Coach Thyself--Half-Marathon Race Report

I coached myself to a new half-marathon PR today in the Music City Half-Marathon! 2:09:44 (That was for 13.23. I was around 2:09 at 13.1, but the course was a little long or I didn't run on the tangent.) I was 8th out of 23 in my age group.

I didn't train for this race, per se. It just happened to be in the middle of marathon training. This high-mileage, easy pace training REALLY works. I'm logging between 30 and 36 miles per week, mostly at an easy, conversational pace. A few intervals with my half-marathon group a couple of times and one tempo run is what my speed work has consisted of over the last few months. I didn't taper. I actually had to run 18 miles this week, including 4 miles the day before the race with my training groups! (What could I have done if I were actually rested???)

I didn't think I'd be a convert to high-mileage training, but it is really improving my cardiovascular system, lactate threshold, and VO2 max. Those improvements were enough to knock nearly 2 minutes off my time from March on this same course (2:11:41).

The race itself was great. I slowly jogged a mile before the race began because the training schedule called for 18 miles and I needed to warm up anyway. It was sunny and about 38 degrees at the start. I hoped to keep the pace between 9:50 and 10:10/pace. At the end of mile 1, I thought I might be having a good day. (And I realized that I had overdressed for the temps in a long-sleeved technical tee and technical lightweight jacket over it.) By the end of mile 2, I was fairly certain it was going to be a good day. My first two miles were a 9:50 pace and 9:49 pace, right on target. I had planned to walk through the 4 water stops, but I decided to keep going at the first one and jogged/drank/spilled through the stop at 2.8 miles.

Around miles 3 and 4, I was feeling really good at a 9:45 pace, which is unusual for me. In the past, that was my lactate threshold--- if I were running faster than 9:45, I knew lactic acid would build up in my legs later in the race (at miles 8+) and I'd be wanting to walk. But today, 9:45 felt right. The negative splits continued (to my dismay--I still a little worried in the back of my mind I was going out too fast) with a 9:47 mile, 9:40 mile and 9:41 mile. Miles 4 and 5 would be my fastest of the day.

I finally reigned in the adrenaline a little and starting logging 9:45-9:59 paces, including walking for 5-10 seconds through 3 water stops--the only walking for the race. I took gels at miles 5 and 9 DRY, which I know is "against the rules," but there were no water stops there. (Note to self: memorize where water stops are and plan accordingly.)

Eight miles is often a turning point in a half-marathon for me. In my first half-marathon a year and a half ago, I felt good at 8 miles with proper pacing and lots of Accelerade, which really works for me, and had a great race. In the last 3 half-marathons, the 8-mile mark was when things started going down hill. But, suddenly, I was at the 9-mile mark, then the 10, and my miles were all still coming in under a 10-minute pace. I was running consistently. Yes, I had to work harder in miles 10, 11, 12, and 13, but I maintained a sub 10-minute pace. Mile 12 was my slowest at 9:59 pace. Mile 10 came in at a happy 9:47 and mile 13 was a 9:48 pace! Then I was at 13, then 13.1, then 13.2......

I knew the distance would be off because the last time I ran the course, it was longer than 13.1 due to winding paths with runners coming at you---so you have to run on the edge rather than the middle, which would be the shortest distance at which the course is measured. My chip time comes to a 9:55/average pace (but that's averaging me for 13.1 miles when I ran an extra .12 for a total of 13.23 if my Garmin is correct), but my Garmin clocked me at a 9:49 pace. That makes more sense considering my splits. I only had 3 miles above 9:55/pace and several in the 9:40's.

It helped that the course was almost completely flat. There were maybe 2 gentle inclines and one small hill.

Afterwards, I realized that my biceps hurt so much. I must have been clenching my fists and really holding my arms flexed for the entire 13 miles! I feel like I did a hundred bicep curls! And a pretty hard effort for 13 miles left me with achy knees and lower back and a tingly piriformis and a few other ailments. Sports massage, anyone? Then my husband met me for a PAINFUL 4 more miles to get me to 18. I walked all of the last mile and a lot of the other 3, but I'm at 18 for the day and 36 for the week. Ouch.

Splits and such:
Mile 1 9:50
Mile 2 9:49
Mile 3 9:47
Mile 4 9:40
Mile 5 9:41
Mile 6 9:52
Mile 7 9:49
Mile 8 9:58
Mile 9 9:50
Mile 10 9:47
Mile 11 9:57
Mile 12 9:59
Mile 13 9:48 2:07:47 at 13 miles....might have sneaked in under 2:09 for 13.11. I can usually finish the .11 in about a minute. Wish I'd glanced at my Garmin!
Mile .23 8:52/pace

13.23 miles 9:49 average pace. It was a GOOD day. By the way, my A. goal (best case scenario) was 2:10. And I beat THAT.


Congrats! Glad the race went so well and you got a PR! I've had those tired post-race arms, too. Now I try to relax them when I run. Happy running!
EricaH said…
Congrats on beating your goal, glad it was a good race. I can't believe you ran every mile in under 10 mins. that is amazing :)
way to go.... doesn't it feel so good to run a PR?!?! I am so super proud of you.
Mama said…
Great job on the half! Way to get a PR without trying!

MCM Mama
Jennifer P said…
Super! And sometimes those high milage runs are the only ones that we can get in - great work.
Meg Runs said…
Nice job, you had such an easy attitude about the race, I'm sure you were able to relax more and even PR'd. Great job!
Stacey said…
Congratulations. Sounds like it was a GREAT day for you! Way to go!
Congratulations! That's a great time for the half -- yay!
Amy said…
Yay!!! Congrats on the PR! Don't you love it when early on in the race you just know you've got the mojo for the day? Great job!!!
Lisa said…
congratulations on a PR!!! Sounds like a great race. You ran it very smart.