I ran my 8th Half Marathon on May 26th in Traverse City, MI. This spring has been all about focusing on the half marathon. Last year, my focus was solely on the Chicago Marathon as it was my debut marathon and I was determined to have a good experience. As part of my training, I ran several half marathons (probably more than were necessary) but the final clock time was never the ultimate goal. In fact, I usually would run a few miles to warm up, run the half marathon, and run a few miles to cool down and contribute to my ‘long run’ of the weekend. It just so happened that I continuously ran personal records while also committing to these training runs.
So, this spring I decided speed was going to be a focus. I have been really happy with my progress since January. The Carmel Half was my “A” race of the season and I pulled off a time that I wasn’t even dreaming about a year ago: 1:36:08. So when I started to anticipate the Bayshore Half, I had mixed feelings. To be honest, my whole heart wasn’t in it. Some last-minute changes prevented my brother (and Coach) from running the race himself. Work had been crazy that week and I didn’t prepare myself mentally (or as much as I would have liked). I made a last ditch effort to get myself psyched for the race by buying a new race outfit at Sports Authority on Friday before catching the train.
I knew that sleep was going to be a factor in my performance. As I don’t have a car in the city, I took the train to Michigan City, IN and my mom picked me up to drive the remaining 4 hours to Traverse City. [My mom is really good at ditching everything and heading to Michigan whenever someone even mentions it in passing. She loves MI and I knew she’d jump at the opportunity. Thanks for the ride, Mom!]. I took a short nap in the car as it became dark and we arrived at the hotel at midnight. I finally made it to bed at 12:30 after eating a snack and drinking some water, only to be woken up by my 4:30 AM alarm.
Yup, you read that right. 4:30 AM.
The half marathon course is beautiful, as it runs the entire length of Old Mission Peninsula, with Traverse City in the bay to the south. But the half starts at the northern tip and all racers have to take a shuttle from the marathon start line up to the tip of the peninsula by 6:15, with a start time of 7:30. I took a shuttle from the airport to the Traverse City High School at 5 am, when I drank my coffee and ate my cup of oatmeal in the dark. I went to the old school gym, got my bib and race shirt (thank goodness for race day packet pickup!!!), and sat quietly before heading to the shuttle. I got in line for the shuttle at 5:45 and arrived at the half start by 6:15, which gave me over an hour to go to the bathroom, stretch, and warm-up.
I was tired even before the race began, considering how little sleep I got the night before and the travel time on race morning.
I’ve run races on little sleep before. I even reminded myself that I had run my previous 5 min PR at the Rock ‘n Roll DC Half in April the day after flying in from Madrid from a business trip. If I could do that, I could run a race on 4 hours of sleep–or so I told myself. I ran a 1 mile warm-up before getting in line at the start. The race only accommodates less than 2500 runners in the half so it felt like a tiny hometown race, compared to the other races I’ve competed in this past year. No corrals–just a sign for different pace groups.
My strategy for this race is just as it was for Carmel–but faster. I divide the race into 5k intervals and try to focus on a certain pace for each segment, gradually increasing the pace every 5k. First, 7:40. Second, 7:30. Third, 7:20–>7:10. Fourth, 7:05—> as fast as I can possibly run! I wasn’t very comfortable in these times going into the race. I normally use my race strategy and the course map to visualize when I’ll arrive at each mile marker, but I was short on time and unfocused.
Notice anything? Yep, went out way too fast. Miles 1-3 should have been at 7:40 and Miles 4-6 should have been at 7:30. From there, the pace was to gradually increase. Instead, it stayed steady about 7:15 until I lost it at mile 12 when a blister that had been forming on the pad of my right foot popped and I walked for 20 seconds. It was really, really uncomfortable but I knew the adrenaline would kick in and it would probably hurt just as bad (or worse) to walk than it would to run on it.
I had an ambitious goal for this race. 1:35:00 is FAST.
This was the first consecutive half marathon that I have not run a personal record. It’s a weird feeling and it led to a lot of disappointment in the week following the race. Slowly, I’ve come around and realized that not every race is going to be exciting and I can’t expect my body to perform perfectly each time. I will get to 1:35 eventually and I will be incredibly happy when I do. For now, I’m just happy that I’ve been able to cut down my half marathon time by over 7 minutes this spring alone!!! I also placed 3rd in my age group at Bayshore, which was an added bonus.
Now, I’m trying to figure out what I want to get out of the rest of this year. I’ve already decided that June is going to be full of rest and cross-training. I want running to remain FUN and rewarding. And the only way I can do that right now is to enjoy what my body has given me and take the time to enjoy doing other things. July, August, and September will be focused on training for the Twin Cities Marathon. I haven’t finalized any races leading up to it, but there are a few small ones on my radar. Looking ahead to the future…