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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

(Happy) Recap: The Rut 11k

The Rut 11k took place on Sunday, September 2 at 8:00am in Big Sky, MT. There are four races in the entire Rut series: VK, 11k, 28k, and 50k.

The Rut takes over Big Sky Resort on Labor Day weekend. Last year we handed out medals for the 28k and knew we wanted to run in 2018. A few of The Rut races sell out almost immediately, so we went to a sign up party back in winter to register for the 11k. The longer distances are pretty extreme, running over scree at 11,000+ft, so the 11k sounded fine to me!

Pre Race
Alex volunteered on Saturday. I would have liked to but we had a friend visiting, so I showed her around Big Sky. Later, we checked into our hotel (as close to the start/finish as we could get!), our friend headed to Yellowstone, and Alex and I settled in for the night.

We woke up a little after 6, got ready, and had a ton of time to kill before the race. About 10 minutes before line up we ambled down to the start and I immediately saw some Bozeman friends.

Bozeman runner friends!

Goals, etc.
I didn't have big goals for this race because my knee had been bothering me since the Missoula Half and Cross Cut. I had to wait almost a month for a PT appointment, but she taped me up and gave me some instructions (smaller steps, quicker cadence). My "big goals" were:

A. Don't finish last
B. Don't hurt your knee
C. Scout the course for next time
D. Finish sub 1:47*
(*because that's how long it took my friends to finish a few years ago and it seemed like a good goal.)

Crappy photo of the start

The Race
I thought I'd run with the Bozeman ladies, but they had their own goals, so I was on my own. We lined up in Wave 2 and we were off. Three tenths into the race–just as I was starting to feel tired on an uphill–we switched from double- to single-track and there was a traffic jam. Alex said this kind of happened in Wave 1, but he didn't have to walk much. Honestly, I was kind of thankful. The walking was easy–we weren't climbing a big hill–and it allowed me to warm up. It was pretty annoying to be stuck behind so many people, but I wasn't going for speed, so I just tucked in. Looking back, I'd probably start at the front of Wave 2 and not the back. 

After about three minutes of walking we started trotting and wound our way through some woods, then emerged on a ski hill. It was a little rocky and the two times I looked around to enjoy the scenery I tripped, but if I kept my eyes on my feet I was ok. It was technically technical, but nothing like the trails the 28k and 50k racers would see. 

Going into this race, I knew there was one BIG climb and then a steep downhill. The big climb started just after mile 1 and lasted until mile 5. It was *only* 1,500ft, so just a teeny bit more than the second climb in Cross Cut, but knowing this race was 3 miles shorter with a single tough climb made all the difference. Easy! I can do that.

This is my kind of course. ONE giant climb. That's it. 

We began the climb in a grassy field and I remember turning a corner and seeing the switchbacks ahead. It was a bit daunting to see how far we had to climb, but I stuck with the folks around me.

At mile 3 I ate my gel very slowly. I was still cautious after my terrible gel-induced cramps at Missoula, but this one seemed to go down ok. I took advantage of every flat section and downhill and passed a few people. I was tired and it was hard, but it wasn't the end of the world.

Just before mile 4 we took a sharp switchback and the real climb began. Hoo boy. Not only was this section of trail way rockier and filled with loose dirt, but it was super steep. For less than a half mile we climbed grades betweens 15 and 30%. Woof. 

I was thankful for Cross Cut. I was thankful I tried to climb the steep M trail a week before (and kind of failed, but at least I knew I'd make it). And I was thankful for the guy directly in front of me. He looked super fit (always a boost to be around someone like that–I think he ran the 28k the day before) and had a tattoo on his ankle that I could focus on. There was a guy behind me who'd run this before and kept making funny comments. It was nice to know the people around me were struggling, but that we were all in a good mood.

I totally would have stopped if I was hiking the trail alone or if I'd found myself alone on the course. I think that's important for me to remember: I need to be around people when the going gets tough. If I'm on a trail run with friends I always feel stronger. And in the races I've hated it's usually because I've gone in with a bad attitude, I'm getting passed left and right, and not staying with a group. Sometimes I need to tuck in and follow until I get my strength back.

