Friday, April 13, 2012

Getting the monkey off my back

This past weekend, I ran my 2nd open half marathon of 2012, and it was just what I needed to gain confidence for my upcoming tri season. This race wasn’t originally on the schedule, but after my less than stellar performance at the Hyannis half marathon, even though I did set a new PR, I left the race a bit disappointed, hungry, and wanting more. I knew that even though I had left absolutely every ounce of my energy out on that windy Hyannis course (I may have quietly sworn to myself that I quite possibly don’t EVER to want to run another ½ marathon again), I was hungry for more. I knew that I didn’t quite run to my potential, and I simply just needed to get that sub 7 min pace monkey off my back!

After a quick consult with my coach, we both signed up for the Great Bay half marathon. (less than 24 hours after Hyannis – funny how quickly things change) Easy training run for him, not so EZ run or “chase” for me! The website called the course challenging with roller coaster hills, spectacular back roads, and a great downtown finish. It all sounded fun to me. I czeched out the course profile and it looked just fine. My goal time of breaking 1:30 was engraved in my mind, and I was going to chase my coach to my new PR.
Fast forward to a week before the race, when I decided since I don’t live too far away from the course to actually do my last long run at race pace there. I ran most of the course, and finally realized what “challenging with roller coaster hills” actually meant. My race pace that day was nowhere near the race pace I was planning for. It also made me understand why the back of the race shirt I picked up said: “These legs conquered the hills of the Great Bay Half Marathon”. The course was exactly as described, and just like a roller coaster – either going up, or down! The scenery was beautiful, and the 3 mile dirt road section didn’t disappoint. I don’t usually stop on my long runs to take pictures, but the surroundings were so beautiful I just had to this time. We’ll just blame the scenery as the reason for stopping instead of my screaming legs, and soaring heart rate.  

 I quickly made assumptions based on how I felt on this run, and texted my coach to let him know this course was a beast! In all honesty, the original goal of 1:30 seemed impossible, and I started to even doubt beating my Hyannis time from a month ago (1:33:46). 

My next thought went something like this - maybe I should just turn this into a training run, there is no way I’ll be holding sub 7s on this roller coaster ride when I could barely hold on to those paces on my longer training runs. And then there was the thought of Jorge jogging along side of me or rather in front of me screaming his head off for me to pick up the pace, as I was barely holding on frantically searching for the next gear, and not finding it. (I am laughing just thinking about that). My head definitely wasn’t where it needed to be, and I knew if I didn’t change my attitude, I had no chances of reaching my goal. That brain is such a powerful thing!
Few more days went by and I worked really hard on trying to believe that I can do it. Come on brain - you can do it! Just believe :). 

Jorge certainly believed in me but that wasn’t enough, I needed to believe myself if this was going to happen. I had to believe I can run sub 7’s and I can pace this race right so that I don’t die of slow death like I did at Hyannis. I really didn’t want to be counting down miles from mile 5, and wondering how I will make it through the next 8 miles again! Been there, done that just a few short weeks ago. Few days before the race, I also found out Jorge wasn’t able to run with me, which meant I really was going to have to pace myself rather than pace off of him. As you have probably put together by now, pacing especially in running is not my strong suit. I can do it just fine on the bike, but with running, I tend lean towards banking time! (bad bad bad idea) But why not just run a bit faster when the first 4 miles are slightly downhill and the uphills are coming up next, right? Why not bank some time now when I feel good? Doesn’t it sound awesome to put some time away in your little personal bank account and use it when you need it the most? (on the hills towards the end of the race?). This concept of saving is great for money, but not for running! Of course why would I listen to my coach - that would be too easy. I had to learn the hard way, and that feeling of struggling for 8 out of the 13 miles was fresh on my mind. 

Race morning arrived, and I was nervous like a little girl. I made it through 1.5 of my bagel with pbj, and a banana and that was all that my stomach was going to take. With revenge on my mind, I lined up at the front of the field, ready to go. The gun went off, and I just tried to stay relaxed, and comfortable. I was really trying to avoid going out too fast. I did let bunch of girls pass me, but I knew I was going to see them later. I wanted to run my own race, and avoid the mistakes I made at Hyannis. It didn’t take long before we were greeted by the first hill and it just never stopped from there. I kept the pace steady. I thought about 3 things the entire race. 1 – relaxing the shoulders, 2 – being pulled up by the hips on the uphills and not hunching over, 3 – letting the legs go on the downhills and just letting my body go instead of leaning back and trying to slow down. It worked like a charm! Before I knew it, I was done with the tough 3 mile section, and the miles just kept ticking off.

Miles 1 through 6 included couple of steep hills, and a 3 mile dirt road stretch. My paces were: 6:52, 7:06, 6:54, 7:08, 6:57, and 6:52. I was also able to reel in couple of girls that passed me in the first couple of miles of the race, and I was feeling good! This was also right around the time when I fell apart at Hyannis few weeks ago, but this time I actually felt good. Though this course was a lot tougher, my legs were feeling good and I was under control. Miles 7, 8, 9 again super rolling, but back on the road which made it a bit easier, but I was starting to work a bit more. I was glad to see sub 7s showing up on my watch – 6:50, 6:53, and 6:58. I took in a gel at mile 9, and passed another girl! Bonus! J The course opened up a bit more, and the wind picked up. Of course it was a headwind! Combine that with the worst hills on the course, and tired legs, and I was awarded with the slowest mile of the race – mile 10 – 7:14. L I didn’t hang my head! I wasn’t about to throw away the solid 9 miles I just went through.  Knowing I only had 3 miles left, and probably the flattest portion of the race coming up, I started to pick the pace back up.  Mile 11 – 6:47 and the slowest mile was followed by the fastest mile of the race J. Mile 12 and more headwind slowed me down to 7:05 though my effort was definitely higher than that. Mile 13 was tough, and I was starting to run out of energy. The roller coaster ride couldn’t end on a flat note, so we were greeted one last time by a short but very steep uphill. I may have or may not have used a profanity as I rounded the corner and looked this beast in the face. I somehow shuffled my way up the hill and saw mile 13 tick of at 6:55. I was finally running through downtown Newmarket which was lined with a very descent crowd, and sprinted my way through the finish line in the final time of 1:31:12, new PR, and 5th overall female! (Almost 3 minutes faster than at Hyannis on a much flatter course)

I may have not broken 1:30, but I was super happy with my time, and actually smiled my way through the finish line.

I finally broke the sub 7 min pace, and got that huge monkey off my back. My avg. pace was 6:57, but more importantly I gained a lot of confidence in myself and in my running! I now know that that sub 1:30 is within my reach, and I can’t wait to try again. Only this time, it will be after swimming 1.2 miles, and biking 56. Tri season is around the corner and I can’t wait to kick it off with a Quassy 70.3 on the beginning of June.


  1. Wow,you are so fast!!! And in the three sports, I really have huge respect for you triathletes! Heading off for a "training" hlalf marathon before the A race - Prague marathon. Tell me about the pacing, it' soo difficult not to go out too fast with the crowd, adrenaline, emotions... Good luck with your tri season!

  2. You had a great race, just shy of 2k people ran it and you did wicked awesome! How much faster could you possibly get?