Category Archives: Half Marathon

Platte River Half-Marathon Race Recap

I will fully admit that I have actively avoided writing about this race.

photo by Dan Berteletti

photo by Dan Berteletti

It happened, it didn’t go the way I wanted it to, and I wanted to stuff it in my back drawer and forget about it.

The problem, though, is that keeping something hidden away doesn’t mean it’s gone; it mostly just means it’s taking up extra space and energy when it shouldn’t be. So here I am, putting this race in the proverbial recycle bin as opposed to letting it lay around, clogging up my life.

It’s not that it was even that bad, and it’s not that I’m necessarily “embarrassed” by it. It’s just that it was technically a goal race that went awry, and I didn’t want to really own the fact that my goal race for the spring didn’t go according to plan.

Which is pretty petty, in hindsight. Because c’mon…it’s running! Sometimes it goes great, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes you can run fast and light and strong, and sometimes you feel like you’re trudging through hot mud.

The point is, bad races happen, and this bad race happened to be the race I had my eye on for a few months. There are several reasons it didn’t pan out the way I wanted it to, and I’ll take the blame for a lot of them. Regardless, here’s the recap:

I was feeling exceptionally fit going into Platte River, fitter than I’d felt since late 2013. I’d had an effortless tempo-long run just two weeks before in which my tempo pace was easily below my goal half-marathon pace, and it felt completely do-able. I thought that my PR of 1:36:11 was within reach for this race, and I had fairly solid confidence that it was going to be “that” kind of day. To be blunt, my instincts about how races are going to go is typically pretty accurate, and I’ve always thought that there is a direct correlation between my race execution and my “hunch” ahead of time.

Needless to say, I was excited on race day. Ready to run fast and prove to myself the huge strides I’d made since moving to Colorado. The race is a point-to-point that starts in Littleton and ends at the South end of Denver. I lined up near the front of the pack (overly cautious to not do any weaving), and after a beautiful National Anthem, we were off. I had a loose race plan to start between 7:25-7:30, then drop down after the first few miles or so to 7:15-7:20. It was moderately daunting, but again…I thought it was attainable. I’ve learned time and time again the advantages to negative splitting, so this race plan seemed perfect.

Well, somewhere along the way, that race plan was entirely forgotten. I have no explanation or justification other than getting caught up in the excitement of the start of the race and feeling really, really good. This was, however, where my race kind of imploded – without me knowing it at the time.

Mile 1: 7:10

Mile 2: 7:17

Mile 3: 7:09

I actively avoided looking at my splits after this race because I knew I would face-palm myself for the tangible proof of the mistakes I made. Really Robyn?! Really? There was no reason to run that fast, but I did…and it will explain more later on.

These miles wound through Littleton downtown and spit runners out onto the Platte River trail, where we would spend the majority of the race. At this point, I felt great; in control, working, but not overworking. I also noticed very quickly that it was going to be a warm race – and I’ll spare you from my ranting once again of how I feel about that.

The trail navigates along a river and is primarily a paved bike path. It’s a net downhill course, but the terrain itself is moderately rolling. I tried to control my pace a bit more after the first 5k and get into a rhythm, but around mile 5 – when I should have just been getting into a settled pace – I was already feeling like I was working.

Mile 4: 7:14

Mile 5: 7:16

Mile 6: 7:21

Right around halfway is when I started not feeling well. I was hot, my legs were heavier than they should have been, and generally I just felt kind of lonely. It’s a smaller race, and there weren’t a ton of people around me, which is typically fine – but the scenery itself was just kind of dull and lonesome.

Still, I was trying to hold a 7:20-7:30 pace. I knew I had gone out too fast, but I also knew I had the fitness to back up my effort. Alas, this became very difficult, very fast. I could not get under 7:30, no matter how hard I pushed, and when you’re already counting down the miles at mile 8 of a half-marathon, it’s hard to find a sense of confidence.

Mile 7: 7:32

Mile 8: 7:34

Julia and I had planned beforehand that she was going to jump in with me at mile 10 to run me into the finish. In my head (and probably both our heads) it was going to be a fast, celebratory finish with my training partner towards a new half-marathon PR (or close to it). So it’s no surprise that I was disappointed before I even got to her knowing this wouldn’t be the case. It’s not even that I had given up, as I was pushing as hard as I could, it just wasn’t happening for my legs. Regardless, focusing on getting to her was a good distraction, and I was desperate for anything I could get at that point. Again, there were little to no spectators, somewhat blah scenery, and I was feeling every little up and down we came across; getting to Julia felt like a beacon of hope.

Mile 9: 7:43

Mile 10: 7:50

I had certifiably hit a wall at this point. Yes, a full marathon wall. I wanted so badly to walk, to be done, to just be doing ANYTHING other than running that race. It felt crummy in all regards. When Julia picked me up, I signaled a thumbs down to her and told her it was not my day. I actually felt bad that the low-7 min/mile pace she’d been planning on was barely a sub-8 at this point (which, in hindsight is silly…but you know, race brain). I let her chatting distract me as much as possible, but I was confined to ugly death-march status at that point.

Mile 11: 7:48

Mile 12: 7:56

In the middle of mile 12, you hit the only significant uphill during the course, in which the course veers from the trail onto a highway overpass. It’s steep, it’s ugly, and at that point in the race…it’s unrelenting and brutal. I had Julia run in front of me and held on for dear life. The only saving grace was knowing the finish was close once we were up.

Mile 13: 8:33 (HA!)

Once we were on the other side of the hill, I did the mental math for the first time since the race started of what my finish time would be. Realizing that I still had a shot of running under 1:40, I gave all the gusto I had left when turning the corner toward the finish line.

