This past weekend, I ran my half marathon redemption race, the Fast Half. After missing my goal at the Half at the Hamptons, I had been eager to find another half a few weeks later to give the PR another shot.
The weather was absolutely perfect this time around – low 50s and overcast. There was a breeze, but it was nowhere near the 20+ mph headwinds I was contending with at the Hamptons. Mentally, I felt ready. I felt like I had learned my lessons from the Half at the Hamptons, and I was ready to hop aboard the pain train once again.
The start/finish was at the Hamilton-Wenham regional high school, about an hour’s drive for me. I showed up about an hour early and had no issue parking, getting my bib, and using the porta-potty. While doing my warm-up, I also discovered another bathroom open to the public around the back of the school, which I was able to use a couple more times without having to wait in any lines – SCORE. 🙂
Before I knew it, it was 9 am and everyone was lining up at the start. It was a pretty small race and I was able to get a good position near-ish to the front. And then, we were off!
The goal was to go out a touch slower than I had at the Half at the Hamptons and to run very comfortable through Mile 6, at which point things would start to get tough.
I settled into an easy rhythm, enjoying the scenery and the gentle downhill of the first few miles. Miles 1-3 were 7:53, 7:53, and 7:54. Right on target. I had a group of the same runners who I was pretty much sticking with through these miles and it felt good having the company.
After the first 5k, I knew it was time to push a little bit harder. I was still feeling really comfortable and miles were ticking by like clockwork. I took my first GU and was able to get it down relatively easily. I had kind of struggled with my nutrition in March so it was a relief to have this go smoothly this time around. Mile 4 I hit in 7:48.
For the next couple miles, I worked on trying to maintain this slightly fast pace as we entered more of the rolling hills. Mile 4-5 featured a decent climb and I was happy to come away with a 7:51 split for the mile. Mile 6-7 I knew was going to be a tough one. It’s pretty much uphill for the whole mile. I focused on remembering what my coach had told me – “You are fit enough to recover on the downhills.” I reminded myself of the Groton Road Race where I had run 7:30-7:45 pace on substantial hills. I ended up squeaking out an 8:01 split for the mile. A bit slower than I wanted, but not as bad as I had worried it would be.
I told myself that the worst of the hills were over and now I could get to work at dialing the pace down again. Unfortunately, there really were plenty more hills coming my way. Mile 8 I was able to recover a bit running a 7:49. Still slower than what I realistically wanted to be running at this time in the race though.
Mile 9 I hit in 8:05. I remember a couple of small climbs during this mile, plus I took my second GU at this time. I know I was 100% feeling the strain at this point. I knew my original goal of 1:41 was out the window, but I had to hold on if I was going to still squeak out a PR. I couldn’t let myself fall apart the way I did before.
Miles 10 and 11 I hit in 7:53 and 7:51. Again, slower than what I had really hoped for, but not terrible in the grand scheme of things.
And then the wheels fell off….
I tried to focus on sticking with a girl in a purple shirt who I had caught up to over the last mile who was looking strong. Maybe she just looked strong because I felt like crap though, I’m not sure. I tried to concentrate on my breathing and I tried really hard to just not give up on myself. Never have 2 miles felt so EFFING long though. I hit Mile 12 in 8:14 and Mile 13 in 8:09. No bueno.
As I came around the final bend and entered the school parking lot, I saw the clock read 1:44 and I sprinted as hard as I could across the finish, so glad to be DONE.
So I got my PR, but only by about a minute or so. I’m happy to have PR’ed, but also slightly frustrated that I lost pace so badly in the last 2 miles. If I could have kept it in the 7:50s at least, my average pace would probably have been around a 7:51 for a 1:43 finish. Yes, I’m agonizing over seconds here, but I feel like those last 2 miles pretty much botched an otherwise solid race.
But the other thing I keep remind myself is that this race really was not all that flat and fast. Here is what my Garmin captured as the elevation profile from this course versus the map they put on the race website.
And the elevation profile they post on their website-
Yes, the general gist is the same, although I think it’s fair to say that they selected a scale and width of the line to smooth out some of the other smaller hills that were in between the big climbs.
I also thought it was interesting looking at Strava’s grade-adjusted pace data from the run.
Notice Mile 7 where I actually ran an 8:01 – my grade-adjusted pace would have been a 7:41.
Overall, I think this just proves to me how much choosing the right course matters when you’re racing. No, I can’t avoid hills entirely (though I definitely wish I could), but you do need to take them into consideration when selecting goal races.
I know my fitness is there. I am so much stronger than I was back in November when I first joined McKirdy Trained, and that’s exciting. Yes, this was a small squeaker of a PR, but that just means there will be more records to be set down the road.
No, I am not hunting down another half marathon to race this summer though. I am ready for a nice break from the half marathon (and a short break from running) to let my body recover before diving into whatever is next.