Sunday, December 13, 2009

A 13 Mile Warmup to a 0.1 Mile Sprint

Today was the Dallas White Rock Half Marathon, my 8th half marathon of the year.  I went in with a PR of 2:36:21, and a goal that I would really like to break 2:30, but 6 1/2 minutes off one's time is a LOT to ask when I wasn't sure I was trained for that much faster.

In the picture: me on the right with Heels and Hills Run Team members Tammy (left) and Tracy (middle), as we wait in the American Airlines Center before the start of the race!

I took what today gave, and the day was very generous!  After two days of marathon expo work, I wasn't feeling very PR-worthy this morning.  Everything was a little sore and stiff.  But the weather was perfect, high 40s with good cloud cover and the humidity didn't bother me whereas usually it's a problem for me.  It was supposed to warm up which caused an attire dilemma - if it was warming up and I was trying to race this all out, then I would probably need to strip down to a sports bra to stay cool after a little while.  But I'd been training with a fuelbelt so I wouldn't lose any time at the aid stations, especially after having trouble getting liquids at NYC Half.  I opted to NOT wear the fuel belt.

There were corrals A to E, and I was in D.  I lined up near the front of the corral on the LEFT side.  There's a hard left turn about 1/3 of a mile into the race and this allowed me to run the tangent well and not run extra distance taking that curve wide in the large crowd.  I was further up than the 2:30 pace group, felt like by a lot.  I hoped to stay a little ahead of them for as long as possible and eventually drop back and try to stay with them.

I actually fell into my pace really well considering it was definitely a harder pace than I had done before and the first 9 miles have some hills throughout.  But the aid stations were a problem - as a race director, I am now in the tail-end of that bell curve of finish times.  A ton of people fall in the 2 hour to 2 1/2 hour finish time range with outliers on either side.  Now that I'm moving to the 2 1/2 mark, at this race I ran into a lot more problems of what felt like understaffed aid stations, scrambling to keep filling cups, dodging people to sprint to the next table to see if maybe a filled cup existed there.  Sigh.  I can tell from my splits I did a good job recovering from each minor delay but it definitely expended energy I later would have needed around mile 9+.  And of course I had chosen not to wear my fuelbelt and it wasn't warming up so I was kind of cursing myself.  Add to it that the spacing of the aid stations didn't work well with the timing when I like to take my GUs and I could notice a definite half to three-quarters mile of tiredness before I could finally reach an aid station to take my GU with.

I loved seeing so many runner friends those first 4-5 miles.  Granted, they were all passing me, but that's okay. :-)  I appreciated the quick encouragement we would give each other in passing.  Funny moment as we came up to the sports photography location around mile 6, and I heard "Adriene taught me how to do this".  I said, over my shoulder, "Adriene Thompson?"  And I hear a "yeah" to turn and see runner friend Paul who was also surprised to see me!  We were both on a series of comments on Facebook with Adriene about smiling pretty for the cameras - so funny how that came together in that moment!

I was pretty strategic through the miles, and I know it paid off.
1) I didn't go out too fast, but got a little carried away in mile 3 with a slightly faster split...oops.
2) I paid attention to the paces of all the folks ahead of me to plan out my best route forward without weaving a ton or getting packed in around runners of different paces. 
3) I had memorized the route so would inch left or right as needed through the whole series of turns to ensure I took all those curves and corners as tight as possible to minimize covering additional unnecessary distance.

Another strategy came into play on mile 7 through 9, which is a one mile out-and-back where you get to pass a ton of people coming towards you from the other direction.  I spent that time focusing on the faces, looking for friends and cheering as I found each one.  It helped me keep my pace consistent and distracted/encouraged me.

Around mile 9, the 2:30 pace group caught up to me.  It was a bit of a mental hit.  I was starting to feel tired and a little distressed and concerned that the wheels would completely fall off before completing 13.1.  I watched the Christmas Tree and Angel (the costumes the lovely Miss Pat and Miss Wendy were wearing as pace leaders) run away from me and I just tried to keep it all together.

