I'd mentioned in my previous post that I was planning on starting out with the 2:15 pace group for my half this weekend. Having not done a race since 2004 (a very poorly trained race, too), which was my first race, I wasn't completely sure what to expect as far as pacing goes. I knew my 2-4 mile runs were finally reaching a sub-10 minute pace, for the most part, and I knew that my long runs were somewhere around a 10:30 - 10:48 pace. Both of those times had only been recently, over the last couple weeks. I also knew that adrenaline and the overall atmosphere of the race would carry me through, and would potentially give me a slightly quicker pace.
First off, let me say, the race course was great! Weather was completely ideal... Sunny, and I think the majority of the race was somewhere in the upper 50's to lower 60's. Being in the sun was so comfortable, being in the shade was slightly chilly. But I could handle the chill.
I started the race with the 2:15 pace group. In fact, I did my best to stay relatively close to the pace leader. Somewhere in the first few miles, I asked the guy what his strategy was for hills. Having never participated in a pace group, I was unsure of what to expect. He said he had planned to slow down to a fast walk for part of the uphill sections of the race, and then resume running on the downhills. I found this odd. I mean, I guess it makes sense, to conserve energy, especially since he was pacing all the way through for the full marathon... but it seemed odd to me that he, an experienced marathoner, would slow down to a walk. As for me, I know what my limits are, mentally. I was about 80% sure that if I slowed down to a walk with the pace group for the uphill, that resuming the run would be especially difficult for me, mentally. So, upon this first hill, I chose to continue running and just slowed my pace (maintain effort, not speed on an uphill, says Coach/Author Jenny Hadfield). I figured the pace group would soon catch up with me and I'd get back with them again. Well, they never really caught up. In fact, I would look back and notice more and more distance between myself and the pace leader. At one point, I didn't see them and actually thought maybe he had passed me and I didn't realize it. Evidently, that was NOT the case.
For one thing, let me just say a couple things I noticed... Early in the race, while I was with the pace group, we passed this woman who was speed walking. Let me tell you, this woman could have broken a tall man's nose with her elbows, with how high and hard she was swinging her arms. People were actually afraid to pass her. I just found that humorous. During one of the out-and-back segments, the faster runners were on the "back" part of the segment and I noticed one man running and talking on his cell phone. Really?!? I've seen people at the gym on the treadmills and such talking on their phones, but running in a race? Wow.
Anyway, I was running my race, and I noticed that I felt like I was going faster. I kept my outlook realistic and expected to possibly have to slow down at some point, or at least not be able to get negative splits. I used up my first GU at mile 6ish and felt re-energized. I probably could have finished the race without my 2nd GU, but knew if I wanted to finish strong, I'd be better off using it. So, it was shortly after passing the 10-mile marker that I used up my 2nd GU. I was feeling strong. I couldn't believe how good I was feeling as I was running. As I passed mile 11, I couldn't help but to think that I was about to go further than I had gone in any of my long runs (my longest was 11.25 miles). This part made me slightly nervous. But, I pushed ahead and bumped up my pace. During the very last mile, maybe more like the last 1/2 - 3/4 mile, I felt the slightest little twinge of a cramp trying to happen in my left calf muscle. I somehow managed to adjust my stride, drink water, or do something that kept it from turning into a full-fledged cramp. I saw the finish line and at that point, I booked it. I was pretty sure I was going to end up beating 2:15, and even thought I had a small chance at beating 2:10. The finish line clock said something like 2:14 when I crossed, and I knew it had taken my 2-3ish minutes to cross the start line at the beginning. When I finally finished, I started losing control of my breath. You know, that wheeze that you get where the only respite comes when you raise your arms up above your head. My calves felt like they were going to explode. But I did it!! I finished it, and I ran the whole thing!
Steve, Ryder and I walked over to the results tent, I gave them my bib number, and she printed off my preliminary results... 2:11:33!!! I couldn't believe it!! I still can't believe it! At the start of the race, I thought I'd be lucky just to keep up with the 2:15 pace group for the entire race, and here I was, blowing that 2:15 out of the water!
The highlight of the race for me was seeing Steve and Ryder right at the mile 5 marker. Steve was holding Ryder, and Ryder was wearing my black knit hat that I normally run in. The hat was so big on him, it practically covered his eyes. It was the most energizing moment in the entire race, to see them standing there, cheering me on. I loved knowing they were there for me.
Anyway, it was a wonderful race. I feel great right now, even if it is 5:20am. I managed to get the night shift tonight, so I've been here at work since 11pm, and I'll be here until close to 11am. I'm hoping to get out of here before then, though. Once race pictures are available, I post those, along with some of the pictures that Steve got.
Enjoy the rest of the weekend, all! Its now time for another cup of coffee for me.