Three years. Three years I’ve been trying, hoping, wishing, and wanting to get a half marathon PR. It seemed impossible.
But guess what? It wasn’t impossible, because I JUST DID IT! I finally beat my previous half marathon time of 1:54:55! (I got this time back in 2008, when I was thinner and stronger and younger).
How did I do it?
I have no freaking idea. I definitely wasn’t trying for a PR until after the gun went off and I found myself struggling to stay behind the 1:55 pacers. I was feeling good, and wanting to go fast, so I decided to just go for the PR. AND I DID IT!
One month ago, I was in Africa, where it was relatively unsafe to run most of the time. I did the best that I could to find ways to exercise while in Africa, but I came back home feeling like I had lost some cardiovascular strength. Despite the fact that I felt slow and weak while in Africa, during many of my runs since returning home, I’ve found myself thinking, “I feel strong!”
Three weeks ago, I emailed the Snohomish Women’s Run race director and asked for a free entry. (I don’t usually ask people for free things – he had already promised me a free entry if I blogged about the event). After he sent me my discount code, I signed up…and then realized, “Oh! That’s in 3 weeks!” I hadn’t run for more than an hour for quite some time. Oh well, I figured that if I did one long run 2 weeks before the race, I’d at least have enough strength to finish the half marathon.
Then two weeks before the race, I ran just under 11 miles. I was surprised that I felt strong for the entire run, and felt like I could keep going when I got to the end of the run.
Then race day arrived. Like I said, I’ve been feeling strong lately. If I thought logically about the miles I’ve been putting in, I wouldn’t be sure that I could run even a sub-2. But if I just went by feel, I knew that I was strong enough to go for a sub-2. When we lined up at the start, I lined up just in front of the 2 hour pacers. The gun went off, and the typical shuffle-shuffle-shuffle to get to the start happened. When I finally reached the mats, I pressed “start” on my Garmin. Hmm. But it didn’t seem to start. So I pressed “start” again.
As we went off running, things felt slow. So slow. Why was everyone going so slow??? I looked down at my Garmin: 12:20 pace. WHAT? Why were we going so slow? I sped up. This time when I looked, it said, “8:00.” Huh??? This is very confusing. It still felt slow, but I decided that I should probably choose to not pass the 1:55 pacers. I often have to rein myself in during the first mile of a race.
After a few minutes, I looked at my Garmin and realized: IT WASN’T TRACKING ME. Whoops. Turns out that it HAD turned on when I first hit the timing mat, so when I thought I turned it on the second time, I really turned it off.
Obviously, since I had the sub-2 goal in mind, having no idea where we were at in the race or how long I had been running was a bit confusing and disheartening.
But then I remembered: The pacers! I could stick by them! I was still just behind the 1:55 pacers. I decided to stick with them at least until we passed a mile marker so that I could get some sort of idea of where I was at in the race. We ran on a bit and I heard a beep from one of the pacers’ watch. “8:45, right on target,” she said. That was great to hear, but I couldn’t help but notice that we hadn’t passed the mile 1 sign yet. When we finally hit the 1 mile sign, I pressed the “lap” button on my Garmin, so I could now somewhat track where I was at. I estimated that I ran between 2 and 3 minutes before turning the Garmin on properly.
So, I continued. At first I kept the 1:55 pacers a little bit in front of me. Then at about mile 2.5, I let them know, “I’m going to try to keep up with you. If I do, I’ll probably PR. I didn’t really train to be able to PR, but I’m going to try.” The two women pacers introduced themselves to me, and let me join their conversation. The miles flew by. The pace felt comfortable. I kept getting confused about how far we had gone, because when I’d look at my watch, it would be way ahead of where I thought we were. I’d think to myself, “Okay, we’re almost to the 4 mile point,” but then I’d look at my watch and realize that we were passed the 5 mile point. (I think that this was partly because my watch was off on distance anyway because of my timing-mat watch snafu, so it pushed me to stop obsessing so much about how far we had gone, instead I just peeked at my pace on my watch every once in awhile).
At about Mile 8, I started to feel a little tired. But, I was surprised to realize that I didn’t hurt. Usually by mile 8, something is hurting and I’m running through some sort of pain. In this case, I felt fine, just a little tired.
We ran on, and I continued to enjoy the company and conversation of the pacers and other ladies around me. The mind game started somewhere around mile 11. Overall, this course is a fantastically fast and flat. But towards the end of the race, there’s an out-and-back that involves going downhill for the out, and going uphill for the back. As we were on the “out,” running downhill, I started panicking about the turn around. One of the pacers asked me how I was doing. I told her, “I’m freaking out about running back up this hill!” (And I wasn’t lying. I was internally panicking about whether or not I could make it back up without losing the PR I was working for).
The pacer told me just what I needed to hear. “Relax,” she said. As soon as she said this, I let some of the tightness and stress leave my body. “We’re almost to the turn around, and then you just have to run back to where we started. You’re almost there.”
It turned out that she was right. We turned around, and it was a very slight uphill. At the 12 mile point, I took off a little bit ahead of the pacers (with my Garmin telling me an inaccurate time, and the pacers’ watches beeping prior to the mile markers, I was a bit paranoid…plus I felt good, like I could run ahead). That mile wasn’t fun, it was somewhat painful, but the “hill” was no problem at all…in fact, it didn’t feel at all like a hill. I’m pretty sure that I just had an end-of-the-race panic and imagined a steep hill where there was none. On the way back “up,” it felt mostly like flat ground.
And then: Finally, it was there! The finish! I checked the clock. I would PR! I would PR! I picked up my pace in the chute, but didn’t pass the girl in front of me like I typically do. I’m actually pleased that I didn’t pass her, because usually I feel like my speed in the chute is a clear indication that I didn’t work to my full potential.
I FINALLY DID IT! A PR by over 40 seconds!
Super happy about my PR!
A HUGE thanks to the Snohomish Running Company for the free entry (You can still use code RUNFUNDONE to save 10% on the Snohomish River Run coming up on 10/11/2015), as well as the Seattle Green Lake running club pacers!
I’m seriously so, so happy!