I know proofs are lame, but people hate this photo company... (there's a whole story)
That super steep bit ended and we were back to 3-15% inclines, which felt "easy." This part of the course included a banked mountain bike trail where it was hard to cut corners because of the slope on the edge. We hit a few false summits, but the people around me kept it light.

I eventually caught up to a Oiselle teammate, which I was not expecting. Honestly, that put a little pep in my step. She wasn't having a stellar day and didn't seem as excited to see me (you know, her injured slowpoke teammate lol), but we chatted until we came to the aid station at the top of the hill.

The aid station sat on a wide access road and marked the beginning of the downhill. For a lovely three tenths of a mile we ran on a wide gravel road. I felt so fast! The course abruptly turned back into the woods and I was faced with an insane downhill. Strava says -38% grade. It looked like a slide. I was thankful to be near my Oiselle teammate because she'd run the race before and slid down on her butt. I followed, happy that I hadn't tried to run it and mess up my leg.

Speaking of my leg: NO PAIN! I'd taped it, but I'd also concentrated on upping my cadence. The biggest test of my knee was the downhill. My PT said to take short, quick, steps to the sides. It worked! I ran the downhills faster than normal. My footing was more confident than Cross Cut's steep descent. I have been stronger on casual trail runs this year vs. last (less trips and falls) and it felt so good to finally feel some progress!

I knew the course was short, so I flew down to the finish (and passed 20+ people according to the split data). I stayed with a pod of other runners, passing some on the short uphills. My Oiselle teammate took off, but I didn't finish far behind. When we came to the final wide gravel trail I sped up, but didn't want to bite it in front of the spectators so I kept myself in check.


Post Race
I crossed the line and wandered around for a while trying to find Alex. I saw one of my Bozeman friends finish and met up with Oiselle teammates. Two of them won the 60+ age group, so we stuck around to watch the awards while drinking free coffee and chocolate milk.

Some Oiselle MT teammates

Leanne and me

Stats and Thoughts
I was so happy when I crossed the finish line and had tons of energy to spare, so I know I could go faster. It was night and day from my bad attitude at Cross Cut. I loved this race! The climb was hard, but the downhill was rewarding.

Time: 1:34:46
Overall: 242 / 498
Gender: 143 / 342
Age Group: 62 / 123

I can't wait to try this again with more training and less knee pain in the lead up. I'd like to say I'd run the 28k, but it's a very exposed course at high altitude, which is not my scenic jam. Additionally (and maybe most importantly) it took a similarly paced Oiselle teammate 7:30 to finish and I don't want to spend that much time on a race that isn't a 50k.

Sunday Fun
Directly after the race Alex and I returned to the hotel and took advantage of the outdoor heated pool and hot tub. It was amazing. Post shower and check out, we headed back to the finish line to watch our friend finish the 50k, then drove home. It was such a lovely Sunday.

I'm jealous of myself and I was there.

From the draft folder: (Whiny) Recap: Cross Cut 15K

This post has been in my drafts folder for two months. Whoops. My most recent (steep) trail run was a completely different experience (all thanks to a better attitude), but I'm sharing this post because at the time I was really annoyed with trail running and it's kind of amusing. 

Alex and I ran the 15k. Kate ran the 25k.

The Cross Cut 15k took place on Saturday, July 21 at 7:00am. There were two distances: 25k & 15k.

Grumble, Grumble
I ran a half marathon the weekend before and my legs didn't recover as fast a normal. Maybe because we had a friend in town and I spent the week hiking. My legs were still a little sore on Friday and my reoccurring knee pain had returned.

I'll be perfectly honest: I did not want to run this race. I signed up months ago at the request of an acquaintance who said we'd train together. We played phone tag and never ran. Two weeks before race day she sent a weird text like, "I need to start training haha Did you sign up?" Did I sign up!?! I said I did in March! Ack. Come race day she was no where to be found. If Alex wasn't signed up I would have bailed, too!

