Yesterday I ran my 4th half marathon, the Earth Day Half in St. Cloud, Minnesota. I’ll cut right to the good stuff: massive almost 9-minute PR, I qualified for a starting corral in Chicago, and most importantly, I pushed myself and stayed strong. (Also, my 1:48 was good enough for top 20 in my [VERY LARGE AND TOUGH] division, so bonus!)
So yeah, I’m over the moon. I know the goal was 1:47 and change, and the stretch goal was 1:45, and yes I missed the first one by only a handful of seconds–but this was still a massive success for me. Here’s how it all went down.
I made a decision as we were lining up to run with the 1:45 pacer (obviously there was no 1:47 pacer, so it was him or nothing.) I chatted with him a bit and he told me that he would finish within one second of 1:45, and I decided to believe him (I’ve heard horror stories about pacers going out too fast and had my doubts). I lined up on his heels, and as soon as the gun went off I stayed on him like it was my job. I didn’t look at my Garmin, just kept my head up and ran.
Miles 1-4: 8:02, 7:58, 7:57, 7:57.
I didn’t know we were running a couple seconds fast, but looking back, maybe that’s ok. I took a gel somewhere in 4 and just kept trucking along, telling myself I had to think about nothing but staying on that red pacer jersey. I was so close to him we bumped elbows a couple times. Do not let him go, I repeated over and over. Mile 5 was where I wondered for the first time if I could hang with him the whole way, but I just kept it moving, told myself I was fine, and kept plugging along.
Miles 5-8: 7:57, 7:50, 8:05, 8:19.
I let the pacer go at 7.5 (obviously). Something just didn’t feel right and I saw my heart rate was a little too high. I looked at my Garmin and some quick math on my average pace told me we were running under 8 and frankly, I’m just not in shape to do that for 13.1 miles yet. (Also, HILLS. NOT A FLAT COURSE LIKE I THOUGHT. HILLS!)
I had a tough go at it mentally through this next stretch. I had to work hard to convince myself that I wasn’t screwed jut because I let the pacer go–he was, after all, ahead of 1:45. You’re still going to PR no matter what, I told myself. Breathe.
Miles 9-12: 8:25, 9:02, 8:49, 8:35.
That 9:02 had two hills in it that I thought were actually going to stop me dead in my tracks. At the top of the second was a water stop, and I took about 5 seconds to walk through it to make sure I got some water down. I’m not terribly proud of these splits, but I was on my own, it was hilly, and damn it was hard.
Mile 13 was 8:10 and I did the last .18 (I suck at running tangents) at 7:22 pace–my Garmin says I was running 6:04 pace for that last sprint into the stadium–it really was all I had left.
I had to stop for a second before they gave me my medal because I thought I might throw up I ran it in so hard (but I didn’t!) I missed landing in the 1:47s by 28 seconds, which is grinding on me a little, but I’m still incredibly happy with how I performed. I’ve been wondering if I hadn’t had those fast miles in the beginning if I would have finished better–or at least been more consistent over those later miles–but the pacer saved me from running too fast in the very beginning I think, so who knows. Plus, some of those hills were just a bitch.
I’m most satisfied with the fact that I stayed in it mentally. Even when I saw those slow splits come across, I stayed calm. “This isn’t a bonk,” I told myself. “You ran a little too fast earlier and now you’re heading up a hill. Just hold on. You’re in this.” And for the first time in this distance, I fought the whole way. I know those later splits might lead you to believe otherwise, but I fought.
I think this race might be a turning point for me–I feel like I had a breakthrough yesterday. When I lined up with the pacer I almost felt like I had to explain to him that I don’t ACTUALLY run 1:45ish half marathons, I was just trying to. (I didn’t, duh, I’m just saying I didn’t feel like I belonged there.) But I do belong there. And that’s something I’ve never believed until now.
I don’t have my Fargo goal from the Coach yet, but you know I’ll blab it all over the internet once I get it. Gotta make it real : )
Oh, and the reason I’ve been so obsessed with getting a corral in Chicago?
I’m going after my BQ on October 10th. I wasn’t ready to say so until I could see that my legs had some speed in them over a longer distance, but now I believe. (And I think not having to start with 40,000 other people will greatly help setting the pace in those early miles.) So one year from now, I have a very real expectation that I’ll be in Massachusetts buying an overpriced jacket and getting ready to fulfill a dream I thought was seriously impossible for me.
And now, pictures!