This race was going to be my big goal race for the fall. My first true test of speed after having my son a little over a year ago. Going into this race I had a few months of really solid training, thanks to hiring a new running coach back in July. If you’ve read some other race recaps, you’ll know I had a coach to help me get ready for my first marathon in April 2014. It wasn’t a bad experience per say, but it made me hesitant to hire another and it was one of the reasons why I wanted to become a coach myself... to be a better coach and provide a better experience than the one I had. I had a great chat with my current coach leading into this race and she truly believed I was capable of meeting (and maybe beating) all of my goals I had set for myself based on my training.
When I go into an A race (meaning goal race) I usually try to set multiple goals. For the Baltimore Half Marathon they were:
C: Finish strong and healthy
B: Sub 1:45
A: Sub 1:42
Shoot for the Moon: Sub 1:40
We headed to the race expo on Thursday afternoon, so that Friday we could relax and spend a little time exploring the city. Going into race week my family had been in Nashville as my husband had a work conference. I got some solid runs in there but had spent more time on my feet than I had expected, so I really wanted Thursday and Friday to be about relaxing as much as I could so my legs would feel as fresh as possible.
I knew to hit my goals, this race would have to “hurt” and I had to be willing to make it hurt.
Race morning dawned cool and crisp, but race start time wasn’t until 9:45 am for the half marathon. Truly, I was totally on board with this! I typically head out for my long runs around 9 or 9:30 in the morning, so this felt normal to me! I was able to enjoy a great waffle from the hotel, orange juice and banana before heading out for a 15 minute warm-up jog about an hour before the race start. After the jog, I hit the port-o-potty lines. They weren’t too long yet which was greatly appreciated! My body always seems to know it’s race day… if you know what I mean!
I finished my warm-up with drills and strides with about 15 minutes before the race started. I felt primed and ready to go, but nervous about finding that uncomfortable zone and hanging on to it as long as I could. After I headed to the start line I took off my long sleeve throw away shirt and waited for the gun to go off.
Thayne and Parker weren’t there yet as start time was close to Parker’s morning nap. They would find me at the finish line though, and that’s what counts!
In my pre-race chat with my coach we came up with a pacing plan and we knew (based on the elevation chart) that it would be challenging, but definitely do-able to hit my goals. She had full belief that 1:42 was more than possible as long as I was willing to work for it. My speed workouts leading up to this race really had been more about building strength as they’ve all been at my threshold pace and steady effort, versus a sprint type of pace. I actually did the math to see what the average incline was going to be from miles 3-6.2ish. With the downhills included, it only came out to be about a 1% incline! That’s not too bad!
I was able to line up pretty close to the front of the start line, and then suddenly the race was off! We had a small incline right away, and I knew that since we were starting near the city and heading straight into the tall buildings that my GPS probably wouldn’t be accurate right from the beginning. I needed to just go off effort and keep my heart rate in check. My coach had said to begin around 7:45-7:50 pace and try to build as the race progressed making the last 3-4 miles really hurt. We also discussed not looking at my watch during the uphill portions because it can kind of mess with your mind if you see your pace slow, but your effort stays the same or is increased. But you can “make up” that time on the downhills if you keep your effort similar.
My watch ticked off the first mile at a 7:07 (oops… too fast!) but I passed the first mile marker around 7:28 in total time (closer, but still too fast!) Mile 2 flattened out, but I was still a little fast at 7:20. I didn’t feel like it was forced or I was running “out of control” so I decided to go with it. Mile 3 had a big downhill and ticked by at 6:54 pace. I knew the next few miles would be climbing though and considered this to be somewhat banked time. I decided to not look at my watch until I heard each mile beeps and go solely on effort and feel.
Now, I am definitely not an advocate on starting out fast and trying to bank time in a race. I really think it’s better to start a bit more conservatively and build as you go. But sometimes you just feel good and have to roll with the punches you’re given on that day! So, roll with it I did.
Miles 3-6 were 7:16, 7:00, 7:33. Mile 6 was the steepest climb in the first half of the race, so I expected this mile to be slower anyway. I was happily surprised I was still in the mid 7s! I knew we’d have about 2 flat miles as we circled a lake near the city. I found a good group of other strong ladies to run with and tried to tuck behind other runners when we headed into a bit of wind. Both miles 7 and 8 were 7:16 pace. Not too bad!
Once we hit mile 9 I knew all the climbing was over except for one more hill close to the finish. I’d worry about that when I got there… but for now decided to keep cruising and pushing the pace. I was on pace for that sub 1:40 shoot for the moon goal! Mile 9 was 7:31 and 10 was 7:30. I still felt good but could feel the fatigue coming on. Only a 5k left! The real race has started.
Mile 11 had a good flat stretch into a slight downhill and brought a bit faster pace at 7:08. I knew that last hill was coming and when I started to climb it I started to have the first negative thoughts enter my mind of the entire race. Usually, this hits closer to mile 8 or 9 so I was thrilled to be this close to the finish before these thoughts crept in. I just kept telling myself that I was strong and capable and was almost (thank goodness) there. My 12th mile was 7:19. Only one to go, and downhill from here to the finish line with one left hand turn!
My last full mile was back to 7:09 and I pushed with all I had to the finish line from there. Thayne yelled at me from somewhere in that last push and I saw him and Parker just before I sprinted (well, it at least really felt like sprinting) past them. It was great to see some familiar faces. My watch says my last push was 5:38 pace (HA… I doubt it) but also had me at 13.27 miles overall. From the first mile my watch was already .08 off in distance, and stayed that way until about mile 12, where it picked up a bit more added distance as we came back into the downtown high rise buildings area. So while I’d love to think my final sprint the finish was in the 5’s I know it wasn’t.
I was THRILLED with this race and the end result. My current half marathon PR is from Louisiana in 2016 where I ran a 1:34:58. That course was fairly flat and 2016 was the year I felt unbeatable, PR’ing every race distance I ran that year. So to finish this challenging, hilly race feeling good and within 60 seconds of my PR at only 13 months postpartum… to say I was ecstatic is an understatement! Officially I ran 1:35:51 for 7:19 pace overall.
I texted my coach and she was SO exciting, asking me to call when I had time. It’s such a great feeling to have someone else feel confident in your goals and dreams (my husband very much so believes in me too, by the way!) and to help you feel like they are achievable as well. I know that in 2019 I will break my half marathon PR and I can’t wait to see what comes up next!
Also… this race was my birthday gift to myself. I’ve never ran a race ON my birthday, and I couldn’t be happier with the result and choosing this race as a way to celebrate myself.
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