The Plan: DNF
I planned to run the first uphill and drop at the aid station if my knee was bothering me. I said, "if my knee was bothering me" but in my mind I'd already decided to drop. Why not? I didn't feel like doing it and I've never DNF'd. There's gotta be a first time! Not a great attitude, huh?

This is the only race photo I'm in. grumblegrumble
The "Race" 
(FYI: This is a really long recap because it felt like a really long race.)

We set off just after 7:00am and began the (ridiculous) first climb. I ran/hiked until the slope became too steep and decided not to exert too much energy. We were climbing up the ski hill access roads with the 25k-ers until just after a mile when the 15k split off to climb an actual ski hill.

It was single track/narrow dirt path up the hill. Fortunately (or unfortunately) I'd hiked some of it a few weeks before when I ran the Bridger ridge line, so I knew what to expect. The first climb lasted til 1.7 and I hated every moment. I huffed and puffed loudly, got passed by a bunch of "good job"-ers, and stopped to "take a photo" (aka catch my breath and question my decisions).

Not even close to the worst part.

My knee hurt, but it wasn't terrible. Regardless, I planned on dropping as soon as I saw the aid station. In the back of my mind I remembered the aid stations were 3-4 miles apart. Ugh. Could I wait that long? Could I just turn around and walk back to the start? My bad attitude increased...

Once we finished that first killer climb I was able to run for almost a half mile, then it was back to run/hike for another half mile. The faster 25k folks rejoined us in this section, so I stepped off to the side of the trail to let them pass. I wasn't wild about that, if I'm honest. Any time the 25k course joined the 15k course it was always the faster runners. I got out of their way, but it kind of messed up my rhythm. But at this time I was planning to drop, so who cared?

The mile between 2.5 to 3.5 was gorgeous. The wildflowers were beautiful thanks to the late June rains. I enjoyed this section because I was able to run most of it! I was in a pack of runners and followed their lead. It felt like a nice, normal trail run vs. the typical Bozeman "let's race up the side of this mountain." The aid station appeared around mile 3.5 and because I'd had so much fun –and, let's be honest: because it was only a mom and her two kids manning the aid station so how would I get down??– I grabbed some M&Ms, took a break, then decided to run until aid station 2.

I was able to keep up my momentum and ran most of the way between aid stations 1 and 2. There were a few short climbs, but it was mostly downhill. I felt like I was banking time and could maybe finish under 2:15. My knee hurt on the downhills, but I knew I could finish the race if I had to. I wasn't really having very much fun, but the real depressing moments were yet to come. Yay!

Just after mile 5 I stopped at aid station 2 and chatted with a volunteer about my knee and she asked if I was going to be ok. That last downhill section was relatively pleasant, so I decided to keep going. I should have stopped. Ok not really. BUT, UGH.

We turned a corner after the aid station and started climbing this ridiculous hill. Unlike the first 1.5 mile/1000ft climb, this was 3.5 miles long. Obviously not as steep, but I could only run short sections, so it was a SLOW hike up. I didn't think my mile times were that bad, and at first I passed other 15k runners, but eventually they caught back up as I ran out of gas. On a positive note, I had some decent mantras going: "nice and easy" "don't look up, just climb."

I remember when I thought 600ft was a lot of gain in a trail race. HAHA 

But there were also times in this race–before the climb– where I muttered, "I hate this." and "Bozeman is dumb." I don't really think those things but I missed the days of normal trail races where you can actually run the whole thing. I'm sure if I was in a better mood and well rested I probably could have finished under 2:20, but the final 4 miles of this race pushed me down and knocked me out.

Anyway.... we were climbing. Forever. I knew the course was long, but when we circled back to aid station 1 I realized we had to retrace our steps until the final downhill turn and I wanted to quit. But I'd made it this far, so I couldn't drop. I grabbed some more M&Ms and trudged on. I say trudged because the 25k runners were back with us and–surprise–they were all really fast and wanted to pass. I stepped aside to wait and lost time. I looked at my watch at mile 8 and saw 1:55. I knew we had at least 2 miles to go in this long 15k. I figured 2:20 was still within reach.

