In order to kill some time this weekend, I decided late on Thurs night that I would do the Jacksonville Marine Corps Half Marathon. Because this was a last minute decision, I still ran 22 miles this week, biked 90 miles (40 of which was on friday morning) and swam 8,000 yards. I guess it was a laid back week as far as volume but the workouts have been tough and I was totally exhausted by Friday. However, there is no stopping me from running long on saturday morning and I figured it would be good to run with lots of people on a new route rather than be a loner and run on my same neighborhood route.
After picking up my packet after my 40-mile ride on Friday, I spent the rest of the study studying and working on Beginner Triathlete nutrition stuff. It was early to bed for me on Friday night and I was up early this morning.
The alarm went off at 5am and I got dressed in my almost all-pink outfit and started the coffee. I prepared a 1/4 cup oatmeal w/ raisins and a 1/2 banana and I headed to the car. The race was held at the Jacksonville stadium in downtown Jacksonville, which was a new place for me. Luckily, my Garmin didn't let me down and I didn't get lost. I got my chip and headed straight to the port-o-potties and after walking around for about 15 min my stomach felt a bit icky.
Luckily, there was nothing wrong with my GI system as far as me not being able to go to the bathroom but something was making my tummy feel a bit tight. Perhaps it was nerves but after another bathroom stop I figured I needed to think about my race strategy.
I jogged for a few minutes before the 7am start but I had to think about my queasy belly and what I would do if I got an upset stomach during the race. Instead of thinking about the what if's, I decided I would do all I could to NOT get an upset stomach during the race.
Seeing that my tummy was feeling tight (not rumbley or crampy) I knew I couldn't push hard during the race because of the fear that any nutrition taken in during the 13.1 miles would not sit well in my tummy. Also, knowing that only powerade and gatorade was on the course, I was a bit concerned about high fructose corn syrup upsetting my tummy.
The race started promptly at 7am and we were off and quickly heading up a bridge. My tummy was feeling fine so I did what I would normally do and run steadily until I felt warmed-up. For me, it is about 20 min to 3 miles until I feel ready to pick up the pace and at mile 3 I was ready to go. However, the start of mile 3 was at the bottom of a steep bridge which took us over the river and down to Riverside. The course was just beautiful but I really needed to pace myself during this race. At this point (mile 3), I figured if I slowed myself down a bit to get up the bridge I would be able to pick up the pace on the downhill.
As I approached mile 4 I started thinking about my pace. I was already at 30 min when I got to mile 4 and I was pretty impressed with my warm-up pace and run up the bridge. I started thinking about my belly and what to do to pick up the pace but not run out of fuel too quickly. I had a goal time of 1:45 since I haven't been able to go faster in a half marathon (not 70.3) since Jan 2006 (1:39 is my PR at the miami half marathon) but I was worried that my lack of "long" runs would catch up to me. OK, so I do run for 90-110 minutes on saturdays but I often stop half way to catch my breath or drink from my fuel belt flasks. Probably not very smart of me to stop during a long run.
At mile 4 I started thinking that my love for intervals has taken over my life and that is really the only way I know how to run right now. I have gotten myself stronger and faster during the past few months from adding recovery runs in with my fast runs. So, when I got to mile 5 I figured I would try it out and see if I could run the rest of the race of intervals.
I was already at a good pace by mile 5 but I was still concerned about GI upset if I became too anaerobic for too long. I knew my queasy belly wouldn't handle the sports drinks at the aid stations (every other mile) if I was running 90% but then again, if I wanted to get under my goal time, I had to run around 7:30-8 min pace....and not go any slower.
So, from mile 5 to mile 13.1 I ran intervals.
4 min hard, the rest of the mile comfortable.
The funny thing is that my comfortable became faster as I continued with the intervals. I even notice that on the treadmill when I am recovering at a certain pace in the beginning of a set and find myself speeding up the recovery speed because it seems so slow as I get more into the set.
I was paying attention to the people around me to see if my "interval" run was really paying off. I would run by the same people for 4 min. and then they would barely catch up to me (as they breathed very heavily) during my recovery. Because of my aerobic recovery runs I was able to drink the sport drinks at the aid station without needing a lot because I was conserving my glycogen. I figured even if i ran the same speed for the whole race, eventually my heart rate would increase and my glycogen would quickly decrease. If I let my heart rate get up too high for too long I would need to re-fuel often and I wasn't sure if I wanted to do that with my silly stomach. Luckily, during the race my tummy was ok.
As the miles went on I was approaching mile 10 and noticed that I was well ahead of those who I was running with a few miles back. At mile 10 I grabbed a gu (booo...I wish they had hammer. I didn't feel like carrying my 1 hammer gel so I opted for the gu) and had 1/2. I washed it down with water and I was good to go for the next 3 miles. During the run, I couldn't help but notice how beautiful it was to run along the water and in some quiet neighborhoods. I then took a quick look at my watch and after doing the math in my head for most of the race, I knew with 3 miles to go it would be close.
Close being I could break 1:40!!!
I didn't want to take the chance of "bonking" so as Miss Pacer, I decided to continue with my intervals rather than sprinting for 3 miles. However, with my legs feeling strong and no weakness's in my body, I extended my hard intervals to 5:30 minutes for mile 10 and mile 11. At mile 12 I was getting close to the finish but it still seemed so far away. I tried to stay steady with my pace but at mile 12 and the finish line almost in sight, I kept looking at my watch and seeing my last minute approaching. I then made the last turn at mile 13 and saw the finish line clock ticking away....
1:39.55, 1:39.56, 1:39.57...
I was SPRINTING to the line for the last mile and I pushed it into turbo gear in the finish line chute. I don't think I have a turbo gear so who knows what I looked like as I attempted to "sprint" to the line. After nearly dropping to the ground at the finish I was happy to receive my medal and grab some water.
Well, according to my watch I did it. 1:39.59. However, the official time says 1:40.05....but even better, the chip time on the results reads 1:39.58!!!
Either way, I can't believe it. What an accomplishment. This last year has been a messy one with the un-diagnosed inner thigh injury which has caused me lots of heartache and pain. Then with moving and trying to get a new schedule I have really felt out of my element. With no schedule set in stone, I always question if what I am doing is ever going to pay off. That stupid injury took away one of my loves which is running and now, after 2 years of not being able to run fast I did it.
I finished 5th in my age group out of 103 and 24th woman overall. Here is how my intervals worked out for the splits:
Total: 1:39.59 (according to my watch :)
Pace: 7:38 min/mile