Sunday morning was The Race. That’s how I had been glorifying it in my mind for the past several months. “Don’t slack on your workout; The Race is right around the corner!”
I had been training hard, stayed injury-free and was ready to run a sub-1:32 half marathon. I had been repeating “7 minute miles” in my head for the past week, and even told my boyfriend my mantra so he could yell it during the race.
Even with all that mental preparation, I’ll admit that my pre-race ritual was less-than-ideal. Instead of resting the day before, I spent Saturday morning on my feet at an educational/networking event. Instead of my traditional pre-race pasta, I drank 2 Coronas and ate delicious homemade Mexican food at a house party. Instead of going to sleep early, I spent 2 and a half hours round-trip in a car Saturday night going to visit friends and didn’t crawl into bed until 6 hours before my alarm was set to go off.
Fortunately, I didn’t have any terrible reactions to the food and had gotten 9 hours of sleep most nights leading up to the race, so I felt surprisingly good on the morning of The Race. The weather was chilly (low 40s) but the sun was out and there was very little wind. With capris and a thin long-sleeved technical shirt, I was ready to race.
My boyfriend Brian dropped me off at the fairgrounds around 6:40 and I made my way to the start. The crowds were easy enough to navigate, and the start area had signs along the sides suggesting where you should line yourself up based on pace and finish time. I made my way up to the front next to the large “7:00 MILE” sign and repeated my mantra in my head.
An a cappella group sang the national anthem and a few minutes later we were off and running. I had opted for my low-tech watch rather than my GPS running watch, so I wasn’t sure what my pace would be coming through the first mile but was feeling good and hoping I’d be right around 7 or maybe a second or two slower.
I tried to back off for mile 2 [6:58] but then panicked thinking I might be backing off too much so I picked it up slightly during mile 3 [6:52], tried to back off again and overshot it [7:06] and then leveled back out at 7:01 for mile 5.
This race was not going as planned. From mile 5 on, my splits were all over the place and not at all where I wanted to be. My time at mile 6 was dead on – 42:00, 7 minute pace – but I knew that my ridiculously fast early miles were the reason for that time. I was running between 7:15 and 7:30 pace in the middle of the race. I knew my sub-1:32 goal was out of the question at this point, but I could still run a PR if I didn’t drop my pace any further. My mid-race despair was replaced with determination and a new goal: maintain pace, stay motivated, run sub-1:34.
I took my first gel around mile 7 [but I think I should have taken one earlier] and felt pretty good by the time I got to mile 8. Maybe it was the sugar from the gel or the milestone of knowing I only had 5 more miles to go, but I felt great and it showed [really, where did that 7:05 come from?!]. It helped that around this time a spectator yelled out that I was the tenth overall female, which motivated me for about 5 seconds before realizing that I couldn’t hold the position for long. My legs were on fire, my body hurt, and I just wanted to finish. Now.
At this point in the race, I was focusing on one mile at a time. When I passed 11, I did some quick math and thought I was on pace to finish under 1:34. By 12, I was pretty confident but wasn’t quite sure how long that final 0.1 miles would take me. There was a hill during the last half mile which I knew about going into the race but completely forgot about it until I saw it in front of me and suddenly thought, “Crap! I didn’t plan for this!”
My legs were still on fire, and turning onto a dirt race track for the finish didn’t make anything easier. Still, I was in the final stretch and knew I didn’t have very much wiggle room for my goal time so I dug deep and pushed it in. I crossed the finish line as the clock ticked over from 33 to 34, so I knew I at least ran a PR but wasn’t positive if my time would be under 1:34 or not. My boyfriend (who is still new to the running community) was also questioning my time and nervously asked me, “So… that time on the big clock isn’t necessarily your time, right?”
I changed out of my cold, wet clothes and into the awesome race premium [more on that later!] and proudly wore my medal while Brian and I enjoyed our complimentary beers. As we were making our way home, I thought I’d try scanning the QR code on my bib to see if it actually worked. To my surprise, it not only worked but had up-to-the-minute race results!
My official time was 1:33:52 and I finished 2nd in my age group. My time wasn’t as fast as I originally wanted it to be, but I still ran a PR!
There are three things I will do differently for my next race: Wear my GPS watch for pace, take another gel earlier in the race, and add longer runs into my training [I only got up to 11 miles once].
I’m toying with the idea of running the ZOOMA Annapolis Half Marathon on June 1 in hopes of running my coveted sub-1:32, though I’m a little nervous about the heat. I think I’m going to keep training and make a decision when it gets closer. If not, it’s on to training for TWO fall marathons: Chicago and Philly!
More About Frederick
I’ve already rambled on about my race long enough, but I am going to do a SECOND post about the Frederick Half Marathon because my experience was AWESOME. It was such an organized race and you could tell that the runners were truly their primary focus. Kudos to the organizers!