Last .1 Mile (.19 Mile on my watch): 7:00 pace

The final sprint was brutal, but seeing Dan, Corey, and Adam was enough encouragement to sneak in right below the mark.

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Final time: 1:39:46

In all honesty, my first thought upon finishing was, “FUCK, that was so bad.”

Within a few minutes though, I was consoled with the realization that if a bad race for me right now is a sub-1:40 half-marathon, then I should have some confidence in where my speed is at. Sure, the race was terribly executed and it generally just was not my day, but knowing that just 6 months ago this would have been a very, very good time for me…I can hang  a hat on that.

I somehow used to run without this girl, I don't really know how though.

I somehow used to run without this girl, I don’t really know how though.

I considered for a hot minute trying to salvage my grand half-marathon PR spring goal plan, but truthfully…my heart wasn’t really in it. The true goal for the spring was to bring my speed back to the level I was once at, and I’m feeling very good about how that has progressed. The fact that I dropped nearly a minute off my 5k personal best in March and followed up Platte River with a 35 minute 5-miler is highly motivating that progress is happening. I’m also running Bolder Boulder this upcoming Monday which I’m hoping should be another fun test of where my legs are at.

So yes, this was not a great race, and generally just not a very smart race. But, all these experiences teach us a little something more about ourselves and our running – and I intend to utilize this hard-learned lesson in whatever is to come.

In the meantime, I’m loving the shorter, speedier races, as well as the training that gives me the option to run when I want, how far I want, and how fast I want. Hard to complain about a measly half-marathon when running life in general is just swell, and I’m grateful for it.

Onto the next!

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3 Races, 1 Recap (Deschutes 5k, ADT Half-Marathon, Equinox Half-Marathon)

AKA: I’m lazy and busy, sorry.

So I’m missing a couple of race reports. I ran a 5k in August and a half-marathon on Labor Day weekend. Each race should have received its own recap, but by the time I managed to surface from of all the work I had around that time, it was suddenly weeks later and I had other races to run/recap.

So here’s the deal:

Deschutes Brewery Twilight 5k: 22:06, 10th AG

I was mostly okay with this race. I’ve done a lot of self shit-talking about my speed in the last few months, and while it was nearly a minute off my PR, I was still content with a 7:07 average pace. But, at the same time, I’m still itching for a fast 5k…because I think it’s in me. While I knew this wouldn’t be “it,” I still wanted a little bit more. Oh well, next time. 5ks are hard.

American Discovery Trail Half-Marathon: 1:46:13, 8th overall female, 1st AG

photo 1 (1)

I ran this race as a training run and as a way to see my friend Julia finish her 6th marathon. It wasn’t a goal race, I went in with very tired legs, and I had little expectation time-wise. I did, however, want to practice a few things— which I deemed the three “p”s: patience, presence, and power. I wanted to be patient in the beginning with my pace, present (“in the mile”) during the long middle miles, and powerful in the final miles. I think I executed this “plan” well, as I felt incredibly consistent in my effort and pleased with my overall place.

Equinox Half-Marathon: 1:41:32, 5th AG

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As you can probably imagine, this was a little more encouraging. And this report will be a little longer than the first two, not because the time was more satisfying, but because it was 11 days ago so it is still fresher in my brain.

This is a relatively new race, but with a fast course profile, ideal seasonality, and beautiful scenery, it drew quite the crowd. Its price tag was a bit off-putting for a  small, non-RnR race, but I bit the bullet and registered anyway. I can’t resist a fall half-marathon. It was also an excuse for my family and me to check out some wedding-related spots in Ft. Collins, so we made a weekend out of it.

This was a point-to-point course, so we were bussed to the start line beforehand. I presumed this meant we’d be freezing for an hour ahead of time while waiting around, but when we arrived at the start area I was pleasantly surprised to see we could hang out inside a lodge until the start time. Score! Not to mention there were lots of porta-pottys and coffee available.

The start was a little anti-climactic, but what can you expect from a smaller race in its third year? It was obvious, however, that there were some FAST runners there to race, and whoa baby did they get out of sight quickly. My plan was to try and average around 7:50s or so, which I thought would be do-able considering there was a good amount of downhill to capitalize on.

The first few miles clicked off well. My hamstring and glute have been ridiculously tight lately, so I was a little concerned about running fast on them. Luckily though, it was a non-issue for almost all of the race. The first 4-5 miles felt smooth and controlled, and I had a decent amount of company for the most part. Around mile 3, something happened that has literally never happened once before in a race…my shoe came untied! More than a few profanities were uttered, as I had double-knotted both shoes immediately before the start. Oh well.

The middle miles felt a little tougher. My legs were tired, as once again I was quite un-tapered and on my 6th day of running in a row. But, I took advantage of the downhills when they came, kept my head in the mile, and enjoyed the feeling of running fast.

I logged a few miles in the 7:30s, which I was really happy about. Not once did I do the calculation of my finishing time, but I knew that if I could stick around 7:50s, I would finish in 1:42ish.

The end was a mini-battle, which I’m finding is pretty standard in half-marathons. The course started a gradual upward slope which never really stopped. I was getting hot, my legs were beat, and I really just wanted it to be over. But all the while, I still felt in control and mainly happy to be out racing. It didn’t take long for the finish area to come into view, and as always I was so happy to cross that line.

Here’s my splits, which I’m pretty proud of in terms of even pacing:

7:42, 7:45, 7:43, 7:43, 7:31, 7:37, 7:32, 7:35, 7:39, 7:42, 7:54, 7:55, 7:55, 7:15 (last .1)

Highlights of this race:

-My dad and stepsister road their bikes up the road to cheer us on, and seeing them around mile 8 was a definite high moment for me. My dad road alongside me for a bit, and it was a nice distraction to have him there. He also managed to catch me about half a mile from the finish line, and while I may not have been exactly interested in chatting at that point, it was nice to have him there 🙂

photo 2 (1)

I just realized that looks like a beer can. HA. Negative, it’s la croix. Beer came later.

