I think my journey to this weekend’s race really started at the end of my last 13.1 — a grueling, hilly and soul-destroying race back in 2011. Despite the fact when I crossed the finish line, I’d shaved 10 minutes off my previous PR, I felt really crappy about the way I finished, both physically and mentally.
I quit at the end of that run, and I hated having that failure on my record. (Again, I don’t mean the time — it was great! — but how I gave up instead of digging deep.)
When I decided to start running half marathons again, I knew I wanted to do everything I could to come in under 2:00 AND I wanted to train smart so I didn’t fade or get hurt. So I took the last few months pretty seriously. I followed a training plan, added intervals to my routines and got in a lot of long runs before the big day.
And as they say…hard work pays off.
This weekend’s OUC Half Marathon was such a pleasure for me — I woke up feeling great, had time to stretch, ran my own race and finished with a new PR: 1:52:50.
A few notes:
- It was hot — probably too hot for most — but I didn’t mind it that much. I’ve been training all summer so perhaps my body was well-conditioned! At the end of the race, the heat definitely caught up with me (so many people wanted to know what the ice was all about in the picture above…I’d been icing my hamstrings but eventually moved the ice bags up into my shirt to try to cool my body down!)
- The course had more hills than I expected and that SUCKED. Also, there was a lot of cobblestone which I found tricky.
- I lined up with the 1:50 pace group but quickly abandoned any ideas of running with them. The leader was doing 4:1 intervals (4:00 at an 8-minute pace; 1:00 of walking) and I knew I’d be better off running longer stretches and walking through the aid stations. For most of the race, I stayed ahead of them but got passed at about the 10-mile mark. I was actually OK with that — my overall goal was to come in under 2:00 so as long as I could see the pace sign, I knew I was OK. The leader became my rabbit for the last 30 minutes or so.
- I was glad I started toward the front of the pack — it was hard to get any distance for the first mile and I really wanted to go out as fast as possible. My strategy was to try to do the first 10K in under :55 (I did!) and then just hang on as long as I could toward the end. I probably averaged an 8:20 pace for the first half and closer to 8:45 or 8:50 for the second half. I haven’t really looked at my splits but I tried to hover as close to 8:25 as I could.
(Update: I found my splits online. I have not yet looked at my Garmin for the per-lap pace.)
- I hit a bit of a mental wall again at mile 8.5, just like I did at Iron Girl, but vowed NOT to bonk again. I got to mile 9.5 before I really started changing my strategy. I’d been taking :15 walks through the aid stations, every 1.5 miles (or at least what should have been 1.5 miles — it turned out they were not spaced all that evenly) but from mile 10 through 12, I decided to start running 4:00 and walking :30. I was a bit disappointed that I needed those breaks but I’d done the math and knew that as long as I kept moving and stayed below a 9:00 pace when running, I’d PR.
- I really (really really really) wanted to walk the last .6 miles. I was out of gas. But I started chanting “one foot in front of the other” until I heard the crowd cheering. From there forward, I just started waving and smiling and then cried my way across the final timing bar.
It was a beautiful course, with crowds at every stretch. This was my very first half marathon in 2010, and I think it will always be one that holds fond memories for me.
My biggest issue continues to be fuel and nutrition on these long runs. I had a pretty nervous stomach on the way to the race, so I forced myself to eat my standard Clif bar breakfast but hated every bite. I drank a ton of water on the way as well but the bathroom line was so long when I arrived that I decided to risk it and start the race without a potty break (there were lots of bathrooms along the way if I’d needed one).
I took water at every aid station, and decided to eat three Clif shots halfway through. Unfortunately, they almost didn’t stay down — I even stopped for a few seconds because I thought I was going to throw up — and even though they did, I felt pretty nauseated for the following mile. I also got a bad stomach stitch which is still causing me a lot of pain today.
After the race, I hung out in the finishers area for a while, icing and eating a popsicle.
As I drove home, I started to feel pretty sick (I was also covered in ick…sweat and maybe worse — moms know what I’m talking about). I got home and jumped in the shower. It felt great to get clean but the hot water made me even more light-headed. I got out of the shower and knew I needed to lay down…so I crawled into bed — in my soaking wet towel! — and passed out for a little bit. After about 25 minutes or so, I woke up feeling like I needed to throw up. I called for Lucas and he convinced me to come downstairs and eat something. I shoved a muffin in my face and drank another bucketful of water and things started to look up.
After lunch, I was much better. Tired and sore, but no longer sick. Sunday, I woke up very sore and still tired, so Audrey and I took a nice long afternoon nap.
Overall, it was a great race and while I’m already starting to think about things I could have done differently (we runners are crazy), I’m also so proud of my experience and my PR.
Runners, help me with my nutrition! What can I do better?