Let me start by saying I finally did it! I finally broke 1:45 in the half marathon! I don’t think this race could have gone any better; it was a perfect day on the perfect course. It was one of my best executed half marathons (if not the best!) and I managed negative splits.
I was very nervous leading up to this race. I have been chasing 1:45 for quite awhile and I did not want to finish yet another race filled with disappointed. I started drafting up a “pre-race thoughts” post for the blog, but then I started feeling a bit confident. And somehow feeling more confident flipped around to feeling even more anxious. I felt so confident going into Charlevoix and every comment I received on this post was so supportive. I just did not want to have to come back and be all “Look at me, the girl who can’t make reasonable race goals!”
So I alternated between thinking about time goals [sub 1:45. If it is a stars align sort of race sub 1:43. I didn’t even share that dream goal with my husband.] and repeating to myself: “Do your best and see what happens.” My husband also reminded me that my goal race this fall is Grand Rapids, not this half marathon. Pushing to an injury would be stupid.
The race takes place in Lansing which is over an hour away from my house. My husband’s childhood home is just 20 minutes away from the race, so we drove up Saturday afternoon and spent the night. I spent the day hydrating like a champ and obsessing over the race.
Packet pickup was a breeze. There was no expo; bibs and shirts could be picked up from a local running store. For the past two years, the women’s shirts have been absolutely terrible; the “long” sleeves are at least 2-3 inches too short. Last year I exchanged for a men’s small. This year I registered for a men’s small and they upgraded the shirts to a nicer brand. I was a bit disappointed that they wouldn’t let me swap for a women’s small.
We grabbed some pasta from Noodles and Co. on our way out of town. There is a Noodles and Co. in Grand Rapids as well, so I will be repeating this exact pre-race dinner in four weeks. I was having a hard time relaxing Saturday night, so when my husband wanted to grab a beer from a local brewery, I decided to join him. Maybe not the best pre-race practice, but I balanced it out with 3 extra glasses of water while at the brewery and it helped take my mind of the race, which was really needed at this point.
Race Morning Disaster
The race started at 8:00 am, so I planned to get up at 5:50 and leave for the race at 7:00. That would easily give me 40 minutes to warm up and use the restroom one last time before that race. Unfortunately I had not accounted for a million closed roads (construction, not race related) and the ones that were open were one-way streets making it nearly impossible to get to the start line. Eventually we gave up on parking and I hopped out of the car at a stop sign near-ish the start line at 7:40. I jogged through the Start/Finish area looking for the port-a-johns. Instead of warming up as planned I spent most of my time in line.
Business taken care of, I had a few minutes to warm up a bit and make my way to the start. I had no idea if my husband had managed to find a parking spot or not. I did not think I would be able to find him before the start, so I almost didn’t even look for him. Until I realized that I had not taken my inhaler. I usually take it 20 minutes before a race. Fighting through tears I made a panicked search for him and prayed that he ignored me when I said I didn’t need the backpack of running supplies that was in the car.
With 5 minutes to spare I found him and was flooded with relief when I realized he was wearing the backpack. Not an ideal situation, but way better than trying to race without taking my inhaler. My exercise induced asthma is mild; I don’t take any medication for short, easy runs. I hoped that if I could keep it easy during the first couple miles, that I would be okay.
The Race (finally)
I lined up between the 8:00 pacers and the 8:30 pacers. My tentative plan was to keep the first mile around 8:15 and then work my way up to the 8:00 pacers. After 5 miles, IF I was feeling strong I would start working my way down to the 7:50s and 7:40s.
|Away we go! (I’m wearing the purple and orange compression socks.)|
I threw this plan away when I breezed through the first mile in 8:03. At least it was over 8:00! I decided to hang with the 8:00 pacers for the next 4 miles (so sort on plan), but a few minutes later I glanced down and saw my current pace was 7:48. That was much too fast for mile two, so I let them pull ahead a little and focused on my own pacing.
