Sunday, February 28, 2010

Confluence of Events = Unlikely PR: Race Report for Cowtown Half Marathon

Saturday, February 27, 2010, I ran the Cowtown Half Marathon in Fort Worth, Texas.  I went into this race not feeling my best.  I had raced a half marathon 6 days prior and came within 3 minutes of a PR, and then, with an overwhelmingly busy and crazy week, I had not taken the time to get as good care of myself as I should of - not much icing, stretching, foam rolling, or resting going on!  I had pain in my left shin and my right hip was clicking with each step.  So practically, I knew I should go to this race and just enjoy the experience and not race it hard. 

Race morning I got there about 6:15 am for a 7:30 am start time and had no problem parking close.  It was about 36 degrees and it looked like it might warm up to about 42-43 by finish time, but the variable that was hard to gauge was the cold NW wind.  Fort Worth is known for being windy, and even a slight breeze would make you feel much colder.  So the front seat of my car had about half my closet sitting there as I went to choose items to form my complete outfit.  I ended up picking well it turned out - ear warmer, long sleeve shirt, throwaway gloves, sunglasses (it was a clear sky), tights with shorts over them.

Getting into the start corral was a bit of a mess.  With about 20,000 runners across the 5 events, it was chaotic.  I ended up jumping a bicycle barricade to get into the corral.  I crossed the start about 17 1/2 minutes after the gun, and I was NOT in the very back either.  I knew there were pace groups for the half marathon for 2:20 and 2:30 finishes.  I was getting the itch at the race start to really race it, so I didn't want to fall in with the 2:30 pace group, even though friend Marcie was the pace leader so that group was attractive with a familiar face.  And 2:20 was not even funny - I knew I couldn't hang with them long.  But ironically, shortly after the start, I saw the 4:50 marathon group come up.  Well, the marathon doesn't split off until mile 8, so half of 4:50 meant this was equivalent to a 2:25 finish time for the half marathon.  If I could keep with them to the split and then allow myself to slow down a little, I might barely make a new Personal Record.

I asked the pace leader some questions - he had on a vest that said Coach Joe and one of those full ski masks with sunglasses so I couldn't see his full face.  He told me they were going to do 7 minute run / 1 minute walk intervals.  The run intervals would be on an approx 10:54 pace to average out with the walk to the low 11's.  Now that's fast for me and I have not run intervals in a year or two.  I used to use intervals in all my half marathons, but I was at a point in my training that I had cut out all walk breaks.  So this was going to be interesting.  I then realized from the name and the voice, that this pace coach wasn't a stranger.  Coach Joe and I had met many times at the chiropractor's office! He's a pastor and a coach for Team in Training, and just a very motivational and positive person generally.  I knew I needed to stick with this group.  There were about 7 of us hanging with Coach Joe.

Sadly though Coach Joe ended up running us at 10-10:30 paces on the runs, so we were averaging out to about 10:45-10:55 as the miles piled on.  I questioned this and he said we were banking time for later in the race - you know, when I wouldn't be there since I was the sole half marathoner in the group. Argh.
Here's an illustration of how fast this pace was - my mile 4 split was 10:14. This is faster than my 5K PR pace of 10:20. Ack!
By mile 6, my heart rate was shooting up during each run segment and I was yelling about how stupid I was.  I shouted, "Why am I doing this? This is my speedwork pace.  I'm basically doing 7 minute speed repeats in a half marathon race! This is faster than my 15K PR pace, this is faster than my 15K PR pace!" A guy who happened to be running beside me said, "This is what happens when the adrenaline starts to wear off" and we laughed.  But I didn't want to lose this group - it was the only thing keeping that pace going.  I started leapfrogging more with the group, taking my walk breaks on the uphills and sprinting downhills to keep averaging out to their pace and catching back up to them.

At mile 8, they split off and I was on my own.  I didn't obsess over my Garmin much and just occasionally checked my average pace to make sure I was staying on track.  I would take short 30 second walk breaks when I felt like I really needed it.  There's a few miles late in the race on bricks/cobblestones.  This had been awful for me last year - bricks settle at different angles over time and slight changes can ripple from your feet through your ankles, knees, etc.  This year, I would hug the concrete curb or jump up on the sidewalk, and I gained a lot of time and passed quite a few people through these sections.

I had a decent kick at the end and finished with a 2:26:17! A new PR (previous PR was 2:29:23 set 6 weeks ago in Houston)!  I crossed the finish to see friends Sarah and Cruz waiting for me - it was great to celebrate that moment with friends!

Getting my official finish pic from the photographers.  Thanks, Cruz, for the picture!

For fun - here's my race report for this race in 2009...

All-Outdoor Running Streak: Day 54
6th Half Marathon in 2010
Third Half Marathon in 14 days
3 minute, 6 second improvement on my PR
16 minute, 23 second improvement over my finish time at this race last year (2:42:40)

Next Up:
Next weekend we have a Heels and Hills team participating in the Texas Independence Relay - a 12-person, 40 leg, 203.2 mile relay from Gonzalez, Texas to Houston, Texas.  I'll be driving one of the vans and running three of the relay legs.  Since I'm driving, I kept my mileage a little lower than the rest of the team, so my total is 14 miles over the whole weekend. 

Following weekend I'll be on vacation in Napa with my husband and our good friends.  And then my first double half marathons at Seabrook Lucky Trails Marathon on March 20-21 - run the half marathon on Saturday and then run the same course again on Sunday! Eek!

Mile 1: 11:05
Mile 2: 11:09
Mile 3: 10:51
Mile 4: 10:14
Mile 5: 11:11
Mile 6: 10:44
Mile 7: 10:58
Mile 8: 11:27
Mile 9: 11:12
Mile 10: 11:15
Mile 11: 11:04
Mile 12: 11:51
Mile 13: 11:44
Mile 13.1 (last 0.16 per Garmin): 10:04


  1. Awesome job on the PR! Run walk intervals always confound me. I actually have issues with walking - once I start I find it's hard/painful to start running again. Sounds like a decent way to get through a race though if you're used to it!

  2. Outstanding! I am so impressed!

  3. Great work! You know, my half marathon PR came at a time when I had no business PRing. It was at this year's White Rock. I had been in rehearsals late during the week, played concerts Fri and Sat nights at the Winspear Opera House, didn't get to sleep until after midnight both those nights, woke up feeling exhausted, ran a PR half, showered and played 2 more concerts that Sunday! Looking back, I am not sure how I did it! The closest I have been to that PR since is 2 minutes! Crazy! Isn't it funny when those perfect races come when we least expect it!

  4. Congrats Libby. Those bricks on Camp Bowie tear me up too. I'd almost rather run uphill. Keep up your inspiring work.