After I felt like I had a pretty strong race at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah Half Marathon a month ago, finishing in 2:12:54, I talked to my coach about two goals:
– working on finishing speed since I struggled a bit the last 2 or 3 miles
– aiming for a 2:10 at The Charleston Half on January 17th
Going into Kiawah I didn’t set any A, B, or C goals like I usually do because wasn’t going into this as a goal race. For me it was a check-up, practice half way between Savannah and The Charleston Half. I wanted to focus on my finishing kick and practice my pacing a bit. My plan was to try to run a race in the 2:15 time range to prove that my performance in Savannah the month before was accurate, and not just a one time good run, and to make sure I had enough gas at the finish so I could pick it up a bit instead of crashing.
Last year I left my house for Kiawah at 6:00 and had driven to the island, parked, been shuttled there, used the port-a-potty, and was sitting around waiting in the dark at the race start by 7:00 when the race didn’t start until 8:00. The weather this year was supposed to be a bit colder, 30s at the start 50s by the time I finished, so I didn’t want to be sitting around freezing in the dark for a hour. (I am a cold weather wuss.) I decided to leave my house just 15 minutes later, but wow was that the wrong decision! With just the 15 minute difference in leave time, I did not make it off the shuttle until 7:55 and the race started at 8:00! (Insert me freaking out and checking my watch every 10 seconds here.) I quickly ran to the port-a-potty and as I emerged heard the announcer calling, “3 minutes until race time.” I stripped off my throw away clothes, dropped them to the side, and slid my way through the crowed until I made my way up to the 2:15 pacer.
I will know for next year that this is a BAD place to start. The first mile of the race was so crowed I felt like I had either lined up to far back, or lots of these people had lined up way too far forward. I was trying to make my way around people, but there was no room to pass anywhere. At some points I began jumping up on the grass, next to the road, to run around people. I was frustrated that I couldn’t get moving and my first mile came in at 10:27, much slower than the ten minute miles I was aiming for. The second and third mile were a bit better, but still involved some weaving in and out of people so my times came in at 10:06 and then finally by mile 3 I had that 10:00.
Things started to open up a lot at that point and after mile 3 I had plenty of room to run at the pace I wanted. I began to remember all the reasons I LOVE the Kiawah course. It is flat as can be, has beautiful scenery, and is a really fast course. Tons of people come down just to BQ (Boston Marathon qualify) here. When you see huge 3:15 and 3:30 pace groups at a race with less than 3,000 people you know the course is FAST! I decided to push it a bit, and instead of aiming for even tens I decided to try to get all my miles in sub 10. I was feeling good and strong, it was tough, but felt great.
Mile 4 = 9:52
Mile 5 = 9:45
Mile 6 = 9:50
Mile 7 = 9:46
Mile 8 = 9:45
The next three miles started to get tough and I wondered if maybe I had pushed it a bit too much in the middle of the race. I focused on enjoying the run, the beautiful scenery around me, and celebrating how far I have come in the last year. I forced myself to hold on and it was tricky, but maybe that is what it feels like when you run a half marathon hard. I guess it can’t all be sunshine and roses. If I want to get faster I can’t always run at my slow and steady happy pace.
Mile 9 = 9:57
Mile 10 = 9:56
Mile 11 = 9:56
At mile 11.5 the full marathoners split off and I realized how close I was to being done. My goal had been to have a bit of a kick left at the end so I worked on picking it up little by little and focused on passing one person at a time to keep myself on track and moving forward. Then when I saw that mile 12 sign I went for it and gave it everything I had left. I didn’t have any special finishing kick left when I hit the final straightaway, and I was okay with that because I had kicked it in that whole last mile. It was my fastest of the entire race.
Mile 12 = 9:51
Mile 13 = 9:22
Since my focus for this race was on practicing pacing and a finishing kick before Charleston I really didn’t think about what my final time was going to be. I felt like I ran stronger than in Savannah towards the finish, but I also knew the crowds at the beginning had slowed me down. As I was grabbing water and a banana and checking my phone to text my buddies that I had survived this beeped through.
WOOHOO! A 2:10 had been my goal for The Charleston Half next month and here it was, 2:10:40. My fastest marathon was almost exactly 4 years ago, 1:58:something; however, since then I have been plagued with injuries and really struggling. I am so very happy to say that this is the fastest half I have run post injury and the closest I have ever come to that PR. Plus, I was thrilled to see that I ran an entire half at below a ten minute pace (even if it was only by a second).
I had an amazing race:
– My speed is starting to improve
– I am learning how to pace myself better
– I got to practice my finishing kick
– I am realizing that I must push myself, these runs will be tough
Two wonderful half marathons to end the year.
Next year I am continuing to focus on half marathon training and rebuilding my speed with Coach Laura. I want to see how close I can get to a sub 2 half, and maybe see if I can one day get close to that 1:58 PR.
Okay – Bling talk –
I ran what I consider to be an awesome race and then I get the CAT medal shown above… seriously, cat medal… What do you think of it?