Richmond never disappoints. I love this city every single time I visit. This weekend I kicked off Friday with a day date with my husband – enjoying sushi at our favorite spot, walking to Belle Isle, racing up stairs, and visiting a local brewery – before I was joined by my two best running buddies for a girl race weekend.
Saturday morning started just how I like it: chilly. We navigated our way to a parking garage, walked a few blocks to the started, took one last bathroom break, and jumped into the race a few corrals behind our scheduled started. No PRs would be chased at this race. It was simply about having fun, feeling confident, and most importantly, welcoming my friend Leah back to the running world after taking a year and a half off to have a baby.
The race course was gorgeous. The miles flew by. We laughed. We talked. We sang along to music. I may have thrown my fist into the air one too many times. And we crossed the finished line feeling better than when we started. This race will always be a favorite.
As my fall “racing” comes to an ended, I’m filled to the brim with satisfaction. Every race delivered exactly what I needed. Running is fun again, and winter training has some really exciting things in store. My favorite half marathon is waiting to be conquered. PRs are ready to be broken. I’m taking on an exciting new role on the J&A Racing Team (more to come soon!). I’m adding an exciting new strength regiment to my weekly routine.
I have big dreams for this sport I love so much. I’ve always had big dreams, but now I’m ready to do the work to make it happen. I’m ready to push a little. I’m ready to see what these running legs can do.
I had no intention of running the Shamrock half marathon this year. I was planning to be on a work trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I thought I’d be in the heart of Africa working with patients doing something my heart loves. Plans changed. When my own personal safety came into question, the heart of my family became my priority. These very deserving patients will get treatment even if I’m not there, and my boys don’t have to worry about my safety.
There’s a saying floating around in this world that joy is found in the process not in the finish line. While I won’t be traveling to the DRC, a shift changed inside of me by working on this project. The story of these patients is so closely entwined with my heart. Who I am as a person and the beat of my heart directly connects me to their story. I rediscovered a passion inside of me over the past few months. I’ve found confidence in my own voice and in my own story. I’ve been using my voice to capture my story on paper. I’ve revisited places of shame and guilt that existed within me, and I conquered those doubts. I wanted more than anything to bring strength to these patients. I wanted to bring compassion and courage. In order to bring it to them, I had to find it for myself.
This process has changed me. In some ways it’s been subtle. In other ways it’s been intrusive. Rearranging the components of your soul is messy. It’s chaotic. While some parts have emerged, others have left with a fight. There have been days I’ve felt emotionally unstable as I’ve struggled through this transition: old doubts and insecurities struggling to hold on while new-found strength and courage fought to take over.
Through all this change the one place I’ve been able to sort through all my thoughts is in my running shoes. I’ve worked through it all, celebrated it all, and finished every run feeling like a polished version of my self. Shamrock race weekend feels like the perfect place to shine. This year I’ll be running the Shamrock half marathon instead of traveling to Africa, but I’ll be carrying this entire process with me. The finish line isn’t the one I anticipated, but the process has been the same.
I’ll be running with these patients close to my heart. I’ll be running with the courage and determination I hoped to bring to them. The best way I can honor them and myself is to show up to my life with my heart exposed filled with strength and courage.
When I do board a plane this spring for a different mission site, my heart is going to have nothing to give but love that is rooted in my own strength. My foundation will be built on strength and courage.
“If there’s one thing I believe more than I believe anything else, it’s that you can’t fake the core. The truth that lives there will eventually win out. It’s a god we must obey, a force that brings us all inevitably to our knees.” ~ Cheryl Strayed
All year I’ve been peeling away the layers. I’ve been seeking out breathing room in nearly every aspect of my life. After a period of my life that felt nearly suffocating, I needed to breathe again. I changed jobs. Our house is being decluttered. I simplified our family life. I took a step back in nearly every aspect of my life. This is what I need. I know it deep inside my core.
I’m meant to live a simple life. I’m meant to live a life full of love. It’s impossible to accomplish this when your life is full of clutter – both physical and emotional.
