Writing a race recap takes more energy for me than I think it should. In fact, 4 days ago (and 4 days after the Flying Pig Half Marathon), I began this post by writing half a sentence: “After three days of rest,…”. That’s it! That’s literally all I could muster at the time! I sat in silence staring at that half sentence for a few seconds and close the laptop. Digesting the race and trying to put the experience into words is hard to do because, honestly, I was so determined to cross the finish line by a certain time that I didn’t have any other thought running through my head than “I think I can, I know I can”. While I had only been training for this half marathon for little over 3 months, I feel like I’ve had a broken record repeating my goal over and over in my head. “You will run the damn thing in under 1:50! You will qualify for a corral at the Chicago Marathon. You will accomplish this goal on May 1st.” I’ll save you the broken record and provide you with the details I can muster exactly a week post-race.
I left Chicago for Cincinnati on late Saturday morning with a bag full of running clothes for every sort of weather situation. At the beginning of race week, the forecast was to be sunny and a high of 75. Each day leading up to Sunday, the forecast changed towards cooler temperatures and precipitation. I was definitely happy the temps were to drop–I don’t handle heat well and would rather run in cooler temps than in hot ones. My “rock” and “cheerleader” for the weekend (and throughout my training), Manny, and I went to the French Market for some snacks to eat on the bus ride down to Indy. I had a delicious ham and cheese filled croissant as part of my carbo-loading program and enjoyed every bite! We met my sister and mom in Indy, hopped in their car, and started the second leg of our trip. Luckily we arrived in Cincinnati around 5 pm and got all of our swag at the expo before closing at 7 pm. I have to say, I haven’t been as excited for a charity race bag more than I was for the Flying Pig. I’m in love with my Asics backpack and plan to use it when I travel to MI next weekend with family. Kudos to the race organizers!
I was really happy to meet up with an old friend from high school at the expo and swap expectations of the next morning. Meghan went to Xavier University and had run the Flying Pig Half Mary the previous year so she was well prepared for the total elevation of the course. For about three or four weeks before the race, I began to get nervous that I wasn’t prepared for such a hilly course. Plenty of DMers and vets of the race warned me about miles 4-9, which is exactly the point at which I naturally wouldn’t want to push uphill in a half marathon race. During the 5.5 hour drive down to Cincinnati, I made a list of target times and paces for 4 different phases of the race, which helped immensely. The four phases were: Miles 1-5, 5-9, 9-11 and 11-finish. I wanted to make sure that I remained realistic about how I would be feeling for the middle part of the race (the hilly ones at miles 5-9) and not become disappointed if my average pace dropped by 20-30 seconds at that point.
After eating a delicious plate of spaghetti and meatballs with my mom, sis, and boyfriend on Saturday night, we headed to the hotel to wind down for the night (after a quick stop at Target for snacks, of course). I felt pretty calm and laid out my race day clothes as I always do. Britt and I planned to wake up by 4:15 am and walk outside to get a gauge on the weather. After doing that, I decided it was going to be warm enough to wear shorts without leggings and a light-long sleeve shirt so that I didn’t get too cold should it happen to rain. I also filled my new gear belt with Clif Shot Bloks and made sure I was clear on my nutrition plan for the race. I’m not used to eating while running and was honestly a bit nervous about getting it right. I put two packages of Shot Bloks in my gear belt and planned to eat 2 bloks every 3 to 4 miles. After eating 2 at the third mile, I had acid and my stomach wasn’t feeling calm so I decided to just hydrated the rest of the distance. Gatorade tends to aggravate my stomach as well and I’m assuming the sugar is the one to blame. Can’t go wrong with water!
The rain started to worsen as we headed to our corrals. After avoiding the horrendous line for the bathroom at the stadium and opting for an ‘untended to’ port-o-let for construction workers at a site next to the stadium, we got to the corral with 3 minutes to the start. I tried to loosen my legs enough beforehand, but knew that it might take me a few miles to open up to my target pace. We started jogging and Britt gave me a ‘good luck’ before we took off. I was in such a ‘go go go’ mode that I didn’t even return the ‘good luck’ to her! I felt so bad when I realized this 3 minutes after beginning the race and thought about it repeatedly throughout the race. Sorry, Britt! (But in all actuality, you didn’t need luck to accomplish what you did last Sunday!)
I remember thinking at Mile 5 that I was feeling better than I thought I would. Maybe mentally overemphasizing the total elevation for weeks prior allowed me to consider it easy (or at least easier) on race day. Miles 7 and 8 were the toughest miles of the race, during which I posted 8:30 minute miles. I kept telling myself that it would all get easier after mile 9, when the course turns downhill. Before reaching the start line, I forgot to change the audio cue settings on the Runkeeper app and realized after a quarter mile that I would be hearing these updates for every quarter mile for the remaining 13 miles. Rather than stop and change the settings I decided it might be to my advantage to know my average pace every 3 minutes. And, as it turns out, half of the time I tuned out during the audio cue and kept my legs moving. In races, I always find it helpful to give other runners high fives as I run with them. I like when I can fall into pace with someone and share a brief moment with them–this is the camaraderie a lot of distance runners tend to mention. Whether or not we continue to run together, I think the high five gives both of us encouragement to keep going. I think a lot of other runners don’t expect encouragement from someone going through the same kind of ‘pain’ they are–and that’s just why I like doing it, I think. For example, I gave a guy a high five at mile 8.5 and he was so shocked that thirty seconds later he said, “Thanks! I needed that!”. What he didn’t know was that I needed it just as much as he did.
After mile 10, I knew that I was running a good enough pace to post a time under 1:50. I just had to keep running at the same pace or faster! After a brief pit stop at mile 10.5, I started to kick it towards the finish line. It was weird because I still felt like I had plenty of juice left in my legs and I was able to keep my form nice and calm. Mile 12 was my fastest with a time of 7:20. I’d like to say that the celebration began long before the finish line, but the reality of what I had just accomplished didn’t kick in until I wrapped myself in mylar and proudly received my medal. It sounds really corny but tears welled up in my eyes and all I kept thinking was “all that hard work and time was so worth it“. I wanted to see my boyfriend and tell him thank you for putting up with my training schedule and supporting me in the first of many goals on the road to the Chicago Marathon, my first. To all those best friends and significant others out there that support their runners–YOU are amazingly patient, kind, understanding, and supportive of what we do. I couldn’t do it without friends and family, that’s for sure.
Some may call it a mantra–I call it a broken record that typically doesn’t stop playing for months before a big race. Either way, repetition works! I finished at 1:46:45 with a new PR after my first half marathon last year (old time=1:56). I was 45 seconds away from being able to enter Corral C at the Chicago Marathon, so I may have to work in another half marathon into my schedule in the near future (potentially as soon as June 4th!). I will not let 45 seconds (caused by a silly loose shoelace and a short pit-stop) stop me from being in a faster corral. That’s what happens when you hit one goal…you gotta get after another one, right?