I had a shorter weekend run on my marathon training schedule this past weekend, a 12 stuck right before I get hit with an 18 and 20, so I decided to take advantage of it and run the Kiawah Island Marathon. I opted for the half, though they do have a full option, and was able to use a deferred entry from last year when I was injured. I did the offsite, early, packet pickup downtown last weekend after the Reindeer Run 5K and some time shopping at the holiday farmers’ market and it was a breeze. I walked right in, no line, grabbed my stuff and was done in no time. The shirt is really nice – a long sleeved, light blue tech with a nice Live Oak/Spanish Moss graphic. It looks super clean and simple compared to most race tees because Kiawah has no sponsors, they can afford to go without all those extra logos – it is a very private, gated, EXPENSIVE, island community. The morning of the race I arrived a hour and a half early as the race organizers suggested so I would have time to park and be shuttled on to the race course. The shuttle line looked long, but shuttle after shuttle pulled up to take us to the start so it moved really fast. Kiawah didn’t mess around, they were very quick and efficient when it came to getting everyone parked and to the start.
I arrived at the start with a bit more than a hour before the race so I stretched out and used the restroom. Can you believe this was the Porta-Pottie line less than a hour before the race? I guess running on a ritzy island has its perks… like so many toilets nobody ever had to wait. I did a few last ankle stretches as my sports med chiro suggested and sat down on the curb to have a final snack before the race started. I then pushed my way through the start line chaos. (Only way I would suggest improving Kiawah – start corrals or better signs. People were lined up like crazy with really no logic to who started at the front and back.) I found the 4:30 marathon pacer and planned to stick with that group. The half splits at mile 11.5 so they focus on having pacers for the full marathon and half runners just so that last little bit alone, which I was fine with. I wanted to try and see what racing a 4:30 pace felt like because I want to run the New Orleans full with a pace group, but I am torn as to which one to join.
Well, it was instantly a huge cluster of people as soon as we started. I spent the first 2-3 miles weaving in and out of people and trying to pass some walkers who had started way up front. The 4:30 pace bunny took off like crazy. Her sign said 4:30/10:18 pace, but I was running all my early miles between 10:00-10:10 and I never saw her after mile 4 or 5. They were speeding!
I made the decision not to try to keep up with the pace group and the speedy leader’s sub 10minute/miles and to run my own pace. I still wanted to stay below that 10:18 pace just to get an idea of what it felt like, and if that was even a possibility for the full. I pushed very hard to keep that pace up. It never felt easy, I was working the whole time. However, I kept telling myself just keep this pace up until the next mile, then it was the next and the next. It was rough, but it didn’t feel impossible – I felt like I could keep pushing it.
The miles started to tick away and around mile 7 I ran into a buddy I hadn’t seen in a while. She was running her first full and was pretty close to my pace. We ran with each other until a little past mile 10, when she stopped for a bathroom break. Having a friend to run with took my mind off how hard I was working and how tired I was.
Mile 11 was tough. I know my pace slowed down a bit. I couldn’t keep it up the way I wanted to, but instead of focusing on my time and staring at my Garmin I focused on moving forward as best as I could. I played a little game for a mile. For each person that I passed I added 1, each person that passed me I lost 3. It gave me something to focus on, helped me to move forward, and encouraged me to speed it up a bit and try to pass people. I ended up plus over 40 points. Whatever works right?
When I saw the sign for mile 12 I felt myself speed back up a bit, I was back on pace and happy about it, then suddenly – BOOM – we were all stopped on the course. An ambulance had to come through and we had to wait. I said a little prayer for whoever was being taking to the hospital and then as soon as they released us took off like a mad woman. We had only been stopped for about a minute, but I knew that I was so very close to being on pace and running a sub 2:15 half and I was worried that one minute stop would put me over my goal.
I ran that last half mile faster than I have ever run a 12th mile in my entire life. Check out the pictures from the final stretch below. Yikes! You can tell I am pushing it hard. I will not be purchasing these bad boys, scary race face for sure, but I can look at these and see how hard I tried. I pushed hard this entire race, none of it was confortable or easy, and I think I need to make myself do that more often in order to become a better runner. When I finally crossed the finish line I was exhausted, but so proud of the effort I had put in. I waited to have my medal put around my neck and headed to the food and beverage tents.I didn’t remember to stop my Garmin until I had gotten my medal and was almost to the food tents. It was so close to being under 2:15 (and well below my 10:18 pace), that I was sure if I had stopped it at the finish line I would have meet my goal.I had to wait for the official results to come in to find out that I made it, my official time was a 2:14:39. I met my goal, barely, and even though it is over 15 minutes slower than my sub2 PR, I am still very proud of it because I pushed my hardest and this is my fastest half in a while (stupid injuries).
I checked out the food situation post race – Wow! Tons of free beverages and beer along with pretty fancy food. No bagels and apples here, this was a catered affair. Did I mention I liked this ritzy island race? The pasta salads, soups, huge homemade muffins, and gooey brownies looked amazing, but I held out. While I wanted a big, huge cornbread muffin so much I could taste it, I stuck to my gluten free guns and grabbed some orange slices and half a banana to go with my water. I sat down and chilled for a bit before taking the shuttle ride back.
Mostly I pondered as I sat –
It had been tough keeping that pace for 13 miles, could I do it for 26?
I bonked at mile 11 and couldn’t hold on to pace anymore, what if that happened in the marathon?
was there any way at all I could run that hard for twice as long?
The truth is I fought to keep that pace for the half and I allowed myself to realize that maybe I am not ready for a 4:30 marathon. Do I want a 4:30? HECK YES! However, if the time comes and I have to settle for running with the 4:45 pace group I will still be proud. 4:45 would still be a 12 minute PR and a pace I will have to push to keep up for 26.2 miles.
What are your thoughts on pace groups?
Do you ever play little running games with yourself?
(Seriously, counting people I was passing really helped me.)