Rock and Roll Arizona 2013 Half Marathon
Another great January race!
I was so excited for this race. Trained well, and more importantly was confident, eager and focused. Even when my old hip injury flared up two weeks before the race, I didn’t waiver from what I wanted to achieve. I kept calm and confident that I would be able to achieve my goal. Some may think that cutting my mileage dramatically and getting massages, dry needling, graston and rock-tape was a bit of a sign of panic, but I just considered it what I needed to do. My coach Jay Johnson was great, giving me a modified plan for the few weeks leading up to the race, then revising it because of my hip. I had a strong 10 mile progression run the week before the race, and checked in with him whether or not I should try to fit in something at race pace the week of the race. I know some people try to fit in those last few great workouts right before the race, but I knew I’d put in some solid training and there was no “extra fitness” to gain. Jay’s advice agreed with that-
If you get to the line 100% you will race well.
…but if you get to the line less than 100% then you won’t be able to race to your fitness level.
So, my final week before the race became about being healthy (not trivial given the flu and colds going around!) and getting really mentally prepared for the race. I was SO excited for this race!
I started to feel a little crummy a few days before the race, so I tried to be sure I got some good sleep, I took various homeopathic immune support elixirs, etc. I bargained with my body to just let me make it til noon on Sunday…
The weather was nice in Arizona, and my last tuneup run on Saturday felt great! Twice during the week I’d run 4.5 miles in Colorado in roughly 38 minutes. On Saturday I threw in a few strides and finished the same distance in less than 34. I was raring to go! I decided to hydrate with Canada Dry Ginger Ale to get in some added ginger (anti-inflammatory), and we had a great dinner at home of gluten-free pasta with homemade pasta sauce and fake meatballs. Rick had given me some pacing guidance (take the first two miles around 7:05, settle into 6:51 for the next 6, then ‘start racing’ at mile 8) and I figured out what those splits would be and wrote them on my arm. I knew that the course had a steady uphill until mile 10, so I accepted I may not be speeding up until then. Then I excused myself to go read a running book, my typical preferred race-eve activity.
We got up nice and early. I had a bit of coffee and a gluten-free toasted waffle with peanut butter, and we headed to the start. Mom hadn’t been feeling well and actually wasn’t sure if she was going to race until that morning. She decided to, so we got ready and headed out. I wore my pseudo-Athletics Boulder singlet (most of us have the same singlet, although it’s not an offical branded one), lululemon shorts, some new Brooks Racers.. and my Flipbelt! Yes, I had decided to run with my iPhone to listen to music, so I wore my Flipbelt, and then also carried a GU, some advil and electrolyte caps, and a chapstick. We got to the start and parked. It was a bit chilly so Mom and I had garbage bags, but en route to the start we stopped in a fast food restaurant to use the restrooms, so I ditched the bag. The line was long, and once I made it through I said goodbye to my folks so I could run a bit to warmup. I did the lunge matrix (!!), chugged a 5hr energy, then jogged to the start – and right away they asked people to get into their corrals for the anthem! I got my music ready and the next thing I knew we were off!
.. and my watch wasn’t ready. Whoops!
However, I was in Corral 1, so I crossed the line quickly. Every mile had a large clock, and so I was able to see right away that my watch was ~40 seconds off. I decided to just run by clock time, since it would be close enough. I also had been planning to use my strategy of hitting my lap button at mile markers to gauge by their markers rather than my garmin.
This was a bit quicker than I’d expected – whoops! It felt easy and I felt like I was going really slow, which was a good sign! But I knew how important it was to run smart, so I tried to slow it down.
Still not what I meant to be running, but it was tough to try to slow down much more! The weather was great, I had a huge smile on my face and I didn’t feel anything in my hip at all. I felt like I had the most natural, easy stride in the world. I knew it was going to be a great day.
Then it was time to settle into my target average pace.
Whoops! I actually remember this point because we rounded some corner and it was amazing to think we were half done. I looked at my watch and was up around a 6:20 pace. I immediately put on the brakes.