Haha. Nope

On the way to the finish. View almost made it worth it.
I felt like the mile between 8 and 9 would never end. I knew we were looking for volunteers to send us downhill towards the ski lodge. The final hill was qualified as a "quad burner." I kept looking downhill to my left and I couldn't even see the lodge. Were there really only 2 miles left?!?!

"The downhill's close.... right?!"
Finally, I got to the downhill. It was, in fact, super steep and I couldn't really run it. Guess what? After a steady race of remaining upright I finally bit it. I totally fell two tenths of a mile down the hill and twisted my left ankle. It hurt a lot, but because I've twisted my ankle several times in the past year I knew it would be fine in a minute or two. I stopped and shook it out while at least 5 people passed me. Ughhhhh. I was so over the race at that point.

Luckily the last half mile was pretty runnable, but as I watched my footing on the final chute (still rocky) some 15k girl sprinted pass me. Whatever.

Post Race
I finished and hung out with my friend Jason who'd come to watch. I couldn't find Alex anywhere and after an hour (!) I was kind of freaking out, but he finally appeared. Turns out, he was in a lead group and the volunteers routed them the wrong way at mile 2! So instead of starting on the course loop, they sent them down the final hill. He descended the hill and crossed the finish in 45 minutes, only to be told it was wrong. The group climbed back up the hill and completed the course. First off, that is bonkers and I totally would have stopped. Second, it added at least 2+ miles to his race and an extra (steep) 1,200ft climb. His longest run coming into this was 9 miles. Poor guy was spent! Luckily, he was comped a free future race for the mix up.

Also happy to be done. 

Stats and Thoughts
Well, on the plus side: I finished and didn't drop out. But now I'm bummed I didn't finish under 2:20. I wasn't very tired and had fun socializing after, but my legs were shot for the next few days

Time: 2:32
Overall: 92/125 (yikes)
Age Group: 21/27

My GPS said we ran 10.4 miles (14:35 pace). I guess the 25k is short (~14.5 miles) and their climbs/descents are a little less steep, but I don't know if it's "easier." While I was running I never wanted to run it again, but now I'm kind of mad I didn't do better. Not sure if that's enough motivation to do it again knowing that most Julys are super hot/dry and the wildflowers probably won't be out...

And now, months later and post-Rut, I kind of want to do it again because it was good Rut prep. Ugh. My stupid runner's memory. 

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Recap: Missoula Half Marathon

Hola! I'm joining Hoho Runs and Taking the Long Way Home's Weekly Wrap linkup to recap a race from last weekend. 
Free race photos!
The Missoula Marathon took place at 6:00am Sunday, July 15 in Missoula, Montana. I ran the half marathon. [race website]

Pre Race
We arrived in Missoula on Saturday–earlier than last year– and picked up my packet, explored the farmer's and craft markets, then went over to set up the Oiselle meetup. Our team includes a few race officials, so we were able to meet in the same room Deena Kastor used for her talk and book signing. As a result, we got an early team photo with Deena and Canadian Olympian Courtney Babcock, who lives in Missoula.

With Deena (bottom left) and Courtney (bottom right)
After the meetup (which was huge for Montana!), Alex and I checked into our hotel, grabbed a bite to eat at a local brewery, then settled into our room while I set out stuff for the next day.

Full team meetup. Huge group for Montana! (+ 3 out-of-staters)

I haven't been running on the roads and haven't had a traditional long run in two months. My long trail runs involve quiet a bit of hiking up a mountain and stopping for photos. It's great training, but not quiet the mental training needed for a road half marathon. Taking that into account –and the potential for warm weather– I made what I thought were pretty flexible goals.

A. Beat last year's time or at least sub-2. I'm in better shape, so I figured this was doable.
B. If I can't do that, then at least 2:05

Oiselle meetup at the half marathon start

It Was Perfect
Unlike my current PR half,  everything went perfectly. I hydrated well, went to bed at 10 (early for me!) and slept. In the morning, everything went like clockwork and I lined up with time to spare. I didn't feel like running, but everything was going so well I figured it might be a good day!