The next mile was hard and then we entered the Katy Trail.  At mile 10.5, the Knox-Henderson intersection with the trail, my husband and 2 year old daughter Marissa were stationed.  They were great motivation to keep on the pace target because I knew they were waiting to greet me and I had given them a set time of when to expect me.  When I came up to them, Marissa was zoned out from watching hundreds of strange runners pass by and I called her name three times as I got close up to her stroller before that sudden recognition came over her face.  It was the funniest look - the look of "Oh wait!  This is someone I know, and know WELL!"  She was happy and I gave her a quick kiss on the forehead.  I told my husband Steve I was on PR pace and had to go and he said "The 2:30 group JUST came through so you are doing GREAT!"  I took back off and it was a nice break from the race.  Maybe lost 20 seconds, as noticeable in that mile's split, but enjoyed seeing them.  This is only the second race of mine that my daughter has come to, and only the third one my husband has.  I've only asked them to come out when I need the motivation badly to push hard!

At mile 11, I caught up to Heels and Hills Run Team member Catherine.  She seemed to be slowing down a little - turns out her PR is just a minute faster than mine, 2:35, so she was angling to stay on PR momentum also.  I told her it was time to "run till we puke", and we took turns pushing each other.  We tried to keep our pace up and I quickly stripped down to my sports bra as I heated up immediately.  That turned out to be my second fastest mile of the race, an 11:21!  At mile marker 12, with 1.1 miles left, I told her I didn't want to puke, I didn't want to run, and I wanted to die.  But we kept going.  I faltered a little with an 11:52, but considering I just wanted to walk then, I'll take it.

The last two to three tenths of a mile we were coming out of the woods, the trail descended into the start of the cheering crowd, and I actually found inside me something I hadn't really ever had before - that last infamous "kick".  The sudden sprint where a runner looks like it's the easiest thing they've ever done.  And I can't believe I found it.  I went from an 11:31 average pace to - from 0.28 out to 0.18 out from the finish, I had a 10:22 pace, and then the last 0.18 to the finish I broke out even further with a 10:13 pace!  Passing a few people in those last crucial yards to get to the finish!

I had finished with a PR time of 2:32:55, 3 and a half minutes off my previous PR!  And while I would have loved to break 2:30, I knew that was a lofty goal going into this and one that could wait to be accomplished in the next couple half marathons.

But what's the most significant to me about the event was that last couple tenth of a mile.  I had done a 13 mile hard paced run WARMUP followed by 0.1 mile SPRINT.  And that showed me how much I had grown as a runner, in the ability to push the boundaries and push my comfort zone of my running.  And I'm most proud of that on this racing day!

Total: 13.28 miles on Garmin.  Final finish time on Garmin: 2:32:55 (actual chip time 2:32:51). 11:31 average pace.

Mile 1: 11:23
Mile 2: 11:21
Mile 3: 11:17
Mile 4: 11:30
Mile 5: 11:31
Mile 6: 11:30
Mile 7: 11:34
Mile 8: 11:23
Mile 9: 11:43
Mile 10: 11:56
Mile 11: 11:43
Mile 12: 11:21
Mile 13: 11:52
Next 0.1 on my watch (I mark a lap when my watch hits 13.1 even if the race is not quite finished): 10:22
Last 0.18 of the race: 10:13

Next up:  Work on weekly mileage as the hardest part of my halfs continues to be tired leg muscles, not cardiac or respiratory weaknesses.  Next race is Houston Half Marathon on January 17!


  1. There is a simple remedy for tired leg muscles, weight training especially squats, leg presses, lunges, but with high reps and low weights.
    Increasing your weekly mileage will hurt you in the long run as it will actually weaken your leg strength because you are not doing anything to compensate for that. Good luck.

  2. Thanks, F, for the feedback, I appreciate it. One of my problems though is that, for working on half marathons, my weekly mileage is pretty low and my long runs are often non-existent. Weekly mileage for me is typically 10-15 miles. I think that's one of the reasons my legs are tired is that they aren't used to that distance at the goal pace. I agree that I do need to start working in some weightlifting at the same time because it will help support those running muscles and strengthen/balance out my legs. Thanks again for your help!

  3. Yesterday was my first half. A buddy of mine from work sent me a link to your blog before the race. Your details of the course helped me out a ton. Stayed left at the start, between the rails on McKinney, etc. Had fun yesterday, ran a 2:31, sore as heck today, but worth it. Thanks!!!