Posts Tagged ‘13.1’

Today’s run was a special one! I got to accompany my husband Mike and our 14-year-old daughter on their longest run to date — a 13.1 mile training run! They had been building up their mileage for weeks now, and they were ready to cover the distance. It wasn’t easy, but they finished super strong (they had some kick left in them for a sprint at the end!) They ran it in 2 hours 24 minutes. A good 10 minutes of that was spent walking around a local high school trying to find an unlocked bathroom for a pit stop around mile 6. I should have turned my MapMyRun app off for that. And I probably should have mapped out a less hilly route for their unofficial half marathon debut.

MapMyRun elevation chart

Yes, that’s 879 feet of elevation gain and it felt as hilly as that MapMyRun chart makes it look. As I said, probably not the best training run for a race that has 2,125 feet of elevation drop from start to finish. But Mike and my daughter knocked it out like champs and I could not be more proud of them. I always enjoyed passing a new distance milestone myself, but it’s even more fun to watch them pass one. I hope it has given them confidence going into the Fontana Days Run Half Marathon, which is three weeks from today. Today’s run was a huge accomplishment, and I made sure to remind my daughter that there aren’t many 8th graders that can do what she has done.

What’s the longest distance you’ve run? If you’ve trained for a half marathon, what is the longest training run you do before race day? When I was training for my first half (the OC Half in 2012) the longest training run I did was 12 miles. I think that was enough to carry me through 13.1 on race day, but I do think it can be helpful to go 13.1 or longer before a half. I wouldn’t do more than 20-22 before a full marathon though!

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On a whim I decided to enter a contest for a free entry to the Shoreline Half Marathon from RaceGrader.com (a great place to check for reviews of Southern California races and to find registration discount codes for many popular local races). I’m always looking for someplace new to run and 13 miles along the beach sounded spectacular. Of course as soon as I typed in my email address and hit submit, I had second thoughts. How far exactly is Ventura from my house? Two hours. How early would I need to get up for the race? 4 a.m. Ugh, that seemed a little early for what would basically be a training run for the REVEL Canyon City Marathon in November. But what are the chances I’ll win anyway? Pretty darn good, apparently!

So that’s how I found myself lined up at the start of the 2015 Shoreline Half Marathon on Sunday July 12. And what a gorgeous shoreline it was!

Part of the course runs along this promenade in Ventura

Part of the course runs along this promenade in Ventura

I had arrived at 7 a.m. and parked for $6 at the public parking structure next to the Crowne Plaza Hotel, an easy walk to pick up my race bib and nice grey technical shirt at Promenade Park. There were plenty of porta potties and also some public restrooms on the beach path (oh the luxury!)

The half marathon started promptly at 8. I loved how the race director asked people to self-seed in the corral by pace and sent us off in waves every two minutes. It’s an unusual way of doing it but it makes perfect sense to avoid a crowded mass start along the beach path and the chip time doesn’t begin until you cross the starting line.

I wore my Garmin Forerunner 10 GPS watch but vowed not to look at it for the entire race. Mike didn’t think I could run “naked” (he knows how I love my data!) but that made me all the more determined! I wanted to practice running by feel and not by the watch. I hoped to go out at a steady pace, slower than marathon or half marathon pace but not exactly an “easy” pace — just a pace I felt I could sustain comfortably for 13.1 miles. I guessed that would be in the low 9-minute mile range.

The first part of the course runs five miles north along the bike path and the wide shoulder of the 101 overlooking the ocean. As always in a race I felt grateful for the privilege of being there and being healthy and able to run. The course is nearly all flat with just a few dips here and there, less than 100 feet of elevation change. Around mile 4 I could see the leaders of the race coming back along the course after the turnaround at mile 5. It was fun to cheer them on and marvel at their speed! The north-and-back and south-and-back layout of the course meant that there was plenty of opportunity for people watching with the 664 participants in the half marathon and the people on the boardwalk. Somewhere in the first five miles I passed the 2:00 pacer so I knew my pace was faster than I had originally thought it would be.

Pace miles 1-5: 8:54, 8:37, 8:29, 8:32, 8:22

The course then runs the five miles back, past the start/finish line, a couple of miles out under the Ventura Pier and around Ventura State Beach Park, and back to the finish line along the promenade.