I then forgot to hit my watch at mile 7, but I was tracking about 30 seconds faster (by clock time) than my wrist pace-band. I was feeling good, and then right around mile 8, the point at which Rick had said I should start thinking about picking it up, I thought I should probably have a GU.. and then it seemed like I immediately ran out of gas!
It was actually a bit surreal. I was feeling great, and then all of a sudden I wasn’t and it felt like work. But I took the GU and just kept going. I didn’t want to get too deep into my sensations and start the negative speak, so I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and told myself to hold on. I didn’t HAVE to pick up the pace, just keep it steady.
I had a life-shattering observation at one of the splits that was 6:53.. its ok to be slower than your goal pace. That seems a little obvious – your goal pace is an average, so you’re going to have faster and slower miles. But that fact has often escaped me and I’ve let a slow mile discourage me. However, to hit an average 6:52 over the course of 13.1 miles (my goal) means you can have some miles faster and some miles slower.
The downhill at mile 10 was significant! At one moment I glanced at my instant pace and it said 5:58!! I knew there was still a 5K to go and I didn’t want to risk blowing up, so I eased up. I was still doing well pace-wise, so I just let myself basically jog it in. I was doing well pace-wise, so I just needed to hit my target pace for the last few miles. I deviated from Rick’s plan in terms of trying to dial it up a notch, and instead decided for a “safe” PR.
M11/12: 6:45 pace
Surprisingly, the last mile seemed LONG and there was a headwind! I had been thinking I’d let loose the last mile and see what I had in me, but instead I just kept it on cruise at my race pace. Our last mile or so we shared the course with the 5.3M walkers, so there was a bit of weaving around folks. Not my favorite way to finish.
I finally decided to pick it up once the finish line was in sight, and I heard my Dad cheer me on as I ran past. I approached the finish with 1:29:XX on the clock, and was very happy to know my goal was achieved on clock time.
So… the funny thing about me is, I was a bit disappointed with my results. I felt like I could have done better. But I’d told myself my target pace was 6:51. In those middle miles I slowed myself if I was faster than 6:51. In the end, rather than pushing I stuck to running 6:51. So why was I surprised when that was my pace???
I felt pretty good when I finished. Grabbed some food and went to stretch, but I really didn’t feel too stiff or sore, even my back and hip! I checked my splits (and of course posted them to FB immediately), then checked to see how my Mom, Phoebee and Queen were doing. My Mom wasn’t set to come in for another hour so I headed back onto the course to find my Dad so we could cheer together. Eventually she came along, and was really happy she’d decided to run! We stretched out a bit, then went to eat – it was close to noon and I was hungry! Soon enough I got texts from my friends – Phoebee had set a big PR, her mom had PRed, Jed had PRed and Queen (who’d dropped from the marathon to the half b/c she got sick a few days before) hadn’t died. Success all around!
We went home and I did some of the Phil Wharton flexibility work, then we hit up the pool and hot tub. We ended up meeting Phoebee, her aunt and mom for dinner, which was really fun. It was just a great experience and I know a major part of it was how I prepared for this race. It really was a goal race, and I treated it as such. I was mentally and physically targeting this specific day. Sure, had my hip really been an issue, or had I gotten sick, I have a back-up race in New Orleans in a few weeks. But I was really ready for this race to see what I could do. I’m so glad I did! I finally have that 1:30 monkey off my back, and can relax for awhile.
…Except of course I know that I’d like to see where I could shave off a few seconds per mile. I really feel like it wouldn’t be a big deal over the whole course, but at the same time I don’t want to let myself feel that sense of obligation of needing to PR every race I go to. I think that was part of my funk last year, and I definitely don’t want to get into that again. I am going to just revel in the fact this race went exactly how I wanted it to, and have confidence that there will be further breakthroughs (did I mention this was another 3 min PR? That’s twice now I’ve run a 3min half-marathon PR in Arizona in January..). It just does’t have to be the next race I run!