Millinocket Half Marathon

A large group of runners running uphill as part of the either the marathon or half marathon at Millinocket.

About a month ago I had the pleasure of running the Millinocket Half Marathon, a free event was started in 2015 to help a struggling Maine mill town that has been devastated by the closing of their major employer. The only requirement of the race is that runners support local businesses and contribute to the Katahdin Region in some way. This was such a fun way to kick off the winter season, I regret not writing about it sooner.

My friend and I picked up our bibs the night before at a craft fair, where local vendors were selling everything from honey and jam to handknit hats. We spent about an hour trying to decide what to spend our money on, everything looked so good and/or fun! I settled on some spicy jam and “guts” (pulp leftover from making hot sauce), knowing that I would want to save my cash for race day. It was really hard to limit my spending, vendors at the fair had a wonderful array of goods and everything was displayed so nicely.

Half marathon running close the passing the finish line.Post craft fair, we grabbed supplies to make our meals for the next few days from the local grocery store and headed to the place we would call home during our stay. Where we nervously ate food that we knew wouldn’t make our stomachs churn during the race.

Oatmeal in our stomachs, we pulled into the high school parking lot at prepared to jog the half-mile to the starting line. I had heard the town came out in spirit to support the runners, but I was not ready for the enthusiasm and kindness that I was met with at every turn. Almost every mile had volunteers handing out water and snacks. Spectators had dispersed themselves along the course with cowbells, jingle bells and other noisemakers to cheer us on. Runners showed up in costumes and there were a lot of people who opted to walk the 13.1 distance.

While I’m no stranger to the energy surrounding a race day, Millinocket is easily a race destination I will look forward to each year. If you’re in the area next year, I highly recommend this one!

The other plus side is the 7+ hours spent in the car allowed me to finish the Flax sweater I’ve been working on and get halfway through a pair of Vampolka mitts. So if you’re not a runner consider walking. And if you’re having trouble motivating yourself because the cause isn’t good enough, just think of all the knitting time you could have on your hands!

On changing your mind

Loon Mt Race, 2019 course map

I don’t often back out of running a race due to lack of grit, but after a late-night D&D session, followed by waking up at 4:30 and failing to link up with my carpool, I opted to drive home instead of driving the final hour and a half to get to the race. Crashing back into bed at 7, I slept another 3 hours and woke up feeling refreshed. I was planning on registering at the event, but even if I had registered I don’t think I would have felt bad skipping out. A 6.6 mountain race that I didn’t feel prepared for, I’m honestly just proud that I got out of bed and was initially planning to run it. This isn’t the first time I’ve changed my mind about running a race I was excited about and I don’t think it will be my last. Then again, isn’t that the point of day of registration? I’m allowed to make a last-minute decision on whether or not I want to race.

The same can be said about knitting. You can spend a lot of time and energy choosing yarn colors that go well with each other and then finding a pattern that complements the yarn that you’ve chosen (or the other way around), only to find when everything is put together that it’s not right. Maybe the colors blend together more than you thought they would, making the pattern not worth it because you can’t see colorwork. Maybe the pattern you’ve chosen as a lot of texture that is hidden behind a skein of vibrant variegated color. Maybe the yarn is itchy and you don’t want it against your neck. Maybe you cast on the wrong size or you don’t like the gauge – I could probably list reasons that I have started to second guess my yarn/project choice for a while.

But when all is said and done, you are not committed to the choices you have made. You can purchase different yarn or chose a different pattern. You can make modifications to the project. The only thing you need to be able to stomach is ripping your work, hopefully only a couple inches. While this can add an element of frustration, if you’re going to spend the time to make a project and then more time using it, it should embody what you envisioned.

Murphylu’s Wheat

For this reason, I grudgingly pulled 2 inches of brioche out and cast on a simple scarf. Intending on knitting one color until I ran out and finishing with the second color after seeing a similar scarf knit by MurphyLu (pictured). Over halfway done with my own scarf, I love the sharp contrast between the deep blue and turquoise. Though I’m not sure who the scarf’s intended owner is, I’m confident that the recipient will appreciate the color blocking instead of stripes. It’s also safe to say that I’m significantly happier with how the project is knitting up this time around. To think all I had to do was rip out 2 inches of brioche.

The same can be said in regards to changing your mind in other aspects of life. Want to try out a new haircut? Go for it, if you don’t like your hair it will always grow back. Want to try a new hobby? Go for it, you can always decide you don’t like it. Think you’re going to make smoothies for breakfast every morning and then find out they leave you hungry all day long? It’s ok to think you’re going to like something and then later change your mind. It’s ok to try something again later and realize that you like it.

On enjoying the ride…er run

Big Lake Half Marathon, 2019

Just got the pictures back from my first half marathon in two years and I couldn’t help but laugh at my smiling face. Nothing about my picture is posed, I had no idea that the camera was there! Or at least, not until after I passed him (her?). I love the mental challenge that is running, the struggle to maintain a pace when people pace you early on (because let’s face it, you end up passing a lot of them later on) and the temptation to skip a water stop because it’s mile 4 and you still have a full water bottle. This is probably the first race where I feel like I did it right, correcting mistakes I made when I ran my first two without being too cocky in my abilities. After all, while I finished the race feeling great, I also finished thinking I could have gone faster.

This is the only of my now three completed half marathons where I did not wear headphones and I can’t help but feel as though not wearing them changed my entire experience. I did not, as I feared, find myself bored at any point in the race. Not wearing headphones actually made the race more enjoyable because I was able to engage in my surroundings and take in those around me. I was able to interact more positively with spectators because they knew I was paying attention to them. As an added bonus, I was less aware of the passage of time which meant I was able to stay motivated longer. At this point in my running career, I don’t really care about how fast I run the race — I just want to be surrounded by people who want to challenge themselves and have fun doing something that I love. Of course, the t-shirt and charity donation that accompanies race entry helps too.

For about a mile of the race, I ran with a woman who was running her 121st half marathon. As we spoke, I learned that she was flustered because she forgot her headphones and her running watch wasn’t charged. There I was, nothing on my wrist by a friendship bracelet and nothing in my running belt but my car keys, cheerily saying that at least she didn’t let that stop her from running. At least she could run. Despite my pointing this out, the woman continued to complain about how she had messed up her running routine and focus on all the times she had done it right. She sped up at some point a little before the next mile marker and I passed her when we hit the rolling hill portion of the course. She made a point of bragging that she hadn’t done any training specifically for this race, while I had been training for months. That’s why I like running 13.1 miles though, it’s all in your head. We both knew we could do it, I just didn’t need a smartwatch to tell me I was doing it correctly. 

New skill: Shirring

It’s one of the reasons I took a break from knitting over the last couple of weeks, opting to practice sewing through the creation of napkins, a pillow, and a dress. Learning that my vintage machine has stitches beyond forward and backward was an exciting discovery, something that shouldn’t overshadow winding my first bobbin or successfully shirring. My approach to crafting is the same as my approach to running, it’s supposed to be fun. Sure sometimes you reach a point in the project where the steps are daunting or confusing or not fun (ie weaving in ends), but that doesn’t mean you don’t like the activity overall.

If you’re not enjoying the ride, perhaps it’s time to step back and consider why you’re feeling burnt out. Maybe you need to cast on a new project or switch to a different craft for a while. Maybe you need to go for a hike instead of a long run. There are times when you need to push through, but remember that the main point of a hobby is the enjoyment of that hobby. Bonus points if taking a break leads to a frenzy of inspiration, but hopefully, the break leads to renewed enthusiasm or a new way of thinking about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.