Around mile 8 the pace stopped feeling comfortable and started getting tougher. The 8 a.m. start time meant that we faced some serious heat on the course in the later miles (73 degrees and humid by the time I finished). I wore a visor and sunglasses and stopped at the aid stations every 1-1.5 miles for Gatorade and water. The volunteers were hustling and did a good job helping the runners.

Pace miles 6-10: 8:29, 8:38, 8:27, 8:26, 8:36

The last 5K of the race was a challenge. My training plan only called for 11 miles for my long run so when I passed the parking structure after mile 12 the temptation to call it good was strong! The plan also called for a “fast finish” though, so I picked it up for mile 13 and brought it home strong.

Pace miles 11-13.1: 8:24, 8:52, 8:30

Chip Finish Time: 1:52:15, 8:34 average pace overall

Females 40-49 age group: 9 of 113

Females overall: 33 of 408 (Interesting that there were more women than men in the race! Go ladies!)

All finishers: 94 of 664

I enjoyed the bananas, oranges and Gatorade at the finish line while I waited in line for the free tacos. There was free beer too but I wouldn’t have survived the drive home with that!

It was an interesting experience running the race “naked.” I ended up running faster than I would have had I been looking at my watch, and yet the pace felt easier. I found that when I run by effort, the pace feels more comfortable than if I try to “force” myself to hit a certain pace on the watch. Now would I pace a marathon goal race this way? Not likely. That would take a lot more practice for me and a lot better sense of how to run 26.2 by feel. Would I pace another half this way? Absolutely, especially if I wanted to use the race to gauge my current level of fitness. For not tapering (and for spending several hours the previous day cleaning and priming my daughter’s bedroom to paint), I was very happy with how the race went. I recommend the course for the views, the smaller size of the field, the ease of parking and same-day packet pick-up, the nice race t-shirt, finisher’s medal, and free tacos and beer at the finish. Just a few tips if you plan on going for a goal time on this course: place yourself toward the front of your wave at the start, be prepared to dodge a few runners and people on the boardwalk (which isn’t closed to the public), and dress for the heat. With early bird registration starting at $45 for the half and going up to $75 in the months before race day, it’s a great value for a well-run (no pun intended), gorgeous race!

Have you ever run a race “naked”? Do you find it easier to run by feel or by a GPS watch?

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In the days before the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon, race jitters got the best of me and I fretted over the course elevation profile and whether or not I could hope for a PR (1:53 or less) or better yet, break 1:50.

The course elevation as recorded by my Garmin. While it might not be perfectly accurate, I'd say it's about right!

The course elevation as recorded by my Garmin. While it might not be perfectly accurate, I’d say it’s about right!

You can see why the elevation gain of 764 feet intimidated me in spite of the net elevation loss. I’d chosen the race because the timing was perfect for me — it fit in my full marathon training for Santa Rosa — and the location is convenient and beautiful. But as I discovered, I don’t really run races for “fun” — I run for the joy of racing hard and doing my best, all while enjoying the privilege of getting to run someplace new on a closed course.

It turns out I needn’t have worried about the difficulty of the course. The race ended up being everything I hoped for and more. The course is absolutely gorgeous — so much so that I asked my family and friends to tour it with me by car after the race because I wanted to see it again and I wanted to show them all. I have never run on a more beautiful course (for the record, this is my 22nd race or so, but only my third half marathon). It starts in the nice little town of Santa Ynez and quickly heads out into the wine country, past vineyards and horse stables and farms, up Corkscrew Hill and down Ballard Canyon to the finish line in charming downtown Solvang.

The weather was gorgeous too — in the low 50s and sunny. The forecast predicted winds of 21 miles per hour (!!) but it turns out those winds only kicked up later in the afternoon.

So what about those hills? Yes, the general grade was noticeably uphill for the first seven miles, with a few rolling hills along with way, capped with the challenging 0.6 miles up Corkscrew Hill. But surprisingly, I did not find it as difficult as I thought it might be to maintain my goal pace on that first half of the course. I knew what to anticipate, and if you have prepared with some hill training before the race, the hills are totally manageable and dare I say, rewarding to conquer. The real reward, though, comes when you get to fly down the canyon for the next four miles! I haven’t had so much fun racing in a long time. The canyon is spectacular, with hills covered in yellows and greens and dotted with a few buffalo!

