Another race, another PR! Yayyy.
Warning: I had a little too much fun with my new VSCOcam app and yesterday’s pictures. Running photos + iPhone photos = worst photos ever, so I thought I could at least use a few filters to minimize the glare of my sweaty forehead. Right? Right.
To most of you, it will seem crazy that this race was on a Thursday. But if you’re from Utah, you understand that yesterday was Pioneer Day, a Utah holiday honoring the Mormon pioneers who founded the state. Most Utah businesses are closed, and the city hosts a big parade and fireworks show. My office is open, and I don’t celebrate Pioneer Day – I’m certainly not descended from the pioneers! – but this year I decided it was worth it to take the day off and run. Let’s be honest, I can get behind pretty much any holiday!
The day started when my alarm went off at 3:00. The race was at 6:00 with busses to the start, so it was an early wake-up! That was the first of many moments throughout the morning when I wondered why on earth I do this to myself. Once I got a cup of coffee in me, though, I was fine, and was off to the busses by 4 AM.
We took busses from downtown to Salt Lake up Emigration Canyon, where the race started. Even though it was early, it was HOT – 79 degrees when I left my house before 4:00. It was a little cooler up the canyon, and we even got rained on briefly! Just a little sprinkle, really – enough to be no big deal, and it passed quickly.
Check out the picture quality on that beast. Nice, right?!
I met up with my friend Jacquey and her boyfriend Brian. I ran my first half with Jacquey two years ago (and when I say with I mean behind!), so it was great to be running another half together.
Gotta get the “before” picture! I look scared, which is accurate.
My goal for this race was to beat my previous PR of 1:44:50. And since my overall pace in that race was 8:00, I reeeeally wanted a 7 at the beginning of my pace this time around! I was aiming for 7:50, which is 1:42:40. Knowing that the first half of the race was downhill before flattening out a bit, I planned to run 7:30-7:40 for at least the first half. That way, I could run 8:00s for the second half and still meet my goal. I know it sounds odd to plan on a slower pace the second half of a race, but it was all about the terrain here! I can’t plan on an even pace when some of the race is downhill.
We started near the front of the race, which was a refreshing change after missing the start of my last half waiting in the bathroom line. It meant that I was mostly getting passed for the first few miles, but that was OK. I stuck to my goal pace, so I wasn’t worried about it. Jacquey and I actually separated right at the beginning of the race, and by mile 1 she was out of sight. Speedy girl!
Mile 1: 7:30
Mile 2: 7:41
This was the first half marathon that I’ve warmed up for. Before this I was never confident that my legs could carry me more than 13.1 miles! I think the few minutes of jogging I did before this one helped me to start on pace. Last time I started out with two 8:17 miles because I was so cold I couldn’t feel my feet. Cold was definitely not an issue in this race, but I’m pretty sure the warm-up didn’t hurt anyway :)
Mile 3: 7:32
Mile 4: 7:40
Mile 5: 7:38
Around mile 5, I started counting the number of spots I was moving up as I passed people. I lost count around mile 10 when we started passing runners/walkers from the 10K, but in those 5 miles I passed around 25 people. That felt good!
Mile 6: 7:32
Mile 7: 7:29
Mile 8: 7:38
We came out of the canyon around mile 7 and the rest of the race was on the city streets. My legs were not feeling great at this point. The downhill is easy on the lungs, but definitely takes its toll on the quads. My legs actually felt like jello as early as mile 2! But my lungs felt pretty good for the first 8 miles, which had definitely been the plan. Also, I knew someone was waiting for me at mile 9 – Nate!
Nate is an amazing supporter of my running, despite the fact that my race pace must feel like an absolute shuffle to him. Running at his level is pretty much a different sport from running in the middle of the pack like me. But he knows how hard I work to be in the middle of that pack, and is so supportive! Every half I’ve run, he’s increased the distance that he runs alongside me – from doubling back to run the last quarter mile with me in Moab to running over 4 miles with me in this race. He definitely put some pep in my step for that 9th mile!
I caught up to Jacquey in the 9th mile, too. We only ended up running a few steps together, and she finished just behind me. We may not have run this one together, but it’s still good to have a running buddy training for the same race. I’m sure we have many more halves to train for together!
Mile 10: 7:45
By mile 10 I was hurting. I knew the street we were running down was indeed downhill, but it just felt incredibly flat and HARD after an easy breezy down-canyon run. I was really struggling mentally at this point. Another “why do I do this?!” moment.
Despite the high temps, I actually never felt too hot. We were lucky enough to have cloud cover for the whole race – pretty much the best case scenario for a July day. My phone said 81 in the shade afterwards – not really any hotter than earlier when I left the house. I was pretty thirsty for the last few miles, so I was definitely warm, but the temperature never crossed my mind… just the desire to walk :)
Mile 11: 7:57
Mile 12: 7:58
Miles 12 and 13 had lots of spectators cheering as they waited for the parade later in the morning. Along with Nate’s encouragement, that kept me going. At one point a woman sprayed water right in my face, which I thought would feel nice, but I held my breath for it, and that did not feel nice. Note to self: don’t try to hold your breath after running 12 miles.
By mile 12 I was pretty much toast. Apparently I was keeping up with the 8:00 pace I had planned, but I kept looking down at my watch and seeing my current pace inching towards 9:00. Looking back I wish I could have dug deeper to finish strong, but it was all I could do to keep moving. I knew I couldn’t let myself walk, but that was really the only thing that kept me running. Around 12.5 I was VERY tempted.
Mile 13: 8:27
last .1 – not sure because I forgot to stop my watch!
And then it was over – PHEW!
So that last mile did not really stick to my plan, but luckily I had banked enough time earlier in the race to finish with a time of 1:42:05, a 7:47 pace! Almost a 3-minute PR for me, but man, was it painful. Pretty much the most painful way possible to PR. Let me tell you that next time, the plan is… to come up with a better plan. I kept saying – and I meant it – that the training for this half was so much more fun than the actual race. But of course, it’s nice to come out with a solid time to validate all those hours of training time. And I ended up finishing 6th in my age group, which isn’t too shabby for a race with more than 800 runners.
Luckily after some water, a chocolate creamsicle and about 3 clementines, I was feeling more like myself.
Post-race Nate treated me to brunch in our neighborhood. A bloody mary and the word’s best fiance – it doesn’t get much better than that!
My stomach was not feeling too hot after this race, but it was settled down by the time we ate brunch, about 4 hours later. It’s only been recently, since I started running faster, that my stomach is upset after long runs and races. I guess it’s a small price to pay for dropping almost 20 minutes from my time since my first half marathon, though. Even a year ago, running a half at sub-8 pace was totally out of reach. If that means a few hours of stomach discomfort, I guess I’ll take it :) And I was still able to do way more damage to this omelet than I’d thought possible!
And that will surprise just about no one.
So, post-race thoughts. First, ouch. Second, I need to work on my mental toughness to get through those last 3 miles. Also, I’m looking forward to running a not downhill race to see how much I’ve really improved. My next half is in October – my third time running The Other Half – so I’ll have a good comparison. But for now, I’m trying not to think about the next one. I’m trying to enjoy this PR and the incredible fact that my legs can carry me 13.1 miles kinda fast. That feels good!