And yet my running has struggled. I’ve struggled with my relationship with running all year. Injury. Emotional baggage. Mental weakness. I just can’t get over the hump. With my fall race season approaching, I started to panic. I need a training plan. I need to get faster. I need support. My running continued to spiral downward. I don’t want to give up on running. I love running. Should I even be racing at all? I can’t function without running. I’m working on redefining my relationship with my running shoes. Isn’t that enough? Spiraling spiraling downward. And then I bounced back up.
What I need is breathing room!
I already know exactly what I need. My body has been telling me for months (years?).
I need to trust myself. I know how to run. I know how train. Creating my own plan, trusting myself to get me to the finish line, is exactly what I need. I need to empower myself. I need to put my faith back in my own ability. I don’t need a time goal. I just want to do my best. And I need to listen to my body.
While I was so busy trying to control the outcome of every race, I was ignoring the screams that were coming from my body. I’ve run my body into the ground based on it’s current fitness level. My hips have been rebelling. I feel weaker every time I put on my running shoes. My body was screaming at me that something needed to change. It was reminding me what I always forget: my running legs aren’t like everyone else’s running legs. They were broken at one point. My femur, my tibia, and my foot broke. They are pieced back together by titanium rods and screws. My hip and knees have been dislocated. I have scar tissue. I have to take care of them. I have to support them. I need to get stronger if I’m going to keep running.
So my training plan is blank minus the few races I’m running this fall. I’ve left space each week for two easy runs, one speed work out, and a long run. I’ve left space for strength workouts. I’ve left space for yoga. How I fill in the space each week will be based on my life – family and work. The blank spaces make me feel alive. The blank space feels like a vote of confidence in myself. I’m smart enough to know how to build mileage. I have run enough speed workouts to select ones that challenge me. I am now smart enough to recognize that my focus has to be on strength and yoga. The running will fall into place.
I’m excited about this new plan. I’m excited to find a balance that works for me. I’m excited to listen to my body in a truly authentic way. It feels amazing to let go of trying to control the outcome. Instead I’m focusing on today, right now, and exactly what my body needs. I have a feeling I’m building the foundation for a very happy running relationship.
I hear you body! I am finally listening!
I finally feel like I am breathing!
Running and life: always a reflection of each other
“I don’t know where you rightfully live, but I know that there’s something in this world that you love more than you love yourself. Something worthy, by the way, so addiction and infatuation don’t count, because we all know that those are not safe places to live. Right? The only trick is that you’ve got to identify the best, worthiest thing that you love most, and then build your house right on top of it and don’t budge from it. And if you should someday, somehow get vaulted out of your home by either great failure or great success, then your job is to fight your way back to that home the only way that it has ever been done, by putting your head down and performing with diligence and devotion and respect and reverence whatever the task is that love is calling forth from you next. You just do that, and keep doing that again and again and again, and I can absolutely promise you, from long personal experience in every direction, I can assure you that it’s all going to be okay.” ~Elizabeth Gilbert
Tomorrow is race day. Everything that I love has come together for this race. When I start my 13 mile race tomorrow, I am building a home on top of foundation I have always struggled to build.
I have a race plan. I have race goals. But I’m not worried about this race. I haven’t analyzed or scrutinized every work out (too much). Maybe it’s because it’s my tenth half marathon. Maybe my head is finally catching up to my heart and body. Maybe it’s because I’ve done nothing today but sit on the beach. My parents kept my boys so I could have a stress free weekend. Maybe it’s because I finally have a foundation. Maybe it’s because I have absolutely nothing to lose by trying. I just feel ready and relaxed.
The race plan: Run smart until mile 8. Change gears between mile 8 and mile 10. The last three miles of this race are on trail. When I hit the trail, I plan on taking a risk. I plan on leaving the safe zone I always run in during these middle distance races. If it’s going to hurt, I might as well finish faster. A teammate of mine shared her mantra the other day: when the miles get hard, run harder. That is my plan for the last three miles.
The race goal: If I hit the times my coach wrote down on paper for me, I’ll finish in 1:59:20. It’s time to say goodbye to the two hour half marathon. My personal goal is to see how much further I can push that time once I hit mile 8.
