September 12, 2015
Official finish time: 2:10:08
Going into this race, I had to really reflect on what my strategy was going to be. This race was my test run for Richmond and an opportunity to practice fueling and race strategy. On my training plan, my coach had me running the first three miles 30-45 seconds slower than goal marathon pace, the middle 7 miles around marathon pace (10:12minute miles), and pushing a bit faster the last three miles. If I executed correctly, I would likely finish around 2:13, which was close to my PR of 2:12. She told me that I may run slower or faster depending on how I was feeling, and that was okay.
When my coach and I checked in the week of the race, I asked her about adjusting my pace based on how I felt on race day. This is something I have really struggled with in the past. Once I have set pace targets, I’m do or die to hit those targets. This really killed me in Chicago and I wanted to know how to react on race day. We had a great conversation about running on effort, and she made the offhanded suggestion that I may even try to run this race without my Garmin watch. She said that once I learn to really run on effort and not let the pace dictate success/failure, I’ll have my “aha” moment in my running.
That night, I kept thinking about that suggestion. I decided that I was going to give it a go, for a couple of reasons. First, I don’t have a time goal for Richmond. While I have a time where I think I’ll land, hitting that time is not my primary goal for the race. I really want to run a good race and feel strong for the majority of it, and not have to walk the last few miles like I did during my first marathon. Second, I tend to be a slave to my watch, and put way too much pressure on myself based on what I’m seeing on my wrist, and it often takes the fun out of my running.
So, I reconnected with my coach the next day and we decided I would check my watch only three times throughout the race – more to get an idea of what the pace actually was compared to how I was feeling. I decided I would only check my watch at the end of miles 3, 6, and 9. I wanted to run this race on effort – easy the first three miles, comfortable, strong, and consistent the next few, uncomfortable during the next hilly miles, and really open it up the last 2-3. I got a wrist sweatband the cover my watch during the race and hoped that I was going to be able to be successful.What happens when you run a half marathon without looking at your GPS Watch? Click To Tweet
I was travelling for work, so I didn’t get to attend the expo. My friend Carrie was kind enough to pick up our packets for us. The night before the race, Christina and Angie came into town. We had chicken, white rice, and a baked potato for dinner, and we went to bed later than I would have liked, about 9:30.
Since the race was in Peachtree City (about 50 minutes from my house), we had to get up super early, I got up at 3:30 AM, and I had two hard boiled eggs and a salt pill shortly after. I had half of a bagel in the car on the way to the race, about 4:30 AM. Carrie got a hotel room down there, so we met up with her and then went to park.
There was no parking at the start/finish, so we had to park and take a shuttle, which is why we got there so early, around 5:45. I’m so glad we did. We only had to wait about 10-15 minutes to park and didn’t wait for a shuttle….but in that time the rest of the runners showed up. On the shuttle, we passed the line to park and it went back at least two miles (I’m not exaggerating!).
We had a lot of time to kill so we just hung out, went to the bathroom again, took a lot of photos, etc. The weather was great, about 66 at the start and cloudy with 90% humidity. The cloud coverage really helped keep us cool. The race was slated to start at 7:30 and so at 7 I started my warm up routine and took a Cafe Mocha Huma Gel. I was hungry before I took it, but it took the edge off. I probably could have eaten the other half of my bagel or some fruit as part of my breakfast.
They ended up delaying the start of the race because of the parking situation, which was super annoying. The 5k went off first, around 7:35 (originally supposed to start at 7:15). I was glad we were there early though, I felt bad for the people who were literally walking right up to the line and starting…that had to be so stressful. I tried my best to stay loose and did dynamic stretching on the side of the corral before getting started. We finally started around 7:50.
Miles 1-3 (10:30 / 10:11 / 10:06)
There were only three waves for this race, and I was in the first one. I got to the front of it so that I wouldn’t have to weave a bunch, and knew I would just have to hold myself back. I started the race, moved to the right, and really tried hard to stay conservative. A LOT of runners were passing me so I just tried to stay out of the way. I wore the sweat band over my watch so that I wouldn’t look at it by accident, and set my default screen to only show me cumulative time. When it vibrated at the end of mile 1, EVERY OUNCE OF MY BODY wanted to look and see how I was doing. Instead, I just asked myself how I felt, and decided I felt good. I felt like I was running my typical easy pace and wasn’t winded or anything.
Somewhere in the first mile there was a hill that was pretty substantial that I wasn’t expecting, so I got nervous since I thought the first three were going to be pretty easy. I handled it well though and the rest of these miles were fine. After that hill, the crowd really thinned out and I didn’t feel like I was in the way anymore. It was actually a pretty sparse crowd, so I actually put in both headphones and really got into the zone.
I tried to run through the water stops and practice taking hydration without stopping. I failed so miserably at this. The first stop, I got water up my nose, down my shirt, and maybe a little in my mouth. Ugh.
At the mile two marker, I checked myself again and decided I still felt really good. I was definitely constantly holding myself back, but felt strong.
During mile three, I kept reminding myself to stay conservative. I tried Gatorade at the stop during this mile and once again, failed really badly at getting it in my mouth and ended up with it all over myself which frustrated me.
When I looked at my time at the end of mile three, I was both surprised and alarmed to see 30 minutes and some change. I immediately thought “Oh, sh*t!” but then went back to how I felt. I didn’t feel like I was overdoing it at all; it was an easy, conversational pace, so I decided that it was okay.
