Right after running 3M in 2016, I signed up again. It’s seriously one of the best chances I’ll ever get for a PR – it’s in January, so it’s 99% likely to be gorgeous weather for running, and it’s net downhill which makes it fast (they call it #downhilltodowntown). Every year I sign up, I’m like “this is when I’m going to take a crack at that 2:07:xx”.
Pre-race, the ever important porta potty stop and huddling for warmth with a few thousand of your closest runner friends.
Then, every year, I realize that January is not really my month. I’m either deeeeep into marathon training and fatigued or this year, very undertrained and also deeeeeep into fatigue having finished a 3 week block of the highest volume I’ve ever done. I’ll probably early sign up for it again, and say the same thing. I actually think next fall/winter I might just concentrate on halfs and see if I can get faster but something will inevitably come up. But it’s still a fun race that everyone does so I don’t mind showing up and seeing what happens so much.
Let’s talk about how untrained I am to run a solid half marathon. If this was a cycling race, I’d be golden. Swimming? Probably a little better off. However, in the last 3 months since my 70.3 I have run a 10 miler and two 11 milers, but ZERO of the miles in any run have been speedwork, and my total mileage is about 100. Yeah. My normal weekly mileage this time of year is more than my currently monthly mileage. Yeah, I’m riding all the bikes, but still.
The point of this big long depreciating diatribe? I lined up with only two goals yesterday morning: 1) work hard but still be able to get up and train today and 2) if at all possible, try not to get a personal worst at this race, which meant I needed to beat 2:27. Any of the outdoor runs I’ve done lately have been paced slower than that so that was actually a consideration.
It was a SUPER pretty day for running… except for the 25+ mph wind gusts… #upwindtodowntown
We started with the 2:15 pacer since that seemed like a reasonably hard goal right now, and ran with friends until they decided to take off and go a little faster. I took in a caff gel right away over the first two miles, and stopped at an aid station to wash it down. It was so windy, my hat blew off and I had to chase it, and then I had lost them. I figured that was the last I would see of anyone and it wasn’t even mile 3.
Let’s also talk about how Zliten and I respond to rest. He takes months off running, he runs amazingly (even better than during training). He is the epitome of a low volume runner. I take more than a week off running regularly and my legs forget how to run. It will be MONTHS until I feel like I’m a competent runner since I took a fall break.
I ran harder trying to catch up, and finally I saw Zliten running alone. He was wearing a red shirt, which was the same color as this year’s race shirt which EVERYONE was wearing, so it was hard to pick him out. I was looking for Matt, the shirtless guy in the kilt, who was slightly more unique. I asked him what happened and he said he wanted to race with me instead. Awwww. I’m not sure if he was fatigued or just being nice, but I decided I would take it!
We clipped along at 10:30-ish pace – he stopped to use the porta potty and I kept running but slower, so he could catch up (and he did within half a mile). I found that the 10:30-ish pace was just a hare past comfortable, so I kept letting Zliten get a little bit ahead and then put on the gas to catch up. Around mile 6 that was getting tougher so another gel went down the hatch.
Spoiler. We all finished.
By mile 7, we took a turn (more) downhill and that gel started doing it’s thing and I started feeling good, so we sped up. We passed the 2:15 pacer and started talking finish times and we figured we’d put as much time as we could into the 2:10 pacer and see how close we could get to catching them. Actually doing it was kind of an impossibility without me running my 5k pace for 5 miles at the end of a half marathon (which would take all the pixie dust and magic in the world), but I said I’d be ok holding the sub-10 pace we were but it was business time, no talking.
I shoved my headphones in and we went fishing. I actually felt really good until about mile 10, which is where the hills start going the other way. Zliten loves the hills and runs faster on them, so I spent that period fishing for him, I’d let him get a little ahead on the way up and catch him on the flat. At that time, I started moving from actual words to grunts, except I told him I hated his face and legs for going too fast, so I’m pretty sure I was the best running companion ever.
However, I stuck with it. Every time he ran ahead, I asked myself if I had that gear and was I willing to shift into it, and the answer was always yes. This is a good thing. I’m not exactly sure how much slower I would have finished if Zliten wasn’t towing me, but I am certain it wouldn’t have been faster.
Rainbow legs followed Zliten’s stupid (lovely) face and legs. Thanks Zliten for your face and legs!
We found the last uphill right to the finish and crossed the line together at 2:13:40 (just slightly above top half in my age group). It’s my 5th best half (out of the 14 I’ve ran) and I expected to be much slower, so I’ll take it! Hooray for aerobic capacity crossing over between sports, because I *know* this is not because of my run training. The best feeling is that even though this is my fastest and longest run in months, I feel like I had more distance in me (though more speed? not really). One of these days I actually will spend a cycle trying to crack open that PR, but for now, I’ll get on with rest week and keep building that cycling for Ironman Texas.
The rest of the day was for mexican food, some beers, using the puffy massage legs, napping, and watching movies. I’m loving the post-race nap tradition and I feel pretty decent today to get on with my training, so I can check off both my goals for this race. Win!