I lined up just behind the 2 hour pace group and got into a groove. I felt like I was working pretty hard for a pace over 9 minutes, but that's usually how I feel for the first mile or two.

Didn't see the photographer until too late.
We wound our way along a river and I passed the 2 hour pacers pretty early on. They were on pace this year–maybe even a little slow. I probably shouldn't have passed them, but there was a good downhill in mile 2 I needed to take advantage of. I wasn't feeling great by the time we crossed the river at mile 3.5, but I figured I could keep a 9:00-9:10 pace and hopefully stay in front of the pacers to get a sub-2 finish.
Miles 1-4: 9:17, 8:48, 9:09, 9:06

...Until it wasn't 
I felt like I was working harder than normal. My legs felt very heavy (even though I stopped running trails last week to give them a break) and my breathing was a bit labored. My stomach felt a little empty since breakfast was over 2 hours earlier, so I decided to take my gel around mile 5.

I've been using the same two flavors of gel for over three years. I'm not a huge fan of the Mocha flavor, but someone gifted me a huge box and I've been using them since. In fact, I'm almost out. I say all of this because using this specific type of gel was not new to me during a long run But for some reason less than a minute after I finished the gel my stomach cramped! It was in knots. I've run with stomach cramps or side stitches before, but this was on another level. I felt twisted.

I tried running through the pain, hoping it would go away. I noticed my pace was slipping. A 9:20 pace should have felt easy, but instead it felt like a sprint I couldn't maintain. I drank some water, but the pain continued. I couldn't imagine running 7 more miles as I tried to hang on.

It worked for a few miles, but almost as soon as my watch dinged 7 miles, the 2 hour pace group passed me. That was all I needed to stop and walk. I knew my day was over, so I texted Alex to expect me around 2:05. Soon after, my friend Wendie sent me a text to say her day was over, too. We were suffering out there!
Miles 5-9: 9:03, 9:18, 9:23, 9:59, 9:55

Better with Friends
From there, I walked on and off. I planned to finish each mile and walk the start the next if my miles chimed under 10:00. Just after my mile 9 walk break –as I strongly considered standing on the side of the road to wait for Wendie–I came upon a Oiselle teammate who was also suffering. She was going for her first sub-2, but when we met up she'd just started walking. She felt nauseous and upset over her race. We commiserated and tried to figure out what went wrong today. Was it the heat? We both thought last year was hotter. Maybe there was more humidity? Who knows.

Honestly felt like I walked more before mile 9!
We walked/jogged our way in and did a pretty good job running the final mile. Talking to her took my mind off my stomach pain. I wasn't gunning for a PR or time goal, so I let her unload her frustration. We've all been there! It sucks when you train for months and know you can do it. In the end, we finished in 2:08. I may have been able to hit 2:05, but honestly, who cares? I had more fun this way.
Miles 10-end: 10:17, 11:12, 10:42, 11:04, 8:47 (.1)

Crossing the line

Afterwards - Cheering Others 
I met up with Alex after and we made our way through the free food line, then over to the Oiselle cheering area. We stood there for two hours watching the marathoners come in. There were some big goals on the Oiselle team and while a few were met, most people struggled. It reminded me of my earlier conversation: Was it the heat? The humidity? What happened on Sunday? Why didn't we meet our goals?

After. Happy to be done.
Final Stats and Thoughts
My time was 10 minutes slower that last year. That's kind of a bummer, but this wasn't a goal race, so I don't really care. I'm mostly worried about why I got such painful stomach cramps and what to do if it happens again...

Final time: 2:08:05
Overall: ? (the results are separated by gender...)
Gender: 485/1852 (26%)
Age Group: 109/265 (41%)

Nice, big medal
Up Next: Cross Cut 15k (I've already run it, but the recap won't be up for a bit), then the Sweet Pea 5k. I was planning to go for speed at the 5k, but it's only 2 weeks away so maybe not... ;)

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

2018 Injury and Goal Check-in

From a recent group run. Not me, but a friend.

