Last weekend, I headed to Madison to run a half marathon with my cousin. Well, okay, she’s a lot faster than me and I didn’t plan to actually run with her, but we were both on the course at the same time anyway. I chose this race for two reasons: Katie was doing it, and the course is similar to the Twin Cities Marathon course — some rolling hills, some false flats, but nothing too crazy.
One tiny detail that’s important to this story: for some reason, I thought I was faster than I actually was and had a PR of 2:46 in my mind. In reality, my best half marathon going into this race was 2:38:41.
I started off the race feeling great. It was one of those long runs that just ticks by! I chatted with people on the course, encouraged spectators to cheer instead of standing there staring, and ran my little heart out. I tried hard to hold back and not go crazy — I have a tendency to start off way too fast and hit a wall. I was hoping for a PR on this course. I was dreaming of 2:30, but I knew it likely wasn’t the day.
Miles 5- 8ish of this course were in a pretty, shaded arboretum. It’s a good thing this part of the course was pretty and shady, because it was also freakin’ hilly. I slowed a little bit on those hills, and my left IT-band was especially feeling the burn. I walked through the aid stations, but tried to keep my pace everywhere else.
The funny thing about running a half marathon in the midst of marathon training is that the mental part is different. It’s not a matter of finishing or not. There was no nagging doubt in my mind telling me to give up, no mental battle to fight, or wall to smash through. It was just 13.1 miles of keeping as steady of a pace as possible while trying to stay positive.
Once I was out of the arboretum, the shady part of the race was over. The last four miles or so were in the bright sunshine, and the day was starting to warm up. I was cautious at water stops and made sure to get extra water. I’ll admit that I can be paranoid about this, because my Crohn’s makes me get dehydrated more easily than your average runner. In the last 3 miles of the course, there were 4 water stops, and I definitely could’ve skipped one — probably two. Paranoia cost me a little time here.
Paranoid or not, I was happy, enjoying the breeze off the lake, and I pushed myself in the last half mile to pick up the pace and get across the finish line. And I did. In 2:38:12.
While riding in the car back to Katie’s apartment (not driving), I decided to see exactly what my previous half marathon times were, and I logged into my Athlinks account. I fully admit to squealing and clapping in the car when I realized that my now old PR was, in fact, 2:38:41, on this very course in 2010. I PR’d for the second time in a week, and I was THRILLED.
Kicking booty on tired legs gave me a much needed boost of confidence for the rest of marathon training. It looks like I can likely get my sub-6 hour marathon after all. (In fact, based on my most recent race times, the McMillian pace caculator says a 5:32:56 marathon is in my reach — even a 5:05 marathon if you use my 5k time!)
18 miles are on my schedule tomorrow. Bring it, 18 miler. I have about 6 weeks left to bust my butt training and see what I can do. Let’s do it!
What goals are you working on lately? Have you surprised yourself as you work towards them?