-Pretty immediately after finishing, my dad and I got in the car and he drove up the course to where my stepmom was so I could run the rest of the race with her. She started the race with a big goal (sub-2), which I knew about, so I wanted to help in any way I could to help her get to the finish line satisfied. And oh man was it impressive, and a serious display of guts. She finished in 1:58, 11 minutes under her PR! Really fun to experience that with her, I was/am proud!

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-Feeling like myself again (mostly). Not that my running is entirely correlated to the time on the clock, but I am certainly a runner who is motivated by speed. More than that though, I felt strong and in control during this race— which is a feeling I haven’t had in a long time. After a lot of clamoring to get back to where I was this time last year, I’m finally feeling that I’m getting there, slowly, which makes my ambitions for Philly seem a little less daunting.

 

A Lesson in Suffering: Sand Creek Half-Marathon Race Recap

An alternative title for this post (obviously imagined around mile 9) was:

“How to Positive Split Like a Champ” or “I Used to Love the Half, Now I Hate it”

I was in a weird middle-ground going into this race, and I wasn’t really sure how to go about running it.

For starters, I’m running Ragnar Northwest Passage on an ultra team this weekend (tomorrow…yikes), so going all-out in a half marathon 7 days before was not an option. Also, I’m in a spot with running where I’m as far behind in terms of speed as I was a few months ago, but I’m not back to my “normal” paces yet either. This left me pretty unaware of what I could run with a moderately-decent effort. And finally, this was a half marathon in July: it was going to be hot, which always rattles my running chains.

So, needless to say – I didn’t really know what to hope for or try for going into this race. I decided I’d be very happy running around a 1:45 (~8:00 pace) and decided to play around with that idea. Also, I really hoped to not stop once for a porta-potty, which would be a big step in my running/Crohn’s recovery.

Well, turns out, despite having a multitude of unknowns going into this race (see above), the only thing I really should have considered was the one “known:” it was going to be hot.

And it was hot. I’m not really one for excuses, but shit, this race was hard. As in, harder than a few marathons I’ve done.

The Beginning

It was a pleasant/easy enough start to the race. There definitely weren’t enough bathrooms, but generally things were organized and it started right on time at 7 am. I’d been able to find people I knew, and generally I was excited to be wearing my singlet and a bib.

Jess and I, all smiles at the start line.

Jess and I, all smiles at the start line.

The first three miles felt exceptional; breathing was easy, legs felt good, and low and behold…I was keeping up a decent pace. I felt happy, strong, and generally gracious to be out there.

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Then right about mile 4, I realized pretty quickly that it was going to be a long finish to this race. I was already sweating way more than normal, and it became clear that while I originally thought this was a fairly flat course – it was actually rolling up and down essentially the entire way. Not to mention the fact that the sun was creeping further overhead, and there was absolutely zero shade.

Despite how early on it still was, I could feel the bitter, negative thoughts barge into my head. I tried to reel them in and remember that everyone was going to be battling through these conditions – it wasn’t just me.

The Middle

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I really never like the middle miles of half-marathons. There’s excitement at the beginning, and excitement at the end, but the middle always seems to drag on. And this race was definitely the definition of “dragging” between mile 6-10. While the course was really beautiful, there were a lot of out-and-backs which got a little tedious. I really like seeing the top runners, but I don’t like knowing exactly how much further I have to go back in the opposite direction. It was fun to see Adam and Jess along the way, which helped give me some boosts, but generally I wasn’t a fan of all the turnarounds.

Around mile 8 I decided I needed to walk through the aid stations to make sure I was getting enough water since I was sweating so much and couldn’t really get a break from the direct sunlight. My strategy would be to grab a cup and a water bottle, drink the cup, swig from the water bottle, then pour the rest of the bottle on my head and shoulders. It took my breath away a little bit every time, but I think it was helpful to have a wet shirt for periods of time.

Needless to say, these walk/water breaks did nothing to help my “goal pace” or my even-split aspirations.

But, it was what it was. I realized fairly early on that surrendering my loose goals didn’t mean I was giving up, and in fact it was actually probably the smart thing to do – given the conditions and the bigger race I have this upcoming weekend. And truth be told, I don’t really think I could have pushed it much more than I already was. Suffering had already settled in, so all I could do was accept it and survive it.

Adam said I look "lost and confused" in this picture. I agree, I'd also add "hating life" and "about to fall over."

Adam said I look “lost and confused” in this picture. I agree, I’d also add “hating life” and “about to fall over.”

The End

My energy picked up some around mile 11, perhaps solely out of knowing that I had less than 20 minutes to run. I wasn’t really paying attention to pace anymore and just did what I could between my precious walk/water dump stops. Truly, I’d never felt this bonked during a half, and while it was disappointing – I knew I wasn’t the only one in the pain cave.

I clocked my splits manually when I’d see mile markers, but I somehow missed mile 10 so my distance was a little off. However, I’m convinced the distance between miles 12 and 13 was at least 1.25 miles…it took forever! Not to mention the entire last mile was along an open sidewalk that passed right by the finishing area before looping back around to complete the 13.1 miles. Such torture…I hate the end being physically so close but seemingly so far.

But, I mustered up my final dregs of energy and was determined to just finish the damn thing. At this point I could feel my skin burning and the sweat was pouring into eyes – it was time for this business to be over. Once I was finally approaching the finish line, I could see that I was going to be just below or just above 1:50 – and I think you know I wasn’t going to let that “4” change to a “5.” So, despite my grumbling and suffering over the past 8 miles, I found a little sprint left in me and gutted it out to the end.

flat-footed and pretending to run fast

flat-footed and pretending to run fast

I finished in 1:49:50 and 20th female,  7th in my age group.

