I can check one item off my list of goals for 2012 - a new half PR!
Back in December I cashed in on an awesome deal and signed Kevin and I up for this race for only $35 each. While at the time I was still struggling with my back, I had high hopes that come April things might be different. This was the inaugural race and it was right in my backyard so there was no travel involved. I figured if it turned out I couldn't race losing $35 wasn't near as bad as the usual $75 - $100 it costs to run a half marathon anymore.
As I have reported, things have been going well on the running front and as race day got closer and closer I was so happy to feel healthy enough to "race" again. While I participated in many races last year I have not actually "raced" since the Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon in San Jose in October 2010 due to injury. Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy doing races for fun too, but having been unable to race I was just inching to get out there.
Usually my "A" goal would be set a time but honestly, my "A" goal for this race included:
1. Run as fast as my body would let me.
2. Run the whole thing.
3. Run a consistent race.
4. Finish injury free.
5. Have fun!
My "B" goal was a new PR (because who am I kidding, I can't shut my competitive side off completely). My half PR to date was 2:03:46 set at the Shamrock'n Half Marathon in Sacramento in 2009 (pre-blog).
And if the starts aligned my "C" goal was a sub-2:00 half marathon.
Like I said, my number one goal was to finish healthy and happy but all my prep that went into this race was to meet my "C" goal if my body would allow me. This race provided pacers so my plan was to line up behind the 2:00 pacer and hopefully be able to keep up. Then during the last .5 turn on the burners to finish just ahead and hopefully get a finish time that started with a "1".
Despite the race start only being roughly 15 minutes from my house I was still up a full hour and a half before we had to leave to stretch and get everything in order. Getting to the race start was a breeze and we pulled in with 20 minutes to spare and literally got a space right next to the starting line. We said a quick hi to our families who came out to cheer us on (another benefit of a local race) and made our way to the 2:00 pacer. The horn sounded and we were off.
In order to finish with a time of 1:59:59 I figured I would have to keep a 9:09 avg. Mile one clocked in at 8:42 - whoah, way too fast and yet I was still a good 50 yards behind the pacer.
Mile 1: 8:42
Mile 2: 8:58
Mile 3: 8:56
I quickly learned that the pacer was pacing faster than a 2:00 half marathon. On the one hand I was happy with this cause it meant I really had a shot of my goal if I could keep up. On the flip side I started to worry maybe I calculated wrong. After all she was the pacer and obviously she knew the splits we had to keep and maybe I underestimated how fast I would have to run. I was still feeling good but it was only mile 3 and to be honest I wasn't sure I had ever run 3 miles in a row under a 9:00 min/mile pace. I definitely didn't want to crash out too early though since more important that meeting my time goal was my goal to run at a consistent pace.
At mile 3.5 I saw my in-laws and that gave me a good boost for about a mile. Seeing people along the way always helps. At this point I was still 20-30 yards behind the pacer.
Mile 4: 8:50
Mile 5: 8:56
By mile 5 I was in shock my pace hadn't risen above 9. Despite still feeling good, I couldn't get the thought out of my mind that this was too good to be true.
Mile 6: 8:57
Mile 7: 9:03
I saw my parents around mile 6 and passed the pacer as she slowed for some water. I finally allowed myself to slow down a bit and wait for her to catch up. I figured we had banked some time and holding this pace was not easy so I welcomed the opportunity to slow a bit.
Mile 8: 9:00
Mile 9: 9:09
I managed to stay in front of the pacer for about three miles. Around mile 9 we entered the fairgrounds and lost all crowd support. Around mile 10 we entered a gravel trail that runs along the highway for about two miles. By mile 10 I calculated that even if I ran 10 min/miles from here on out I could break 2:00! Looking back I wish I would have continued to push myself as hard as I could but once I figured that out I allowed myself to slow down a bit and catch my breath. At the time I needed it.
Mile 10: 9:28
Mile 11: 9:20
Mile 12: 9:22
The pacer had passed me by this point but I wasn't worried about trying to keep up any longer. I knew I had this in the bag. Once I had .25 of a mile left I emptied the tank and pushed with every last bit of energy I had.
Mile 13: 8:55
Last .1: 6:45
As I rounded the corner towards the finish arches I looked up and saw my family and the clock read 1:59:15. I passed under the arch and my eyes welled up a bit.
Time: 1:58:11 (avg 9:01 min/mile)
Distance: 13.1 miles
Age Group: 19/69
While I prepared myself to break 2 hours (i.e. starting with the pace group, etc) I wasn't really sure it was possible so soon. I really have only been able to run fairly consistently since February and after a good year of lousy running I didn't think I could get any sort of speed back that quickly. What a great "welcome" back to running.
We said hello and goodbye to our families and as we were walking to the car Kevin looked at me and basically reading my mind, said, "being that your average was a 9:01, now you want your average to start with an "8" don't you?" Ahh, he knows me too well but one step at a time. I still three other distances on the list to PR this year.