Since when is half marathon training harder than full marathon training?
I’m not sure what happened between the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016, but this half marathon training cycle seemed MUCH more difficult for me to manage mentally and physically than full marathon training last fall. It’s probably less related to the actual training and more related to the fact that I am wayyyy over-scheduled. Alli’s volleyball went into full swing in January and we are burning up the roads to practice and tournaments.
As a result, I really enjoyed taper week. Yes, I actually said that. I REALLY enjoyed taper week. And when I finally toed the start line on Sunday, I felt mentally and physically fresh and ready to run the course.
Cowtown isn’t the easiest course out there, but it is my favorite half marathon course. I love running through the Stockyards. Plus, the support from the city and its citizens is nothing short of amazing – some of the best race support I’ve been able to be a part of.
I had some pretty lofty goals for this race. I wanted to run a sub-2 hour half, which I was sure I could do because my training had been going well. Deep down, I really hoped to get 1:50 or at least close to it. I knew that to run 1:50 would have to be PERFECT race conditions and even then, I felt the course difficulty might hold me back.
Something else that has been on my mind lately is my racing strategy. For my fall races and even up to Cowtown, running slower at the beginning of the race and slowly increasing intensity throughout has given me some pretty stellar results. But every time I finish, I am haunted with thoughts wondering if I pushed myself hard enough. When my coach suggested that I should let him pace me and run with some of our Renegade teammates, I realized immediately this was my opportunity to test pushing myself early on in the race. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about falling flat on my face and tanking before the end. This is my year of uncomfortable, though, and I am working to develop a more aggressive approach to my running. Fears aside, I wholeheartedly accepted the challenge!
I was understandably concerned about race conditions. (Understandably for me, anyway! LOL) Weather was predicted to be partly cloudy with temps in the mid 50s and climbing throughout the morning. In addition, winds were gusting up to 20 mph. I don’t care to race in temps above 50. I like training in the heat, but racing is an entirely different story. It all worked out, because throughout my time on the course, the sky was overcast, temps were mid-50s and the winds didn’t affect me much. The humidity was an entirely different matter. I don’t think it was a huge impact on my performance, but the air was heavy enough that I noticed a change in my breathing.
We started out a lot faster than I would have, had I been racing alone. Of course, I wondered how long I could keep that up. We managed to settle into a pretty steady pace, clocking around 8:45/mile for miles 1-4. After a short bathroom stop for a teammate, mile 5 came in a little bit slower, but we made up our time with 8:30 & 8:11 for miles 5-6. By mile 7, I was starting to feel a tad bit of fatigue which kind-of freaked me out. But thinking about it after the fact, I always feel that way so it really wasn’t out of the ordinary. We ran 8:12 & 8:43 for miles 7-8 and somehow we found ourselves, already at the dreaded MILE 9 HILL. My coach ran off and left us on the hill – LOL!! I was SURE I was running a turtle’s pace, but Garmin says I ran 8:31, and who am I to disagree with Garmin?? Even though mile 10 was mostly downhill through downtown, I slowed on that mile and ran 8:41. During the race, I really felt I was slowing down at this point, but miles 11-12 clocked 8:19 and 8:17. I used every ounce of energy I had left for mile 13 and my lack of energy showed in the slower pace of 8:42. But when it was all said and done, I was very pleased with my new PR of 1:52:38!!! My previous *official* half marathon PR was 2:13:22, although I ran 2:04 in the last half of the Dallas Marathon.
Learning the lessons
Every race teaches me a lesson. This race taught me that I’m a little stronger than I think. I really didn’t believe that I could start out that fast and maintain a steady pace throughout the race. I would never have had the courage without my coach there pushing me. Going forward, I am going to try to find that delicate balance between pushing too hard, too early and holding back too much. I like to finish strong and I do well when I give myself some “warm-up” time at the beginning of the race, but this race performance clearly showed me that I’m not giving enough effort early on. Luckily, Rock ‘n’ Roll Dallas is coming up in less than 3 weeks, so I’ll be able to put it to the test!
Beyond the finish
I took this pic as I snaked through the food/finisher shirt line at the end of the race because I knew my Northern runner friends would NEVER believe it! Finisher shirts were being handed out in the livestock barn.
One thing that was disappointing to me was the LACK OF BEER available after the race. I was in quite a panic but quickly learned beer wasn’t being served until 10am – WHAT THE HECK. By the time we all began the mile-long walk back to our hotel, the beer booth was open but had a line a mile long. (Sad Jen) I’m nothing, if not a problem solver, though, and I remedied the beer problem during Alli’s practice Sunday evening. It was MUCH better than I would have gotten at the race anyway!
The closer we got to our hotel, the more sirens I began to notice. We were walking on a trail that snaked behind the hotel that was a part of the full and ultra route. When we were close enough to see the parking lot, we quickly realized that the parking lot was full of hotel guests (STANDING OUTSIDE) and FIRE TRUCKS! Thankfully, there was only a small fire in a laundry area and we were allowed into the hotel within minutes of our arrival.
Even though there are several things that I could beat myself up over, I’m choosing to relish in my accomplishment. But I’m ready to get back to training because I think exciting things are in store for me this year!!