A little over 2 1/2 years ago, I decided to train for my first half marathon. It started in February of 2012. I had seen a few friends do one, and for some crazy reason, after running (with lots of walking) a 5K with Christal, we decided to train for the Savannah Rock n Roll Half Marathon in November of 2012. I honestly think it was more about the trip to Savannah at the time with our spouses and no kids than about being able to run the half marathon.
Due to school, work, and family commitments, Christal had to give up on the training after a few months, which left me to finish training on my own. Luckily, I picked up a few friends at church to run with during that first year, but it was going to be a long tough road to get to Savannah that year, but I can’t thank those guys and girls enough because I’d have given up if I didn’t have them to make it through those runs at that point.
I ran/walked the Savannah Half Marathon in 2:33:33, and it was miserable! I started too fast and hit the wall around mile 10, and I really had no desire to ever try it again. Thanks to several new running buddies, Atlanta Southside Runners, and Moms Run this Town, I continued to run, and I eventually started enjoying runs, even the 5 AM ones that I SWORE I’d NEVER do.
Several half marathons, a disastrous marathon, a handful of short distance triathlons, 25lbs lost, and a Half Ironman later, I ran Soldier Half Marathon on Nov. 8th, 2014, almost 2 years to the day from my first. I had just under 6 weeks after the Augusta Half Ironman to get ready for the Soldier Half Marathon. In that 6 weeks, I also had to recover from Augusta and hopefully build some speed for the half marathon since I wanted to PR it. My PR going into the Soldier Half was 2:11:15 at the Red Nose Half in January of 2014. After Augusta, I was hoping for around 2:05 at Soldiers. A quick 6 weeks of training wasn’t going to allow for a lot of speed training, so I was hoping that was doable. Coach Chuck kept my running to 3 days a week to prevent injury, and he kept swimming and biking as part of the routine for my recovery days. I had speed work at the track, tempo runs, and long runs.
As I started doing the speed and tempo days, my pace was faster than I had thought it’d be, so I started to question if it was possible for me to go sub-2 which is a 9:09 minute mile. After a few tempo runs at this pace, Chuck and I talked about it. He said he predicted I would. I told him, “I think you’re smoking crack.” To which he replied, “no way….I can feel it.” We then discussed what my current PR was and that it was a big jump to go sub-2. I told him I didn’t think I could maintain the 9:09 pace for 2 hours. I mean if I had a full 12 weeks to train for it, then yeah, I might be able to do it, but my longest tempo was going to be 60 minutes of which only 45 would be “at tempo.” That was a long ways from 2 hours. Chuck never really conceded to my doubt, but after I told him my previous PR, he did admit he’s bad at math, and simply confirmed I could PR it. Well, duh! I knew that. He then reminded me that I wouldn’t be swimming and biking before it, and that my HR zones might not be what they should be because we need to do a HR test, and he left it at that. I swear Chuck knows how to get in my head, and then he just likes to let me stew over things for a bit until I bring them back up. Over the next few weeks with my runs, I kept questioning it in my head, and I discussed it with Wayne and a couple of other running buddies, and I was still concluding that I needed more training time to do it, so I needed to shoot for 2:03-2:06. The last week before taper, my track work and tempo went well, and based on what my track work speeds were, I guessed my current 5k pace. Using the McMillan online pace predictor calculator, my estimation of my 5k pace put me finishing a half right at 2 hours, but I still didn’t/don’t really think my 5k pace is as fast as I guessed based on my speed work, so I was continuing to toss the idea around. After a LOT of beating myself up and thought on why I kept saying I doubted it, I finally came to the conclusion that I was doubting myself because I was scared of failing. Yep, I hate to set my goals higher than I’m
pretty certain I can obtain. Even my goals that I keep to myself are usually ones that I’m pretty comfortable that I can reach.
I spoke to a running friend, Jerome, about my possible goal, and I admitted to him that I was hesitant to go for it because of fear. I hadn’t admitted that to anyone else, so admitting it was a big step, and boom, there it was, in my face. I wasn’t doing something because I was freaking scared! It was a huge PR I wanted. I wanted to cut 11 minutes. Jerome basically said to trust myself, go for it, he only believes in big PR’s, and he doubted I’d crash. What was the worst that could happen? I get to mile 9 or 10 and can’t make up the time for the sub-2 and end up with 2:05 or 2:08? No matter what, I could still pull out a PR at that point. Finally, around 7PM Nov. 3rd, I sent Chuck my race plan telling him I was going for the sub-2 and that I hoped I wouldn’t crash and burn around miles 9-10, and I let Dani and Shannon know what my goal was, then I was quiet about it. Coach Tony made another post on Nov. 6th:
Darn you Tony! What the heck? Did you, Chuck, and Jerome all have a conference call? I GET IT! I’m going for the sub-2. Ok, they didn’t really have a conference call, but really, they were all in my head all week, and I really do think Coach Chuck tends to not say much to me when I start thinking because he knows it gets my wheels turning more, and I think he is entertained by torturing me.
