This race was tough, possibly my toughest one yet. When I ran this race last year, I used it as a progressive run. The weather was beautiful – 60 degrees and pleasant. This year? Not so much. An email was sent out the night before letting participants know the race organization was red-flagging the race from the start, meaning tough conditions. The many warnings made me nervous which was probably a result of over-heating during a spring half in 2015, but I reminded myself that I have been training in these conditions for two months now and, as long as I was smart about it, I would be fine. I did not taper for this race, it was just part of my my weekly mileage which I feel had an impact on performance. In the end, I think this was more beneficial than tapering.
A few weeks ago my husband decided he was going to come to this race. He always comes to my local races if they’re goal races, but this one is always just a mid-training race so it’s really up to him if he wants to come. My friend Katie hadn’t run this race in the past, so she drove over to our place in the morning to follow us over to the start to alleviate the stress of finding the best way to get there. My husband decided to bring the pups so I rode over with Katie.
Once we got there we headed into the local grocery store to use the bathroom and then went out on a one mile warm up together. It was 70 degrees with 98% humidity and I decided to just run the race in my sports bra. I had brought my handheld which I had never raced with before, but I felt it was necessary given the heat. The forecast was calling for temperatures near 77 with a heat index close to 100 for the later part of the race so I wanted to make sure I could hydrate as I wanted throughout the race.
Katie & I said our goodbye and headed into the corrals. This race does not have assigned corrals, but it does have pacers so it’s easy to line up. I chatted with a few people while we waited for the race to start. After a quick National Anthem (many of us did not put our hands on our hearts, sorry Gabby Douglas critics) we were off. I wasn’t sure of my pace in the first mile, but knew I would settle into a rhythm once I got going. My only plan for the race was to run what felt comfortably-hard, allowing my body to dictate the pace. Ultimately I wanted to stick to GMP, but that just didn’t happen in the heat. My friend Cory caught up to me in the first mile and we chatted for a little before he pulled ahead. By mile 2 I caught up with the 1:50 pace group and decided to just stick with them. Around mile 3 the quarter marathon group breaks off as the half marathoners head into the first hill, but there were still quite a bit of half marathoners. I was very thankful with the light breeze at this point, but unfortunately that didn’t last. (8:19/8:24/8:26)
I quickly realized the 1:50 pacer flat out sucked at pacing. He would run slow and then surge ahead to get back to averaging a 8:25 pace. At mile 5 he surged ahead while I was running a steady 8:25 pace so I just let him go. I had met with my coach the day before and we talked about running tangents so this was something I was focusing on during the race. Unfortunately, the course had us coned to one side of the road most of the time that didn’t allow runners to actually run the shortest route. I still did my best to stick to it and it was a good distraction from the heat. By mile 6 the sun was out in full force. While this is a beautiful course, there is only a few spots of shade. Because of the heat, I had only planned on taking one gel because that’s all I felt my stomach could handle. I took it at mile 6 and just kept on going as much as I could. (8:14/8:25/8:26).
I wasn’t paying a ton of attention to my watch, just letting my body determine the pace so I was happy with my splits as they beeped in. I actually missed the beep for mile 7, but things were starting to get tough. At every water stop I was dumping water on myself so I was having a hard time determining if I was still sweating or not. I’m pretty sure I stopped sweating at some point after the half way mark. The breeze was very dismal at this point as well, but we finally hit some shade and a few downhills. Up until this point the course was mostly rolling hills and it made me really thankful for my tough Sunday trail runs. We were starting to hit flatter portion of the course and it actually made me miss the variety, though I’m not sure my non-tapered legs could’ve taken anymore hills! I was trying to wring out my shorts because without a shirt on, they were absorbing most of the water I was dumping on myself. It was still refreshing and the water was actually cold which was great. By mile 9 I was really starting to struggle to get my legs moving. I was actually happy with my splits these miles and knew I could finish under 1:55 even if I began to slow more. (8:30/8:32/8:37)
Miles 11 through the end I was just trying to hold on. This was a mental battle to keep going even though my legs were trashed and people were beginning to walk. I knew not tapering was having a huge impact on my race, but I also knew my coach had good reason to not let me back off for a half marathon. At this point in my running, I don’t see a reason to taper for a race during training. Things were starting to warm up and my effort level was the same, but my pace slowed. It was frustrating to not be able to get myself to move faster, but I was proud of myself for continuing to push and not give in. I didn’t let myself panic and kept on pushing despite my slow pace. I’m pretty positive I wasn’t sweating. In the final mile I stopped for probably 15 seconds. A guy came up behind me and said, “You’ve got this.” I started running again and thanked him. He told me he had been following me the entire time. This is always a nice feeling to hear this from a fellow runner, and I explained to him that I hadn’t tapered and it was turning out to be a tough race for me. He ran with me for a while, but as I saw the finish I dug deep for everything that I had left and pushed myself to the finish. (8:31/9:01/8:58/8:57/7:30 for the last .25)
When I crossed the finish I got my beautiful medal, my cold bottle of water, my ice towel, and headed to the finishers area. All I wanted to do was sit down so I found a shady spot on the curb and sat down. My husband and the pups quickly found me. My friend Dana that had run the quarter marathon and her husband that was there cheering her on joined us. Since my husband had brought the dogs, he had a small cooler with water and ice packs and gave me an ice pack to put on the back of my neck. Shortly after my friend Katie finished and found us. I got myself a banana and shared that as well as my cold water with my dogs. My favorite thing about this race is the Snowville Creamery chocolate milk at the end. I got myself a cup, but about 3/4 of the way through the sugar was making my stomach turn so I had to toss it.
My official time was 1:53:06. It’s hard for me to not be disappointed with this time since it’s so far from what I know I’m capable of achieving. At the same time the overall female winner’s time was 6 minutes slower than last year, so I know this was on par with the conditions for this year. Considering it was a red-flag race on a tougher course and I wasn’t tapered, I should be proud of this race. I am proud that I didn’t allow myself to give up and keep pushing. This half felt more like the second half of a marathon than just a half marathon and I think that will be more valuable to my training than busting out a great half marathon race. My coach told me I shouldn’t be concerned because 1) I know how the heat affects me and 2) It won’t be hot on marathon day and, if it is, we will just adjust my pace accordingly.
After the race I really wanted a bagel, but the drive through line at Einstein Bagels was so long so we stopped by the local grocery store for fresh bagels. I mentioned to my husband I’d like a donut too and he came back to the car with a half dozen donuts, yuuuum.
After a shower, I took a much needed nap and spent the rest of the day relaxing. It was too hot to go back out and I was just useless the rest of the day. I have some extra vacation time left, so I took Monday off and ended up being really glad I did. I had some recovery miles on Monday morning and was happy for the opportunity to sleep in a little and just relax/get things done around the house.
Despite the heat, I would run this race again (for a third time!). The course is beautiful and the race is well organized. There is little crowd support on the course, but enough that it’s very much appreciated. The water stops are organized and well placed. This year’s medal was beautiful since the race organization wanted us to all have our own “gold” medals.
My next race is the marathon, so now it’s time to buckle down and enjoy the last few weeks of training.