After finding shade, cheering in friends and Adam, and stuffing ice in my sports bra, I began to feel like a human again. I don’t think I stopped sweating until we were back in the air conditioned car.

November Project 5280!!!

November Project 5280!!!

Am I happy with that time/result? On the surface, not really. I’m traditionally highly driven by time, and while I knew that I’d be nowhere near where my PR is, admittedly I thought I might be able to work a little magic.

But at this point in time, when I’m in flux in terms of fitness and speed, I’m learning to take anything I can from races, even those without pretty numbers tied to them.

This race was a lesson in not quitting, because more than once – I did want to quit. Even when my pace increased, there was no part of this run that was a “fun run” for me. It was brutal nearly the entire way, and while I may have had some not-so-pleasant, self-doubting thoughts, I did manage to endure. Suffering is a part of this sport, and it’s only by learning to suffer – and eventually embracing it – that we can reach a higher level and a higher respect for our own accomplishments.

Other key takeaways from this race:

-Hard, non-PR races give you ample respect for the races you do PR. More than once on this course I thought, “How in the hell did I run a 7:20 pace for this long at one point?”

-My body is (literally) getting it’s shit together. No bathroom stops, people! Not even a fleeting need for one. This was a big win.

-I still like to compete. Passing women (and getting passed) were the only things firing me up during this race, if only for a a few minutes.

-Heat training is solid gold. Sure, this was a sufferfest, no question about it. But I can guarantee that on a different (read: winter) day on that same course, I would have been able to run a very different race – I have no doubt about it.

-I can’t wait for fall. See point above. I have a good feeling about how my legs and motivation will react once the temperatures cool a bit. Fall is my golden zone of running and training, and if a productive fall marathon training season necessitates a brutal summer, then bring it on.

I’m expecting this upcoming weekend at Ragnar to hold similar types of takeaways in suffering. I’m a little unsure of what to expect, other than I know if will both be very hard and very fun. 30+ hours in a van full of runner friends interspersed with 35 miles of running: what’s not to love? 😉

Runners, we’re weird.

Happy Thursday!

Snohomish River Run Half-Marathon Race Recap

A lot of the time, you don’t really know who will show up on race day.

This is something I’ve learned time and time again, however I tend to forget how true it is until after I’ve finished a race.

Yesterday, I tried to keep it in the front of my mind from the get-go: It may not have been ideal race-preparedness, but that didn’t mean that big things couldn’t happen.

Backing up. Late Friday afternoon, I decided I wanted to try and run below 1:38. This would mean a PR, but in my mind it was more than that; I’ve felt a little stuck in the 1:38-1:41 range in the half-marathon, and I wanted to set the bar higher. It wasn’t going to be the best pre-race set up as I had a wedding to attend on race eve—which I was fully intent on enjoying as much as possible. But, I didn’t want to use that as an excuse for not trying hard at a race I’d been anticipating for a while. So, I didn’t even let myself have the out, and instead just went with it.

Of course, as always, the will to run well can only go so far—which is why when I prepped for the race on Sunday morning, I kept in mind the above mentality that anyone can show up on race day, and all I could do was the best with what the day gave.

Hotel room selfie. Oiselle jersey, Flyte shorts, arm warmers, and Brooks Pure Connects.

Hotel room selfie. Oiselle jersey, Flyte shorts, arm warmers, and Brooks Pure Connects.

So, I showered (new race day routine must-do!), ate a little, hydrated a lot, and attempted to psych myself up. We had stayed in Everett after the wedding as the race was only about 5 minutes away from the guest-designated hotel, so ease of transportation and convenience was definitely on my side. The weather, however, was not.

I opened the curtains of our hotel room after being 100% ready to go and was greeted with the disheartening sight of huge puddles that were filling by the minute from the incessant rain. It had been so long since we had real rainfall in Seattle (somehow) that I hadn’t even considered it could be an issue on race day. It was also still dark and cold, so needless to say…my gun-ho attitude was waning on the drive to the start line.

However, the show must go on, and after retrieving my bib and chip, I did some warm up drills and tried to get in the zone. There were more people doing this race than I’d anticipated, which helped fuel the pre-race energy. Before I knew it, we were all lining up just as the rain subsided a bit. Score! I saw two teammates at the start line as well, Caryn and Erica, who went on to finish as 2nd and 3rd women overall. No big deal, right? After the race director gave some course instructions and wished everyone good luck, we were off!

All I knew about the course was that it was flat, but otherwise I was a little blind in terms of what to expect. It became obvious pretty quick that we were in for a pretty lengthy out-and-back for the majority of the race, which was a little disheartening, but I tried to not think about it. I do like seeing runners pass on the other side, so this would be a plus. Additionally, we were on the course with the 10k runners who had started at a different time, so there were people around pretty consistently.

Flatty flat flat. I don't know what that was...sorry.

Flatty flat flat. I don’t know what that was…sorry.

For the first 3 miles or so, I tried to stick to the loose “plan” I’d put together. I figured if I started off around 7:30s, I could gradually drop down and still have some left for a kick at the end. Not exactly what happened, but not too far off:

Mile 1: 7:19

Mile 2: 7:28 (my attempt to get back to the plan)

Mile 3: 7:20

Eh, okay, a little fast, but I felt in control and that’s what I tried to focus on the most. I was a little oblivious to everything else aside from keeping myself “comfortably uncomfortable.” Once I get below a 7:30 pace, there are very narrow ranges for what feels okay and what feels like too much, so I paid a lot of attention to keeping tabs on my perceived effort.