As I’ve watched the waves crash on shore today, I’ve had plenty of time to visualize my run. My thoughts keep taking me back to how extremely grateful I am for right now. I have a lot to celebrate tomorrow. A wedding anniversary (four years on May 1st), two awesome boys, a supportive family, great friendships, and a dream job. These are the things I love more than myself. Life is as close to perfect as it gets right now.
This moment, this point in my life, it all feels like a starting point. This is my beginning. I am ready to fly.
After all, I am running on a course that passes by the birthplace of aviation. The Wright Brothers created flight here!
The flying pirate half marathon kicks off at 7am tomorrow morning!
The story of race day didn’t start the moment I lined up (rather late) in the corral before being welcomed on to the race course. It started back in January when I knew I shouldn’t run any more miles on my ankle. It started in February when I took three weeks off from running to let my ankle heal. During that break, I wondered if I would even find myself on the race course this year. It started in the beginning of March when I ran my one and only 10 mile run since the beginning of December.
Saturday night as I was laying out my clothes for race day, I got a last-minute call from my coach. He was calling to remind me of what I’ve known this whole time: the shamrock half was my starting point. It wasn’t my finish line. He gave me a conservative pacing guide that would allow me to push for a sub 2 hour half marathon if my body was ready for it, but it would also allow me respect my ankle injury and lack of training. I was told if I ran anything faster than a 9:45 for the first mile, he’d knock me upside my head. After the first mile, I was to settle into 9:30s for a few miles, then 9:15s. When I reached the lighthouse, my plan was to ignore my garmin and run whatever my body had to offer. Whether it was a ten minute mile or an eight minute mile, my coach didn’t want me thinking about pace at this point in the race.
I arrived at the oceanfront with just enough time to check my bag and use the bathroom. By the time I made it to the starting corral the first four corrals had started, so I jumped in with the fifth corral. My friends Leah and Laura took off in front of me, and Laura’s husband Travis settled in next to me. Since I was three corrals back from my original corral, the runners around me started slower than my normal. This was perfect for me. I settled in and avoided weaving. After the first mile the crowds thinned out, and I settled into a very comfortable rhythm of running.
After the third mile, the race course takes you down Shore Drive. It’s probably my favorite part of the course. It’s tree lined streets are welcoming. During the fourth mile, I saw my dearest friend Sara (the girl who inspired me to run my first half marathon!). She’s pregnant and was cruising along. It was so great to see her on the course. As I approached the end of Shore Drive and the turn to Fort Story, doubt tried to creep into my head. What if I can’t do this for 13 miles? What if I am in over my head? And as quickly as the doubts appeared, they also disappeared. Another friend showed up in that moment on her bike in her sparkle skirt waving her cow bell. Go Kristy! was all i needed to snap me out of my mental funk.
As I made the turn on to Fort Story, I was greeted by wonderful wind gusts and an overwhelming sense that my race wasn’t about me. I knew my husband would be at mile 10 waiting for me. My mom and dad were at home watching my boys so I could run. I had friends all over the race course fighting for their own personal victories. My race was a joy ride. I was running a half marathon when three weeks earlier I hadn’t run in 21 days. I was contemplating deferring to the next year. Yet here I was running anyways. My body is strong enough and healthy enough to run 13 miles without much training.
The wind was strong on the base. Instead of fighting against it, I decided to let it welcome me. At this point, my legs were getting tired, but I knew I owed to myself, my husband, my parents, my kids and all my friends running that day to push to the finish line.
The turn off of Fort Story may now be my favorite part of the course (sorry Shore Drive!). After running through the quiet streets of the base, the residents of the North End are a happy sight. I had ten blocks to go before I knew I’d see my husband. As I approached 81st street (our street – the street we lived on, the street where he proposed on the beach, and the street where we said I DO), I realized he wasn’t there. It was okay. The kids were probably a pain in the morning. I’d find him. As soon as I accepted that he wasn’t there, he was there. Blue bike, shamrock hat, and cowbell. He was there to cheer me on. He got a quick high-five, a smile, and a thumbs up. I had run out of steam, but I had to keep going for three more miles.
I found Christian again as I made the turn at the Cavalier hotel. There was no more energy for high fives or smiles even though I was beaming on the inside. He got a thumbs up as I held on to the finish line.
