Friday, February 17, 2012

Mercedes Half Marathon

My first half marathon of 2012 was the Mercedes Half Marathon in Birmingham, AL.  It had been almost 2 months since my last half marathon and even longer since the last half that I "raced" and didn't just run.  I was so excited about this run.  Lot's of our friends and fellow runners were going to either do the half or the marathon relay.  There had been some discussion between myself, Gail and Jeanie about racing or just running this race.  We'd heard lots about the hills on the course and thought maybe it would be better just to run it and not try to PR.  However, I knew that between my kettlebell classes and my twice a week small group runs, that I was in really good shape.  The morning of the race Gail was asking us our goal for the race.  I kind of stuttered about mine, still a little unsure.  I knew I wanted to race it, but I wasn't sure I could PR.

I had decided that I would be leaving my watch in the hotel room.  One thing I know about myself is that I will hold myself back.  If I'm constantly looking at my watch (which I would do), I tell myself I'm going too fast for my pace.  I wanted to race this race based on feel and how my body was feeling.   Not sure it was a great idea, because I crashed the last 4 miles of the race. But I am glad I didn't wear my watch. 

It was absolutely freezing when the race started.  The wind chill was 15 degrees.  Luckily, our hotel wasn't far away.  We left 10 minutes before the start of the race and got in the corral just a few minutes before it started.  In the first mile I knew I was a little over dressed and took off my jacket.  My plan was to run from waterstop to waterstop and I did great the first 6 miles.  After that I added in about one short walk per mile.  This was a pretty easy race to run that way because there was a waterstop almost every mile.

The water in the cups was a little frozen.  But the scary part to me was the water on the ground was also frozen.  This made the waterstops at little hazardous.  From a waterstop and nutrition aspect this was the best supported race I've participated in.  There was water & powerade almost every mile and at least 3 Gu stations. 

Although I wasn't wearing my watch, I couldn't help but look at the giant clocks they have at every mile.  I knew I was going fast (for me).  I'm not sure how much that played into the wall I slammed into around mile 9.  It could have also been that I was actually going too fast at the beginning, but it's important to me to start strong.  When I looked up my pace, I was at a 10:14 average pace from the start through the 10k mark, from 10k to 15k my pace was 10:19, and then dropped to 11:23 for the final part of the race.  My overall average pace was 10:35, which is 20 seconds faster per mile than my previous best.  I finished in 2:18:39.  My PR before that was 2:22:51.  Overall, I'm extremely happy with my time.  I'm disappointed with my crash at the end, but I know I can improve there. 

Last year I did a half marathon this same weekend and set a PR of 2:30.  That course was entirely flat.  The Mercedes course was anything but flat.  I'm very proud of the improvements I've made in just a year.  Sometimes it feels like progress crawls, but to look year over year is very encouraging.  The other thing I noticed in this race was the hills.  Yes, there were hills, some big ones.  However, I didn't feel the hills like I usually do.  I was much stronger on them.  I guess those stairs and hill repeats my coach, Tracey, makes me do really do payoff.

Finally, I want to say how proud and amazed I am by Mark.  He set a PR.  His time this race was 2:26:31 and his average pace was 11:11.  His previous best was 2:37 and it was set in December!!  He really rocked this race.  Now he's signed up for speed sessions and very determined to be faster than me.  I guess some healthy competition is a good thing. 

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