Monday, September 17, 2012

A Beautiful New England (almost) Fall Weekend!

25 days until the Hartford Marathon! What better way to celebrate, er train, than to run 21 miles!? Did that this weekend… plus some…

Due to a pop-up weekend work day coming up at the end of September, I had to shift my training schedule. I had not planned a 21-miler until 2 weeks from now (on a day which I’ll need to now work) but pleasant weather, an open schedule and a sense of motivation led me to doing my longest run (pre-marathon) this past Saturday.  I left the house at 6:00 a.m. and headed east for Simsbury. A quaint beautiful town, while even though only 12 miles away, seemed to be booming with the feel of autumn, even more so than Windsor. 

Miles 1-5… left the house in the rain. I knew it was a passing shower so I headed out anyway. Fluorescent singlet, check.  Head lamp, check.  40 ounces of water and Gatorade, check.  New running shoes, check! Around mile 4, I recognized a smell. It was sweet and unique. It was the smell of drying shade tobacco. The town’s fields had been picked over the last few weeks and the crops hung to cure.  I believe The Farmington Valley is the only area in the country which still grows shade tobacco. It originated here and I THINK is still exclusive to this area.  I do not condone tobacco use but the smell is wonderful and reminiscent of late summer and early fall. Just lovely.

Miles 6-12… Sun came up, head lamp went off.  From my head to my waist it went. The thing only weighs a few ounces but it feels heavy after a while on the noggin.  I exited Windsor and entered Bloomfield, but only the little “forgotten corner” which happens to contain one of my most favorite stretches of road.  Route 189 in this little nook, I consider a corridor. The walls are high with cliffs covered in maple and oak trees and some were already turning to shades of yellows and reds. The corridor runs parallel to a portion of the Farmington River, known as the Tariffville Gorge. A white water “elbow” in the river which was home to various mills and factories at the turn of the century.  I took it all in as I entered Simsbury.

I took a left up Route 315, a big hill which felt strangely easy to climb. Up the hill, through the woods, to the Greenway to Starbucks in the center of town. I had planned on meeting another runner there and she was to take me on an 8ish mile loop through Simsbury and back to Starbucks where my husband would pick me up from. I was right on time. We introduced ourselves and we headed east. 

 My view as I headed over the bridge onto the Greenway.

Miles 13-21… Up and down the streets of the center of Simsbury is beautiful. Flags on antiquated lamp posts line the road. Potted plants don brick sidewalks. Small town shops, restaurants and “haunted” hotels are an added bonus for those that choose this little town to “leaf peep” during a New England autumn. As we ran through town toward another part of the Greenway, I embraced it. A chilly, sunny, early morning run through a gorgeous town are the qualities which make a long run so enjoyable. Then to be so cliché, once we reached the Greenway, two deer crossed our path. 

One of two deer I captured on camera.

Our route then took us over the steel bridge, past the largest tree in the state, the Pinchot Sycamore, onto Simsbury’s East Weatogue Street.  With Heublien Tower behind us we ventured past vineyards and farms showcasing pumpkins and squash.  Past a “second chance farm” for animals whom were not wanted by the previous owner. We said hello to donkeys, ducks, horses and goats. Onward by the old militia training fields then followed the Farmington River back into town. 

My whole run, which I rewarded with an iced coffee at Starbucks, was an enjoyable 20.8 miles. Yes, I’m rounding up and calling it a 21-miler!  As if the length of the run wasn’t enough to make a girl feel empowered, I averaged a 9:45/mile pace. My confidence was restored with regard to leading the 4:25:00 pace group for the Hartford Marathon. All summer I’ve been running in shoes I knew were worn out. I knew the lack of padding and support was contributing to a slower pace all summer; that mixed with heat and humidity, ugh! But finally, on Saturday, I was faster than my goal speed for the marathon. Great weather, new shoes and a companion for the last 8 miles were all contributing factors.  What a great run!!

Later in the day, I met up with one of my oldest friends at the pumpkin patch, and let the kids run around like crazy. Then I took Justin to the driving range. We ended the day with white pizza topped with shrimp and veggies. Was a great fall day!

My little cutie at Brown's Harvest.

Sunday was great too! I started the day with my two favorite guys. It was snuggle-fest with hubby and Justin until I decided to enjoy a cup of pumpkin coffee. I relaxed with my mug on the couch surrounded by the crisp, cool air flowing in through the windows. Only a few more hours until the Tavern Trot!

The Tavern Trot is a 3.5 mile road and trail race has run for 6 years. All proceeds go to Alex’s Lemonade Stand, and organization which raises money to fight children’s cancer.  Last year I placed in my age group. This year, I did not. 

My sister Missy came over around 11:30 a.m. and we ran down to the start of the race. It was the biggest turn out the organizers had seen in all the years. 700 registered runners!! 

12:30 p.m. gun time… on your marks, get set, GO!  It was a hot run.  Though hot, not humid. But the sun was beaming down hard.  I hate running in the heat.  My mouth was dry and I could feel the sunburn setting in.  Heat mixed with the sore muscles from my long run the day prior had me doubting a placement in my age group. I learned at mile one though, I was pacing 7:36. Wow! That’s not bad I thought, maybe I would place.  Mile 2, I was at 16:08. Hmmm, I’ve slowed down, I thought. Mile 3 was 24:00. Finish time was 28:05 or something. No placement, but the stats showed I was 5th in my bracket. I was pleased, but still a tad disappointed I couldn’t have been at least 3rd

Celebratory drinking commenced anyway.  Missy, Joe and I drank the day away in a crowd of smelly runners, entertained by live music.  We were there for hours. Too much Guiness!!  I never drink beer and yesterday I had like 8. I’m still feeling the bloat today.

This was pre-race: Missy and I all smiles

 Missy headed for the finish line. Strong finish, up hill!

All in all, a lovely weekend was had.  I can’t wait for next weekend! 

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