So…… Friday, Nov. 7th, Dani, Diane, and I get to Columbus. We grab dinner at Carrabbas around 5:20PM, and I had grilled chicken with a salad and broccoli, then we head to packet pick up and the hotel. After checking in, we meet up with about 30 of our ASR buddies in the lobby to hang out for the evening and discuss some race strategy. Wayne shows up, and I asked him what his goal for the half is. We discuss our goals, and figure we’ll meet up in the 4:10 corral in the morning which is the equivalent of a 2:05 half. My plan was to start the first couple of miles slow, and then pick it up. I was hoping starting with the 4:10 pacer would help with that since I had talked to the pacers at packet pick up, and they said they’d keep a steady pace. The 4:10 pacer would be around a 9:32/mile pace which is where I wanted to start, so that’s was the plan.
The weather on Saturday was going to be the perfect temps. We’d be starting at 39 degrees, no wind, and 54ish at the finish of the half. I just needed to figure out what to wear. Looking back at my Garmin notes from last year, I found a training run that started at 5AM in 41 degree weather, and I decided I needed arm sleeves, a short sleeve shirt, head cover, gloves, and shorts, so I laid out my clothes for the morning.
I didn’t sleep well that night, and I was feeling nervous for the first time in a LONG time about a half marathon. I had a protein bar and a cup of coffee with cream when I got up at 5AM, and around 6:45AM, I drank 3 scoops of Ucan, then we were off to the start line where we met up with friends.
After a quick stop in the museum and one last potty break, because there would be no time for that during the race today, we were off to the starting corrals. You had to enter the corrals from the start line and work your way back which was different, and I believe is what delayed the start somewhat. I got to my corral about 10 minutes before the scheduled start time, but there were people still coming through at 8AM. Around 7:50AM, Coach Chuck sent me a PM asking, “why are you not running yet?” 😉 Maybe he was having flashbacks to my oversleeping incident the last time I was in Columbus. “Starts at 8,” I sent back, and he simply replied, “go get it!”
Someone sang the National Anthem at 8AM, and then we were off. We started with the 4:10 pacer, but looking at my watch in the first 2-3 minutes, he was hovering closer to 9:50-10mm. This wasn’t my plan, and it would leave me more to make up later, so I decided I was pacing myself, and off I went. Wayne, Carl, and I were together for about 1/2 a mile, and Carl pulled away on his own. I was determined to stay at a 9:30 pace for the first 2 miles, so Wayne and I lagged behind. I had thought the biggest hill on the course was just before 2 miles, so I though it’d be during my warm up, but it was actually right after the 2 mile mark, when I was supposed to start picking up my pace, so instead my pace slowed, but I wasn’t going to push it up the hill because I knew that could spell disaster for me. Instead, I waited for the top of the hill and picked it up. Mile 3 came in at a 9:26 pace which was slower than the 9:06 that I had planned for miles 3-10, so I started letting some doubt creep into my mind. Wayne and I were still running together, but we weren’t talking about pace. We both knew where we wanted to be. For the next 3 miles, I picked up the pace to around 8:53, and about mid-way through mile 6, I came back to the downhill part of the big hill we went up earlier. I just relaxed, picked up my cadence down the hill, and let gravity help me. I topped out around an upper 6 min pace, but my HR wasn’t climbing any higher than it was on the flat so I felt comfortable. I slowed back down as I reached the bottom of the hill. However, I think the faster cadence stuck a little bit as I was having a hard time getting back to the 8:50-9mm range. Miles 7 & 8 ended up being in the 8:20ish range which was a little too early to hit those paces, and I knew I couldn’t sustain them for 7 miles. I was finally able to back it back off in miles 9-12 to 8:40-8:50mm. I had originally planned to pick up the pace in mile 11, but since I had already done it for 2 miles earlier, I decided to reassess and wait until the last mile to pick it up. Finally, the 12 mile marker! Time to kick it up a notch. I’d been chasing the same girl for the last couple of miles, so now was the time to see if she was going to pick it up or not. Sure enough, she did, so I picked it up a little more. I finally got past her, but then I began to wonder how much freaking longer it was to the finish line. I was definitely pushing my limits, and I knew I had a freaking hill to climb to the finish! We made the turn to climb the hill in front of the museum (granted it’s small, but really, who puts a hill just before the finish!?). I continued to push up the hill and made the final turn to run between the flags to the finish line. I still had a little left, picked it up a tad more and finished strong. The clock showed the gun time under 2 hours. My Garmin time: 1:56:03 My official time: 1:55:58. Thanks to my running buddies, coach, and Peak Racing ( http://www.peakracingteam.com ) for always pushing me mentally and physically. Not only did I get the sub-2 half, but I took off over 15 minutes on my half PR from less than a year ago. I couldn’t have done it on my own.