I’ll take a minute (pun intended) talking about pace, which is probably only interesting to me and anyone else who plans to run this course in the future. I wore a pace band (tip: print it, cut it out, and use clear packing tape to cover the front and back and then — this is the key — around the edges to seal the sides from sweat). I targeted a pace of 8:19 or better in the hopes of hitting 1:49 overall.

The first mile ended up at 8:21 and I quickly realized I’d started a little too far back in the pack. While it’s always better to start slow and build some speed, I dodged more people at the start than I’d like (especially in the first sharp turn right after the start). After that I settled into my own race and found myself pretty comfortable at a good pace: 8:10, 8:02, 8:17, 8:12, 8:34 — an average of 8:16 for the first six miles.

This was my first race in which I relied solely on the course aid stations for water and electrolytes. Aid stations were positioned about every 2 miles and that was perfect for me. I’d grab 2 cups of water or Accelerade and walk a few steps while drinking, then pick up the pace again. I took the one gel I’d carried with me at mile six.

Corkscrew Hill proved challenging but I simply pictured myself on one of the hills I’d bested in training and soon it was over with an average pace of 9:06 for mile 7. Then the fun began. You can tell by my pace alone that I loved the decline for the next four miles: 7:47, 7:31, 7:55, 7:54.

When the course evened out again around mile 11, any slight incline felt like a hill higher and harder than Corkscrew Hill, but then again, any and every race starts to get tough at that point — that’s nothing new or unusual. There are two inclines that I recall, but I pushed hard to maintain my best pace with 8:42 for mile 12 and 7:54 for mile 13. At mile 12.5 I really felt like slowing or outright stopping but I wasn’t about to give up then! Frantic calculations in my head told me that if I could hit a certain pace I would come in under 1:50, or a slightly faster pace under 1:49. I pushed it so hard, and when I came around the final corner in Solvang and I could see the finish line arch, I sprinted in at a 7:20 pace for a final time of 1:48:02! That’s a 5-minute PR over my second half marathon, and a 3-minute PR over my unofficial half marathon split at the Mountains2Beach full marathon! Two people came up to me separately after the race (one man and one woman) and said I had done a good job on pacing and that they had tried to keep up with me. That made me so happy because I have told other people that exact same thing on more than one occasion at other races and it was just such a compliment to have someone congratulate me on my race that way.

I later learned that 1:48:02 put me in 22nd place in my age group (F40-44) of 303 finishers, so the top 7.26%. Even better when you look at all the female finishers (1,777), I came in 103rd to put me in the top 5.8%!

The finish line expo was great with plenty of food, water, electrolyte drinks, and bags of veggie and egg chips, and small bowls of Amy’s brand chili (which I carried around until I recovered sufficiently to tolerate eating it, and then it was the most delicious post-race food ever)! I caught a race transportation bus back to the parking lot at Santa Ynez Valley High School and was back with my family by 10:15.

I highly recommend this race. It’s expensive for a half marathon (I paid $126 with the online service fee) but it’s a great race with a limited field of runners (just over 2,500 finishers?) in a spectacular setting. As I said, the challenge of the course elevation is more than balanced out by the thrill of running down Ballard Canyon at a faster-than-usual pace past stunning views. It would be really fun to get a team of friends together to run the race and celebrate at the wine tasting festival at the finish line ($20 for a wine glass to taste wines from 15 local wineries). I didn’t partake in any wine (not even at the on-course wine stop around mile 6!) because I just wanted to get back to my family, but I could see how it would be a fun way to celebrate your finish with friends and adult relatives.

Did you race this weekend? What’s your next race coming up? My next big race is the Santa Rosa Marathon at the end of August.

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Just a quick post to shout from the rooftops that today’s half marathon went well for me! I came in at 1:53:34, which is a PR by 1:36 over my OC Half Marathon time one year ago. It turned out to be a good decision to run the Spring Blast Half Marathon as a training run.

One red-faced but happy finisher!

One red-faced but happy finisher!

The target training pace was 8:35 (marathon pace) and I came close to that with an average of 8:40. I can tell you there’s no way I would have run that fast if I had not been racing.

