After having such a miserable time at the Yonkers Marathon, I really wanted Hartford to go well – and so I was pretty nervous in the days leading up to the race. In particular, this time around, I was much more careful about what I ate! I started my carb loading on Thursday, having a bagel for breakfast, Indian curry over rice for lunch, and pizza + beer with Laura, Theodora, and Ashley for dinner. (Okay, so the beer wasn’t the healthiest, but it was plenty of carbs and I didn’t have way too much to drink, like I had done before Yonkers.) Originally, just Laura and I had planned on meeting up – but when we literally bumped into Theodora and Ashley on the street and were all headed to the same restaurant, our quiet catch up dinner turned into a huge catch up gathering 🙂 I was thrilled, and it helped to put me in a great mood going into the weekend.
Friday morning I had another bagel for breakfast (hooray for the new delicious bagel shop that’s opened just a block from my apartment!), then hopped on the Megabus to get to Hartford. I was really excited to get there in part because my mom was coming for this race – and while I had seen her a few weeks earlier when I headed to upstate NY to run the Adirondack Marathon, I thought a weekend away would be really relaxing for both of us. My mom loves coming to watch me do marathons, but has probably only come to about a dozen of them (just given the distance and travel expense; I know how lucky I am to have my company pay for flights for most of my races!). And on the bus itself, I grabbed a seat right in the front (better views!) and was entertained by an absolutely adorable bus driver who got excited by fast-moving traffic (“green light, woo hoo!”) and spent most of the ride singing along to 90s songs (“When You Believe” from Prince of Egypt, Mariah Carey’s “Hero,” and lots of current Carrie Underwood songs). How could I not be in a good mood with such upbeat travel as that?
Arriving in Hartford, I met my mom (yay!) and we headed for the race expo at the XL Center. The expo was larger than I remembered from the previous two times I’ve run the race, and I was honestly a little frustrated by the confusing orientation. I picked up my bib on one side of the room, and then the volunteers vaguely gestured that I should get my bag/shirt “over there” – which turned out to be clear on the other side of the convention center, after weaving through lots of booths of vendors. Lots had free samples, which was awesome, but without a bag to hold them, I was kind of juggling things! (I know, boo hoo me and the free samples spilling from my hands.)
Over at the t-shirt pickup, though, someone stopped me to introduce themselves. Turns out that Alina is a blog reader who also happened to grow up in the next town over from me – and when we found each other on Facebook later, we had a lot of friends in common! Such a small world, and I was so glad that she came up to introduce herself! I wished her luck in the half marathon, and then got back in the line for t-shirts.
But then I was stopped by another person, this one more familiar – it was Ashley! I was so excited to be running Hartford with her – even though we wouldn’t be running together, the course has a giant out-and-back so I knew I’d get to cheer her on and then be there at the finish. (I also hoped to head back out and run the last few miles with her after I finished, but that was not meant to be.) Ashley was there with her friend Amy, and the three of us had fun with something about the expo that I did think was well-organized: while each race shirt was encased in plastic, they had a pile of shirts in all sizes that were pulled out of the plastic, so you could hold them up to your body and figure out the correct size. Really smart, rather than making you break open your own package!
We browsed the expo a little bit more before heading off our separate ways. One thing that I found to be really awesome was the concept of the Psyching Team – a group of professors and PhD students from a nearby college who would be out on the course to shout scientifically-proven motivational messages as you ran. What a neat idea! They also gave out a tip sheet at the expo of ways to get past “the wall”, which was really helpful. I was looking forward to seeing their smiling faces out on the course!
After saying goodbye to Ashley and Amy so they could go rest up, my mom and I headed to our hotel to drop stuff off and veg out for a bit (we were staying about 10 miles out of town rather than a pricey downtown hotel), and then headed back into downtown Hartford for the 50 States Club reunion meeting. These are held quarterly to coincide with popular marathons, and I was actually going to be honored with the presentation of my finisher’s trophy (which had long since been mailed to me). Generally, finishers are honored with presentation of their trophy at the next quarterly meeting they attend, but since it was actually my first quarterly meeting since I broke the record as the youngest female finisher (back in June 2010!), this was my meeting to get presented and take photos. I felt better, though, to see that many others were being honored for trophies from years ago. And there were a lot of people who were being honored for finishing a marathon in all 50 states twice, thrice, and even four times! For me, that’s a step too far on the side of crazy (50 states one time was enough to cause me a breakdown!), but I was really amazed by the dedication of so many finishers.
After the meeting, though, it was time for me to fuel up and then rest up, in that order. I had a few invitations from running friends to meet for dinner around 7 or 8pm, but it was now 5:15pm and I just wanted to eat quickly and go to bed ASAP! I was also hoping that by eating early, we could get into a good Italian restaurant for a simple pasta dinner without having to wait for huge lines, since we hadn’t made a reservation anywhere. Luckily, Yelp came through for me – and I discovered a hidden gem in a rather rundown neighborhood.
My mom and I were really skeptical when we were driving around trying to find Trinity Restaurant (it doesn’t have a sign, but is on the corner of Zion and Bonner, if you’re looking for it yourself), but just as one reviewer on Yelp said, “Step inside and wonder if you’re still in the same neighborhood.” The inside had been completely renovated and was stunning – and while we were at first worried when we were one of only two parties in the restaurant, by the time we left, it was packed wall-to-wall with people. The dinner rolls they brought to start were deliciously doughy (just slightly undercooked, but in a great, chewy way), and the olive oil was definitely high quality – with some yummy spices in it for added flavor. I chose spaghetti with vegetables, shrimp, and “a hint of marinara sauce,” and while it was definitely prepared with a fair bit of olive oil, it was incredibly delicious (and the oil didn’t give me any trouble during the race).
As soon as dinner was over, my mom and I then hightailed it back to the hotel – and I was happily in bed by 8pm with lights out by 10pm. And while I may have told you that all the food/rest helped the race to go really well, you haven’t heard the biggest surprise of all – a rather unusual outfit that I was quite pumped to wear. Details to come in my race report tomorrow!