Wow. I mean, wow. Races don’t get much better than this. This morning I smashed my previous half marathon personal record of 2:15 by running a 2:09:30!
First: I can’t believe I ran an entire half marathon with an average pace under 10:00/mile. Seriously, I’m still in disbelief. Going into this race I knew I had a shot at a PR, but I honestly did not know that I was capable of running sub-2:10 yet.
Second: Going sub-2:10 wasn’t even my primary goal for Houston at the end of January — it was my STRETCH goal, my if-everything-goes-perfectly goal. Um, apparently I need a new goal for Houston now.
Third: I rode to the race with my friends Erin and Nujoud. Erin was searching for redemption — and a sub-2:00 half marathon — after a bad day at the Galveston half marathon a few weeks ago and Nujoud was along for the ride. Clearly today was just one of those perfect days for a lot of people — Erin finished in 1:58:40 (an 8-minute PR), Nujoud in 2:00:33 (a 2-minute PR) and me in 2:09:30 (a 5-minute PR)!
It was a VERY windy morning, but other than wind, the weather this morning was absolutely perfect. Just as predicted, it was bright and sunny with the temperature in the 40s, and I debated yesterday whether to wear long sleeves or short sleeves. I took both, and when we arrived at the race site and I saw how strong the wind was, I decided to put the short sleeve shirt on underneath the long sleeve one. Wind cuts through those tech tees like they’re not even there, and I was happy to have the double layer. The wind chill was in the 30s. There were portions of the course where the wind was very strong and I was chilly, but there were other portions where the wind was blocked by the trees and I got warm in the sun. I came close to taking off the long sleeve shirt once or twice, but ended up leaving it on the whole time. Although I was still freezing at the start, I was very comfortable once I started running.
And the course? The course is awesome. It’s in the same park as the TriGirl triathlons, which I’ve done before, so I knew it would be pretty — it’s far enough north of where I am that the scrubby coastal plans give way to lots of tall pine trees and a few small hills. The half marathon course was very similar to the TriGirl bike course, but the hills are way more noticeable on a bike. I remember lots of ups and downs when I last rode this course on my bike, but there was only one hill that really affected me while running.
As for the rest of the race: it was well-organized, and the swag was great — nice long sleeve tech shirt, hat, and a medal with a detachable charm that can be made into a necklace. (I definitely hadn’t seen THAT before.) This was the first year of the race and based on the bib numbers I saw, there were around 300 runners. I definitely want to do this one again.
On to the good stuff…
Mile 1 – 9:44
I planned to go out a little conservative, so when I saw 9:44 on my watch after the first mile, I thought I had already ruined my race. I hadn’t planned to go out that fast, but I didn’t actually realize I was going that fast — because it felt very comfortable. I chalked it up to first mile adrenaline and the fact that it was so cold at the start that I was trying to warm up.
Mile 2 – 10:14
Mile 3 – 10:12
Mile 4 – 10:04
Mile 5 – 10:08
Over the next four miles, I settled into a slightly slower and very comfortable pace. I felt FANTASTIC. The sun was shining, the wind was blowing through the tops of the trees, and I felt like I could run forever. I ate my first gu when I passed the water station around 4.5 miles.
Mile 6 – 9:42
I don’t know what happened at this point, but I guess the gu kicked in! I saw my second sub-10:00 mile of the race and still felt really strong. I started to think, just a little bit, that a PR was within reach today.
Mile 7 – 9:50
“Another fast mile? Oh well, I still feel great, I guess I’ll just go with the flow!” At this point in the race, we were back at the start/finish area about to head out for a second (slightly shorter) loop of the park. Sandy and Cleve from my tri club were working at the water station, and as I slowed to grab a cup of water I felt confident enough to tell them “I’m on pace for a big PR — cross your fingers!” I almost didn’t say anything, but then decided that if I did, it might help me mentally. I mean, I didn’t want to have to tell them at the end that I didn’t PR after all!
Mile 8 – 9:44
Mile 9 – 9:56
Mile 10 – 9:33
The string of sub-10:00 miles continues. Craziness! And Mile 10 was my fastest of the entire race! It was at this point that I started to think sub-2:10 was a possibility. I was starting to feel a little tired, but just had to hang on for 3 more miles. This portion was back in the woods again, where the road curves back and forth. I totally ran the tangents (which I did on the first loop too). I was pretty much the only person following the tangents — I guess a lot of people don’t realize that’s how the course is measured? But dang it, any little bit helps when you’re going for a PR!
Mile 11 – 10:01
Mile 11 began with a second trip up the biggest hill in the race, and I felt it a lot more this time than I had the first time. The hill combined with a short break at the water station at the top of it put me back over the 10:00 mark for that mile, but just barely. Two miles to go…maybe, just maybe…
Mile 12 – 9:54
I passed the Mile 12 marker in about 1:59 flat. I obviously had a new PR well in hand, but the 2:10 mark was hanging out there. I had 11 minutes to cover the final 1.1 miles. All I needed was 10:00 pace. Could I do it?
Mile 13 – 9:40
Last 0.1 – 0:47
The last mile of the race was brutal. I was definitely tired by this point. I pushed myself to go faster, but as luck would have it, the final mile had the WORST wind of the entire day! It was blowing hard, and RIGHT into my face. Ugh! I put near-maximum effort into the mile and still barely made it under 10:00. How demoralizing! I kept checking my watch. 8 minutes left…6 minutes left…4 minutes left… It wasn’t until I passed the Mile 13 marker in under 2:09 that I knew I had sub-2:10 in the bag.
And I did it! 2:09:30! I didn’t hold back, but I also didn’t push so hard that it bit me in the end. I passed a lot of people over the course of the race — me! actually passing other runners! — which made me feel like I was a teeny bit…FAST. And fast is not really a word I use when describing myself. I just felt SO good the whole time — even at the end when I was physically tired, I had a big ol’ smile on my face because I KNEW I was running one of the best races of my life.