Last you all heard, I was coming off a strong summer racing season that included my first PR in any distance in a very long time, and I while I wasn’t quite back to what was once my peak racing shape, I was getting closer and closer to it and gearing up for what I hoped would be my strongest half marathon in years. Here’s how the fall racing season played out:
5th Avenue Mile (9/13): The A goal for this one was sub-6:30, and the B goal was to beat my sister. I wound up accomplishing both! I wrote splits on my hand for 1:37 400s, which would put me at 6:28, and I came in at 6:25. Emilia had been racing better than I had last winter and spring, so I fully expected us to be neck and neck for this one. I never looked back, but I assumed she was right on my heels the whole time and was surprised to turn around at the finish and wait another 20 seconds for her to show up. I may have gloated about this a bit too long that day.
Newport Liberty Half Marathon (9/21): This was the big goal race, yet after almost an entire summer of mild temperatures and coolish long runs, this race started at a lovely 75 degrees and nearly 100% humidity. I ended up dropping out at mile 9.5 when I began to feel disoriented and seemingly dehydrated (but I was more likely actually low on electrolytes after chugging a lot more water than usual the day before). I wouldn’t rule out running this race again since it was a great course that looked to be pretty fast (in good conditions!), but in retrospect, I’m not sure what I was thinking putting all my eggs in this particular basket. I race best in 30s–40s, which are highly unlikely to be in a September forecast. I’d already planned to keep working toward peak half shape after Newport, so I solidified plans to join Katie in Virginia at the Richmond Marathon weekend for the half. Onward and upward.
Bronx 10-Miler (9/28): I registered for this to get guaranteed entry into next year’s NYC Half and originally planned to take it super easy a week after Newport. But since Newport didn’t go according to plan, I decided to race it for some redemption with the pacing help of one of my PPTC teammates, Luke. I’d hoped to run 8:10s–8:15s, but this ended up being another humid one. However, we managed to to keep the pace consistently under 8:30 (8:26 for the first 5 miles, 8:29 for the second 5) to finish in 1:24:30, a 3-minute PR for me. During the last couple of miles I focused on passing targets Luke picked out, and I managed a 5:44 lap pace for the final sprint—a first for me, as I’d definitely never seen my kick dip below 6 before!
Poland Spring Marathon Kickoff 5-Miler (10/26): Coach Hadley and I were confident that I could go sub-40 on this one since I’d only gotten stronger after my Team Championships PR of 40:25 in August. And then. I felt under the weather all week and when I woke up on race morning with a nasty sore throat and earache it became simply about getting it done for my final 9+1 credit (I’ve been adamant about not paying NYRR for any extra races this year, so I wasn’t about to be a no-show). Despite feeling deathly, I managed to churn out super-consistent splits to finish in…wait for it…40:25, hitting my exact PR on the nose. I was diagnosed with a sinus infection the following morning. Good times. (Hashtag sarcasm)
And now, the success story we’ve all been waiting for:
Richmond Half Marathon (11/15): I was ready to get my Newport redemption, but I wasn’t quite sure what that might look like. The plan for Newport had been to target 8:20–8:30 pace for a 1:49–1:51 finish. A far cry from a PR of <1:44:32, but I was hungry for my first sub-1:50 since the spring of 2012. I raced decently after Newport (see above), but I was feeling insecure about the fact that my speed workouts weren’t quite as quick as they had been in the summer. Things were supposed to get easier as the cool temperatures rolled in, weren’t they? At least my long run paces all continued to be right where I thought they should be.
I thought I’d toe the line at Richmond with the same 1:49–1:51 range in mind, but Coach Hadley had other ideas when he gave me a pacing strategy for 8:10s–8:15s, or a 1:46–1:47 finish. What the what? That was faster than I’d averaged for 10 miles in the Bronx! But he hadn’t been wrong about my abilities in any of my previous races, so I persuaded myself to trust the plan. Race morning arrived, and the conditions were perfect: 30 degrees, sunny, and zero wind. Once I started to put one foot in front of the other, I focused exclusively on the mile I was in and told myself to just get this mile done in ~8:10. This made me far less anxious than the thought of running ~8:10 13 times in a row, something I hadn’t been able to achieve in ages. It also made the race go by so fast—each time I reached 10K, 8 miles, 10 miles, I couldn’t believe I was already there and still feeling fantastic. Before I knew it, I was sprinting down the rapid decline toward the finish line.
Richmond splits: 8:19, 8:13, 8:09: 7:58, 8:02, 8:08, 8:07, 8:14 (hill on a narrow winding road with a water station!), 8:00, 8:01, 8:02, 8:08, 7:55, 1:21 (6:34 pace). Finish time: 1:46:45/8:09 average pace, my second-fastest half marathon to date, and my fastest in nearly three years.
This was arguably the strongest half marathon I’ve ever raced. Even when I ran my PR at the 2012 Houston Half, I was not in tune with my body or capability and let my legs coast through 7:40s–7:50s until I died at mile 10 and crawled the rest of the way to just come under the wire and meet my sub-8 pace goal. In Richmond I felt strong and steady the entire way, and my 10K split of 50:52 was an 8:10 pace, meaning I ran a tiny negative split in the second half! When I crossed the finish a fellow runner even told me she had paced off me the entire way. That was a first for sure. Another first for the half distance: My first mile was my slowest, and my last mile was my fastest!
As for the race itself, I would absolutely recommend it. I loved that it was a big race, so I was never running alone. Yet for a big race, it was never crowded. I’d registered with my PR goal of 1:43:59, which put me right at the front in corral A. If this had been the NYC Half, that time would have put me at least a half dozen corrals back. In Richmond I didn’t find myself weaving at all, nor did I get stampeded by the fasties when we initially got going. I managed to “only” run .1 extra, so my Garmin pace (8:04) was only 5 seconds off from my official pace. I’ll take it.
I thought I’d be so ready for an off season after Richmond, but running such a strategic race and getting so close to my personal best has only motivated me to keep at it. More on what that means for the winter soon!