This race. Such a weird day. I started the race 10 minutes late and ended up passing 5,000 runners on my way to the finish. Literally. 5,000 runners. That is not an exaggeration.
Race: Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon (part of Grandma’s Marathon)
Date: June 16, 2018
Weather: 48°F, thick fog
Goals: A: Sub 1:40 B: new PR (1:42:20)
Result: 1:41:26 (new PR!)
At the end of March I ran an easy paced half marathon, finishing in 1:54:51. After that I had 12 weeks to prepare for this PR attempt. Instead, life went crazy. I took two weeks off for bronchitis. I had another 4 random weeks where I missed my long run. All told, I only ran 4 runs that were double digit distances. Excluding the two weeks for bronchitis, I averaged 25.7 miles per week. Considering my very poor training I figured I would pace for 1:40 and see how long I could hang on. I was hoping I could at least manage 10 miles at goal pace.
Kendall and I arrived in Duluth on Friday in the middle of a crazy thunderstorm. Race officials had just cancelled the kids races. We grabbed our race packets and toured the expo all the while wondering if our race would end up being cancelled too.
My alarm went off at 3 am Saturday morning. The first thing I did was check for an update on the race status. Part of me was hoping it was cancelled because I was exhausted and desperately wanted to go back to sleep. No recent updates had been made so I started my normal pre-race routine.
Our plan was to park in the same lot we parked at for the expo and take the bus to the start line. That completely empty lot was blocked off by volunteers directing us to another lot just down the road. We sat in traffic for ever and watched all of our extra time tick by. We weren’t late, but we were no longer 20 minutes early.
After another line to board the buses, we finally arrived at the start. Time was ticking by quickly while we waited to use the bathrooms. Finally we accepted that we were not going to make it to the corrals on time. We listened to the race starting while we waited in line. After taking care of business, I hastily dropped my bag off at gear check and started the race. 10 minutes late.
Even though I crossed the line late, I was not alone. Not by a long shot. I often felt trapped in a slow moving current of runners. I tried to stay patient and look for breaks in the crowd instead of weaving in and out. This worked well for following tangents but was killing my pace. My first mile clicked by at 8:29, almost a minute off pace. Shortly after that first mile I passed the 2:45 pace group and I knew I wasn’t going to be setting any PRs today. I was in a bad place mentally. Wishing I wasn’t throwing away a goal race. Wishing I had decided to run with Kendall. Wishing I had brought music.
I continued working my way through the crowd the best that I could. I ended behind another late-to-the-start runner and followed him for about a mile while he carved a path through the crowd. As my pace picked up my mood improved. I passed the guy I was chasing so I could continue to speed up. I picked up the trail of another fast guy and followed him for a mile or so too. I ended up passing him as well in order to settle into my own race pace.
Splits: 8:29, 8:08, 8:15, 7:54, 7:40
I was feeling good. I was working hard but it felt manageable. My splits continued to improve and I started doing the math. I could still manage a 1:45 half. That would be amazing considering my late start.
A few miles later I realized if I held this pace I could still get a PR. What!?
Other notable things from this section: at some point I ate a Gu and Lemon Drop Hill. I thought Lemon Drop would start after 8 miles, but it actually isn’t until 9 miles in. Haha, oops. I stayed relaxed and hammered up it no problem.
Splits: 7:27, 7:41, 7:30, 7:25, 7:25
I hit mile 10 just shy of 1:18 and started doing the math. My 1:40 pace band said I should be at 1:16:17 at the 10 mile mark. I was less than 2 minutes off pace, but I was running ~15 seconds per minute faster than needed. Did I have any chance of hitting 1:39? Time to find out.
I dug in deeper and about 2 miles later knew I had made a mistake. I felt awful. Miserable. Intense stabbing side stitch that reminded me of Charlevoix in 2015 and Lansing last fall. I tried to keep moving but all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball on the side of the road.
No. Not again. Last year I missed a PR by 36 seconds. I was less than a mile from the finish. I could fight this pain. Struggled until I saw the finish line and then I threw down every last ounce of energy I had. Check out this finish line video.
Splits: 7:22, 7:11, 8:11, 0:48 (last 0.14 miles, 5:43 pace)
The side stitch from mile 13 was gone. I had the PR. I was completely shot. And super emotional. When I started the race 10 minutes late I was so sure I had thrown away my already slim shot at a PR. But here I was on the other side of the finish line with a shiny new PR and trying not to sob tears of happiness.
I collected my finisher’s medal and shirt, wrapped myself snugly in my Mylar blanket, and waited for Kendall to finish the race. He ended up beating his goal by 2 minutes, also stellar because he started even later than I did. We changed into dry clothes in order to enjoy the beer tent, grabbed a couple of pictures, and I made sure to ring the PR bell. We quickly decided it was much too cold to be outside and headed to a brewery for a celebratory lunch.
Following a real training plan and thinking about some big, scary goals for my September half marathon.