I was so relieved to make it to the finish line. I was filled with gratitude the moment I finished. I almost gave up on this race. I almost never showed up. I have a running coach who wouldn’t let me discuss it, I have friends who pulled and pushed me along the course. I have a kick ass husband and family. And I just set a PR in my half-marathon. Sure it wasn’t the 1:55 half marathon I intended to train for when I started this journey. But the success of this race is by far sweeter than any I have experienced so far.
I ran happy. My heart was engaged. My legs burned. And I finished feeling oh so very happy!
Official Finish TIme – 2:03:19
Knowing that this is my base for the rest of my running this year gives me hope that I have some really amazing races waiting for me. The post race was filled with so much celebration: goals accomplished, lessons learned, and some really big achievements (both clock related and not clock related) by all of my friends. I really feel so lucky to be part of this amazing community.
Race day did not go according to plan. Just like my race goals had nothing to do with the time on the finish clock, my feeling about my performance also has nothing to do with the time on my garmin when I hit stop. I had high hopes going into this race. I felt pretty darn confident that I had a sub 2 hour half marathon in me. What I forgot to take into account is that I can’t control everything on race day. Temperatures were brutal for an early October race in Virginia. Last year it was cold and rainy. This year the sun was shining, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, the temperatures were well into the 70s, and the humidity was through the roof (97% at the start). I lined up in corral two ready to finish this race with a 1 at the start of my finish time.
The first four miles went by effortlessly. I knew I was too fast through mile 2, so I made a conscious effort to slow down.
9:08, 8:55, 9:00, 9:10
After mile 4, things started to crumble. The heat got to my head. I started to feel the effects of running towards the rising sun without any shade on the course. Mentally I started to check out too. I knew at that point (or at least I told myself I knew) that I wouldn’t run a sub 2 race. I tried to convince myself to run each mile, but I felt defeated. I let my head get the best of me. At mile 6, I let myself walk through a water stop. That walk extended way too far, and I mentally gave up. I quit.
As I rounded a corner at mile 7, I saw my husband. I was in tears at this point. I was so disappointed in myself and the lack of mental strength on race day to survive hot conditions. I stopped. I was ready to walk off the course and back to my car. Two wonderful running friends came around the corner after I few poor me moments. They made sure I was okay, and I joined them back on the course. They were run/walking at this point because the heat had got to them too.
10:12, 13:33, 13:42
When I hit the 10 mile marker, I had collected myself mental (well, kind of). I needed to put some sort of effort into finishing my run, so I peeled off from my friends. I ran a mile before my head caught back up to me again. I was just so frustrated with myself for not fighting for myself on race day. I was angry that I allowed the idea of running over two hours get to me to the point where I quit. I’m mentally stronger than my performance during this race, and I certainly beat myself up during my run.
I got myself back together for the final stretch of my run. The last half mile includes a bridge crossing. On the way up, I was running next to man who was hurting. I miraculous FINALLY found my running groove. I told him we just had to get up and over and the finish line was waiting for us. This started a little conversation with me doing all the talking (I did ask him if he wanted me to stop talking or to let him run. He said no. He asked me to stay to distract himself from all the pain he was feeling). He had a goal of 2:20 and was so worried about not finish. I had just tanked my run. I wasn’t going to let him tank his run. I talked him through the final stretch of the run. We both finished strong, and he meet his goal by more than 2 minutes. He hugged me at the finish line!
9:27, 8:10 pace
13.27 miles on my garmin 2:20:50
I finished the race a little angry, a little disappointed, and a little deflated. I gave myself permission to feel whatever I needed to feel for 24 hours. This morning I put my running shoes back on, and I meet my coach for a five mile recovery run. We worked through my race during the run. We identified a lot of areas where I can grow as a runner to make me stronger. We identified a lot of reasons why I fell apart on race day.
I need more race experience. I have to learn to run at my edge. This will come with practice. I’ll learn to identify it and trust it. I’ll learn to know my body better.