Hola! Since I'm not doing weekly posts anymore I thought I'd pop in to the HoHoRuns/Taking the Long Way Home linkup and do a little mid-year check-in. (Umm... I wrote a draft of this on June 10th and forgot to post...) 

Injury Report: 

My stupid runner's knee returned after I stopped doing my PT stretches and working on my cadence. From late May to mid June my right knee would seriously swell after long runs. Luckily, after refocusing on PT and upping my mileage [I honestly think it gets worse when I run less], the pain is sporadic and doesn't affect my runs too much. It's not totally gone, but it's improved after two weeks of focused PT. So remember: do your stretches!

2018 Goal Check-in:

(These came from my end of 2017 post.) Let's see how we're doing:
  1. 5K PR. All miles under 7:55. Nope 
    I haven't run a 5k, so this hasn't happened yet. I'm not really training for speed, but maybe I'll make an attempt at August's Sweet Pea 5k?
  2. Half PR. All miles under 8:59. Yep
    I did it! 1:53 for an 8:40 overall pace. I have a half next month (Missoula), but since I haven't been training, I doubt I'll beat or match that time. Instead, I'm setting my sights on the Trinity River Run in Dallas while I'm at a work conference in mid November. 
  3. 10k PR. 8:30 pace or better. Yep
    Oh hey, I did this, too! This was a big surprise. I started slow and chatty and sped up a lot. 51:57 for an 8:21 pace. Sea level rules. 
  4. Keep up strength training.  Yep
    I'm still going to TRIBE classes twice a week.   
  5. Avoid injury! Nope
    I mean, I'm not broken anymore, but my knee is periodically swole. 
  6. Keep running with other people. Yep
    Not only did I break my 10k PR while running with a friend, I've been able to get out almost every weekend since spring with my BRFs on some beautiful roads and trails. Even though I'm kind of half-assing my current training cycle, getting out with others has allowed me to keep up my long runs and maintain a good base. 
Well, I guess that's all. My goal for the rest of the year: concentrate on PT exercises and keeping my right knee healthy!

Cheesin' with my baby muscles.

Did you make 2018 goals?
If so, how are they going? 

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Cap City Half Marathon 2018

I'm joining Hoho Runs and Taking the Long Way Home's Weekly Wrap linkup to recap my latest race. Maybe I'll bring back weekly training recaps if I can make them interesting. But first, the race....

I bought some race photos!
The Cap City Half Marathon took place Saturday, April 28 at 8:00am in Columbus, Ohio.

I did everything wrong going into this race. 
It's a good thing I've run a dozen half marathons because had only one of those things gone wrong a few years ago I would have been toast. Here are just a few things that were less than ideal leading up to Saturday:
  1. Trained for 6 weeks.
  2. Traveled over 3 time zones in a week which = a messed up sleep schedule
  3. Drank three pints of [low ABV] beer, which I tried to make up for by chugging a ton of water when I got back to my hotel. 
  4. I didn't get to bed at 10pm and ended up waking up once an hour from 11pm to 4am. 
  5. Forgot to pack my anti-chaffing stick. Spoiler: My thighs chaffed. 
  6. My alarm didn't wake me up.
  7. Didn't take one last bathroom break and had to pee so badly in the corral. 
  8. Forgot to pack my handheld water bottle, so I purchased a bottle of Aquafina at the hotel and carried it the entire race. 
Pre Race
Thank goodness I set this out the night before!
As mentioned above, my 6am alarm went off, but it was almost silent (maybe my ringer was turned down?) so I slept through it. I'm so lucky I woke up at 6:27, looked at the hotel clock and immediately sprang out of bed. I'm also lucky I set out my stuff the night before and that my hotel was less than a half mile from the start. 

I got dressed, tried to eat my entire bagel (didn't work) and drink more water + Nuun to cancel out the beer from the night before. I felt kind of gross, but not as bad as I did around 11pm the night before. (P.S. I drank so much because I went out with friends and they treated me to drinks. I will drink one beer the night before a race, but this was crazy. I was probably nervous.) 

