I had originally selected and signed up for this race because I thought it was perfect for a PR attempt. The race was far enough along from my March marathon to recover and build up speed. It was generally flat and fast and the weather was supposed to be ideal, too. I found a Hal Higdon half marathon training plan which incorporated speed work as a template for my training plan. The major change I made to it was increasing the long run length and the overall weekly mileage.
My goal was a sub-2 hour half marathon. As previously mentioned, my current PR is 2:00:04. In recent weeks I hit a gnarl in my training as I entered a strange running funk. I pulled back a lot on pace and distance for two weeks thinking my body needed a rest. The core of my plan, the long run, was also detrimentally affected. My last three long runs were dismal and involved a lot of downhearted walking. During recent goal-pace runs I tried to hit a 9:00 pace and found this to be bordering on anaerobic. I was clearly not at a place where I could maintain close to a 9:00 pace for 13.1 miles.
Until late last night I wasn't even sure if I was going to race the See Jane Run Half. I thought maybe I'd think of it as a nice training run and enjoy myself. But I decided to go for it. I'd maintain the pace as long as I could and see where I ended up.
I left the apartment a little late but still got to the race around 6:30 am (for an 8:00 am start). I was concerned about finding a parking spot after repeated emails about limited parking space. I was able to get a spot only 2 blocks from the start. I spent time ping-ponging between the start area and my car to keep warm. I'm very excited to share that today I left a bag at the baggage check for the first time ever. That's right, in all of the 30+ road events I've participated in, I've never checked a bag. I guess I was always worried it would get lost anyhow so shivered away at starts and finishes even in brutal NYC winters. But today I didn't feel like shivering (in 50 degree weather no less!) and the whole check-your-bag process seemed suddenly ridiculously simple. I am now a believer!
The weather was almost ideal. Overcast and cool. It was even lightly misting rain for a bit at the start. I am definitely a cold weather running fool. My perfect running temp is probably in the mid to low 4o's. I like being able to wear shorts and a light long sleeve shirt but never feel like pushing the sleeves up. Today was about 10 degrees warmer than ideal for me. In fact, it felt pretty muggy once we got going because of all of the humidity. But overall, I can't find much fault in the weather for this time of year.
The course was pretty much flat as described. Nothing like the San Francisco hills around where I live. As it always is in running, you generally only remember the uphills so I'll just note that there was a small bridge involved (which means a short but steep incline) and the last three or four miles was definitely on a slight incline.
The race course
My goal was to stay as close to a 9:09 pace for as long as possible. I'd say I stayed pretty close to target for about the first 7-8 miles. I was probably hovering around a 9:11-15 average pace overall at this point. Of course, I did some math in my head and realized that being 5 seconds off pace per mile for 9 miles was a lot of time to make up. I had a couple of disheartened miles where I was in the 9:30's as I contemplated whether or not to continue at a high effort or to trudge it in easily. I then appear to have tried to kick it up shortly before mile 10 when I decided I was going to try to get the best time out of the day as possible. After this short-lived push for speed, I clearly hit my limit.
The last three miles I was barely sub-10:00. I'll be honest and say I wanted to take a walking break. But wouldn't you know that besides one lady who started walking to work out a stitch at mile 2, I did not pass one walker the entire race? Maybe I've been doing too many marathons lately, but I found this to be odd. Where was a person taking a walking break to make me feel better about doing the same? These women are tough! So I sucked it up and kept running. According to my Garmin I finished in 2:03:36 (9:26 pace) which is my second fastest half marathon ever.
I am very happy with my performance today. My current half PR was set over 2 years ago and it feels good to know I am at least in striking distance. Even with the downtrodden last few miles, the effort the first 10 miles was not as strenuous as I thought it would be. I'm hoping to train hard for the San Jose Rock n' Roll Half Marathon in October to chase my elusive PR again.
And for the best part of this race...the swag! I love races that give out tech shirts and I love races even more that give out woman's specific sized shirts! The race had woman's sized shirts ranging from S-XXXXL (yes, that's three X's more than an XL). Now, I'm all for size-equality but really, there were tons more women out there who would have benefited from having an XS vs. an XXXXL. In fact, I didn't see one woman who would have needed even an XXL. My only gripe because the woman's small is pretty roomy on me.
As the shirt hints, they also had CHOCOLATE! (just ate it, divine!) and champagne! at the finish. I'm not much of a drinker at all, but I took a glass of champagne and had three sips. Why three? Well, 1) Even though I don't like it, I had to have some since it's on the shirt and during the race people were talking about the CHOCOLATE! and champagne! at the finish, 2) I hate the taste of alcohol and probably couldn't have forced myself to drink much more, and 3) I'm a lightweight when it comes to drinking and in my semi-dehydrated state I'm sure a fourth sip would have put me over the legal limit to drive home.
They also gave out sterling silver pendants instead of traditional medals. Regardless of the fact that it came on the same cord material my mom used to string things on for me to wear in Kindergarten, I think this is very cool. Even though it has not been on my neck once yet today it has much more than the 0% chance my previous race medals have of getting worn sometime in the future.
Right now, I'm feeling tired from my early wake-up time but my legs don't feel bad at all. Besides my duathlon in two weeks I have no real training plan the next month. From July I have all sorts of torture mapped out for the next 8 months, but more on that later.
Mario will be excited to know that my order for him from Bunny Bytes arrived today. I got him two grass mats for traction (they're actually folded up and are quite larger than shown...My heart almost stopped when I first saw them). I was also able to sneak in three wicker rings to the order before the shipping charge went up to the next tier. On top of that, there's the cardboard box that everything came in. Every rabbit's dream. It's a party tonight!