I was trying to think of the whole endeavor as a 10-mile race followed by a 5k; keep it steady and controlled for 10 miles, and expect it to hurt in the last 3 miles. In this respect, I was very focused on staying in the mile and letting each individual mile be its own mini effort. It seemed to work, and despite being quicker than I’d planned…I was somehow staying incredibly consistent.

Mile 4: 7:22

Mile 5: 7:24

The course was quite flat as expected and wound along a small county highway. It was pretty, but a tad boring, and I was really glad to get to the turnaround around mile 4.7. At this point, I noticed there was a man about a stride and a half behind me, and he stayed either right there or next to me all the way back to the start of the out-and-back. It was incredibly helpful to share the pace with someone. I was running a little scared since I was running so much faster than I’m used to, and even the smallest mental reprieve of matching someone else’s pace was pretty clutch. I think I would have started hurting a lot earlier if it hadn’t been for the tall dude in the all-black compression clothing. Thank you, sir.

Mile 6: 7:16

Mile 7: 7:18

I ripped open a gel around mile 7, and slowly sucked it down for the next few miles. I also started taking water every ~1.5 miles or so, and I think maintaining this consistency was a big help. I was also starting to hurt around this point, too. My legs were getting a little toasty, and the increased pace was burning my lungs a little. It had also started to rain again, which coupled with a small headwind wasn’t making things better. However, I was able to maintain my “stay in the mile” mentality, and as long as I focused on each individual mile—I was able to push the fears of bonking to the back of my mind.

Mile 8: 7:21

Mile 9: 7:16

Tall man and I seemed to be picking it up at the very end of each mile, as we’d be between 7:20-7:25 throughout the mile and then drop in the final .1 or so. But I went with it. I could always feel it when we dropped below 7:20 (crazy just how noticeable it was), but I’d tell myself, “Okay, the next one can be 7:25,” and it somehow was a mental save.

Mile 10: 7:15

Tall man pulled ahead around this point, and we were passing back by the starting area and heading down to a paved path along the river. This is where I think my real mental battle began: It was time for those final 3 miles that I knew would hurt, and it was just me, alone. Since I was near-ish the front, we had all thinned out just enough that you felt like you were running alone, and it didn’t help that the winding river path obscured any forward looking. It was beautiful though, and I welcomed the change of scenery.

This portion was also an out-and-back, and it was a definite fight to get to the turnaround point. The most defeating part was when I saw the “Mile 11” marker when my watch read “11.2” No!!! The mile markers had been so accurate throughout the course, and it was so saddening to not only think I’d have to run further than I thought…but that I’d be logging another long half-marathon course.

Mile 11: 7:13

But, I kept on, and finally the turnaround point appeared. I’d been able to see the top runners coming back by the other way, and I thought I was probably within the top 10 females. There were two women about 100 yards or so ahead of me, but for the first time maybe ever in a race…I didn’t really care. I was already giving everything I had, and I was completely content letting that be enough.

Mile 12: 7:20

I was thrilled when the mile 12 marker appeared right on schedule with my Garmin, and the thought of “only a mile let to go” was so relieving. I was so excited to finish and anxious to see what my finish time would be…because not once during the entire race did I have the energy to try and compute it myself.

Mile 13: 7:21

I was closing in on the girl immediately ahead of me in the last 1/4 mile, but there wasn’t much more I could do at that point. Even my “kick” wasn’t much more than the pace I’d already been maintaining. Regardless, I was elated to see the finish line come into view, and I dug deep into the dregs of energy I had left and strode my way as best I could to the end.

Last .1: 54 seconds (6:43 pace)

There's a smile on that face!

There’s a smile on that face!

I saw the clock ahead reading “1:36:xx” and I was ecstatic. I figured I’d be below 1:38, but this was better than I could have hoped for.

Smiling big, I crossed the finish line, stopped my watch and saw a “1:36:14” flash back.

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Official time: 1:36:11, 9th female overall (<– lucky number alert!), 2nd in age group

How did that happen?!

I was in pretty immediate need of my space blanket and water (and my medal, duh 🙂 ) and gingerly made my way to the finishing chute exit. Despite the plethora of post-race food (hot soup, cheese samples, bagels, etc) I couldn’t even think about getting anything down. I did manage to grab a bowl for BF though, who’d been dutifully waiting in the rain for me to finish.

I wanted at least one photo of the pretty river we'd been running along.

I wanted at least one photo of the pretty river we’d been running along.

After a little bit of meandering, I wanted to skedaddle back to Seattle as soon as possible. There were football games to watch after all! I also felt ridiculously wiped; the kind of fatigue that normally only comes after a sleepless night. Needless to say, you can probably guess how the rest of the day played out 🙂

I’m really, really happy with how this race went. I was glad I was able to stay composed and strong despite the intimidating speeds, and I’m satisfied with the consistent pace—probably the most consistent I’ve ever done. Primarily, it felt great to break through the threshold I’d been dancing around for a while. No, the time isn’t the 1:35:xx I’ve been lusting after, but I can honestly say I left nothing out on the course…which in no way can I be disappointed about. This race gives me the motivation that with a little more time, more training, and more practice, there are big things to come.

No running blogger has ever posted this type of picture ever. But look! Consistency!

No running blogger has ever posted this type of picture ever. But look! Consistency!

Running is a fascinating sport, and it was races like yesterday that keep me wanting to discover the mysteries of running even more.

photo 3

I’m tempted to say that this is the end of my racing season for the year, but who really knows. For right now though, I’ll be hibernating for a little while, and I’m definitely looking forward to some rest time.

Thanks all for the good luck texts, tweets, and notes. Your encouragement is invaluable. 