I feel good and am resting up now but will post a full recap and review sometime soon!

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Today I’m flashing back to May 2012 to report on my first half marathon, the OC Half Marathon that runs from Newport Beach, California to the OC Fair grounds in Costa Mesa.

Night before the race: I was so nervous! More nervous than my two triathlons. I’d trained so hard for this race and put so many hours in. I wanted it all to pay off, and to have a good race, and not get injured, and meet my goal of a sub-2 time. My training runs the last few weeks of training had been slow. I felt rickety and sore and could hardly keep up a 5 to 5.5 mph pace even for the 3 mile runs. How could I run 6.5+ mph for 13.1 miles? I slept horribly and was grateful when it was time to get up at 3:45 a.m.

Morning of the race: I always feel a bit better the morning of a race. The time has arrived and now I just need to get to the starting line on time. It was dawn as I went to get in my car in the driveway. Suddenly a large white bird flapped its wings and lifted off of the top of my garage roof! It was an egret, one of the birds I had seen many times along the Santa Ana River Trail as I trained. I took it as a good omen.

I was still quite nervous but I’d planned well for the logistics. It was a pain trying to find the right parking lot, and then find the porta-potties, but I’d left enough time that it all worked out. I had a bit of a scare when the horn sounded for the marathon start time, but that was for the full marathon which was starting about 20 minutes late. In the line for the porta-potty, I chatted with a young guy ahead of me. He was there with his sister. I mentioned that it was my first half marathon, and the sister gave me the ultimate compliment right before a race. She looked surprised and said I looked like a pro! I glowed. The line moved quickly and I was glad to meet up with my training group and pass off my sweatshirt, phone and key, and then hurry to the start line for the national anthem.

Start of the race: I felt superb. No aches or pains, no lingering injuries. I had excess energy due to the pre-race jitters, and I felt fantastic going out. I should have slowed down in fact. I went out too fast and there was no way I was going to “negative split” and run the second half of the race faster than the first. At the time I figured I should burn off those excess energies and gain as much time as I could. I know that wasn’t exactly the best strategy and it certainly won’t serve me well for a marathon.

People placed themselves appropriately in the corrals so I was starting with a fast crowd in corral A. It was amazing to run with that many people. It was overcast and cool, and all I could hear was the pounding of running shoes and the huffing breaths of fellow runners. I took a moment to appreciate the camaraderie of 8,708 people running the same race. I didn’t have to dodge too many people but I felt like I was passing more people than were passing me, and I never like that feeling. You want to run 13.1 miles, not 13.2 because you had to run right and left to get around other people.

Mile 1: Already I regretted wearing my lightweight long-sleeved shirt and wished I’d opted for a short-sleeved shirt. I could have even run in shorts. It was overcast but warm enough at 60-some degrees that I felt hot running at my pace. My sunglasses even fogged up at one point. I worried about what I’d do with them if that continued. Wear them on top of my head of course, but even that seemed like a chore. I left them on and plowed ahead and they cleared. I was grateful I wasn’t one of the people who felt a need to stop at the mile 1 porta-potties. My pre-race nerves had taken care of that!

Mile 3.1: I checked my watch at 3.1 miles and my time was close to my 5K time from the Turkey Trot back in November. Oops. That’s a clear indication I was running too fast. Still I didn’t care. In the moment I was happy to be running sub-9-minute miles and figured I was banking time for later. I sipped Gatorade about every mile.

Mile 4-ish: Some cute little girls were handing out water bottles for free. They weren’t race volunteers, they’d just decided to cheer on the racers and offer free bottled water. I didn’t see anyone taking them up on it but I thought it was nice.

Mile 5: I took a cup of water from a volunteer at the aid station. I figured I’d need it to go with the gel I planned to take at mile 6. I chucked my empty cup toward a trash can and nearly hit a guy who was coming up on my left. I apologized and he told me I hadn’t hit him. 🙂 I was glad about that.

