New half marathon race strategy? Start fast and stay fast.
Half Marathon #13. It was probably the best weather I have ever had for a half marathon, high 50s/low 60s, and sunny. As usual, I left the watch behind for the race, but there were people calling out the time at every mile marker. I ran the first mile in about 6:24, and instead of freaking out and backing off, I decided to try just going with it. With the several short races I have done since my last half in June, I am used to starting at top speed and sprinting the entire race. I decided I had nothing to lose in this race, so I thought maybe I could get away with trying that strategy in a longer race. I hit mile 9 at one hour, and was still pushing the pace pretty hard. I was pretty sure I was on track to break 1:28 and get a PR.
The biggest hill of the race was in the last mile and a half. It wasn't any longer or steeper than anything I run at home, but it came at a rough spot in the race. I would have killed it earlier in the race. As it was, I was getting tired and out of breath, but I put my head down and powered up it one foot at a time. By the top I was barely breathing, but regained my breath coasting down the other side. The last mile of the race was flat/downhill, but I was spent, so I was really struggling to stay on pace. I got passed by a guy on the final stretch to the finish line, and while I was unable to beat him, he gave me the incentive I needed to find a last little bit of strength for the sprint to the finish. It also helped that I could see the clock and had already missed breaking 1:28. I finished in 1:28:29, which is only 27 sec off my PR, and the closest I have come to a PR since I set my last one in Myrtle Beach in 2012.
If all goes well, I should be able to PR at the Beckley 1/2 in October. It's not a difficult course, and it's hills are better placed to help me instead of slow me down.
My 1:28:29 finish placed me 7/353 females, and 51/833 total runners. I was 5th overall in my age category, but since some of the top 4 finishers were in that age category, I got a trophy for 2nd in the category.
Today, a friend gave me a copy of the newspaper, and the results have me listed as #2 USA finisher, and not mentioned in the age category awards. So I'm interested to see which I get a check for...since all checks are getting mailed out, rather than handed out at the awards ceremony.
Overall, I had a great race experience in Parkersburg. It is by no means my favorite course (too many long flat stretches...and all the hills but the last one were more like bumps in the road), but the race was well organized, volunteers were good about directing runners at turns, and the finish line area didn't bottleneck. That last bit is really important to me. After sprinting the finish of a race, I have to jog out for a bit or I cramp up pretty bad. I also need a chance to let my breathing ease back to normal. I hate being forced to stand or walk while gasping for air and needing to keep my legs from seizing. At this finish line, I crossed the line, slowed to a jog, was able to grab a wet towel from one volunteer, my medal from the next, and a water bottle from the next, all while maintaining a good jog, and then I was out of the finish zone and jogged around the block til I was ready to stretch. It was as perfect a finish line experience as I could have.
Big thanks to my friends in Belpre, OH who made my visit a fun one! It's always great to have a free place to stay and people to hang out with! It's been an awesome weekend to finish out the summer.