Sunday, October 6, 2013

Beckley Half Marathon

I finally won a half marathon!  
(Never mind that it's only because the crazy-fast people didn't show up...a win is a win!)
(and I did run an incredible race)

At the Parkersburg 1/2 back in August, I started out really fast, decided to stay fast, and ended up closer to my PR than I had ever come since I set it in February 2012.  So, I decided to try that strategy again.  I knew that the Beckley course was the perfect place for me to PR, it's the perfect mix of flat and rolling hills for me to run fast and strong.

Standing on the starting line with Terry, who I often run into at races, a guy on the other side of me asked me what time I was shooting for.  I said definitely under 1:30, hopefully under 1:28.  He said he was hoping to get 1:30 and that he would try to stick with me.  The 3 of us went out strong and together.  There was one guy who sprinted ahead at the beginning and gained ground for the whole race. There was nobody between him and our little group.  We ran the first mile in 6:29.  The three of us stuck together for the first 3 miles, then Terry fell back.  His goal had been to stick with me as long as he could and then drop back.  The other guy stuck with me until around mile 6.  It was really nice to have someone to run with for so long.  Usually I'm stuck by myself. I was hoping we'd be able to help each other out for the whole race, but I'll take half over nothing!  He ended up finishing around 1:30, which was a big PR for him.

Here we are, I think this is shortly after the 5th mile marker.

As we reached the 6th mile marker and I started pulling ahead, I felt great.  My stride was smooth and holding the fast pace felt almost effortless.  My right hip had been hurting at the beginning of the race, but I don't think it was really bothering me.  At some point during the second half of the race I realized that the pain had shifted to my left hip.  I was running alone after the 6th mile marker until about the 11th mile marker. I got passed by 1 guy early in the second half of the race, but I didn't even try to stay with him as he passed me, because I knew I had a good pace and that it wouldn't be a good idea to push it any further.  By the 9th mile marker, I was feeling the strain on my lungs from maintaining the fast pace, but I did my best not to let it slow me down.  The guy who passed me with about 2 miles to go is someone I see at a lot of races.  I beat him easily in the last few races.  (Although he would have beat me by a landslide at Charleston if I hadn't had that crazy kick at the end and 5k sprinted the last few miles.)  When he passed me yesterday, I tried to stay with him, and we went back and forth for a minute or two, but I was really struggling to breathe, and had to give up on staying with him.  He ended up beating me by 17 secs.  With a mile to go, another guy passed me.  I was miserable at that point, having a very difficult time getting oxygen into my lungs.  I went back and forth with him as I alternately slowed and surged forward.  Since I had absolutely no idea whether or not there were any girls gaining on me close enough to pass, I was reluctant to slow down, but I needed oxygen.  I kept telling myself the sooner I got to the finish line the sooner I could breathe again.  (I can survive for a mile without oxygen...right?)  I was familiar enough with the course to know the layout of the streets/turns coming up to the finish line, so I knew exactly at which point I could go into a complete sprint and make it to the finish line before collapsing from lack of oxygen.  I was in 4th place as I reached that point, and then I turned on the speed and gave the end of the race absolutely everything I had to give.  The last 50 meters or so is downhill, and it's steep enough where it hurts to pound it out.  With the way my left hip was hurting, pounding it out was probably far from a good idea, but I had to get across that line.  I was so focused on getting across the line so that I could catch my breath, that I completely forgot to look at the clock.  And so I had absolutely no idea if I had PRd or even come close.  (Although I was fairly certain I had to be close, I knew I had run a great race.)  

After the finish line, I managed to maintain a jog just long enough to prevent my legs from cramping up.  It was hard, as I was gasping for air, but I held the slow jog until I knew I was out of the danger zone for my legs, and then I walked.  It probably did not take much more than 5 minutes for my breathing to return to normal, but it was a rough 5 minutes.  I knew that if I missed my PR, it would be solely because of my lungs at that point.  

Turns out I did miss the PR, by 19 seconds.  I know that if my lungs had stayed strong, I would have easily gotten that elusive PR that I have been struggling to get.  I'm going to blame the crazy weather we've been having.  30s at night and 80s during the day always wreaks havoc on my health.  

My time this year would not have gotten me the win last year or the year before, buy lucky me neither of those winners showed up this year.  So even though I didn't achieve my time goal, I did achieve my goal of winning!

As I was typing this blog post, I got a message from a friend with the newspaper article from the race.  Complete with a picture of me dying on the finish line.  And a quote from me proving to the world that I'm a terrible hill snob.  Apparently everyone else thought the course was really difficult with huge hills.  

Oh, and by the way, the weather was absolutely PERFECT during the race.  Not too hot, not too cold.  Just cool enough that I didn't need to stop at a single water table.  The race started at 8, so I finished around 9:30.  By 10:30, it was about 85 degrees and blazing sunlight.  Glad I got the race over with before that!  Gorgeous day though.  

This week:
M: rest day
T: 4.7 / 35:31 / 7:33
W: 4.7 / 34:18 / 7:17
R: off
F: off
Sa: 13.1 / 1:28/20 / 6:44
Su: rest day 
total : 22.5

Now it's time to rest for a bit...and then attempt to condition my lungs so that I can have a strong race here in Lewisburg on the 26th without having to worry about dying from lack of oxygen.  

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