Mile 5.5: I totally started to drag around mile 5.5. I was questioning why I was running that race, why I thought I could do a half marathon, what was fun about that, why I was putting myself through that, how was I going to complete another 7.6 miles, and how would I feel if I didn’t meet my time goal of under 2 hours? I could hardly focus on the beauty of the course. It was all I could do to breathe and think about my form and try not to trip on the small, round yellow and white reflectors that marked the lane lines on the road. We ran along some streets that had gorgeous, multimillion-dollar homes on the right and the Corona del Mar State Beach on the left. At one point I passed a woman who was pushing a tweenager girl in a wheelchair. The girl was ringing a cow bell and smiling and clearly enjoying the race. It was quite inspirational. I told myself to suck it up and be grateful that I could run.

Somewhere just before mile 6, a woman runner called out, “Does anyone have the time? Anyone?!” I answered her with the number on my Garmin — not the time of day but the time since I started the race. I’m not sure how helpful that was to her, given that we likely had not crossed the start line at the same time and thus “her” time was not the same as “my” time, but I felt glad to be able to help her, especially since no one else answered. I don’t blame them — it was all I could do to focus on my race.

Mile 6: I took the green apple gel and some Gatorade and was grateful for them. Another half mile later they kicked in and I got a second wind. Thank goodness! I felt a lot better and told myself that I’d need to make some changes next time (what next time?!) — either eat more before the race, or take a gel earlier in the race.

Mile 6.5: I passed a male runner who was carrying the American flag. There I was, nearly regretting the extra weight from wearing a race belt with my water bottle, and there he was carrying a huge American flag on an 8-foot pole! He had to lower it down to go under the bridge and onto the cliff path. The mile markers along the course all had banners: “I run…” “for myself and no one else” “because I can!” “to stay fit… look good… feel good!” (that’s me!) “in honor of our US armed forces for protecting my freedom to do so!” etc. It was cool to see that flag.

Mile 7: We ran along a narrower cliff path instead of a two-lane road and while it was gorgeous, it highlighted the fact that there were still a tremendous number of runners crowding the course. People were running on the left to pass on the grass and the dirt/sand. When I went by the photographer at mile 7 and ran over the timing mat (which I assume was there to check that people weren’t cheating on the course, because the race results didn’t show the split time I hoped to see from that mat), there were people surrounding me all around. When I watched the video later on, I could see that people were lined up 8 across, even when they weren’t in a group running together. The course was just that crowded. I never felt slowed down exactly, but I felt annoyed at having to expend the energy to pass other runners.

Miles 8-11 are a total blur. I have no idea what happened on those miles. I know I got water at one point. Anytime I didn’t want water at an aid station I moved to the other side of the road to avoid runners who were slowing down. I got into a zone. I found another runner who was going at my pace. She wore a neon yellow tank top with pink puffy paint in the shape of a heart. I focused on keeping up with her. At mile 9 or so she paused to hug her mom and shout, “I’m keeping under 9!” That’s how I knew I was on target for my goal. My Garmin told me so, but it was fun to hear another runner confirm it. It was getting harder to stay under 9, and anytime we hit a hill my pace would creep above 9, sometimes even 10. Just before mile 11 my training class friend Kevin passed me and said, “Good job, Angela!” I was pleased to see him because it meant that I was doing well (he was always faster than I was at the long training runs) and his neon yellow-green shirt gave me something else to focus on ahead.

Mile 11: At mile 11 we hit a huge hill. For a training run it would have been no big deal, nothing I don’t do on the hills near my house. At mile 11 on a 13.1-mile race? It was a big deal. I kept running though and used my training to my advantage. I tried to stay on pace and didn’t beat myself up when I didn’t. I started telling myself to “leave it all out on the course! You won’t regret it! Two more miles! Push yourself! Speed up!”

Mile 12: I was so glad to see the turn off for the marathoners to go right and the half-marathoners to go left. It didn’t even occur to me that I’d never run more than 12 miles before. Nor did it occur to me how crazy it would be to continue to the right and run another 14.2 miles. 🙂 I was totally focused on running a super-fast last 1.1 miles. I kept telling myself that I had less than 10 minutes to go, and I wouldn’t regret pushing myself. My form was terrible but I was running faster (so my Garmin said) and I just concentrated on running as fast as I could. A band was playing at mile 12 and I was grateful to the drum beat cheering me on.