There was a Oiselle meetup at 7:15, so I headed to the park. It was not only nice to meet new people and see old friends, but it was a great excuse to get to the park early, check my gear, and get race ready. We all took a bathroom break, then a small group of us walked to the corrals. Two other ladies were planning to run between 1:55 and 2:00 so I lined up with them.

Ohio team + West Virginia + me

At this point I had no idea how the day would go. I freaked out the night before in blog form because I knew I'd consider this a waste if I didn't take advantage of the nice weather (~50ยบ and sunny) and my current fitness. But here I was, mildly dehydrated, feeling icky, and tired from lack of sleep. 

A. Perfect day: stick with the 1:55 pacers and PR. (8:47/mi pace)
B. OK day: Sub-2:00 finish. (9:09/mi pace)
C. Disaster: Go back to the 2:20 pacers (2 friends) and try to enjoy the misery. (10:40/mi pace)

(Not my corral.)
The Race
A few minutes before the corrals let out (one at a time. I was in C.) I had to go to the bathroom so badly. There weren't any porta potties next to the corrals and I didn't want to leave and get stuck in a slower group. My plan was to stop at the first aid station for a break. I've never done that, so I was hoping I could channel my inner Shalene at Boston and take 13 seconds.

When corral C let out my two Oiselle teammates took off ahead and I lost the 1:55 pacers almost immediately. Whoops. I decided to run by feel and concentrate on getting to a porta potty. 

New course (click to enlarge)
The course was new this year, so we did the German Village bit first. I'm glad. It was my meltdown point in 2014 and 2015. This time I looked around at new businesses, read every spectator sign, and just kept my pace consistent. I tried to pick up the pace on downhills, but other than that I didn't look at my watch until the first mile dinged. I was going a little slow. Even slower than a sub 2:00. Oh well. At this point I honestly wasn't sure if I was going to run the whole thing. Thinking about even 6 more miles was a stretch. 

I passed the aid station and the bathrooms had a big ol' line. I convinced myself to keep trucking. An Instagram friend would be at 2.75 so I tried to make that my next milestone. Once again, I wondered if I'd finish this race without walking. Knowing he was up there must have carried me, because mile 3 was my fastest yet. 
Miles 1-3: 9:13, 8:54, 8:38

I was finally hitting a groove and I'm not sure why I never remember it takes me 2-3 miles to get comfortable. Maybe I should do a warm up run? I'm not sure how that would affect the later miles... Anyway, we reentered downtown and there were a ton of spectators. Some of them had giant foam hands so I high-fived as many as I could. I was feeling decent by this point. Still could have gone for a bathroom break, but it was less of an issue. Mile 5 exited downtown and lead to a park. There was a weird out and back of .1 total that I didn't love, but I'm sure it was to add distance. There was also a nice spectator offering champagne. Nice offer, but no thanks. 

Just before mile 6 the quarter marathoners turned off and the halfers headed north on Neil Ave, a street lined with Victorian homes. I used to drive Neil Ave a lot when I lived in Columbus so it was nice to see it again, but tough because I knew how far a mile felt on the street. In fact, that's the hard part about any race in Columbus for me. I know how far apart the milestones are, unlike running in a new city where I just go with the flow. 

Mile 6 was a steady climb and I decided to take my gel. My stomach was still a little sensitive from the night before, but as I wasn't able to finish my bagel in the morning I was starting to get hungry. 
Miles 4-6: 8:43, 8:30, 8:40

I want to be honest: I was pretty shocked by these paces. I was kind of tired, but not like I've been by mile 6 in most half marathons. I haven't raced since last July, so maybe my memory is a bit foggy, but I felt good. In fact, I felt better at mile 6 than I did at mile 1. And instead of my normal, "the faster you run, the faster your done" I started thinking, "you can do it." That's way more positive than I'm used to! 

Mile 7 took us through the Ohio State campus and past another water stop. I caught up to the Oiselle teammates I started with and one said, "you must be feeling better!" I said something–who knows what–but we didn't talk again. They pulled away and I was a little bummed I couldn't keep up considering I'd caught them. We wound our way through campus a bit more and I was tired, but tried to keep them in my sights. There was another consistent uphill, but it wasn't too bad. 