 

The Salty Half-Marathon Race Recap

It seems that the theme of this past summer has carried over into the fall—that theme, being, complete and total race/running spontaneity. I suppose this comes with the territory of not being extra strict with training or having a huge A race on the horizon… two things of which are my typical M.O. 24/7.

My broadly stated goal this fall was the work on speed, and while there is/was a tangible goal time I’m working toward, it’s been fairly loosey goosey around these parts for the past few months.

Which is why, when asked on a Tuesday if I wanted to run a half-marathon (The Salty Half) that following Saturday, it took me all of a few minutes to happily accept. Those who know me wouldn’t think that this was an exceptionally random decision, with the small caveat that I’m running another half this coming weekend, the Snohomish River Run. I couldn’t pass this one up though; not only was it $22 and included the company of these two, the start line was about a half mile from my house.

That said, I knew that I’d have to choose one of the two races to actually race and one to fun run. Since the Salty Half was a last minute decision, less official, and wouldn’t be tapered for whatsoever, I decided to take it easier on this one. Anddd, that actually didn’t end up being the case, but we’ll get to that later.

Saturday morning bright (dark) and early, I trotted down the hill to meet Lindsay and Nicole at the start line. There were just under 100 people running the race, so it was easy and casual—not timing chips or mats. It was super foggy, probably 85-90% humidity, but it was brisk and cold which is always my jam.

I had very little plan in terms of race execution. I wanted to save race pace for the next weekend, but I also know myself well enough to know I would want to compete a little. And considering the size of this race…I knew I could probably do fairly well if I tried. So, upon starting, I decided to just feel out the first few miles and settle wherever I felt comfortable. I knew for sure I wanted to go for a fast finish, so the only plan really was to save some for the end.

I settled into a group of two girls and a dude running a ~7:45 pace, which felt super comfortable. We were continually switching spots in the pack, and it was the first time I really understood to concept of “doing the work” in a pace group. I took the lead a few times, but otherwise I decided to just stick with this group so long as the pace felt manageable.

The course circled around Alki beach to Lincoln Park, which is my normal long run 80% of the time. Needless to say, I knew every upcoming turn and divet in the road, which meant I didn’t need to worry about course surprises.

We dropped one of the girls around mile 5, and then it was primarily another gal and me side-by-side, nearly stride-for-stride. She introduced herself, thanked me for the company, and we kept on like that for nearly 3 miles. It was the perfect silent runner agreement: You keep me going, and I’ll keep you going.

The turnaround in Lincoln Park was right at the halfway point (out and back course) and my legs felt good. I admit, I heard the siren sound of the race atmosphere get a little louder, and I started to think about executing a kick.

As we exited Lincoln Park (~5 miles to go), my new friend fell back a bit, and since I felt great, I kept on at the same clip. To go from having lots of fellow-runner support around me to instantly having no one was weird. Crazy how simply having someone to share the miles, fatigue, and pace with can make such a difference.

I was in a bit of a conundrum at this point. I knew I was the current 5th overall female (they were giving out prizes out to 5th place), and I  (obviously) liked the idea of a top-5 finish. I also knew that the girl behind me could be thinking the same thing, and playing an A+ game of letting me take an early lead. I went back and forth or whether I should slow down, speed up, or stay where I was. It was the first time I’ve ever actively thought about placing strategy in a race. Kind of fun! But stressful. I ultimately decided that since the pace I was at felt good, I would stick with it. If she caught me, I’d let her go by, and I’d save the chase for the final few miles.

Between miles 10 and 11, a familiar face strode up beside me; my friend Charles was out for his weekend long run and I filled him in on the spontaneous race decision and my current position. Charles is faster than me, and when he offered to help me ward off the girl behind and nab a top-five finish, I was 100% on board. He told me to tell him what felt pace manageable, and we’d hold that until the end.

And so we ran. I attempted to chat, but he made me save my breath while he distracted me with his own stories. Around 11.5, I started hurting some, but I was determined to keep stride with Charles and finish the race strong.

It was a little hard to determine exactly who around us was running the race and who wasn’t, since it wasn’t a closed course and there were tons of people out, both racers and non-racers. So, when Charles asked if a girl about 200 yards ahead was the 4th place female, I wasn’t sure. He said we could catch her if I wanted, and with a nod, we were on the hunt. Sure enough, once we passed, he verified that she was wearing a bib and I was now in 4th place. There was less than a mile to go now, and I was feeling both anxious to finish and determined to keep on my game face.

I have a fairly instinctual finishing kick, which comes I think from my track days, but also from my ingrained competitiveness. With a half mile or so to go, without even realizing it, we were passing another girl, and Charles turned to me and said the most Robyn-Broker-esque motivation there is: “You’re in third now, and you have to prove it.”

So, with my aching legs and screeching lungs, I officially kicked my “fun run” intentions to the curb, opened my stride, and gutted it out—determined for my first “podium” finish.

(Side note: The nice thing about having a pacer is that they can check and see the progress of the person behind you)

With the finish line in sight, I gave it everything I had, only to be directed into a mini-turnaround and loop to the actual finish line (way to throw off our momentum guys!). Charles took off running on his own, I squawked out a thanks, and ran my way to cinch the 3rd place female spot.

Unofficial finish time: 1:40:06 for 13.2 miles

salty half

Hooray! I was awarded a huge plastic fish with a “Third Place” tag on it as soon as I finished, along with a “Salty Half Marathon” sweat towel. Sweet!

*FYI, the race has self-declared “messed up” the places and timing on their results page, which they promised to fix. Just in case anyone decided to lurk 🙂

After thoughts: Obviously, this wasn’t exactly the relaxed race I intended it to be. Did I shoot myself in the foot though for this upcoming weekend? Not necessarily. Yes, it was a harder effort than I intended, but with the exception of the last three miles, I felt composed and comfortable for the entire race.