The last two turns were discouraging. I couldn’t see the finish line yet! When would I see the finish line?! I started to feel a tiny bit of relief at the same time because I knew I was going to finish, and likely would be under the 2-hour mark. I wasn’t injured. I could feel my left hamstring yelling at me a bit, but it wasn’t injured, just sore. I pushed myself harder and harder. Keep up with neon tank top girl! You can do it!

Mile 13: Finally I saw the finish line. I pushed myself as hard as I could. I couldn’t look left or right to see if I could see Mike and the girls, but I heard my preschooler say, “There’s Mama. Go Mama!” I waved in her direction but focused on the finish line. I drove hard to the finish, put two thumbs up, and smiled. When I crossed the timing mat, I slowed to a walk and wobbled a bit. Not that anyone else would notice, but I noticed! I hardly wanted to stop walking to have the volunteer put the medal around my neck. I was afraid if I stopped I’d crumple to the ground!

13.1: How did I feel at the finish? So glad to be done. Thrilled to have met my time goal with a finish time of 1:55:10. Relieved not to be injured. I kept walking to the refreshment table. I tapped neon tank top girl on the shoulder and thanked her for being my pacer, even though she didn’t know it. 🙂 She smiled and patted me back. I gasped to a volunteer a question about where the water was. All I could see was Gatorade or some such drink and I wanted water. I went back a few tables and found an electrolyte water drink. Perfect. I kept walking to the Beer Garden where I’d arranged to meet Mike. I talked to two women who’d done the 5K, and then a half marathon guy joined us. We rejoiced in our PR’s (no matter that it was my first race and any time was a PR!)

My girls ran up to me and hugged me and congratulated me and oooh’d and aah’d over my “golden medal.” It was such a thrill to meet up with them there. My girls dived into my post-race banana and granola bars, but Mike handed me an egg sandwich they’d brought and I was happy to share. I could hardly swallow a bite at that point anyway. It all tasted like cardboard. I ate some banana and about 45 minutes later some egg sandwich. I never did eat any granola bar after the first cardboard bite. I was happy, drenched in sweat (to the point of feeling cold now that I wasn’t running anymore) and so excited to enjoy the rest of my day as I recovered from the race and rewarded myself with time with my family at the beach and good food and, later, drink.

Post-race: I hobbled around on sore legs but felt surprisingly good. I took advantage of the free Massage Envy massage. The guy worked on my legs and it both hurt and felt awesome. Hurt so good. My coach had offered me some arnica cream which I gratefully rubbed on my thighs and hamstrings. I smiled a huge smile when I saw the “13.1” Mike had written on the dust on the back window of the car. At the beach I took an “ice bath” in the ocean and then iced my thighs, hamstrings and calves with the bags of ice Mike brought. I rested, walked, and ate some chicken and apples. Back at home several hours later, I watched a movie, enjoyed a cheese omelette made by Chef Mike, and had some red wine. I felt great. The post-race high kicked in.

The day after: I was quite sore anytime I started walking, but once I got going I felt good. Going down the stairs was a challenge, as was sitting down on a chair or sitting down on the toilet LOL, but really I felt surprisingly good. I felt such a huge sense of satisfaction from the race that I was glad I’d done it. Proud of myself for sticking with the training, and grateful that it had all paid off with a great race.

Two days after: I felt so good physically and mentally that I was looking for the next challenge. I started researching the various marathon options. Could I do it? Did I want to do it? If I was even thinking about it, I should go for it! I looked at the Santa Barbara International Marathon site and the Yelp reviews of the race, and those things combined with the ideal date of November 10 (a Saturday race, with the girls having off Friday and Monday from school), I decided it was fate. I emailed Mike with the subject line: 26.2.

Three days after: I officially signed up for the marathon. I ordered books about it. I put books on hold at the library. I was in, 100%. No going back. I didn’t feel panicked. I felt good. Appropriately challenged, a little nervous, and a lot excited.

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In all honesty, I can’t say that the half marathon is my favorite race distance. I love a 10K (6.2 miles). An 8K (4.97 miles). Those are long enough to tax me and yet short enough that I can really race them. A 5K (3.1 miles) is nice too, but it’s over before I even start to get in my groove. I’m not that speedy, you see. Endurance is my strong suit. And yet, for me, 13.1 miles presents quite the challenge.

