But going into the F^3 Lake Half Marathon, I had high hopes of officially smashing 1:30. (As I had hoped last year as well.) So this was a semi-important race for me. Having had a couple training runs where my run time was below 1:30 (at 1:28 and change even), I knew I could run sub-1:30, and it shouldn’t take perfect conditions to do it. Of course my sub-1:30 training runs included one or two short breaks giving me some rest and that makes a difference. Still, I was confident that I would run 1:30, and between me and you (my small audience of quiet readers, ha) going into the race on Saturday I was truly shooting for a time between a high 1:26 and a low 1:27.
I run outside all the time. I run in the cold and the hot, snow, rain, whatever. I don’t like ice, and have to slow down considerably (almost to a walk) when I encounter it. But when it comes to race day, the last thing I want is to be uncomfortably cold and wet on a run that I can’t stop or slow down and adjust the apparel. I want to be able to race and not be weighed down by tons of layers, but I want to stay warm and dry, as much as possible. So, from Friday night up to Saturday morning when I get out of my parked car at the race location, I am constantly adjusting exactly what I will wear. The predicted temp was supposed to be in the mid-20’s or so, but the start of the race seemed cooler. I felt relatively warm however, and that was a relief. If anything I may have gotten a little too warm on the drive over.
I debated wearing something that would cover my face more (like a balaclava) but I just couldn’t see wearing something like that in a race. It was too hard to breathe through on my hard training day in the week leading up to the race. So I ditched it hoping my face wouldn’t freeze in the wind later.
I got a short mile warm-up in, and then lingered around where everyone else was. The start of the race was pretty typical and nothing out of the ordinary happened. I met up with a few folks that I’ve met through twitter or past races, chatted, and waited for the start. I felt pretty confident that everything was going in a good direction.
Once the race started everything did feel good. I was really moving well, and holding my pace in the 6:30’s and low 6:40’ and it felt pretty effortless. For whatever reason, I felt like I could hold that pace forever and quickly got it squared away in my brain that I was going to do this: 1:27 or better, here I come!
I skipped most of the aid stations. Being a half marathon, I was quite certain I could get through less than 90 minutes of exertion without stopping for fluids. It probably sounds stupid, but my big fear was spilling it on myself and then freezing the rest of the race. (I spill it all the time; in the summer it’s fine.) There was a breeze but it didn’t bug me. I could feel it as we headed north in the first couple miles, so I knew that after we headed south it’d be at my back, and then I’d have it in my face again for the last 5 miles after we turned back north for the final stretch. No worries, it wasn’t a bad wind.
The first 6 miles went by and my average pace was exactly where I intended to hold it. It would have been easy to run faster and harder, but I was just happy holding it there, I knew it was what I could hold consistently, and I wanted to play it smart. The mile markers were way short the first few miles, and that was okay with me, but based on my GPS splits, I was holding down consistent splits averaging 6:38. Perfectly dead on! I was stoked.
And then my hamstring decided it was time to start bugging me, right around mile 6.5. My pace dropped to 6:45 for the 7th mile, 6:52 the 8th mile, and so on… and on that went. We made the turnaround for the last long stretch back north, and back into the breeze, which now seemed like full-on wind. I don’t want to sound like a complainer, but something was really affecting my face/head: my face felt frozen, my head was getting dizzy, and my left eye was hurting (say what???) and vision in that eye was blurred (did I get Vaseline in my eye or something?). Maybe it was just the wind, but I didn’t hear many people actually complain about it later; maybe it was dehydration, I ended up grabbing a cup at about 8 miles, but perhaps lost too many fluids overheating in the car before the race; maybe it was the cold medicine as I had had a head cold all week; or maybe I was just fatigued for whatever reason. All of the above? Miles 10 through 12 were a painful blur. I was feeling like I might pass out, and I don’t think I was running in a straight line. I really didn’t want to pass out in a half – that sounded ridiculous. It was pretty disappointing having been so ready for this race, and having had some great runs over the past few weeks. I did what I could to keep those last miles from slowing too much, but I was lumbering through them. My legs now felt like heavy logs. (Again, I say what??) Mile 12 was down to a 7:10 pace, argh!!!
By the last full mile, #13, I started to pull myself together again. I knew it would be over soon, and that’s all I wanted, to finish this damn thing and feel normal again. Why was I racing a race I knew would be cold and windy? From where I don’t know but I found some last bit of juice for a 6:54 on that last full mile, and a bit faster for the last .11 miles. Finished. I was never so happy to be done with a Half Marathon. My watch: 1:29:15. Woohoo. Not a 1:28, not 1:27, nowhere near 1:26, but it was under 1:30. Thank God.
I got my cowbell medal, headed for a cup of Gatorade, then straight into a warming tent to see if I could get my eye and face working again. The stinging in my eye started to subside, but still not sure if it was the cold wind or Vaseline that bothered it. After five minutes, I was feeling much better, though blinking a lot, and walked over to cheer on the runners by the finish line. I got to chat with some more friends, cheer some more runners on; it was good to be done with that one.
Official race results later put me at 1:29:16, and 6:49 overall pace. My average pace of the second half was 20 whole seconds slower per mile, 6:58, compared to the 6:38 I had going when everything seemed smooth and perfect. Oh well. It was a PR by 53 seconds, and I’m not going to let previous high hopes ruin the fact that I came out of it with a new PR and finally an official sub-1:30 time. There’s no reason to complain. This PR was once unobtainable and unthinkable to me; and despite feeling like utter $?&#!t for 6.5 miles I still managed to get there. I’ll save faster times for another day down the road. It's nice to have things to look forward to.