16 March 2013

2013 Rock and Roll Half Marathon race report

If I could go back and do this race again, I totally would and execution would stay exactly the same because this was probably one of my most well-executed races to date. I also had a boatload of fun on the race course, another reason why I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

This past week was busy, as my best friend from high school, Katie, was in town visiting and I also had some work travel. I loved having a chance to catch up with Katie and spend so much time with her. She was a sport and chatted me up during bike trainer workouts, etc. The race this weekend was in the back of my mind all week and I made sleep a priority and EVEN limited my bagel consumption on Bagel Friday in the name of not overeating before a race. Sadly, I slept terribly last night, I'm a good sleeper 99% of the time until I get myself all excited about a race and then have a hard time falling - and staying - asleep. I wasn't organized enough to send Jen a race plan until about 10pm last night, and even then it was a pretty loose plan. Run fast, but not too fast at the start, and then run faster at the middle and the end. Execute good pacing where my last miles are faster than my first (I was pretty thrilled with how smart I was with race execution at the Dahlgren Trail half marathon last month and was eager to give smart pacing another go). In the past, I've tried to go out too fast and hang on and pay for it in the end with slower miles in the backhalf, dragging down my overall pace, womp womp.

My other good friend from high school, Kim, was in town for the race this weekend and stayed at my house. It was so great to have someone to get ready with on race morning and eat loads of pasta with the night before. She's also game for pre-race photos so I finally have a couple race day photos:

Kimmy and I - ready to run! And sporting the new Ignite Endurance tech tee!
I love these big local races because you have the fun of having out-of-town friends come in for the event AND you see your friends and co-workers and tri club teammates out on the course too. I ran into Katie M. from work at bag check and then saw a bunch of my Ignite teammates at the finish, as well as Sara L. Big town, yet small at the same time. So much fun. Anyway, Kimmy and I parted ways a little before the start so I could do a warmup jog (proud of me Jen? I'm actually doing what I am supposed to be doing). I was in corral 2 and we went off about a minute or two after the first corral. My first mile clicked off about 15-20 seconds faster than I had intended, but my HR was right in the high Zone 2-low Zone 3, I felt really, really good and the pace felt sustainable - so I decided to go with it and see if I could hold it as my starting pace and then quicken my speed even more after the hill at Calvert when things flatten out and the course had some downhills. The miles ticked by and I continued to feel strong. A small part of me kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, but a bigger part of me felt confidence in my training, ability to hold the pace, and my mental state so I didn't slow down for the sake of saving energy.

Tangent: I've been reading Iron War by Matt Fitzgerald (thanks for lending it to me, Brad - and happy birthday!) and last night I was reading a section on - and I won't get too technical here - the idea that the brain is the one that stops us from reaching our full potential, not our body. We slow down because going faster hurts and our brains often decide that it simply isn't worth it. It explains why we have a finisher kick - why you felt like you needed to slow down - OR DIE - at mile 11 but then had your fastest mile at 13. I had this section of the book on my mind during the race as a reminder that my legs hurt, but do they reaaaallllyyyyy hurt enough to warrant slowing down? End tangent.

After the gosh-awful hill at Calvert in Rock Creek Park (WHOSE IDEA WAS THAT), it took about a mile for my legs to recover and feel like they were moving at a decent clip again. At this point, the course flattened out a bit and had some downhills and smaller uphills mixed in - basically, a course made in heaven for a negative split race and THAT was what I set out to do. I started catching a few people here and there who had blown by me at the start and my pace was staying consistent, and some miles were getting faster, a few falling in the sub-7 range (!!!). I remembered that I started to fall apart a bit mentally during this part of the race last year - and this year was a complete 180 in comparison. I was thrilled and kept a huge grin on my face for much of miles 7-10.5. Things started to feel substantially less pleasant at that point and I felt my mind retreat inward and just focus on putting one foot in front of the other as quickly as possible. My last mile ended up being my fastest of the day - 6:35 (!!!!!) - and while a tiny part of me wonders if maybe I could've gone a little bit faster earlier on in the race if I had that much energy left at the end, I think that I was probably able to have a fast last mile because I had paced myself really well. It turns out that I had a 4-second half marathon PR, finishing in 1:33:09 (I had gotten my previous PR at this race back in 2009 and not run a time close to that since then). I'm super excited about how the race panned out and how capable and confident I felt on the race course.


Running Librarian said...

Congrats on a new PR!! I got a new PR at RnR USA too! I'm calling the Rock Creek section the mountain..ugh..it felt like it went straight up!

Caroline Thomas said...

Wow that was a great race! I was out volunteering happy it didn't rain like they were saying. We stared a group for area running bloggers if your interested. http://www.meetup.com/DC-Metro-Area-Running-Bloggers/

chitoandkgo.com said...

Way to rock it. You published that as fast as you ran.

Allison said...

Congrats on a well executed race! I loved that section of Iron War. I'm still struggling with getting my brain to stop slowing me down. :)