My quest to complete a half marathon started when I finished my first Olympic distance triathlon in December 2011. I felt competent on the swim and bike but felt there was significant room for improvement in running. The Olympic distance includes a 6.2-mile run. For that triathlon, I completed that 6.2 miles in 55:35, a decent 10K time after the swim and bike portions of the race (enough to earn me first out of those in my age group, no matter that there were only two of us 40-year-old females!) I later completed a stand-alone 10K in 51:29, again a decent time, especially considering I was recovering from a groin injury at the time. At any rate it was good enough for a spot on the podium for 2nd place in my 40-44 age group in the local race. Still, I wanted more. I wanted to be a runner. (What constitutes a runner is a whole ‘nother blog post. On the one hand I’d say anyone who puts one foot in front of the other at any pace faster than a walk is a runner. On the other hand, I didn’t feel like a runner until I started training for the half marathon and other runners started recognizing that I was training for something.)

In January 2012, I signed up for a half marathon training class with a local running shop. My goal was to work on my running form and speed.  I knew from the start that I wanted to complete a half marathon in under two hours. I stated it out loud to anyone who would listen (not because I was overly confident, but because I wanted to hold myself to a training and racing goal). The 16-week program entailed five weekly runs, with three to four mile runs during the week and progressively longer runs on Saturdays. While I hit a bit of a speed bump with that groin injury, the training worked for me and on race day in May 2012, I came across the finish line at 1:55:10. I had blown away my sub-2 goal.

That’s not to say that any of it was easy. During the last weeks of training, I felt creaky. I acted like the Tin Woman, starting out slowly and gradually oiling up my joints on the long runs until I hit a 10-minute pace if I was lucky. Tapering helped rejuvenate me, and by race day I hit an 8:47 pace, for an average of 6.82 mph for the 13.1 miles. I was thrilled. I left it all out on the course. I wasn’t joyful for every mile. I was thankful I made it through. I was happy to hit my previous personal distance record of 12 miles, and push through that last 1.1 miles to hit 13.1. I was tired, I was spent, and I was completely thrilled that I’d done it. I thanked the girl who finished before me, the one in the neon yellow tank top who inspired me to keep up the pace and finish strong. She had no idea she was pacing me, but she did and I’m grateful, even if I couldn’t pass her at the end. I finished in the top 9% for my age group and gender, and 17th percentile overall. I was thrilled. I don’t care how you define a “runner,” that qualified in my book!

When I crossed the finish line, I was totally done. I hadn’t exactly enjoyed the race. At the 5-mile mark I had wondered what I had gotten myself into. At the half-way mark I was shocked how many people were still crowding the course. At the hill at 11 miles I truly questioned why I had ever wanted to run a half marathon in the first place. Then I hit 12 miles and knew I could push myself that last 1.1 miles. I finished and was utterly relieved. It was hard to keep moving and walk to grab some electrolyte water and bananas and oranges.

I met my husband and three girls at our designated spot, then met up with my coach Stephanie for some hugs and arnica gel. From there it was a long walk back to our car (the parking lot was full by the time my husband and girls arrived at the start of the race). I watched the marathoners at mile 24 and tried to shout encouragement to them. I am not sure I succeeded. What do marathoners want to hear at mile 24? My thought was, “Looking good! You’re doing it!” It’s not that you can do it, you ARE doing it. Then I made it back to our car, parked nearly a half-mile away at the local gas station, and saw this:

13.1 in the dirt

Badge of honor on my dusty, dirty car

I almost cried. The enormity of the accomplishment hit me. The reward of the half marathon was knowing that all my training time and effort had paid off and I had earned that 13.1.

Nearly four months later, on my 41st birthday, I found the following surprise (and then had to wash my car because I was shamed into it by the loveliness of the gift from my husband):

13.1 sticker

My awesome birthday gift, a 13.1 custom sticker

Am I glad I ran a half marathon? Absolutely. I’m glad I trained hard and accomplished my goal. What advice do I have for others who want to tackle this distance? Set out your goal(s). Do you want to finish, meet a time goal, or blast away a personal record? Have you run other distances in preparation for 13.1 miles? Be realistic. Have a plan in place and follow it to the best of your ability.

Have you run a half marathon? What advice do you have for others who want to race 13.1 miles?

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