I can’t evaluate a run during a run (remember that race goal!). Writing this post is the first time I’ve looked at my splits from race. I wish I could have just accepted the race for what it was and ran the best that I could run. My actual running pace was good for me in hot conditions. I could have turned the race around if I didn’t let my head get the best of me. When I told myself my race was over (the race I was racing for a sub 2 hour run), I gave myself permission to quit. Sub 2 wasn’t happening on race day, but I could have still ran strong.
Over the course of the race, I quit wanting it. I didn’t want to fight for the finish anymore. This is probably what bothers me the most. It’s so outside of my character to not fight for what I want.
I connected this bad performance to so much than just this moment. In my head, I convinced myself that I didn’t want any race. I was ready to withdraw from Richmond at the finish line.
I also need to learn how to run over the hump of a race. I’m pushing myself more and more so my runs are going to become more difficult. I have to learn to piece together a strong start and finish. This will come with practice.
My frustration from yesterday’s race is slowly turning into motivation. I’m not ready to throw Richmond out the window. I’m determine to make the best of Richmond on race day no matter what happens. I know that Richmond is going to be hard race for me. It’s going to test me. My goals from this race are carrying right on over to that race.
Run with a light heart
Run with clear mind
Run with the strength in my body
Fight for the finish
Run in the present
I didn’t accomplish any of these yesterday, but there is no way in hell that I’m quitting before I learn these lessons. I’m recovering from yesterday (and for my friends how know me, don’t worry! I’m not beating myself up). It’s just a race, and I am truly thankful for everything it showed me yesterday. I have room for some real growth both on the race course and in life. I gave up when plan A wasn’t successful. I am on the path to learn how to adapt, embrace, and enjoy plans B through Z. This is going to benefit every single part of my life.
Nutrition worked great on race day! Hammer drink when I woke up. Gel 15 minutes before start, mile 7, and mile 10 (wish I had the sense to take one at mile 4).
Early last winter I got a phone call from my friend Lindsay who lives in Nashville. She had signed up for her first half-marathon. And then she asked…would I want to come in town and run with her. Of course! Lindsay and I met when I lived in Nashville. I interviewed with her for a job at a pharmaceutical company. When I started working there, we instantly became best friends. In the short amount of time we worked together (and lived in the same town together), we created a friendship that will last a lifetime. We spent many weekends laughing together, drinking too many drinks together, traveling to Thailand together, riding elephants together, and so much more (Yes! Thailand and Elephants!). She’s helped me through boy trouble and cheered me on when I met Christian. She helped me through my insecurities about being in a relationship so soon after moving. She not only loved that side of me, but she was one of the few friends who also embraced my life as a mother. She would hang out at my house (game show network and wine cure anything!) and play all day with Cole. To say I was honored when she asked me to run with her is an understatement.
Friday morning I flew to Nashville. Lindsay and her fiance David picked up Cole and I at the airport. We had lunch, hit up the expo, played around downtown (okay – we really just went to a candy store), stocked up on some last-minute race essentials, and then dropped Cole off at his dad’s house. We filled up on a yummy dinner (made by David) and went to bed early. Race morning showed up early.
We woke up at 4:45am to heavy rain. We kept checking the weather forecast. Weather.com said 0% chance of rain in the 8 and 9 o’clock hour. Maybe we wouldn’t get soaked after all (They lied!). The rain progressively got worse as we drove to the start line. When we arrived at Centennial Park, the grounds were soaked. Puddles filled the streets. It was going to be a fun sloppy wet run. Lindsay and I lined up in our corral. It was cold. I tried to keep talking to keep race day nerves from getting the best of her. The race was about to officially start…
The race began with a moment of silence for Boston. Runners were all given a Run Now bracelet for Boston. Every one raised their arms in support. The running community is pretty magical. It’s home. By now everyone has heard stories of the spirit that exists within the running world. This was such a wonderful reminder. After the Star Spangled Banner, corral 1 was off. 13 corrals back, we waited our turn. One of Lindsay’s friends and coworker joined us. We chatted about pacing strategy. Both Lindsay and Tana like to start fast. I was going to do my best to keep them from starting too fast. The course was also going to do it’s best to make us start slow.
