's about people like Jennie and Rhett. And their kids.
The Inspiration Dinner isn't all about tears -- it certainly can't be, not the day before a big race that's supposed to be the celebration of months of hard work.
There's a lot of cheering, whistles, cowbells -- and this year I noticed more than a few tamborines.
The New York City coach gave us some last-minute -- and hilaroius -- pointers, relayed to us in an accent that made his words even funnier. Things like this:
- Pace yourself. If you see a Kenyan or an Ethopian running next to you, you're probably going faster than you should.
- If you think you're ready for the last hill, you're not. This coach had run the course at least 20 times -- and "that hill sucks every time." (More on this later, but he was not exaggerating one bit!)
- The coaches on the sidelines will cheer for you -- but you have to be moving forward. You can be running, walking or crawling, but just move forward.
- Sorry, but no one from TnT is going to win the race. So just have fun.
I've suddenly realized that my workdays are a chance for me to sleep in. It always seems that some early-morning obligation is dragging me out of bed earlier than I should have to get up on a weekend. Race days are no exception -- especially when you're running with TnT.
Our itinerary told us to be in the hotel lobby at 5:30 a.m. for breakfast and the ride over to the starting line. (While that's pretty early, that's nothing compared to the 2 a.m. meeting I had before the Disney race!)
The lobby was filled with a sea of purple jerseys, most decorated with puffy paint and marker. Runners fueled up on bananas, bagels and peanut butter, crackers and other pre-race eats.
Soon, after a wait in a monsterously long porta-potty line, we were at the Start Line. The announcer played some energizing music and we found ourselves dancing slightly.
Then we were off.
The crowd of 2,000 runners made it's way up the first hill -- very slowly because we were crammed into the narrow streets. Soon, the crowd thinned as runners found their paces. We wound our way along the course, with a beautiful view of the lake.
There's one thing we found out quickly. This course was hilly. Really hilly.
I ran along at a pretty good pace -- although I was unable to keep up with Scott, who pulled ahead quickly. hese were hills weren't like ones I was used to running. I checked my watch at every mile marker and was pleased to see that I was steadily under a 10-minute mile. I was on track for a personal best.
I high-fived Jack when I saw him on the sidelines at Mile 4. The out-and-back course gave a great opportunity to see and celebrate with all of the Seacoast Team. More smiles and high-fives.
Somewhere around Mile 9, as the hills and the heat caught up to me. I slowed dramatically, even stopping to walk many of the hills. I started to feel that familiar twinge in my left IT Band. Ugh, I thought, not today. At times I felt that I was running unevenly -- not exactly limping, but not exactly running normally either.
I couldn't wait to see Jack at Mile 10-ish -- he'd have The Stick.
The Stick is a simple device, but it works miracles. It's made up of a series of hard, plastic rollers that you massage over your muscles. The label describes it as "a toothbrush for your muscles" -- no joke. And boy, does it work.
I saw Jack about mid-way up one of the bigger hills. He handed me the stick and I massaged is along my left leg and we walked up the hill together -- chatting briefly about how the teammates were doing. I reached the top and was off again, reminding myself there were only three miles to go. No problem.
Those last three miles seemed to go on forever. And they seemed mostly uphill.
I put the idea of personal best out of my mind quickly. I just wanted to finish in a reasonable time. Maybe I just wanted to finish, period.
I walked a lot more of the hills than I'd like to admit -- especially this last hill, a ridiculous ending to an already-difficult course.
This hill was like nothing I'd ever seen. At every turn, just when you thought it might be over, it went on -- and it got steeper. At one point, I even said "this is just mean" to a spectator as I went by. The hill turned into switchbacks as we approached The Oval, the site of the 1980 Olympics, and the final steps of the race.
The crowds cheered and runners made their way, finally up the exhausting hill, to the track. Everything in me wanted to turn left, the shortest distance to the Finish Line, but the course took us to the right. I went around the track, which seemed to go on forever, and finally across the Finish Line.
As I crossed, I heard the announcer say my name. Then he asked, "Teresa, how do you feel?"
I managed to give a pretty energetic two-thumbs-up and a smile.
But that wasn't really how I was feeling. I felt like the course had gotten the best of me. Still, I finished and I felt relatively okay at that point. My official time was somewhere around 2 hours, 15 minutes.
Got The Fever
Almost immediately after the race was over -- I think we were still in our running clothes on the field -- talk began about the next race.
A lot of it was fueled by Matt, who had a tougher-than-expected run and dealt with cramping calves for most of the way. It's disappointing not to have a good race, but we all hoped it didn't diminish his sense of accomplishment and didn't turn him away from running another.
It was very much the opposite, actually. He's got his sights set on another 13.1 as soon as possible -- and most likely, most of us will join him.
I know exactly how he feels. I wanted to run this race stronger. I felt more prepared than many of the other races I'd done. It was frustrating not to at least run all of the miles.
There aren't many long-distance races during the summer months (we're probably unknowingly thankful for that), so it looks like we'll be heading up to Portland in October.
I have my current PR at the Maine course. And I'm going for another now.
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