The first 5 miles of the race are basically a straight line down a road, then you hop onto the river trail, which is a paved multi-use path, significantly narrower than the road. The pace group was still right in front of me and I knew that a group that large was going to end up creating a bottleneck when the course narrowed. At about 4.5 miles I worked my way up toward the front of the pack, even so once we hit the trail our pace slowed to 8:15ish. This was the part of the race that I wanted to be picking up the pace, not slowing down. I also worried that since the pacers had started a bit fast, they were going to slow it down a bit to get back on track. When there was a section with a wide strip of grass alongside of the trail, I hopped over to the grass and kicked the pace up.
With the pace group officially behind me, I was ready to start picking up the pace. Except I had just run the first 5 miles faster than I anticipated. I told myself that I should hold it steady for another three miles and then make a move into the 7:40s. A couple tenths of a mile in front of me were two girls with matching singlets that seemed to be holding a consistent pace. I used them to set my pace and glanced at my watch every now and then to check my pace. It was too fast, but I felt strong.
|That hoard of people in the distance is the 8:00 pace group.|
I saw my husband out cheering for me at mile 7, which was sort of expected. That was what we had planned, but with the parking disaster I wasn’t sure if he would want to leave his spot. But there he was cheering me on and taking pictures! He even had my inhaler at the ready in case I needed it. Best husband, for sure!
Mile 8 is home to my favorite aid station ever! All of the volunteers are wearing grass skirts and leis and there is Hawaiian music playing. It is just so much fun! I continued pacing off of the matching singlet girls (they were still a solid tenth of a mile ahead of me, so it isn’t like I was running right on top of them or anything). They must have had a similar race strategy because the pace was gradually starting to pick up.
|One of my favorite race pictures! Feeling strong and still smiling 9 miles in!|
At mile 9 the marathon and half marathon courses split. As I turned follow the half course I was surprised to see my husband again! I love the pictures he took, there is sunlight streaming through the trees and I look like I am out for a leisurely jog. The pace still felt easy at this point and I was feeling very confident about breaking 1:45 (compare to Charlevoix when the pace started to feel difficult at the half way point).
Miles 9-11 passed quickly. I don’t really remember much about this part of the race. I remember focusing on my breathing quite a bit because I was worried about getting a side stitch, but that never happened. This was also the part of the race where I started picking off some runners as I continued to pick up the pace.
|Really making it look easy (love this picture).|
With 2 miles to go, I started to wonder if sub 1:43 was an option. I’m not really that great at math while running, so I while I knew it would be close, I wasn’t sure if it was a possibility. The last two miles also felt like the longest miles ever, even though they were my fastest. For the first time in the race the pace felt hard to maintain. It did not help that at that point you are on the east side of the river but the race finishes on the west side. You can see the bridge that crosses the river (right at mile 13!) for almost a mile so it feels like you are almost done, but you aren’t.
When I hit the bridge I was too focused on kicking hard to take a glance at my watch. I knew I had 1:45, but I wasn’t sure on 1:43. I sprinted past two people in the finish chute like they were standing still. I felt like I was flying. I crossed the timing mat and was overwhelmed with joy. All those miles, weeks, months of training finally paid off.
I was hunched over trying to catch my breath when I realized I had never stopped my Garmin. I quickly hit pause and about lost my mind when I saw 1:42:41. It was a perfect, stars-aligned sort of day after all.
|Time on that last split is long since I didn’t stop my watch right away.|
Post race was kind of a blur of emotions. There was a lot celebrating and thanking Kendall for his amazing support. After some pizza and a banana I was able to locate a tent for swapping shirts (hooray!) and track down my official times. I can not believe that I took almost 4 full minutes off of my time!
[besides the Grand Rapids Marathon in 4 weeks!]
Before the race I spent some time analyzing my training leading up to CC River Run 2014, Charlevoix 2015, and CC River Run 2015. I’d like to spend a bit more time looking into my past training so I can work on shaping a half marathon specific training plan. I’d really like to dedicate a large portion of 2016 to half marathon training, because I’m already starting to think about breaking into the 1:30s (only joking, sort of).