This was certainly a small, pick-up race, but I’m glad I was able to actually learn a lot from it. This was a first time for running in a pack, “making a move,” and truly executing a big finishing kick. All of these are valuable training tools, and I feel like they’ll come into play more often now that I have a better feel for them. I was also really encouraged by this race: it was my 5th day of running in a row, my legs were pretty wiped going into it, and yet the 7:35 pace I averaged felt very do-able.

Good things from a small, random race.

I’m excited for this weekend. As has become standard, I’m not sure of my specific goals, other than to log another solid half-marathon. This distance has been really fun to practice recently, and I’m looking forward to seeing how racing 13.1 more often affects my next 26.2 endeavor. On that note: less than 6 months til Boston!!!

And since this race recap is void of any pictures whatsoever (sorry…) here is a picture of Jasper with my fish prize. He is not too impressed.

photo

Thanks Lindsay for the race idea and Nicole for submitting to peer pressure 🙂

Bellingham Bay Half-Marathon Race Recap

Lots of things to say about yesterday’s race. For a quick minute in there, I was disappointed that I was (spoiler) only 20 seconds off my PR. I was also disappointed for an instant that my watch (along with those of several around me) read a long course and not a true 13.1. However, after those thoughts subsided and I thought back on the race that I’d run, I landed in the spot I am today: both very pleased and very encouraged.

I went into this race with some trepidation about the conditions (blustery and rainy) but also with a lot of gusto to run a good race. Relatively speaking, I hadn’t raced in a while, and I was ready to see what my legs could do. I rested all day Saturday (a new approach for me), hydrated well, slept well, and treated the run like a real race.

photo 1

Low and behold, race morning comes, and the drive up to Bellingham was…ominous. It was pouring, windy, and the perfect conditions for sleeping in and hot coffee…not running 13.1 miles in spandex and a tank top. But I kept my spirits high, and after an easy bib pick-up and some dynamic stretching, I forgot about the weather and tried to get in the zone. Spotting some fellow Oiselle teammates helped kindle my excitement, and I felt proud to be wearing the same singlet as such fast women.

Before I knew it, the countdown was on, and boom…we were running a half marathon. Tried and true to the start of any race, I a) felt incredible and b) knew I was going too fast. A look down at my watch about a half mile in would verify that my 7:00 “easy” pace was certainly not the way to start off a distance race, so I tried to tug back. Ugh, why is this always so hard? Every time I swear to myself I’ll follow the rules and hold back at the start, and every time I cross a start line I abandon all those good intentions. But, I forgave myself, let a faster mile 1 clock in, and prepared to reel in the reigns.

I felt so good during these first few miles. Like, better than I’ve felt running in a long long time. Isn’t that what we hope to feel during races? Anyway, I alternated between sharing paces with others, pulling back when they surged, and going ahead when they fell behind. Generally, it just felt great to be racing, and I let that mindset and momentum carry me through the early miles:

Mile 1: 7:14

Mile 2: 7:22

Mile 3: 7:23

In terms of pacing for this race, my goal was to stick to 7:30s for the first half and open it up if I could during the second half. So, once I reentered the 7:20s, I considered it okay and just went with it. I also knew that there was an incline coming up in mile 4 which would get things back in line.

That incline came and I already knew that my legs were in for a hard race, should I keep this pace up. My breathing sped up and my HR surged a little, reminding me that I was—in fact—racing. But, per usual after a hill reclines to a flat grade, my legs started turning over again and invited the steady downhill that would come in the next few miles.

Mile 4: 7:47

I knew that miles 5-7 were on a downhill, and I’d planned ahead of time to use those miles to my advantage. What I hadn’t considered, though, was that these miles would also change the direction of the course directly into the forecasted wind. These miles were also pretty exposed, which made the wind even more difficult to avoid, but nonetheless…I tried to gun it a little.

Mile 5: 7:18

Mile 6: 7:06

Mile 7: 7:01

There was a bit in there where my watch read 6:xx, which both horrified and exhilarated me. I’d never seen a pace in the 6s during a half marathon, and it was a definite confidence booster to see that pop up.

The course flattened out after this, and the headwind seemed to take a turn directly into our faces. I tore open my gel around this point too and held it for the next few miles, taking drags from it whenever I felt steady. We reentered downtown Bellingham, and there were a few twisty inclines that definitely slowed me down and reminded me of the miles I’d already logged. My energy started waning a little around miles 9-10, and looking back on the elevation profile of the course, it’s obvious that those mini hills took their toll.

Mile 8: 7:34

Mile 9: 7:45

Mile 10: 7:40

We were on a dirt path along the bay at this point, which was warmly welcomed after all the pavement pounding. Although my watch had been a little off the whole race, it was really off once I got to mile 10, which was a little discouraging. My miles were beeping at least 2/10 of a mile before the mile markers, and a fellow racer confirmed that her Garmin was at the same distance as mine. Admittedly, I fumed about this for a bit, considering I thought a PR was within reach should the course be 13.1, but I put that thought out of my mind and tried to just run the race I was running and enjoy it as much as I could.

Once I got to mile 10.5 or so, I resolved to kick it up in the last 5k, and that mind shift seemed to give me a bit of a second wind as well. I was hurting, but not done yet, and I wanted to finish strong. There was a STEEP boat ramp during mile 11 that felt like I was walking, which took a lot of self-talk to get up and over especially with another hilly ~1.5 miles to go afterward.

Mile 11: 7:17

Mile 12: 7:58

Alas, up I went, and we turned into the homestretch. Something I really like about this race is that it’s an essentially straight shot to this finish, and it seemed like everyone around me was pulling out everything they had to fire their final canons. I’d been leap-frogging with a few men the whole race, and all of us were straightening up and putting on our best race faces during this final stretch. Lots of fun.