Nashville is hilly. The course was hilly. I run at sea level in a beach town. The only “hills” I run are a few 25 foot bridge crossings. Before the race Lindsay and David had prepped me for the course. The first 6 miles were all uphill. I was nervous. Lindsay’s best training run was run at a 9:40 pace. Based on that, we decided to start the first 6 miles (the hills) in the upper 9s. We could then speed up and enjoy the down hills.
Mile 1: 10:03
Mile 2: 9:40
Mile 3: 10:06
Mile 4: 9:58
Mile 5: 9:59
Mile 6: 9:12
The first few climbs weren’t bad. I could handle these hills. I had some strategies tucked away in my brain from my running coach. I focused on using them during each climb. In the 3rd mile, we ran a hill passed the brand new convention center. This was one of the toughest hills for me. It had a steeper incline, but luckily it didn’t last long.
When we hit mile 6, I felt myself get teary. I had survived the hills. I was so proud of myself. I felt strong. I felt like I could help Lindsay run a race she would be proud of when she crossed the finish line. More than anything, I wanted this race to belong to her. I wanted her to enjoy every moment. I wanted her to soak up the magic of race day. I wanted to carry her as much as I could so she could take it all in.
We all took an inventory of how everyone was feeling at mile 6. Everyone was hanging in there so we kept going. What Lindsay and David didn’t tell me was that a long 2 mile climb was waiting for me. It was a slow steady incline. I had mentally checked out of hills. I had celebrated them being behind me. I had to change back into hill running mode. Lindsay told me it would be smooth sailing once we hit Wedgewood. I was counting the blocks. My ass was on fire. I lowered my eyes. I quit looking for the end of the hill. I just followed the feet in front of me.
When we crossed the 10k mark, I asked Lindsay what her best case scenario goal was for the day. She was hoping for 2:10. With a 1:01 10k, I knew we were doing okay to meet her goal. We just had to keep going.
Mile 7: 9:37
Mile 8: 9:24
When we got to the end of that climb, my body screamed thank you. Having no real experience running hills, I had no idea how rewarding it would be to reach the top. It was tough getting there, but the relief in every muscle of my body was so worth the climb.
Mile 9: 9:12
Mile 10: 9:09
Mile 11: 9:14
At mile 10, I asked Lindsay if she wanted to know about our pace. She wasn’t wearing a watch. Based on the math I was doing in my head (which isn’t always reliable when I run), I guessed that we’d finish around 2:07. I think I told her 2:08 in case I was off. I didn’t want her disappointed.
My run felt amazing at this point. I was taking in all of Nashville. Even though the rain never let up (in fact it progressively got worse as the day continued), the puddles became fun. My shoes were soaked so there was no point in try to avoid the puddles. Lindsay and Tana were both still running strong. Lindsay and Tana have run together after work. I have never run with Lindsay, yet somehow all 3 of us found a magical groove running together. We alternated taking the lead. We all worked so well running together. I felt like I was running my run while they were running their own runs. We were all in sync pushing each other along. So many times along the course I thought to myself that it was so wonderful to have two people running beside me knowing we were all helping each other.
Mile 12: 9:31
Mile 13: 9:28
Surprise! There was a nice little (or really big) hill waiting for me at the end. This hill got me. Lindsay was running so strong at this point. Tana and I were hanging on. I really wanted Lindsay to run her own run. I wasn’t sure the muscles in my butt would let me get up that last hill. They were on fire. Lindsay was a few strides ahead of me, and I told her to go. I wanted her to finish strong for herself. Just making it up that last hill would be such an accomplishment for me. I didn’t want her waiting. She turned around and said “I am holding your hand at the finish line.” She didn’t slow down so I only had one option. I had to catch up. In the back of my head I remembered a conversation I had with my running coach. It’s easier to run fast up a hill. My body wanted me to stop running at this point, but I found another gear. I caught up. Tana stayed right with me too. When I caught up to her, I laughed. As much as my ass hated those hills, I loved every second of them. We crossed mile 13 knowing we were had run a great run.
Last .26 (garmin distance): 8:05 pace
We all held hands as we crossed the finish line. It was such a wonderful run. It was amazing to run beside my best friend during her first half-marathon. It was wonderful to find strength running with two other runners. I surprised myself with my ability to get up and over those hills. It was a perfect run! And I got to cross the finish line with Lindsay during her first half-marathon!
