Saturday, November 12, 2011

Huntsville Half Race Recap

Boy do I have a lot of thoughts about today's race (as usual).  I'm going to try to "just" give a recap and leave all my feelings and comments out of it for now.  (We'll see how that goes...)

As I said, I was really nervous this morning.  (Hmm...okay, nevermind, I don't think I can write without including my feelings...)  Anyway...I don't think I clarified earlier why it was I was doing "reverse calculations" for a 1:50 half.  I had originally wanted a sub-2 hour time.  After Wednesday night's workout, one of our head coaches said if I was looking for a 4 hour marathon, I should shoot for a 1:53 half.  The next day as we were talking about it, he said I should go for a 1:50.  One of the coaches offered to pace for that time so I decided to go for it. 

I had calculated the pace for 1:53 (8:40), but not for 1:50.  Three minutes, how much faster could that be over 13.1 miles.  (Yes, my husband, like many of you, could calculate that out without blinking, but I didn't want to think about it.)  Right out of the box my pacer told me... for a 1:50 finish we'd need to run an 8:23 pace. 

What?  REALLY??  That's really fast.  I tried to put that out of my head and focus instead on the fact I would have a pacer, as well as Chickpea, running "with" me.  I decided to try to stay focused on them and not on myself.  The marathon training group ran a little over a mile warm up; after some pre-race announcements and the National Anthem, the gun sounded and we were running!

Sometime during the first mile (which was feeling okay, not great, but not HORRID either), Chickpea said she was going to slow down.  She was looking at her Garmin.  I was NOT.  I told her NO was going to get better and to just hang on.  I told her what I was trying to tell myself, we'd settle in after a couple of miles and it wouldn't feel like that anymore, just take a few deep breaths and don't look at your watch!  She listened and stayed strong.  I listened, then "forgot" my own words of advice!

Mile one according to the split timer was like 8:21...according to my Garmin data it was 8:11 (I'm sure glad I didn't see THAT number on my watch, I'd have freaked out right then.)  As we were running a couple of others joined our little group.  I was encouraged--more people for me to "hang on to".  I try to mentally rope myself to someone and fall in step behind them in order to lose myself in the run.  It worked for mile two (8:16) (**all times according to my Garmin**) and mile 3 (8:13). 

At about mile 3, the route passes back in front of the start (where my husband was).  I told myself I needed to hang on to my pacer at least until we passed by then I could let up for a little if I felt I needed to....which is exactly what I did.   BIG MISTAKE.  I didn't think too hard about it, I just simply couldn't keep up.  I kept the group (mainly Chickpea) in sight for several miles.  I started gaining on them at one point, but, again, I just couldn't hang on. 

Let me say,  I love running races here in Huntsville.  I have the good pleasure of knowing so many people in the running community, there's always someone calling out my name!!  (Either that or there were a lot of "Dana's" out there today!!!)  Usually when I'm running races I am looking around for people I know and cheering them--either for their running or their spectatorship (yes, I just made that word up).  In fact, if I don't see someone I know on the sidelines, I cheer for them anyway and tell them to feel free to cheer for me!!  I usually tell all the volunteers THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE TODAY!!!  I talk to anyone around me.  I sing (usually NOT out loud).  I look at houses/scenery.  I look at running styles and/or clothes and/or shoes.  I sometimes even think about my breathing or my body (what I coach others to do--go from head to toe relaxing all body parts, including breaths).

Today however, from mile 3 thru about 7, although I heard people cheering for me at various spots, I didn't have the energy to even see who the people were.  Every now and then I tried to look in the general direction of the voice and throw up a hand to say THANK YOU, but most of the time I couldn't even look.  A friend of mine who was running the race came up beside me and started talking a bit, asking how I was doing.  I really couldn't even answer, I just sort of grunted.  He laughed and said I was obviously working since I couldn't talk...he ran on up ahead.)  About mile 7.5 I started huffing out some congrats to the front runners who had already made it to the turn around and were on the way back.  But even those cheers were few and far between. 

I was looking forward to getting to the aide station on the greenway about as much as the finish.  They even had a finish line blow up thing out there!!  That is the BEST aide station EVER.  They have music, dancers, sidewalk chalk (GO DANA--I was so happy to actually see that!!  THANK YOU to who ever put that out there!)...and naturally water and power aide.  Not to mention, tons of people I know!!!  Faces barely even registered with me, but everything else pumped me with a burst of energy.   As I neared the turn-around I saw my pacer and Chickpea on their way back.  It seemed she was less than a minute ahead of me.  However, after the turn around I noticed I was getting better and better and talking to people.  I knew I wasn't pushing at that point.

I realized there was NO hope of catching Chickpea and the pacer at that point.  I was quickly losing the chance of making it to the finish in 1:53.  I reasoned with myself that at least I would surely get a PR.  About mile 11 or so I saw another friend who is a little older than I am, and who is FAST FAST FAST.  I knew she must have had a problem for me to be catching up to her.  She said she had bonked big time.  I tried to encourage her, but she said she just didn't have anything left in the tank.  I took a little internal inventory and realized I did in fact have a good bit left in my tank.  I was talking quite a bit, and although I was hurting, nothing was so bad I wanted to cry.  Another friend passed and told me to stay with him.  I tried, but didn't have quite that much left.

