My December Marathon glory didn't exactly pan out liked I planned because of that atrocious weather, but I still had one upcoming race I knew I could conquer. I had never run it before, but everyone told me the 3M Half Marathon in Austin is one of the best races in our city. It's a net downhill, and pretty good course, and the goody bag is awesome (it's 3M after all!). I had been registered for it for awhile and was looking forward to seeing what I could do for 13.1 miles.
My original plan, if I was in sub-4 hour marathon shape for the BCS Marathon in December, was to hold on tight to that fitness level and run a 1:50:xx at 3M five weeks later. When BCS beat me up more than I thought it would I added 2 minutes to that half marathon goal. It would still be about a 5 minute PR if I could run that kind of time (PR from July in San Francisco was 1:57:32). A lofty goal, but lately I've been making all sorts of lofty goals.
I didn't really run as many good runs as I had hoped in those five weeks. A couple interval workouts, some speedwork, a 5K PR race (okay, so THIS was a good one!), and a decent 13 mile training run (fastest 13 mile training I had ever done, 4th best time at that distance, at 1:58). Running a 1:52 was possible, but it was going to hurt. I ran a 30K training run 8 days before this race, but I was smart and ran it easy, just under 10 minute pace and I took a few water stop breaks. No way was I going to let that run mess with my race.
My coach, Tony, decided to run the race with me, and would go ahead of me if he felt good and knew I could hold pace to the finish. My plan was to run the first mile in about 9:30, maybe hover around 9 minutes for Mile 2, and then drop to 8:30-8:45 for a few miles, to finally dropping to 8-8:20 for the second half. If I could do that it would be faster than I've ever run those kinds of miles by a long shot. Yes, a LOFTY goal. Heck, my best 10 mile time was 1:27:30, way over what I'd need to post at 10 miles during this race.
The weather, thankfully, was going to be perfect. In the upper 30's to around 40 degrees, with a windchill bringing it to below freezing, but with the wind at our backs for the majority of the point-to-point race. Waiting for it to start would be the worst part, but once we started running it would be perfect. The humidity was even relatively low. It took me forever to really decide what I would wear. Normally, it would be long sleeves for the whole thing because of the windchill, but with it being a tailwind I had a feeling I'd warm up more than expected. I opted to wear my Team Luke's tank top and some arm sleeves, with a light jacket I could just tie around my waist if I got too warm. Capris instead of pants because they are more comfortable but would still keep my quads warm.
I'd like to say this was an eventful and dramatic race, but it really wasn't! I actually think it was my most perfectly executed race so far. And also one of the hardest, merely because keeping up the pace I was running was no walk in the park.
Mile 1 was a bit slower than we had hoped, at 9:47. We had lined up to start the race with the 2:05 pace group, knowing that they wouldn't be going out too fast and we'd pass them up after about a mile to get into a faster groove. But the sheer number of people (and WALKERS) in that first mile it just slowed us down. I didn't want to weave too much, so had to tuck myself behind some runners going at more of a 10 minute pace. After than first mile, however, we were able to get into a better run pace and clicked off an 8:47 second mile. I tried not to let this fast pace scare me, however, because I honestly thought it was more of a 9:20. I felt really really good and just let my body do what it wanted.
By mile 3, we were running south, so the north winds were now at our backs. I was warming up just like I thought I would and shed my jacket. I was very comfortable at this point and happy I made the race clothes choices I did. Tony and I were locked in at about an 8:30-8:35 pace and feeling great. I remember telling him at 4 miles that I felt just fine. I used him to pace off of and never had to look at my watch. I trusted that he knew what I was capable of and wouldn't overdo it. Plus, with the downhill course, the miles were sure to fly by a bit faster than normal.
As we approached the 10k split mat, I glanced at my watch and saw were were in the 54 minute range and at 8:48 overall pace. It was perfect for where we needed to be. I planned to drop to to 8:15 range and hold for as long as I could. I needed about an 8:35 overall pace for my goal time, so we were doing great at this point. I also saw my friend DeDe on this stretch, and it gave me a big mental boost. She's a strong runner, so to know I was holding pace with someone like her was HUGE to me. As a matter of fact, mile 7 was one of my strongest splits, at 8:12, and it never felt that fast. The downhill was working to my advantage and I was getting comfortable at that faster pace.
