The day after we all returned from NYC, Susan sent us an email and let us know about the Shun the Sun half marathon this past Saturday. I had been searching and searching for a half marathon to do ASAP. I needed to do a race and put my 20 weeks of training to the test. I’ve had my eye on a half marathon PR since, oh, February. I originally planned a goal race at RnR Seattle in June. I got a training plan from Smart Coach and worked hard at my first attempt at any speed training. Then I had to have my gallbladder removed 3 weeks before the race, so I begrudgingly put the half marathon goal on hold and started training for NYC. In August, a few members of my team went out to San Diego and I ran the AFC 1/2, and put my huge plans to PR and break 2 hours all over the freaking internet.
If you’ve been reading for a while, you know how the rest of that story goes. It was hot, I didn’t adjust my goals and I totally blew up and finished 7 minutes slower than my PR. Womp womp. So this time, I told maybe 4 people that I was planning to race. I didn’t even tell my best friend. I didn’t tell anyone other than those 4 people what my goal was, and I just went out there to race. I did tell Steve not to let me back into the car at the end if I didn’t finish under 2 hours. Spoiler: I didn’t, but he let me in the car anyway. 😉
So I woke up at 5am Saturday morning, put on my running skirt (obviously) and made my way to the race start with my fabulous supportive husband. I was in a good place mentally, and prepared to have an awesome race. I ran into Susan and a couple of members from my team, and before I knew it, they were calling us over to the start lines. I tried to find someone who was running about my pace that I could try to run with, but we were all going out for different paces, so I went off on my own which is always scary to me. Ever since the Lost Dutchman, I just don’t trust that I can fight the mental battle without someone there to push me. I always know I’ll finish, but I give up on myself much more quickly when I’m alone which is something I’m really trying to work on.
As soon as I took off, I was beyond excited. I hadn’t raced since August and I had TONS of energy pent up from the NYC taper. I ran the first few minutes way too fast (shocking), but reeled it in pretty quickly.
The plan was to run the first 3 miles slower than goal pace, then run goal pace until mile 10, then pick it up the last 3 miles. That didn’t quite happen. I ran the first mile at about goal pace, tried to slow it down for the second mile, then just decided to try to run a steady race.
I knew that with perfect tangents I needed a 9:09 pace to break two hours. My goal at this point was to keep the next 7 miles under 9:10 and then pick it up for the last 3 miles. This was working out really well. I was focusing just on the mile I was in. I was in a great mental place and doing all those silly things I’m “supposed” to do like visualizing myself meeting my goal, and crossing the finish line, and all that stuff. The pace never felt easy, but it felt comfortably challenging. I could tell I was slightly holding myself back, and I felt like I could keep this pace up for a while. There were a couple of times I got to see Bob and Bill on the other side of the canal after the turn arounds, and they would yell and cheer for me. It was super motivating, and I SO appreciate them! I can’t say enough how much I love running with a team!
The course was boooooring. It was a straight shot along the Mesa canal, and canal running, while convenient, is about as boring as you can get. The next 6 miles were just spent focusing on exactly where I was in that moment. I had my garmin set to the screen that shows my lap pace, and I knew 9:10 was my ceiling, so I checked in and made sure to stay below that.
Picture perfect right? Serious even splitting. All at goal pace. Then mile 10 happened. It didn’t start to feel too bad yet, but it was getting more challenging. Throughout the course, I had been talking the smallest possible walking breaks at the water stations because I just really suck at drinking while running. I also walked a little the first time I took some chomps around mile 5.5, but I had still been able to maintain my pace. I haven’t figured out the whole eating/drinking while actually running thing, and clearly I need to because this is where things fell apart. I got water and took a gu at separate points during mile 10, and then I just couldn’t get my pace for that mile back where it needed to be, and I think I used a lot of energy trying desperately to get that mile back on track.
I knew between mile 2 and mile 10, I had lost some time, and I needed to play catch up these last 3 miles if I still wanted to break 2 hours. I was pretty sure I was going to PR at this point, but I wanted the 1:59 SO badly, so I ran really hard miles 11 and 12 to try to keep it up.
And then at mile 13 I gave up. I was breathing so hard, and my legs hurt so badly, and I convinced myself I couldn’t do it. As soon as my watch clicked my 13 I took a walking break. WTF?!?!?! WHO TAKES A WALKING BREAK AT MILE 13???!! It would be one thing if I had been taking them all along, but there was no good reason. It wasn’t to grab a drink of water or for some purpose where walking was actually useful. I walked because I was tired, and I had been yelling at myself to keep going the last 2 miles, and I just felt like I couldn’t do it anymore. I took like 4 walking breaks during that last mile, and it was Fing stupid.
At the end, I still had a tiny glimpse at the idea of getting it back together, and I was pushing hard again, but then I got closer and closer to what was supposed to be “the end” and I couldn’t even see the finish line. Also, around mile 12, we looped back around and turned back the direction we had just come from which was a total mental bust for me. At 13.1, I couldn’t even see the finish line, and I was pissed. In most races I end up weaving, and not running tangents, etc. so I end up running extra, but this course was straight as can be and I took the 3-4 turns on the very inside, so I had mentally prepared myself to be actually done very close to 13.1, plus my watch had been in perfect sync with the mile markers until this point, so at 13.1 I was pissed, and I turned off my garmin as it read 2:00:10. Mother F. Then I took an other walking break. Of course. There was no way I was going to break 2 hours, and I had a pretty much guaranteed PR at this point, so I gave up even more and walked more. Then we FINALLY turned into the stadium and I saw Coach Susan. She’d already won the race. Shocking.
She jumped in and ran with me at the end, and said all the right perfect things. I don’t know how she does it, but I swear she is the most motivating human being on the planet. I finally crossed the finish line at 2:01:44.
I found Steve and Susan really quickly and Susan told me first that I had done awesome and she was proud of me, then course was long (13.25) and with the mud I should mentally think of my time as a whole minute faster. Well, OKAY! If you insist 😉 Although there is definitely the twinge of disappointment for not breaking 2 hours, I am ridiculously thrilled to have PR’d, and more importantly, with the exception of 1 crappy mile, I ran a really smart, focused and positive race.
What I learned from this race:
- Focusing on the mile I’m in, and having a ceiling that I don’t want to go above works really well for me.
- I’m physically stronger and mentally weaker than I think. I always give myself a lot of credit for mental toughness, but I actually think right now my physical capabilities outweigh my mental ones. I need to figure out how to not give in to “the voice”and quit when the going gets tough.
- I need to learn how to drink/fuel without stopping. This means I need to practice on my training runs. I always stop to take my fuel, and it’s not doing my any favors. Up until this point, I never took my pace on long races this seriously. I was okay with the little break water stops and fuel provided, but if I want to get serious about improving my times, I need to train like it, and get in the habit of doing everything while maintaining my pace. I really think the moment this race changed for me is when I couldn’t get my pace back after stopping twice in mile 10, and I used too much energy trying to run the rest of the mile too quickly.
Overall, the race really was a great experience. I am SO HAPPY to have a new PR. The race was very well organized, and all of the volunteers were really great. Even with the snooze filled course, I would absolutely do it again next year, but hopefully with an other person to keep me a bit more entertained. 😉