When I had lunch with my (former) CPE supervisor last week, he said, “You’ve been running a lot!” And I guess I have. I had three race weekends in a row starting September 22nd, so I’ll walk you through them briefly.
Women’s Half Marathon – Nashville
This is the third (and probably last) time I’ve run this race. I have some nostalgic feelings about it since it was my first ever half marathon (the first year) and my PR race (the second year). For myriad reasons, this year wasn’t quite as good. Even though they changed the course to allegedly make it less hilly, my plan was not to race. In fact, my plan was to make this into an 18-mile training run by running the 5 miles downtown to the start and then catching a ride home with my mom. File under: marathon training makes you do crazy things. I thought I would run the first 5 slow and easy and then shoot for marathon goal pace during the race.
First mile was slow due to crowds and several turns, but I settled into a ~10:00/mile pace, about a half-minute faster than I wanted to be going. But I felt strong and loose, so I decided to ride it until I inevitably crashed and burned. This year, the crowd support was significantly less than it was in previous years, and there weren’t as many bands on the course. It’s not something I would normally complain about, but for a pricey race, it’s nice to have those pick-me-ups. Fast-forward to the end, I never crashed. I felt strong the whole time, even at a faster-than-anticipated pace – complete with negative split and a fast last 5K. Official time – 2:12:35
Fort4Fitness Half Marathon – Fort Wayne, IN
How did I end up running a half marathon in Fort Wayne? Those two crazy kids on either side of me – Abby and John. The original plan was to run the half marathon together and stay at Abby’s parents’ house, but her parents up and moved to Bloomington. This was both Abby’s and John’s first half marathon, which was really exciting. They had trained diligently and hard throughout the summer and were rewarded with very successful races.
The race was extremely well-organized and based out of the minor league baseball stadium. Bathrooms, gear check, and everything else we needed were right there. Plus, we finished in the stadium and on the Jumbotron, which is always fun. We stayed in the adjacent Courtyard Marriott, which meant that we didn’t even have to park. Even though the shirts were kind of ugly, the medals were very nice, and it was a well-attended race without being super-crowded.
At the start, I persuaded John to jump several corrals based on how fast he was planning on running. He ended up sticking with the 8:00/mile pace group and finishing in 1:43:46 for his first half! Abby had tossed out a goal of 2:30, but I knew she was underestimating herself, so I figured I’d pace her with 2:20 in mind as the time to beat. We executed the race really well. The first four miles took us straight down this one street, and then we turned into a park. I wanted to keep her comfortable until mile 10 and then push the pace a bit. We were right on target at the 10 mile mark, but then we merged with the 10K event that had started an hour later, so we had to dodge a bunch of walkers. I ran ahead of Abby a few feet to keep her motivated and also to weave my way through the other participants. Finally, we made the final turn before we entered the stadium, and we took off. We finished well under 2:20. Official time: 2:17:35
Southern Tennessee Plunge Marathon – Winchester, TN
In a potentially disastrous move, my mom talked me into doing a practice marathon with her as our last long run before our goal races (Marine Corps for me; Seven Bridges for her). It’ll be fun, she said. It’ll be supported and a nice jaunt through the beautiful southern Tennessee countryside, she said. And, well, it was a very successful race for me, but it wasn’t really fun or beautiful. First off, we had hotel room problems. Like, they couldn’t find our reservation even though we had an e-mail and a confirmation number from the hotel. The next morning, we woke up to pouring down rain. Fortunately, it let up right before the start. Joe had signed up for the half with the plan to run the first 7.5 miles with us, but due to a miscommunication, we separated a little over a mile in.
The plan was to maintain a 11:00/mile pace and finish comfortably or as comfortably as one can finish a marathon. We did not account for the 8 miles along a highway into the north wind. Then my Garmin lost satellite reception at 10 miles. The second half of the course was a little more pleasant, but it continued to mist and drizzle off and on. The hills were not insignificant either. After my stomach issues at Flying Pig, I was apprehensive about my capability of executing a marathon well, but this went really well. At mile 18, about when the wheels fell off at Flying Pig, I still felt good and strong. When I hit mile 22 and realized I could basically walk the next 4 miles and still PR, that was huge encouragement. I PR’d by over 20 minutes with an official time of 4:45:15.
While maybe not the most brilliant training strategy, executing a race according to plan and not experiencing any fueling or stomach issues was very important for my confidence going into Marine Corps (October 28th!). I now know that I can run a marathon successfully, even in the face of less than ideal weather conditions, and finish with a smile on my face.