Lately blogging has felt like a chore, hence the weeks since my last post. But this past weekend I ran a race that I’m pretty excited to recap.
Going into the race, I wasn’t confident that I’d be able to pull off much more than a squeaker under 2 hours. I would have even been happy with that result; I haven’t run a half marathon in a while and I only needed sub-2:02 for a PR. My old PR of 2:02:13 was from this race last year. With much better training this year, just eking out a PR would have been underperforming.
I would have liked to make the 4 hour drive to Savannah early Friday afternoon, but circumstances didn’t allow us to arrive until nearly 11:00 the night before the race. I didn’t exactly eat the pre-race dinner of champions: I snacked in the car on a couple small slices of pizza, mashed sweet potatoes, prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, and barbecue potato chips. Not much planning or preparation, but it had some salt and carbs. On race morning, I had my normal pre-run banana-walnut-cinnamon oatmeal which I made ahead of time and brought with me. I didn’t think to bring coffee, a super important part of my pre-run ritual, and may have had a mini-freakout as a result of not being able to use the bathroom before the race. I was certain I’d have to take a portapotty break during the race and lose valuable minutes off my time.
Thankfully – and unlike last year – I remembered my shoes.
My training plan had me running two miles easy before the race, which I had just enough time to finish before the race. I did a few “strides” through the crowd to get to my corral and wake up my legs.
My projected finish time put me in corral 4, but I started in corral 6 because I didn’t want to be tempted to go out too fast and upset my often-fragile digestive system.
Miles 1-5: 9:23, 8:53, 8:49, 8:56, 9:00 (Garmin)
Through 5k: 27:56 (Official)
The first mile of the race has the only hill of any significance on the half marathon course, a bridge. I ran the first mile in 9:23 at what almost felt like an easy run pace. The next 3 miles were pretty flat, and I crossed the 5k mark at a decent but conservative mark of 27:56. I took the race pretty easy through mile 5, with miles 2-5 ranging in pace from 8:49-9:00. I had a Gu and water around mile 4. I remember thinking to myself that I was just going to hold myself back to have gas left for marathon training.
Miles 6-8: 8:31, 8:54, 8:32 (Garmin)
Through 10k: 55:37 (Official)
During mile 6, I realized my stomach felt fine and I started to really have fun and picked up the pace a bit. I owe a lot of this to meeting a couple of marathoners who were running a good pace and chatted with me about football. They gave me a good chuckle and a high five when I yelled “sic ’em Bears!” at an unsuspecting spectator in an Oklahoma hat. I ran mile 6 in 8:31 and didn’t even notice because I was having so much fun. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t notice that mile split because it probably would have concerned me. Mile 7 included a Gu and water station, so I looked down and saw a very normal/expected pace of 8:54 for that mile. The first mile that I noticed the mile split time and got nervous was mile 8 at 8:32.
Miles 9-10: 8:44, 8:45 (Garmin)
Through 10 miles: 1:28:46 (Official)
I backed off my pace a tad for miles 9 and 10, at 8:44 and 8:45. It was still a bit faster than I expected to run the race, but not so much that it scared me, and the pace felt sustainable. I passed the 10 mile mark at 1:28:46, and that was the first time I realized I could crush my expected time of around 1:58-2:00. I was feeling fatigued, but I was pretty sure I had a 27-28 minute 5k in me at that point.
Miles 11-13.1: 8:36, 8:38, 8:40, 0.2 in 1:33 (7:45/mile)
13.1 miles: 1:55:53 (Official)
Just after the 10 mile mark, the course turns on this beautiful residential street with a canopy of giant trees and Spanish moss. I remember this street from last year’s race, and I remember realizing I was undertrained and resigning myself to a tough and slow final 5k. This time around, I smiled as I knew that I could run a tough and fast final 5k.
Mental toughness is something I’ve really been focused on in training lately (last week I ran through stomach cramps right after eating sushi and thought it was a great opportunity to train my mental toughness – that was probably unnecessary). I had my first chance to draw on that mental toughness in miles 10-13, and used the classic “find a fellow runner and race them” tactic to keep my mind focused on pushing the pace.
