I approached this half marathon quite differently than my previous two. For one thing, I did not train specifically for this race, merely faithfully followed my marathon training plan. It just happened to fall at a convenient time in my training for the Cleveland Marathon next month. I was scheduled to do a long run of 12 miles anyway, so I decided to throw in an extra 1.1 and make it a race. I love racing, and a bunch of my running buddies were also going to be participating. Additionally, I was not worried about being able to run the miles, as my long runs have now reached the 18-20 mile range. Compared to my 20-miler the week before, the mere 13.1 of the Martian Half Marathon would be a breeze!
Confident I could go the distance, I decided it was time for an actual race strategy. This was the first time I knew my racing could go beyond "just survive." I wanted to improve on my PR from last year's Marine Corps Historic Half (1:56:45), but my true, "A" Goal was to finish under 1:50. To do so I would need to average 8:23/mile. But how to do it?
I decided on a three-stage approach knowing what I was physically capable of and drawing on the advice of several running friends whose opinions I value. Part One: Don't Start Too Fast! I am frequently guilty of this cardinal running sin. This time I was determined to avoid it. I wanted to run the first 6 miles at an 8:20-8:25 pace, and I was going to stick with that no matter what. Garmy would be my guide. So: after a short warmup, I arrived at the starting line with only a few minutes to spare. Despite the hasty transition, I was not nervous at all. Nay, I was eager to put my plan into action. I bid my running buddy adieu; he would be running much faster than me and I would not see him until the finish. When the race started I set out at my planned pace, and did not yield to the temptation to go faster. I was bursting with stored energy from my mini-taper all week, but I didn't want to use it all in the first half of the race. I was going to need it later.
Miles 1-6: 8:19, 8:25, 8:17, 8:20, 8:21, 8:20. OK, so I slipped up a couple of times (mile 1, mile 3) but overall I stuck with the plan.
Part Two: Cruise Control. At mile 6, it was time to engage the second phase of my plan. I gradually started increasing my pace until I was running in the low 8:00s. I wanted to maintain this speed for the next four miles. Now was when I needed to stay the most relaxed. I concentrated on keeping my breathing low (using my belly breathing) and even. I let my elbows dangle and kept my shoulders loose. I was in my magical fifth gear where I feel like I could run forever.
Miles 7-10: 8:12, 8:07, 8:08, 8:06.
Part Three: The End. Once I passed mile 10, it was time to kick it. I downshifted and picked up my pace again. The last three miles would be the real test. How much did I have left, how strong was I going to be, how much hurt was in store? With a half mile to go I finally peeked at Garmy. I saw that a sub-1:50 finish was in the bag. Now it was all grit. I was tiring. Not dead-legs-can't-move tired, but getting there. There was a tiny incline that obscured my view of the final turn to the finish area and when I crested the hill and saw that turn I let myself fly down the slope. I turned the corner and saw the finish line about 200 meters ahead. Push it, PUSH IT, PUSH IT! My lungs and thighs were burning, my breath was frantic, but I charged to the finish with everything I had. I officially finished in 1:47:02, crushing my PR from last May by nine minutes and 45 seconds!
Miles 11-13: 7:58, 7:48, 7:34 <-- holy crap!
I successfully executed my plan and had one of the best races of my life. I felt so good during this run it was almost ridiculous. I am feeling more optimistic than ever about my goal of qualifying for Boston next month.
Final stats: 1:47:02 (NEW PR!)/8:10 average/15th out of 155 in age group/85th woman