16 weeks of training and 13.1 miles of racing are finally all wrapped up. Here’s the quick cliff note version if you don’t feel like reading through: I finished in 1:47:34 which means I achieved my goal of a PR. The wheels started to come off after mile 8 and I didn’t get myself back together until after mile 12. I think I have a 1:46 in me, but Sunday was just not my day for that. Overall I shaved almost 2 minutes off of my previous PR and finished this training cycle injury-free so I went to bed very satisfied on Sunday night.
Unfortunately I’m light on pictures for this one since I left my phone in the car and was at an out-of-town race so didn’t have anyone there to take any pictures. Toledo is a little over a 2 hour drive from Columbus so I headed up Saturday afternoon and went straight to the expo. My friend Tim who was driving in from Wisconsin actually arrived at the expo at the same time as me so we were able to pick up our race bibs together. Neither of us had interest in walking around the expo, but both had 30 minutes until we could check into our hotels so we hopped in my car and took some time driving the course. We met up again later for an early dinner and then I headed back to my hotel for a good night’s sleep. I stayed in the host hotel so everything was really quiet after 9pm.
Race morning I woke up about 20 minutes before my alarm, but just hung out in bed until it went off at 4:45. Since Tim and I were both from out of town we decided to meet in the parking lot around 6. After a quick breakfast and a few good ounces of Nuun, I headed down to the University of Toledo campus. I actually got redirected due to traffic and ended up in the parking lot across the street from Tim’s. He was able to walk over and find me with no issues. We started walking to the start and ended up in the basketball arena on the way there. The arena was open for race-morning packet pick up and this allowed us to stay warm and use real bathrooms. We hung out and chatted for a bit, hit the bathrooms one more time, and headed up to the race start.
It was around 39 degrees so I was glad I had packed toss-away sweat pants and a fleece. I decided to wear my capris and my 6Run4 running tank with arm warmers. The weather forecast was perfect, in the low 40s and sunny (sunshine only acceptable due to the cool temperatures) so I was glad to not be worried about that. When we got up the start, the lines for the port-a-john’s were super long. Tim immediately commented that he didn’t think the race would start on time since some of the lines cut into the course. We headed to the corrals where I ran into my friend Cory. A woman named Cathy also introduced herself to me, she runs with my training group and recognized me from various things. She was gunning for a BQ that day and was planning to stick with a pace group.
Sure enough, the announcer said the race would be starting 2 minutes late. After a nicely sung anthem, helicopter fly-over, and wheeler start, we were off. There was no wave start for this event which is something I feel should change. There were over 7,000 runners between the full, half, and relay and the corrals weren’t enforced so we spent the first mile just trying to get up to pace. Since my goal was to come in under 1:49, our plan was to do the first three miles at 8:10, the next three at 8:05, the next two at 8:00, and then adjust as needed (either hold the 8:00 or slow back down). I was really honest with myself and knew I wasn’t ready for a 1:45 so I decided to take it easy the first 3 miles. That turned out to be a good move and I’m glad I was realistic. Our first mile came in just a little under 8:10, but after weaving through people for the first mile we were able to finally get into a good spot. The course wraps around the university and then heads into a beautiful neighborhood. The first three miles ticked off just fine – 8:13/8:10/8:09.
I told Tim things were good and I was ready to go to the 8:05 pace. The course has very little crowd support which is a big part of why I chose the race. I know that sounds strange, but I wanted something a little more calm. We saw a little boy holding a sign that said “Naked cheerleaders in one mile” and I was surprised at the amount of people that were out cheering. The next three miles went by fine as well – 8:05/8:04/7:59. Mile 6 was a little fast, but I don’t stay glued to my watch and I felt fine so I wasn’t worried about it. At this point we had caught up to the 3:35 pace group. It’s nice running with the marathon pace groups because it’s early in the race for those runners so everyone is calm and relaxed and I think I really fed off of that energy.
We stuck with the pace group for the next two miles actually passing them shortly before we had to turn left as they continued on forward into marathon land – 7:59/8:03. Something about that turn off knocked me off my rhythm and I started feeling like I was fading. I’m not sure if it was mental or physical, but Tim told me at that point my breathing changed. I do feel like it was more mental than physical, but I decided to keep pushing in hopes I would get my second wind. Something else weird happened here – our watches were completely different on pace for mile 9 – Tim still had sub-8 and I had 8:12. We discovered this because he asked if I wanted to slow down and I told him we had!
We continued on and I was able to push on for mile 10 which beeped in at 8:09. We were hitting a lot of straight-aways which I always think suck. They feel never ending. We were also heading into the part of the course that just sort of loops around in a way that was obvious that the course designers were just trying to get the extra miles in before bringing us to the finish. I was riding the struggle bus and I kept telling Tim this. At some point I had some water and choked on it. I think it was during mile 11, but I honestly couldn’t tell you because most of the race I was just paying attention to how I felt in my current mile. Mile 11 hit at 8:17 and at the top of an incline I struggled up (more mentally than physically) mile 12 beeped in at 8:45. After seeing that split (which I had no clue was mile 12) I told Tim that I had to stop. I wanted to take 30 seconds and regroup. Looking back, I should have done this after mile 9 or 10 when I first started to struggle just to get my head back together because it truly helped – I finished up mile 13 in 8:02 and sprinted into the finish (which Tim further encouraged by pointing to a guy in front of us and saying “Beat that guy,” which I did).
We got our medal and our finisher mug (which we were both excited about) and headed off to find the beer tent. Running into mile 13 I announced to Tim that I’ve never wanted a post-race beer so badly in my life! Once we found the tent Tim grabbed some food and we sat down and chatted about the race a little, the beautiful weather, and then talked about other things. Tim made a comment about how the beer was good and it was funny since it was only 9 am.
We made our way back to my car and said our goodbye and I headed back to the hotel where I ate some leftovers, took a shower, and then hit the road back to Columbus. I called my sister and my dad (my mom was in another yoga training course because she’s awesome) and then thought about ice cream for the entire 2 hour drive back on the farm lined two-lane road. Luckily there is a Jeni’s right before I hit home so I stopped to treat myself.
When I finally got home I took a great nap and was excited to see that my husband had finally hung up my medal rack just in time for me to add another one.
I’m really excited about my finisher’s mug, though. I enjoyed another beer in it last night.
As I mentioned in my cliff notes, I did hit my ultimate goal of a PR. I think not attaching myself to a specific time for that PR really took the pressure off and kept me from completely falling apart when I started to come undone. My friend Courtney mentioned that she does think I have a 1:45 in me, but that will be another goal for another time. I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m not a beginner anymore and my PR goals will take work each and every time. There’s no more showing up to races and just “seeing what happens” and popping out a PR without some sort of serious work behind it. Those days are just over. This was something that was a reality to me after hitting my 1:49 in 2014. I knew my next half PR would take work and decided to put that off during 2015 to focus on the marathon.
This training session was longer than my previous half marathon schedules and I ran much higher mileage than I have in the past. I am really happy with where I am and to have come out of that injury-free is awesome. I was really happy to wake up this morning with just regular soreness and no injury-related pain. I think I’m in good shape for when marathon training starts this summer.
I plan to take this week off from running and then go back to some easy mileage until marathon training starts. I haven’t made a decision on how I’m training for that yet so that will be something else I will be considering over the next few weeks (and am open to suggestions, though Hanson’s is not in for consideration). I have about 4 races planned over the next few months, but these will all be for fun. I plan to run them fast and work hard, but I won’t be gunning for any PRs or formally training for them.
Thanks to all of you that have followed along with my training and have commented with words of encouragement. I really appreciate it!