In mile 9 we turned onto Lane Ave, which is another road I've run many times. Normally I'm going in the opposite direction, so it was pretty awesome to see it was a steady downhill to the river. I took full advantage and picked up my pace. I passed my Oiselle teammates and finally found the 1:55 pacers. I overtook them as they slowed for another aid station.  

Holy crap. I passed the 1:55 pacers and felt good. 5 miles to go. 

I began calculating my finish time and tried to keep up my energy. The next mile was the quietest. It's hard to get spectators on this stretch of Olentangy River Road so I tried to think about my next milestone: running past my old work building. I imagined the weird landlord would be outside and I'd say hi (it's happened before). He wasn't there, so I shifted my focus to the next milestone: hitting mile 10 in 1:28 for a 1:55 finish. 

I did it in 1:26:43. Not blowing it out of the water, but doing way better than I expected, plus the pacers hadn't caught up and passed me. This is a pretty boring part of the race, so I read all of the signs I could and smiled each time someone yelled my name.
Miles 7-11: 8:32, 8:39, 8:26, 8:28, 8:32

After mile 11 it started to get hard. I kind of wanted to walk during 10 and 11, but now I really wanted to. I don't think my elevation is completely accurate because we had to run over a highway and my Garmin data doesn't include it as a hill. I sure felt like I was running up a giant hill. I tried to think back to Seattle the week before. I'd made it through those hills, so I could do this one, right? I didn't stop even when I saw other folks walking. I wanted to, but I knew my slowest run would be faster than walking. 

After that hill we worked our way back downtown. No matter which direction you come from, downtown is uphill. There were back-to-back 30 foot hills in mile 13 and they felt like 100 feet. This part of the course rejoined the quarter marathoners, but they were on the other side of the cones, so I didn't have to deal with the "traffic." I tried to chug along. There were more and more spectators as we got closer to the finish. It was so hard, but I had to keep running if I wanted a PR. 

Coming in to the finish on High Street.
We made the final turn onto High Street and a few things happened: we still had at least .4 to go, I couldn't see the finish line arch because of the hill ahead, and it was a wind tunnel. It was so windy one of my legs whipped into the other. I literally had to put my head down and just keep pushing. Finally I could see the finish line, but I had a ways to go. I knew it would be a 13.2 course, so I made a point of looking at my watch to see my time at 13.1. A PR! 

I kept trucking, but my last .2 was almost my slowest pace of the race. Not sure if I was phoning it in, blowing away, or checking myself out on the giant video screen, but I sure didn't sprint to the finish. 
Miles 12-13.2: 8:40, 8:40, 8:51 (.2)

Post Race
I crossed the line, looked at my new PR (wahoo) and felt great. It was so unexpected after a night and morning of disasters, but I know I'm in better overall shape these days and–let's be real– training at 5,000ft and racing at 750ft has its advantages!    

Me and Jennie
I was a little sad not having Alex there (back in Montana). He was sleeping in so I didn't talk to him for another hour. I grabbed my snacks, tossed my empty hotel Aquafina (I carried it the whole way!), and headed over to the VIP tent to hang out with my sister in law, Jennie. She let me gush about my race, which I very much appreciated.

Final Stats and Thoughts 
This was an almost 5 minute PR. My previous PR was set two years ago (though I came close to it last July). I've been sidelined with runner's knee for almost 7 months and started taking a strength class, plus my recent 10k PR unlocked my potential. It helps so much when you can look back at a race that went really well when things get tough. I hope I can use this half as motivation when times get tough at my next race. 

Final Time: 1:54:17 (1:53:27 at 13.1!!!!)
Overall: 1,520 / 6,369 (24%)
Gender: 470 / 3,474 (13.5%) 

Up Next: Achieving sub-2 was a big deal for me in 2016. After that, I really didn't consider trying to break anything more than 1:57 (all miles under 9:00 pace). I think I can run even faster than 1:53/54. Maybe not a sub 1:50 yet, but it's possible someday. If you would have told my 12 minute mile self this a few years ago I would have thought you were crazy. 
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