Official Race Time: 2:05:31
A new official PR by over 9 minutes, and an unofficial PR by 2 minutes. (on the hardest course I’ve ever run!).
Race Review – Loved the course. Even with the rain and clouds, the views were wonderful. It’s designed for a fast finish (even with the surprise last hill). I relied on water stops this race. The had plenty of water (tons of tables at each stop). My only complaint (and it’s not really a complaint) is that the course was really crowded the entire race. We did a ton of weaving and never found a pocket where we could just run. The marathon and half-marathon run the same course for the first 11 miles. Between the two races, I think it sells out at 30,000 runners. Almost 18,000 people ran the half and 2700 ran the full. Lots of people stayed home because of the weather. I can’t imagine sharing the road with 10,000 more runners!)
This weekend I ran a half marathon from my front door. This run was everything I need it to be. It was fast (for me). It was easy (relatively speaking). It was fun. It felt good. It was refreshing. It was joyous. It was one of those really good runs you wish you could repeat every weekend. It was light. It was one of those runs you crave after a bad run. It was one of those runs you remind yourself of after that bad run to keep yourself moving forward. I ran smart and finished fast (my fastest mile was mile 13). It was exactly what I needed at this point in my training.
Four weeks until my marathon. Next weekend calls for 20 plus miles, and then I taper.
I was mentally fading. Running through a cold winter that has been so emotionally heavy has had me feeling exhausted. After last weekends 20 miler, I was feeling proud. I was feeling optimistic. But I was so tired.
My new unofficial half marathon PR this weekend gave me the boost I needed. It refilled my energy level. My training plan is working. I finally feel like I’m going to cross the finish line of my marathon in four weeks. (!!!!!!!)
Let’s talk logistics first. This was, hands down, the best race course I have ever run. Beautiful course. Lots of changes in direction to keep things fresh and new. A few bridge crossings to mix things up with a little elevation (a rare treat at flat sea level Virginia Beach). Perfect size. It sells out at 5000. Great start/finish line. It was so nice that the convention center was open before the start so we could use their bathrooms. Easy parking right by the start/finish line. I will run this race every year if I can.
And now the good stuff…..
I PR’d. I PR’d. I PR’d. by six minutes and thirty-five seconds. And I broke 2:15. Did you hear me? I did it! I broke 2:15. And I did it with a smile on my face all the way up until mile 9. I can not even begin to tell you (but I suspect you already know) how good it feels for everything to come together the way I had hoped. All my summer training, all the hot long summer runs where 11 minute miles felt hard, my 2:35 half-marathon five weeks ago, it all finally paid off today.
I woke up this morning at 5am to stumble through my morning routine. I had hoped for a better night sleep, but I know better. Good nights of sleep are far and few between in our household (if they exist at all). Chet was up at 11:15, 2:45, and 5:45am. In spite of my lack of sleep, I woke up ready to run. A blueberry muffin and a banana later, my friends picked me up and we were off to the start line. We got to the race around 7:00am, one hour prior to race start. The convention center was open, so we were able to use the bathroom inside. Considering it was SO COLD outside. And raining. And Windy. This was a nice treat.
At 8:00am corral 1 was off. We were a few minutes behind them in Corral 3 (yes. I snuck up a corral to avoid being in the walkers corral and to start with Heidi.).
The first few miles were all about warming up and settling into the run.
Mile 1: 10:28
Mile 2: 10:06
Mile 3: 10:10
Heidi and I were running together, and although we settled into a comfortable silence between the two of us, it was so nice to not run solo. Because of the weather (and perhaps since this was the first year for the run), spectator support was hard to find. There were very few people out on the course. It was also very quiet.
One of my goals for this race was to ignore my garmin. I set it to just show mileage, but when it beeps to signify the completion of a mile, the pace will pop up for a few seconds. At mile 2, I am guilty of looking down. I wanted a reference point. I was feeling great. I felt like I was running, but I wanted to make sure I wasn’t too comfortable. When I saw 10:06, I was thrilled. I also reminded myself that I did not want the number determining how I ran. I made a mental note of how I was feeling, worked hard at holding on to that feeling, and didn’t look at my watch again until Mile 8.
