Josh had predicted 1:29, and I said, “no way.” I was 100% convinced it was NEVER going to happen this training cycle. He also told me I’d need to turn off my brain and just run.
The morning of the Gulf Beach Half I was tired. I felt fat. I thought my training had been stale for at least 3+ weeks. And, to be honest, up until 11:30pm on Thursday, I totally thought that the half marathon was on Sunday, NOT Saturday. Running a 1:29 half marathon was not in my cards.
Prior to this training cycle, I had taken “off” the month of July, and then spent the last weekend of July in the hospital with my anaphylaxis just before training officially began August 1st. Workouts started with a bang because I was super determined of proving all the nurses/doctors wrong, several of whom told me to stop running and “address” my allergy. Idiots.
As training progressed, I struggled with some of the speeds prescribed in my workouts: why in God’s name did Josh seriously think I could run 15 miles embedded with 8 miles of tempo ranging from 6:35-6:50?? Or how could I really run 2×3 miles at 6:45 in the middle of 12 miles?? I bitched to Josh and he told me to chill. For the first time ever, I started doubting him, and consequently questioning my sanity for even considering the novelty of running a sub-1:30 half.
The biggest issue was that I was terrified of running Gulf Beach. The Fairfield Half left me mentally fucked, and I thought that all half marathons were going to be as miserable as Fairfield. To make matters worse: a couple of my workouts leading up to Gulf Beach channeled the pain and mental despair that I experienced during Farifield. I honestly pegged myself as a person who sucks at half marathons, and strength lies solely with marathons. I thought I could MAYBE run a 1:29 if I signed up for another half in November…certainly not in mid-September.
But when the gun went off at Saturday’s half, I just went for it. I did what Josh told me to do: I turned off my brain, and ran.
I’m on the left-hand side with grey shorts and long black socks. Impatiently waiting for the race director to shut up and let us run.
Mile 1 – 6:47.9
Mile 2 – 6:49.1
Mile 3 – 6:49.3
I actually don’t think I looked at my watch for any of this, because if I did, I’m sure I would’ve freaked out. The plan was to run 6:55s out of the gate—low 6:50s if I felt good—drop the pace to 6:48 at the 10k mark, hold steady until the final 5k…then just GO.
So, essentially, running high 6:40s wasn’t part of the plan.
“Just calm down, Mary. Calm down. Controlled aggression.”
I was quite entertained during these first few miles, though, because I was consistently running in third/fourth place the entire time. I had to keep reminding myself that this race wasn’t about placement: it was my race, and my plan, and I needed to stick to it.
Mile 4 – 6:51.7
Mile 5 – 6:53.9
Mile 6 – 6:52.0
“Ah, yes. Perfect and according to plan.”
I should also mention that in here is when I actually started to believe that I could run sub-1:30. These miles felt effortless and totally comfortable. I even briefly chatted with runners around me. I consciously took note that my legs felt fresh, even though I had been running sub-7s. –That had never happened before, ESPECIALLY during some of the similarly paced horrific workouts leading up to this half.
At this point, I was solidly running in third place. The first place woman was way gone, but the second place woman was within my line of vision. She and I had been playing cat and mouse until mile 5, where she took the second-place position and held it.
“It’s fine. You’re following your own race plan, which is all that matters.”
Mile 7 – 6:50.0
Mile 8 – 6:51.3
Mile 9 – 6:50.8
I started getting tired around mile 7/8, but at that point, I had less than an hour left to run. I remembered Josh saying, “look: if you can’t run hard for an hour and a half, we’ve got a problem here,” so I sucked it up, and dealt with the pain. Sensei knows best.
The course was an out-and-back, which I really love, because you know what you’re getting yourself into. It was also really cool seeing the rest of the running field behind me after the turnaround, and having them cheer me on. –Lots of “GIRL POWER” cheers, and people telling you loudly that you’re the third woman. At big races, I’m normally part of “the normal running field,” so it was a fun experience having it the other way around. I kept myself occupied looking for my friends who were also running, and looking strong.
The wind was also really squirrely because we were running right against the Long Island Sound. The headwinds were extreme, and during mile 9, I did my best to draft off of one of the male runners ahead of me. I don’t think he appreciated it.
Mile 10 – 6:50.7
Between miles 10 and 11 was where I almost took a wrong turn, but unlike my most recent 5k, this course had volunteers at the corners! What a novel idea. Thankfully, the volunteers pointed me in the right direction. (Thank GOD)
I also saw our amazing fan club (read: best friends and husband EVER) at mile 10, and I grabbed my iPod from Gabe to listen to during the final 5k, which was such a treat. The ball of my left foot was starting to hurt (I think I do something funny to it when it hits the ground) but I was looking forward to ramping things up for the last 3.1. Unlike Fairfield, where I literally thought I was dying, I was ready to go.
Mile 11 – 6:43.0
“Yes. This is being executed perfectly. You have no choice but to keep going at this rate.”
Mile 12 – 6:43.2
I was a little nervous for mile 12 because I knew we’d be dealing with some hills that we experienced on the way out. We also had a lot of tight turns in here, which reminded me a little bit of the New Jersey Marathon.
I was also gaining on the girl running second. I didn’t want to blow my wad passing her, but I got the ample opportunity to gun it up the final hill—and break free. Finally. I WAS IN SECOND PLACE MOTHAFUCKAS!!!!!!
“Just hold on. And. GO.”
Mile 13 – 6:32.0
I couldn’t help but smile ear-to-ear for the final mile. I was in second place. I was going to run a 1:28 or a 1:29. I was enjoying my music. This was one of the best runs of my life.
.14 in 56.5, 6:49 pace
And then we hit .1 miles OF SAND. I’m not talking, like, packed sand here. I’m talking, like, legitimate beach sand. Smooshy sand. The I-want-to-take-my-shoes-off-and-feel-it-between-my-toes sand. Seriously????????? I didn’t think I signed up for a Tough Mudder. So I floundered my way across the sand for a depressing 56 seconds, and finished as strong as I could.
Final Half Marathon – 1:29:21
“DID I SERIOUSLY JUST BREAK 1:30?????????????????? DID I JUST WIN SECOND PLACE IN A HALF MARATHON?????? HOLY SHIT!!!!!!!!!!!”
It was real. I was second female and twelfth overall. I had run my goal. I had a 5:17 PR. I had qualified for the New York Marathon!!! (And I also had some of the worst thigh chafing I’ve ever experienced; but I digress.)
I won a beer tumbler that said, “2nd Place,” and a gift certificate to my local running store. It was a good day for racing. My friends had met their goal times too, and we left the course with three shiny new PRs.