However, things were hurting. This last mile was consistently up and down hill, and I was definitely feeling all the changing elevation, despite how minimal it actually was. When my watch beeped “13” I was nowhere near the mile marker, so I made a mental note to check “my” half marathon time in another .1 miles.

Mile 13: 7:12

Eventually, the finish line came into view, and I dug out my final dregs of speed as much as I could—I’ll be damned if that clock changes to 1:39!

photo

Final .32 miles: 6:37

Official finish time: 1:38:47, 16th woman overall

After a momentary feeling of being punched in the gut, I pulled it together, got my medal and space blanket and regaled on what just happened: Was that the fastest I’ve ever run before?

Technically, no. My official half-marathon PR is 22 seconds faster than that. But, in reality…it actually might be.

I am certainly not someone to play the, “But my watch said xx:xx!” card. I believe we all run the same course, the same race, no matter what, and the numbers we clock individually are secondary. But, .2 miles off is significant enough that I’m inclined to look at my pace according to the distance I logged rather than a 13.1 distance. Furthermore, in the case that I ran 13.32 miles in 1:38:47, I ran a 7:24 pace, which is easily faster than I’ve ever run a half marathon before. Take it or leave it, I realize this is a controversial topic, but I’m having a hard time ignoring that figure.

Despite the could-haves and maybes of the off-distance, I certainly had miles during this race that were both unexpected and mini personal-record breaking. The fact that 6.32 miles were under 7:20s is incredibly encouraging, and it brightens my hopes for a 1:35:xx in the (hopefully) not-so-distant future.

photo 3

I also felt like I was able to handle discomfort during this race much better than I’ve been able to before. One of my goals going into it was to keep my head on and not let the pain shadow my confidence. I tried to keep this in the front of my mind during those tougher miles, and I’m happy that I feel like I was able to stay comfortable being uncomfortable. There were some bleak minutes, certainly, but it felt like my resolve to push through was able to suppress those dark voices—which is something I’ve definitely struggled with in the past.

So, all in all, it was a great race. I’m happy that the rain held off (mostly), and despite the comprised conditions, I ran the best race I could. I have high hopes for what’s to come, and a little more gusto in my motivation to start training a little harder. The half-marathon is a fun and tough distance, and I’m excited to see what the next two this year have in store.

And a huge congrats to the other ladies who ran this race! In case I needed a spoonful of humble stew, the other 4 gals I ran with finish in 3, 4, 5, and 7th. Yes, really. Speedy ladies! Super impressive.

Happy Monday all!

Making a Plan, Changing the Plan

Bad blogger here, poking out from my cocoon of silence…

Hey peeps! Guess what? It’s race week! A race I’ve been anticipating for a while…meaning I’ve already had some nerves and goals running through my head.

As I said last week, I rearranged my sky-high hopes for this race and settled on a “we’ll see” approach. Which is what I was/am still planning on. Essentially, my mission has become:

Race the damn race. Don’t just cruise—get a little uncomfortable. Stay in control, run smart, but make it hurt if I can.

Simplistic. Anddd there might be a few pace numbers thrown in there too. But I won’t bore you with those.

I did determine some good ole fashioned A, B, and C goals. So without further ado…

A) PR: I think this is possible if I have a really good day. Ideal conditions, happy legs, etc. A sub-7:30 pace average (what I’d need for a PR) shockingly isn’t as scary as it used to be, which in and of itself is encouraging. Even so, it would take some luck smart racing.

B) Sub-1:40: I became a member of this club on only one occasion, and I feel like it would be nice to affirm my status a little more considering I tend to feel like a poser with my “fluke” 1:38 PR sometimes. No, I don’t feel like I need to prove anything to anyone…except for maybe myself. It would just be nice to feel those race paces again.

C) Keep my head on. This is better than another “sub xx:xx” goal, right? Here’s the deal: I feel like I’m a good racer, but I don’t necessarily feel like I’ve mastered overcoming the mental hurdles that come with tough conditions. Sure, I can press onward, but I feel like I have a tendency to completely count myself out as soon as I feel fatigued. This is especially true in workouts. I’d really like to use this race as an opportunity to keep my game face on straight…or something like that. Having other people to chase after tends to help with this, so I’m excited to execute some playful competition in the name of building confidence.

So, all that’s well and good. But! Of course….but.

Now, I’m not one to whine and complain about race-day conditions. For the most part, I accept them as they are since I know there’s nothing I can do about them. We’ll all have to run in the same weather, right? Right.

But when a race I’ve been looking forward to and anticipating a strong performance at looks like this, my evil eye tends to come out:

Capture

 

Rain doesn’t really phase me. I’m used to the rain, I’ve raced in the rain, whatever with the rain. But rain + wind? Gross. Talk about my least ideal running/living conditions. And 20 mph isn’t a joke…that will make a difference.

So, I suppose for right now I’m trying to accept that some adjustments may need to happen. Goal adjustments, pace adjustments, etc. All in the name of Mother Nature…that saucy little minx. Am I completely discounting those goals above? Absolutely not. Do I think this adds another important variable to consider? Certainly. We’ll see, friends. Expect a very soggy finish line photo, with a side of yummy thigh chafing.

But, no matter the circumstances, I’m excited to run my 9th ( <—lucky number alert!) half-marathon this Sunday. The same half-marathon, in fact, that I ran as my first half 3 years ago. Crazy! This will also be my first official race as a Oiselle team member, clad in the singlet and everything. Let’s hope those new wings know how to sail in the wind!

Who’s racing this weekend? Does weather affect your race-day hype?