Mile 4: 10:23
Mile 5: 10:18
Mile 6: 10:37
I started the race off with a long sleeve layer on top of my tank top. Mile 5 was my checkpoint to allow myself to take it off. So much of running is mental. I try to set tiny milestones along the course to keep me motivation. Mile 5 was designated as shed a layer of clothing checkpoint. It felt amazing to take it off. I had anticipated seeing Christian at mile 6 to hand of my jacket, but he was no were in sight. Heidi and I kept on running.
Mile 7: 10:49
Mile 8: 10:16
Mile 9: 10:23
At the next water stop, Heidi needed a moment to apply ointment to her knee that had been giving her grief. I took this as an oppurtunity to text Christian. I didn’t want him coming out to cheer me on in the rain and missing me. I let know we our mile marker.
As we made the turn after the water stop, the Chesapeake Bay opened up in front of us. It was beautiful. We had a completely unobstructed view of the bay for the next few miles. It was gorgeous. I lost count of how many times I said to Heidi how pretty the course was.
These miles were may favorite miles of the whole race. It felt so good to be at mile 7, mile 8, and mile 9 feeling good. We laughed. We high-fived the few people we saw. We sang along with the local radio station. We cheered with the band. At this point, I knew I would PR. I had no idea of my overall time, but I knew I was going sub 2:20.
Mile 10: 10:16
This was my toughest mental mile. I really wanted to get to 10. I wanted to get to the point where we could say “only a 5k left”. Thank goodness for running partners. I think I may have crumbled a little if Heidi hadn’t been running by my side. My hips started to ache. I could feel a clicking in my knee. I just wanted to get to double digits.
Mile 11: 10:25
This mile felt tough too, but I really felt like I was running fast. When I looked at my watch to check out our pace, I was slightly disappointed to see 10:25. That disappointment lasted for a few seconds. I reminded myself that a number did not define my success in the race. I felt strong. I felt fast. Mission accomplished.
At mile 11, the 2:15 pacer caught up to Heidi and I as we said hello to Christian again. I knew they started in the corral behind me. Based on this information, I guessed we were running a 2:17/2:18 half marathon. I was okay with that. As we settled in behind the pace group, my legs wanted more so we quickly passed them and kept running.
Mile 12: 9:53
Mile 13: 9:32
Final Stretch: 8:30 pace
Somewhere between mile 11 and mile 12, I lost Heidi. She was next to me, and then she was gone. As much as I wanted us to finish together, I knew I had to keep running. I needed to run my race. I had two miles to go. I can run 2 miles. At mile 12.5, I saw Christian again. He gave me a few words of encouragement (Get your ass moving!) and a sweet smile. I ran. I ran hard. I ran until my stomach started to hurt. As soon as I passed Christian, I felt like I was out of steam. I kept reminding myself that I did not just run 12.5 miles to slow down now. Run. Run. Run. Run fast. Finish strong. As I made the final turn to the finish line, I knew I gave it my all on the course. I wanted to fall over, or throw up, or never move again.
As ran under the finish line and hit stop on my garmin, I didn’t care what my watch said. I just ran my perfect race for that day. I loved every single second on the course.
After collecting my medal, my water, a banana, and many other snacks, I looked at my watch.
13.16 miles. 2:14:49. (10:15 pace)
Sub 2:15 (but close). I wanted to celebrate, but I wanted official results. Did I really break 2:15? Did I really meet my best case scenario goal?
After sharing a beer (or two) and a bowl of soup with Christian and Heidi – while shivering under a tent because it was now pouring and freezing – Christian and I head home. Official results posted while I was taking a nice hot shower.
Official time. 2:14:45 (10:17 pace)
I might have a smile on my face all week!
Other fun race superlatives:
My run included my fast 10k post-baby! The last 6.2 miles of the race!!!
My fastest mile was the last mile of the race!
Out of 2240 woman, I was 671.
In my age group, I finished 94th out of 232.
Although I plan on enjoying this race success, I already know I can find more in me. Next goal: a half-marathon with an overall pace of 9:xx.