Tony asked me a couple times how I was feeling, and I told him I could maintain to the end and get a big PR. I remember saying at one point I thought we were in 1:51 range. He contemplated going ahead of me to get a sub-1:49 (which would be a PR for him), but by the time he took this thought seriously, he missed the window. I also may have reminded him I did him a huge favor the day before (lost keys, driving 40 minutes out of my way...) and he owed me. I'm sweet like that. Gotta use guilt when necessary, right? In all honesty, I knew with only a few miles left I was fine, although definitely getting fatigued, but having him right in front of me makes it easier to keep pace. I was a bit worried about the few rolling hills coming up in the last 2 miles, but tried to block that out.
At just past the 10 mile sign I glanced at my watch and saw it said 1:26...just over 8:30 pace. I had never before run 10 miles that fast. A quick mental calculation told me I needed under a 26 minute final 5k to get a 1:51...UNDER my goal time. Under 27 minutes to get my 1:52 goal. Under 25 to make my original 1:50 goal. I could do this...I really really could do this. I put in my head I wanted to see 1:51 and just kept running at an even, steady, fast pace. I could do anything for 3 more miles, right?
Those hills in the last 1.5 miles sucked. Holy crap, those sucked. As I'm running them I'm mentally thanking my trainer for forcing me to do lower body strengthening for the past few months. Without strong muscles these hills would have erased some of the gains I made on the downhill portion. Downhill races sound great but they can seriously beat up your quads. In San Francisco, Mile 11 is a huge downhill and I blazed down it, only to find my legs completely depleted for the final 2-mile uphill. I was so glad I approached this race differently and could stay strong on those uphill portions. I remember asking Tony at one point how many hills were left, and he very smartly told me about one, but then said "and that's all you need to worry about." In other words, he wasn't about to freak me out.
I told Tony to go ahead of me in this last mile. He was itching to just sprint, so off he went, but I was keeping him in my sights. I was running under 8-minute pace now and it felt good knowing in only a few minutes I'd finally be done. We were on the very last awful hill on Red River at this point and as I'm running it I'm thinking about how glad I was he didn't tell me about it when I asked.
As I'm coming down MLK Blvd for the final half mile, I heard my friend Dorothy call my name and that was just the boost I needed to know just how good this race was going. Dorothy is an exceptional athlete. I told her to get next to me and just run. Funny enough, as soon as I saw the 13 Mile marker, my legs pretty much stopped working. I had to force them to keep moving for that last tenth of a mile. I could tell I was slowing. As I turned onto Congress, people started passing me. I hate getting passed in the final finish chute. But I could not run anymore. Everything I had was left out on the course in the first 12+ miles.
As soon as I crossed the finish line, I saw the 1:51:xx on my watch, hugged Tony, turned around and saw Dorothy finish. It really couldn't have been more perfect!
Just a few minutes later we met up with Greg and the kiddos and got the heck out of there and that cold windy weather. They had gotten there just in time to park and wait for us to finish. The kids were still in their pajamas!
Looking back on my race, there's not anything I would have done differently. My splits were better than I expected. I ran 8:48 pace for the first 6.2 miles, and 8:13 pace for the final 6.9, better than I've ever even run a 10K race! I added on less than a 10th of a mile to the distance, so we ran the tangents very well. Mile 13 was 7:52 pace, which is the only sub-8 pace mile I have ever run in a half marathon (the final "sprint" was definitely slower, at 8:28 pace). Tony only beat me by 19 seconds in that last mile he went ahead. My splits were: 9:47, 8:47, 8:47, 8:34, 8:30, 8:35, 8:12, 8:18, 8:16, 8:04, 8:15, 8:08, 7:52, 1:31 (8:28 pace) for 13.18 total miles at 8:28 average pace.
1:51:36, 8:31 average pace (and 6 minutes off my previous PR!)
78 out of 535 in my division (top 14%)
421 out of 2909 females (top 14%)
1242 out of 5009 overall (top 24%)
I beat 61% of the men
I feel pretty damn great!!