Ok, so I registered for this race 3 days in advance. I really wanted to do a 1/2 marathon this summer, but I wanted to give myself at least 1 month of post Boston recovery. As such, I was not able to do some of the flat and fast 1/2 marathons in the area, and traveling for a 1/2 is just not my thing. The only 1/2 left for the entire summer was the Heartbreak Hill. I knew I was not prepared to run a hilly 1/2, but I also remembered that, although I did struggle on HH during Boston, that hill is really not a big deal, just long but not too steep. When the RD told me the race shirt is technical, I signed up. Two days later I received an email from the RD: "This is a challenging course, with steep rolling hills, so start slow and make sure you pace yourself. The good news is that the last mile is generally downhill". What did I get myself into?
I completely blocked any race related thoughts over the weekend. It was my mom's last weekend before returning to Romania, and I focused on that. I slept like a baby, and was ready to run in the morning.
After my typical oatmeal with blueberries and coffee, I headed out to the race. I picked up my registration packet. I obsessed over whether I should eat a banana or not, or a gel. Then it was time to line up and off we went.
I had no plan for this race, rather than NOT to run more than 13.1*. I knew I wanted to have a PR, but I did not know whether I could do it. So, I was making excuses in my head. Perhaps this is why I made the rookie mistake. I went out tooo fast. This is so unlike me, I am very good at pacing myself, always start out slow and speed up later. I am not sure what happened, perhaps my brain knew that I could run faster...
I ran the first mile in 7:11. I felt great. I did manage to slow down after that, and by mile 3 I was at 7:30 average. I realized from the beginning how tough the course would be, but my legs felt fresh and I felt like I was flying up the hills. At mile 5 my pace was 7:44, and I planned to stay there. We ran Heartbreak at mile 6, and that was probably the easiest hill - long, but with only a slight incline, as opposed to the short and steep hills that made up the rest of the course. After Heartbreak I told myself that we would probably turn around but no, we went up, up, up on this circular hilly street, and I started getting a bit frustrated. I managed to keep up the pace, but I was getting tired. Pretty soon we were running down Heartbreak, and it was nice to go downhill and see runners going uphill. Been there, he, he! At that point I realized that I was getting very close to a woman in pink, whom I have been eying from the beginning miles, but who seemed too far away to attempt to catch. At mile 8 I was on her. I did not want to pass her yet, I just wanted to run behind her. She would get ahead of me on the uphills, and I would catch her on the downhills. At mile 9 I saw another woman runner walking. Walking, hmmm, sounds so good. NO! At mile 9 my legs also started to feel weak, and my toes got numb. Cardiovascularly I was fine, breathing a bit hard on the uphills, but recouping easily with deep breaths on the downhills. I started to worry a bit. I felt I did not have control over my legs. I did not feel any pain, just weakness. Darn! I started telling myself that it will pass, I just have to go with it, but it was frustrating to feel great otherwise and not be able to run faster. Plus, the chick in pink was way in front of me at that point. And then I stopped and walked. Only a few steps, and then I snapped out of it and started running. I knew better - walking at the end of a race is just silly, does not help at all. Pace was 7:55. Yikes! By mile 10 I was feeling a bit better. Legs were cooperating and I pushed the pace. I knew I could not catch the "pink lady", but I wanted to go faster. I looked at my watch and calculated that I could break 1:43 if I picked up the pace. I did. I remembered that the last mile was downhill, and I kept telling myself that the race is only 12 miles, that the last mile does not count. Pace went down gradually, in spite of the rolling hills. With every hill, I would tell myself, "last one, last one". It worked. At mile 12 I seriously picked up the pace. I saw the clock at 1:42:30 as I got close to the finish line, and kicked it for a 1:42:40 finish time.
Garmin stats: 1:42:40, 7:50 pace
Official stats: 1:42:57, 7:52 pace; 13th woman overall. 3rd 30-39 category.
Post race I felt great. None of the usual dizziness, hotheadedness that I normally experience. I got a free massage and some food after seeing my family. My son had a ball cheering on the runners. At the end of the race he and my husband ran through the finish line and everyone cheered on them. Now my son keeps telling everyone: "I am a fast runner. I am the fastest". I am loving that. Check out his smiling face as he was cheering on runners (red shirt and blue hat).
He also liked the trophy I got:
Overall a great day!
So, although I am happy with the results, I do feel I can run faster. A friend of mine who ran the race found this calculatorhttps://phsexchweb.partners.org/exchweb/bin/redir.asp?URL=http://www.runworks.com/calculator.html , and said that based on the elevation profile for this race, we can substract 3 min from our race times in order to get a more reliable and valid 1/2 marathon time. That would be a sub 1:40 for me, which, based on FIRST would tell me I could do a 3:30 marathon (1:42 says I can do 3:35).
What I did wrong:
*Did not taper. At all. Ran 3 tempo run the previous week.
*Mentally I did not handle mile 9 very well. I should have pushed more. My pace went down a lot at that point, and, although I picked up the pace later on, mile 9 cost me.
*I started out too fast. Enough said.
What I did right:
*I ran the darn race even though I was not trained for it and very intimidated by the hills. This is good for me, get myself out of my comfort zone.
*I managed to pick it up at the end and did not fall apart at mile 9.
What I've learned:
I am strong cardiovascularly. All the swimming and biking have done wonders for my cardio system. However, my legs are not able to keep up. This was also my experience in the marathon. I think I am going to add another day of running, call it a recovery 4-5 miler at 8:30-9 pace, to get my legs ready and my mileage up. I would still be going on relatively low mileage (35-45), but much better than where I am now (25-30) or where I was during my training for Boston (27-35).
* I always zig zag and run at least a .3 extra.