Two-letter summary: PR
One-sentence summary: While I was optimistic about beating my personal record, I was NOT expecting to take four minutes off my time.
It’s been a month since this race, and I still haven’t even written about September’s amazing vacation (I’ve started writing, though…). Better late than never?
Background: I signed up for this race after September’s marathon PR (personal record) in Ireland. I hadn’t originally planned to race a half-marathon until November, but I was itching to see what I could do. I was running fast, so why not race in October instead? My half-marathon PR of 1:49:59 was more than two years old, so it was time to challenge myself. Plus, the Urban Cow Half gave out a cowbell medal, so why not have some fun?
I had a trail half-marathon fun-run on the calendar a week before this race. What I had not planned, however, was to go into race mode about two miles into that trail run. I took off, flew down the hills, nearly fell, survived the uphills, and missed third place in my age group by 26 seconds. However, I braked on the downhills because I had this weird mental worry about falling, so that really hurt my quads. They were abnormally sore for days afterward, and I barely worked out the whole week before Urban Cow. Oops.
The day before the race, I meant to go to the gym or run a few mellow “shakeout” miles. By dinner time, that hadn’t happened. Oops. I went to make boring pasta for dinner and realized I had no sauce. So I put on running shoes, ran 1.2 miles to the store, bought sauce, then ran home clutching that jar for dear life. Small hands plus sweat could have resulted in disaster, but instead I ran 8:24 average pace. Oops, that wasn’t “mellow” pace to run 12 hours before a race. Additionally, the greater NorCal/Nevada area had been subjected to huge forest fires so the air quality wasn’t the best. Another oops.
Race day: Early on a Sunday morning, I awoke with a killer of a sore throat. Uh oh: That slight tickle in my throat the previous night may not have just been a pre-race jitter? Too late now! Parking was easy, packet pickup was fast, port-a-potties were plentiful. The race has two waves that start five minutes apart, so it wasn’t crowded when I lined up in the corrals. A teen choir sang the National Anthem and then the race began. I started my music, a playlist I’d titled “1:48″ and which was exactly 1 hour, 48 minutes long. That was my goal, though anything faster than 1:49:59 would make me happy. This meant I needed to run an average pace of 8:15. Until very recently, such an idea boggled my mind.
Miles 1-6: 8:05, 8:05, 8:08, 8:10, 8:02, 7:47
The 10k (6.1 miles) point on my watch showed just over 50 minutes; I was at 50:32 when I passed the official course 10k marker. That’s only 40 seconds slower than my 10k PR, so that was kind of fun. However, I had the same thing happen a couple years ago in a half-marathon, and then I hit a wall in that race and started walking. So I was NOT assuming anything at this point.
Miles 7-9: 8:01, 7:53, 7:56
At mile 8, it got hard. I was feeling tired and my legs didn’t think they could keep running this pace. But that’s where experience paid off: I have known for a while that the eighth mile is always hard for me, whether it’s a marathon or a training run. I just have to suck it up and keep going, because that mile will eventually end. So that’s what I did, and it wound up being my third fastest mile of the race.
Miles 10-13.1: 8:02, 8:03, 7:59, 7:44, last 0.27 miles at 7:35 pace.
The race wound through downtown Sacramento, through old town, went along a levee for a little while, then took us back around to the starting point, which was in a big park. They had good mile markers and great aid stations, but then I saw a sign saying we had half a mile left. My watch said we had a lot more than that, but it was also measuring long so I thought maybe it was going to even out. So I started pushing. I knew I had the PR in the bag, but I never ease up at the end of a race: I want to know I raced as hard as I could.
Nearly half a mile later, we went under an arch that said we had half a mile left. WELL THEN. This was annoying, but I willed myself to keep going. I was looking at my watch and doing fuzzy math, and thought, “Oh wow, I might be able to reach 1:45:xx!” I ran with everything I had left.
I came up two seconds short of 1:45:xx, which made me groan out loud in frustration when I saw the official results. Plus, my watch showed an average of 7:59 per mile because I ran a longer distance (this happens due to weaving around people and not taking turns tight enough). The official pace is 8:06 per mile. But I really wasn’t too upset, because I had just taken a significant amount of time off my PR and had certainly beaten my 1:48 expectation.
I wandered around the finish area getting free food that included a whole loaf of bread (that was random) and getting my picture taken with someone in a cow costume (bad photo). I texted my old running mentor along with a couple other people: “I just PR’ed by four minutes! Oh my gosh!” Then I made what seemed like the world’s longest 80-minute drive home, going straight to Five Guys for a burger and fries and devouring them before taking a shower. Hey, don’t judge.
- 22nd of 326 in my age/gender division (top 6.7%)
- 93rd of 2,051 females (top 4.5% — what?!)
- 393rd of all 3,258 finishers (top 12%)
- 5 miles: 40:54, 8:11 average pace
- Halfway: 53:11, 8:08 average pace
- 10 miles: 1:21:11, 8:08 average pace
- Finish: 1:46:01, 8:06 average pace
I ran the second half in 53:10, which is a few seconds faster than the first half. That’s exactly how I hope to run a race, rather than starting out too fast and fading to a walk in the second half.
Conclusion: Exactly one year before this race, I ran my slowest-ever road marathon in St. George. Yep, it was slower than the hilly Big Sur Marathon that had strong headwinds the year I ran it. Yep, it was slower than the humid, hot Kona Marathon that I unknowingly ran with a virus. Yep, St. George is often called one of the fastest races in the country. Apparently I beat all those odds. Eleven months after my St. George debacle, I ran a marathon in Ireland exactly 1 hour and 37 seconds faster. Twelve months later, I ran my best half-marathon. It can be hard to accept defeat, as it was on that miserable day in St. George, but I now know that the key is to only let it define that moment. One defeat does not have to define your life. St. George may have defeated me that day, but I am still running. And I still love it.