I love making an enemy in a race, although I realize this might make me kind of a jerk. Having a race-enemy is just more motivating than picking off a runner and forgetting them.
I made my race-enemy in mile 11, where there was an aid station on a somewhat narrow residential street. I decided that I was close enough to the finish that I’d skip the final aid station. I stayed in the middle of the road through the aid station, and I saw a woman in pink veering toward the middle as she drank. Her path was so irregular that she could have passed for white-girl-wasted. I couldn’t move completely out of her way without running into other runners, so I grazed her as gently as I could and said “excuse me.” After all, we were in Savannah, politeness capital of the universe.
Perhaps 20-30 seconds later, past the aid station with a thinned-out crowd, I felt a bump on my side with a hard object, and I heard the words “excuse me” said in a taunting tone – it was pink tank woman! I assumed she was annoyed at me for running into her and was exacting a bit of revenge by clipping me with her watch – which stung a bit and ended up breaking the skin! Wrong move, lady, if you wanna mess up my race. Now I’m coming for you. I will destroy you and I will have an even more amazing race for it.
I’m not sorry that she sucks at running through aid stations and I gently bumped her as a consequence. I’m not sorry I chose to glance her arm rather than run into the other runners who were actually running in straight lines. And for the record, I did not shank her with my watch. Worst I might have done is graze her with my sweaty wristband.
We did battle for a couple of minutes and I left her in my dust on a tangent – I’m not sure why she took such a wide turn – but I looked for her the rest of the way and never saw her. Sweet victory.
Miles 11-13 were 8:36, 8:38, 8:40. I was running out of gas, but if I’m going to run my best race, the objective has to be to come pretty close to out of gas, right?
When I crossed the 13 mile marker at a little over over 1:55, I knew I had to give the last 0.1 everything I had to shoot for a sub-1:56 finish. I felt so determined, so fatigued, so strong, so proud of myself, and so tired all at once. I wish I knew exactly how fast I ran that 0.1, but I gained an extra 0.1 miles over the course of the race, so all I can tell is that the last 0.2 miles were at a 7:45/mile pace.
(I’m estimating my pace for the last 0.1 was 7:10-7:20/mile based on some nerdy analysis I did with known splits in Excel. #totalCPAmove.)
I crossed the finish line feeling amazing and horrible. I outperformed what I believed I was capable of running that day. I left almost all my energy on the race course. I felt sick to my stomach and a burn in my legs. I didn’t have to make a bathroom stop!
A few days removed from this race, one takeaway is I will no longer be able to go into a tempo run at an 8:50/mile pace without knowing I’m 100% capable of successfully completing the workout. I’ve lacked confidence going into some of my longer tempo runs lately. I’ve been pretty successful with them, but only because I’ve motivated myself by really embracing my favorite training mantra: “suffer now alone, or suffer later in front of a lot of people.” Embracing that discomfort has helped me to complete workouts when I lacked confidence that I was capable of completing the workout on that day. This race result has given me a measure of confidence that I lacked previously.
After the race, we took it easy, watched Baylor pummel OU, and rested up for dinner and an evening out on the town. If you’ve never been to Savannah, it’s a fun place to experience the nightlife, pretty waterfront, to-go beverages, and charming streets.
Other important race-stuff:
Number of runners: I heard there were about 17,000 between the half, full, and relay runners. I thought the course was a smidge too congested.
Weather: 46 degrees at start, or perfect.
Porta-potties: reasonable lines at start. Unreasonable lines at finish.
Medal: standard RnR fare, pretty nice.
Shirt: Brooks technical tee, design is meh.
Post-race beer line: too long to ever wait for Mich Ultra. Get a real beer instead.
Post-race food recommendation: skip the downtown traps and run out to Wilmington Island, where you can eat pounds of fresh seafood on newspaper at reasonable prices at Desposito’s.
Expo/gear check: I didn’t go to the expo or use gear check, but I hear they’re standard RnR.
Course: super flat, and I’d say pretty fast, other than some crowding at spots.
Best spectator spot: downtown between Anderson St. and Henry St., where you can see runners twice in a short window. Also an easy walk to the finish line.