Happy Friday! I hope your weekend is off to a great start! I’m up in Oregon for NCAA DII West Regionals tomorrow and I’m LOVING the fall weather. The leaves, the crisp air, the rain… fall is the thing I miss the most living in Southern California!
Today I’m recapping my half marathon race from Sunday and it got a bit lengthy so I recommend grabbing a mug of something warm and settling in for a bit.
Last Friday after work Lavinia and I made the drive up to LA to pick up my race bib. It was fairly quiet, which is usually the case if an expo is Friday and Saturday. This made things quick and easy so after grabbing my bib we checked out a few of the booths, snapped a picture and headed back home. It was so nice to have this taken care of and not have to make the trek up to LA the day before the race.
On Saturday we took Lavinia trick-or-treating at the OC Zoo and went out to lunch as a family. I enjoyed having a distraction from the upcoming race, especially because in the past I’ve overthought races ahead of times and totally bombed from nerves. That evening I got all of my gear organized and ready to go because we were leaving the house @ 4:45am! I texted back and forth with my coach a little bit to finalize my race goals and strategies and was off to bed early!
Going into this race I knew that I was ready to run a big PR and really wanted to run <1:18 to waulify for the USA Championships at CIM. I also knew that the course was really difficult and had a LOT of hills the second half. Recently, I’ve been trying to break the mindset of setting a rigid time goal and am starting to state my goals for any given race in terms of a range. For this race I gave mysellf a reasonable range of 1:17-1:19 depending on various factors like how bad the hills really were (I don’t know about you but I don’t always find the elevation charts of races to be super accurate), weather and if I had men to run with along the way or if I was running in no man’s land, etc.
Before my big races I also spend some time reflecting on the race and developing a mantra (or a few) for race day. For this race I had 3 different mantras for different sections of the course.
Miles 1-6 –> CONTROL (at my last half marathon I went out WAYYYYY too fast the first 10K and paid for it at the end so controlling the pace at the beginning was crucial!)
Miles 7-10 –> GRIND (this is were every half gets hard and also where the hills started in this particular race so the focus during these 4 miles was to just grind it out)
Miles 11-13.1 –> COMPETE (with the runners around me, with myself, etc.)
Ok… so onto race morning – finally! haha
As usual I had toast and coffee as we were driving to the race. We parked an hour before the starting time, and 45 before I started my warm-up – 12 minute jog, change shoes, drills + strides. I hopped in the front of the corral 10 minutes before and finished off the last of my strides and then right at 6:45 we were off!
The first mile passed relatively uneventfully and around mile 1.5 I found myself in no mans land with a little pack of about 4-5 guys 25 meters ahead of me. I knew it would be a long race if I ran it by myself so I made the decision to pick up the pace a little bit and latch onto their group. This was one of the smarting racing decisions I’ve ever made because we all ended up running together through mile 12 and it really made the race easier to have people to work with and trading the “pacing” responsibilities with. The first 6 miles were a completely flat out and back and passed extremely uneventfully – splits were:
We passed the start/finish area right after mile 6 and headed out for an out and back in the other direction – towards the hills.
Mile 7 was brutal! It was up a really long and really steep hill. I tried my best to maintain my effort and took it as a good sign that our group stayed together. When I lapped my watch at mile 7 I looked down to see 6:17. A few years ago that would have been so discouraging to me but I’ve really been working on mental training and am trying to learn to roll with the punches. I got right back in it for miles 8, 9 and 10 which were more rolling hills and net downhill rather than straight up. I’m so happy with the way that I held it together and didn’t freak out at seeing that slower split on my watch. Splits for miles 7-10 were:
At mile 10 we made a u-turn and headed back towards the finish the way we had come… which meant a 2 mile uphill slog. Again, I’m really glad that I stayed with my group here and while I hit the lap button on my watch at the mile markers I didn’t look at my splits during the race. I just focused on sticking with my pack and competing, I must have told myself “I can do ANYTHING for 2 miles” a dozen times! Mile 11 + 12 splits:
Around mile 12 we crested the last hill and started the downhill mile to the finish. I checked my watch and saw that if by some miracle I could run a low 5 minute mile I would at least be close to the 1:18 barrier. The men around me were picking up the pace so I also tried to crank it into a higher gear and while my body was willing and seemed able to pick up the pace every time I tried to go faster I got this queasy feeling. I’ve never thrown up in a race before in my life so this was a new phenomenon to me. For the entire last mile I repeated this cycle of try to pick it up – feel like I’m going to throw up – back off the pace a little – get a sense of renewed motivation – try to pick it up… etc. When I made the final right turn into LA Live and had about 100m left to run I thought that I could sprint no problem and make it to the finish line before I lost it. That was a total misjudgment – about 80m out from the finish line I threw up, I tried to keep running and threw up again so I kind of stopped and hunched over one of the guys coming up behind me patted me on the back and encouraged me to get to the finish line. I got myself together and ran the last 80m to break the tape in 1:18:39.
Surprisingly my pace for the last 1.1 miles was 5:44 – so my fastest of the entire race.
After I cleaned myself off and caught my breath I was interviewed up on the finish line stage while holding Lavinia in my arms – such a cool moment).
As I was waiting to be interviewed one of the guys that I had run most of the race with (and ended up running 17:58) popped over say congrats and when I saw he was wearing a Western Mass singlet we got to talking about Massachusetts. Come to find out he went to college with my sister and one of my friends – small world!
I also got to meet two internet friends that I’ve been following on Instagram for what feels like forever – Donna & Kaitlin (and Kaitlin’s sister!). I love the Insta running community and I’m looking forward to seeing these gals at some more Southern California races in the future!
All is all, I am really happy with how this race went and my result. I may not have hit my A goal but I lowered my PR by 1 minute 43 seconds which is something to be proud of. Its easy to wish that the race had gone perfectly but when is that ever the case in these longer distance races? I’m taking heart from the fact that I faced adversity and performed well in the face of it – that is better encouragement for CIM than anything because now I know when the going gets tough in the marathon I can handle it!
Oh and PS – did I have the CUTEST cheering section or what?!?