I doubt that I am alone when I say that I learned the important lesson of changing plans when things you can't control (such as weather) get in the way. Many of my teammates and friends raced this weekend and will probably be nodding their head in agreement to most of this recap.
I was told about this 1/2 marathon with a bunch of prize money probably a month or so ago. Naturally, that motivated me as I was hoping to have big expenses (in terms of flights to Kona!) coming up. Coach Bill was on board with it, but we also discovered something pretty perfect about this race: it would be at 5:45pm on Saturday night, when the temperature would be around 80degrees.
Things got even better for us when the weather was 90 DEGREES at race start time!
I had a few thoughts going into this race:
1) stay in the top 5 to earn some extra cash (a few medical bills came in this week, so the extra $$ was definitely a motivating factor)
2) re-evaluate my goal and race plan if the heat gets to me
3) LEARN how to respond properly to the heat, even if that means slowing down to be able to finish strong...basically come up with a plan in case I get "in trouble" in Kona
I'm happy to report that I achieved all three goals. Here's how the race played out:
I knew going into this race that my Saucony Hurricanes teammate Kara would be making her debut for the half marathon. She's a 16:xx 5k runner, so I knew if conditions were right, she'd easily be sub-1:20. I also knew two Kenyans would be racing. So, I told myself 4th or 5th place would be a pretty darn good day. Did I mention one of the Kenyans has a 1/2 PR of 1:14? Yeah...
This course was constant turns and constant inclines. By no means was it "fast and flat." I remembered a few miles into the race that I actually had been a Pacer for this race a few years back, which made me remember that the course would not really let up any.
Miles 1, 2 and 3 were all sub-6, but felt easy. I probably should have realized that with my jersey being drenched in sweat, it really wasn't as easy as it was feeling, but I told myself I would not look at my watch except to see each mile split, so it wasn't until I would read my watch that I saw how fast we were actually going.
Mile 4 is when I first felt my hamstring tug a little. I immediately shook my arms and legs out, which helped loosen it a bit. I had a gel between miles 3 and 4, which I could definitely feel helping my legs!
From Mile 4-6 is pretty much a straight shot of inclines. I wish I was exaggerating, but even the 10k runners gave this kind of feedback on this section (they ran some of the same course that we did).
At mile 5, I told myself I had two choices:
1) continue pushing (at this point I was still under a minute down from the two Kenyans and Kara) and hope I hold up
2) use this race as a test for Kona: ease up a little now to finish strong at the end
I seriously debated on this for a good 2-3miles. Just before mile 6, we make a turnaround and I could see that the girl in 5th place was still over 30 seconds behind me. However, I also knew that if I chose choice #2, she would eventually pass me.
Finally, just before mile 8, I told myself that continuing to push was stupid. My focus this year is Kona, not some silly 1/2 marathon, and if pushing could jeopardize anything, I need to check my priorities.
I slowed my pace to 6:40s and just waited for the 5th place girl to pass me. Just after the turnaround (yes, another turnaround) at mile 10, she passed me. Luckily, 6th place was enough distance away that I was confident I could run my 6:40s and still be top 5 (one of the original goals).
Miles 9, 10 and 11 were 6:4x's, which gave me enough energy to pull off two good miles at the end. My form was perfect for the last two miles and I felt like I had just started running the half, which essentially was the goal in slowing down some of the middle/end miles.
The best part: a guy who I had been running with for miles 4-8ish who then left when I slowed my pace was now right in front of me. I told him, "C'mon, we can be 1:25something if we push it in right here".....he looked at me, grinned and we took off. He was SO excited at the end and gave me an adorable handshake, thanking me for the push to get that 1:25:xx.
The results are definitely not reflective of how awful the race actually was: hot, humid, hilly.
I know so many of my teammates, both racing and pacing, yesterday and today (Chicago Rock'n'Roll 1/2 marathon) experienced the hot and humid and I think we can all shake this one off and use it to fuel us for our upcoming, cooler weather races.
Good luck and be safe when training in this heat and humidity. Be smart--there are plenty of races to run....don't let stubbornness lead to exhaustion or injury!