My sweet husband was waiting for me at about mile 12.75.  I almost cried.  I could hardly even look at him.  I was hurting.  He told me I was doing great and looking strong.  I felt like poo.  I had wanted to do my best but I felt like I had given up.  About that time I heard someone cheering on the friend who blew by me in the last mile or so of the Monte Sano 15K...she was behind me!!  Seeing my sweet knight in bald head combined with the knowledge there was a fierce competitor behind me was what it took to finally get my reserve tank engaged.  I gave it all I had from that point to the finish....for a final time of 1:56:30 (8:54 pace)!!  Good enough for TENTH (out of 59) in my age group!!! 

Almost instantly I was disappointed.  Yes, I am hard on myself.  Yes, I know it was a PR by 22 minutes and 44 seconds.  Yes, I know how far I've come.  But I have no doubt if I had started slower (say at an 8:40 pace), I could have finished "much" stronger.  I was so thankful to have an elite racing friend tell me it was a GREAT thing to start out too fast every now and then.  He said with increasing RACING experience I would learn more about my body but if I never went out too fast I would never know what "too fast" was.  AND, I know if I had run solid the whole time I would have been beating myself up for feeling like I didn't push hard enough.  Yes, I know...I'm "never" satisfied.

Lessons learned:
  1. I actually really like carrying a water bottle.  I can sip any time I want, I don't have to stop at water stations, just grab and pour, and I can take my Gu when I want to, not when there's going to be an aid station nearby.  Also, I could put EFS in it which I think is WAY better than Gu.  (I just don't know how I'll carry more of it.  I wish they made pellets of some kind like Nuun to drop in along the way.)
  2. Duh...don't go out faster than I planned to go.  It's GREAT to have a pacer, but know ahead of time what the pace is going to be and what it will look like (positive/negative splits or steady).
  3. I am VERY confident with a 4 hour marathon goal.  VERY.
  4. Smack talk can make some people feel personally attacked even if that's NOT what I EVER want to do...some people do NOT like to RACE.
  5. Although I do LOVE to race (even if I'm not quite fast enough just yet to be in the running for awards), I LOVE coaching and pacing others.  ((I'll write about a guy I "coached" on the course, and running in with some of the final finishers, another time.))  It's like coaching infuses me with energy.  I think it would be ideal to coach someone who doesn't realize she is faster than me because then I can coach AND be challenged/pushed.  Come to think of it, that's why I loved NOBO2 so much--those gals in my group kept me going and they didn't even know it!
  6. If I'm talking, I'm not racing.
  7. I picked the absolute PERFECT first marathon.  I hope I'll have as many dear, sweet friends on the course as I did today.
Okay...after writing it all out...I had a great race today.  I didn't have the exact outcome I hoped for.  I didn't run nearly as well as I wanted to from miles 9-12.5, but I didn't fully give up.  When I look at where I've been, I can see just how far I've come and I'm completely overwhelmed.  For anyone who says they want to get faster...let me tell you--YOU CAN DO IT.  IF you want to.  There is NOTHING wrong with NOT wanting to go faster.  Everyone has their own goals.  But, never say "can't"'s not the same as "don't want to" but also don't try to fool yourself into thinking you don't want to because you think you can't.

Splits:  8:11, 8:16, 8:13, 8:53, 8:19, 8:32, 8:47, 9:06, 9:11, 9:07, 9:21, 10:01 (I actually stopped to take a drink during this mile--had I just grabbed and gulped I wouldn't have had one single mile over 10 minutes!), 9:03, 1:24.

On top of the half marathon PR, I think it's crazy I set a HUGE 5K PR time , as well as a HUGE 10K PR time (in the first miles of a half)!!  I don't think I even recognize myself anymore.  I can't possibly be the girl who couldn't run 2 miles in like 18 minutes when I was 18 year old, can I???

Okay...not exactly, but getting closer!
Thanks for stopping in, come again soon!!


  1. love your writing - Maureen

  2. Great recap... Congrats on the sub 2 hour... it is a great feeling to finish strong. I love to feel I have reserves in the tank to use up the last few miles... I do not get that feeling often...

  3. Good job today! Your improvement is incredible.

  4. Great job yesterday, Dana! I agree about that awesome aid station. I always get a burst when I get there. A 22 minute PR is HUGE!!! And there should not be a SECOND of "being too hard on yourself" after a half-marathon like that. Congrats!

  5. Dana, good job for gutting it out. Your progress sounds great! One thing I want to mention is make sure you taper properly for your marathon. I don't know if this 1/2 was a "goal" race, but looking back at the intensity of your interval workout this week, I think it stole a few minutes off your race. Remember, recovery is just as important as getting the training stimulus in. For the marathon, really concentrate on negative splitting. The patience will pay off! I'll be pacing Daralyn for a 4 hr. marathon, so maybe we'll keep each other company!

  6. Congratulations on an awesome finish!


Don't hold back, tell it like it is....