Yesterday, I ran a half marathon personal record.
4 years ago (well, November 2013), I ran my first half marathon in 2 hour and 28 minutes. I remember it being a huge struggle and since that time I have run 12 half marathons and only 3 have been below that time. I attribute a lot of the trouble I’ve had with long distance “speed” with a complete disregard for training/race similarity. In any given month I might’ve been working toward a triathlon, a 5k and a half marathon. Or a 10k and a spartan. I was overall “fit” and able to do any of the above, but not ready to give a good impression of my best at any of it. I’ve struggled to keep the urge to do everything that sounds fun and exciting in conjunction with my goals because all it leads to is a big barrel of disappointment (and a lot of burnout). But, in 2018 I am going to show ALL THE RESTRAINT and keep my schedule in a good flow.
My 2018 “plan” has me working toward and very likely succeeding in giving a great effort at my goals- because I don’t have myself pulled in 3 different directions at once. Right now I am training for long distance- and that’s it. There is no triathlon coming up; there is no spartan coming up. I’m not concerned about running my fastest 5k- because that’s not what I’m training for right now. After the marathon I will shift my focus and for the next 6 months, sprint triathlons will be the focus. There is a 10k race at the very beginning of training and a 5k race a couple weeks later, but once the triathlons begin, that’s it. That’s the focus.
But, back to yesterday, a triumphant and surprising day. Last year, when training for the marathon, I had signed up for zero run races to keep my injury potential very low. My main focus was the marathon so that was that. It was a big mistake. After 6 months of training, I got nothing. When I was unable to do the marathon, I didn’t even get to say “well, training was fun!” or anything like that. I had deprived myself of any accomplishment leading up to the race only to come away with nothing. So this year I gave myself a half marathon midway through the training. I didn’t go into the race expecting a personal record; I was just happy to be running the 13 miles I was supposed to run that day, and getting an awesome medal and t-shirt for my efforts.
The half marathon that popped up was one in Charleston, SC. A bunch of RVA friends were going down to run the race, so I asked one of my favorite travel buddies, Staci, if she wanted to take a 36 hour adventure. Of course she said yes because none of us can resist a good destination race. Our friend, Dawn, also wanted to come so off we went!
We drove the 6 hours from Richmond starting not-so-early in the morning Friday and went straight to the race expo. A lot of our Richmond friends were there at the same time, so we got to take a group photo.
We had heard awesome things about Charleston Restaurants so found a cute little restaurant called Jestine’s Kitchen. It was incredible. There was so much food that not a single one of us was able to finish it all.
We kept checking the weather and oddly enough the temperature was supposed to plummet and the wind was supposed to pick up. We had all brought an assortment of clothes so did our best with what we brought, but with wind that brought the “feels like” temperature down 12 degrees, you never really know if you’re going to be dressed okay. The race started at 8am, so wakeup time wasn’t terrible. Our hotel was right next to the start line so we luckily didn’t have to venture into the cold until the last possibly moment. We took our obligatory pre-race selfies and off we all went to run our halfs.
It was cold. I think the outside temperature was 42, which sounds like a heatwave compared to some of the temps we’ve seen in Richmond recently, but the wind cut through the air and brought it down to the very low 30s. And it was windy. We’re talking 10-15mph pretty consistently. But, the pullover I had brought was very well insulated and while I was on the edge of “hot” when the wind died down, all the other times the wind was blowing I was so grateful to have that pullover. My goal was to run the race at a very consistent pace. My problems previously had been that I had gone out too quickly and been unable to sustain that pace. So, since this was a training run, my goal was to feel awesome the whole time. The first 6 miles of the course were GORGEOUS. A very welcome distraction that I took the time to take pictures of while I ran. I wasn’t breathing hard and felt like I could run forever.
On the back of the race t-shirt there was the saying “you can, you will” and it was the perfect support beacon. A cheerful reminder on the backs of everyone who wore the shirt running that I could do this.
The course took a turn to a more “boring” setting for miles 7-10ish, but at mile 8 I was still feeling amazing. I had only had a sip of water at mile 4 along with two chews, and then at mile 8 I drank a little gatorade and had a couple more chews. I realized, I could probably kick it up a notch because I felt so great. So for the next mile I slowly sped up. When I got to mile 9 I thought- I can keep going a little faster, I still feel great! So I did. And I still felt great, so, realizing there was only a 5k left I put my brain in “Tuesday morning track speedwork” mode and kicked it up another notch (realizing at this point that I had consistently already run at my PR pace up until this point). My legs were getting a little tired, so the pace wasn’t quite “Tuesday speedwork” speed, but was definitely faster than I had been running and I was able to come at the end 2 minutes under my fastest half time. And I felt incredible. I think it’s pretty safe to say that I can count the number of double digit runs I’ve done that I’ve gone faster the second half than the first on one hand. And this was one of those. My last four miles were my fastest overall hunk of the race, and my last mile was THE fastest mile! I averaged about 10:45/mile and my last mile was a 10:15. I had gone into the race with a clean brain, ready for some fun and training run reward and got so much more.
What a difference 2 months makes. My busted half in Norfolk in November was over 10 minutes slower than this half. 2 months ago, I had set out for a PR and ended up having an awful run. Yesterday, I had gone out to complete my 13 mile long run and had been able to happily push my boundaries and feel a success I had tried over a year to achieve- a half marathon PR.
We cleaned ourselves up and went out to lunch at a highly recommended lunch spot on Folly Beach called Lost Dog Cafe. I’m not really a “dog” person, so the atmosphere was lost on me, but the food. O.M.G. the food was incredible. Having just worked out for over 2 hours, I allowed myself to order a ton of food and I can’t even describe how good it was. The next time I am in Charleston, I will definitely be back.
A very, very short trip, but it was so great. I can’t wait for the next race- the Shamrock 8k and FULL MARATHON in March!