Miles 4-6 (10:10 / 9:55 / 10:19):
When my coach and I talked about miles four and five, and she warned that there was more elevation loss than gain, so I would need to be careful here to not go too hard. I decided that since I was running close to a ten minute pace, I would try to maintain that same effort over the next few miles. At the water stop during the fifth mile, I took a Cafe Mocha Huma Gel with water. I was successful here in getting the gel down right before I got to the water stop. I walked for about 5 seconds to get the water down and decided getting hydration was more important than practicing running through the stops. From here out, I walked for a couple of seconds only after I had the hydration in my hand to get it down.
Mile 5 was a lot of downhill and I tried to stay conservative but I had a feeling I sped up (I did). Saw a great sign during this stretch that made me laugh: “Aren’t you glad this isn’t a marathon?”. Yes, yes I was.
At the next water stop, I think around mile 6, I took a salt pill. Mile 6 started getting a bit hilly, and I slowed down a bit to maintain effort. The hills weren’t as bad as I was expecting, but they were frequent. It was a lot of very short, little hills along a very curvy path. Most hills you weren’t climbing for more than 10 seconds. This part of a course was on a golf cart path through a wooded area, and it was really nice. It reminded me a lot of trail running but without the stress of worrying you were going to trip on a tree root. When I checked at mile 6, I was pleased to see that I had maintained a pretty consistent pace the past three miles and decided it was time to get uncomfortable.
Miles 7-9 (10:25 / 10:43 / 10:01):
I wanted to run a comfortably uncomfortable pace, and this wasn’t hard to do. These miles were pretty hilly, but again… short little hills. Several times I felt like I was pushing too hard and reminded myself this race wasn’t about time and I needed to maintain my desired effort level, and dialed it back. I think these miles were the ones where not looking at my watch made the biggest difference. Had I been looking, I either would have pushed myself too hard to maintain my goal marathon pace….or I would have gotten pissed that I had slowed down a bit. I felt strong though, and passed a lot of runners during this part of the race.
I took my second gel, a Chocolate Huma around 7.5 with water (once again successful at getting it ready and eating it before the stop), and took Gatorade at mile 9.
When I looked at my watch at mile 9 and saw 1:32 cumulative time, I realized I could PR. I checked in with myself and decided I had a lot left to give, and my strategy called for me pushing it the last few miles anyways. I made the decision to go for it.
Miles 10-11 (9:19 / 9:47):
These were still hilly, but less so and with more downhills. I felt like I was running close to the mid-tempo pace I ran about a week and a half ago (around 9:30 miles…I was right!). I reminded myself that I held that pace for 3 miles on a really hilly route, so I could definitely do it for four. I took Gatorade around mile 10.5.
Mile 12 (9:03):
This, by far, was the best mile of the race. There were a lot of downhills to start and “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark” by Fall Out Boy came on (if you don’t have this song on your running mix, go add it right now). I got an amazing runners high for probably 7 or 8 minutes and was flying through this mile. I felt really, really strong and kept thinking about Richmond and envisioning the end of the marathon. I was really happy with how the race was going and just felt like I was nailing it. I skipped the water stop. I really wanted to look at my watch at the end of this mile to see how close I was to the PR, but decided it didn’t matter. It wouldn’t change anything, I wanted to give it my all the last mile regardless.
Mile 13 (9:12) :
I skipped the water stop during this mile, too. I focused on maintaining close to the same pace as I did mile 12, but definitely slowed down a bit since there wasn’t so many downhills. I just really dug deep and tied to hold on. I had to pull out my mantra that I stole from Chrissy (“I am fast. I am strong. I am a marathoner.”) and kept wondering how much longer it was until the finish. Since I wasn’t looking at my watch, the only gauge I had as to how far I was into the mile was my music. After the second song finished, I kept thinking “WHERE IS THE FINISH?!”. When I passed the tiara/boa station I knew I was close (I passed on grabbing one of these). I rounded a corner and saw the start of the finisher’s chute….up a pretty substantial hill. There was a lot of f-bombs going off in my head when I saw that hill. But I pushed up the hill at the same pace and turned into the finisher’s chute. When I saw the clock and that I was going to nail that PR, I sprinted toward the end and had a really strong finish! I couldn’t believe what a fantastic race I ran. I was really excited about my unexpected PR, but honestly, more happy with how successful I was running by effort.
I had some time to cool down, drink water, and stretch while I waited for the rest of the girls to finish. The finisher’s chute hardly had any people in it, so I just moved to the side to wait for them. Carrie finished about 15 minutes after me, followed closely by Angie and then Chrissy. We all had really strong races and were excited with how the morning went.
We went to collect our medals together. One of the fun things about this race is that you get your medal from a shirtless “fireman” (I put that in quotation marks because I’m skeptical they were real firemen…but they were dressed that way so we’ll go with it).
The next stop in the chute is a half glass of champagne, so we had a toast to our great races. There was decent food as well (pretzels, cookies, and bananas) so we grabbed those and made our way back to the shuttles.
I have a lot of thoughts about this race, but I think the big thing is that my coach was right (of course). Running without my watch definitely gave me that “aha” moment. I was really able to get into a good rhythm and zone and just focus on the run. I was so much more present in the moment and was able to enjoy the race. I was less worried about sticking exactly to the planned paces and ended up running what I would say has to be one of my best races. I’m incredibly pleased with how I was able to maintain my desired effort level, especially when I compared my paces to the elevation gain/loss.
My nutrition worked well, though I can make a few tweaks. I’m glad I stopped trying to run through the water stops so I could actually get the hydration down, and I’m just going to set up a little stop of my own and practice this myself…I know I’ll figure it out. My clothing choice worked well too, and the tee-shirt I wore I’ll likely wear to the marathon if the weather allows it.
My body felt really strong, and I felt really well afterwards. I wasn’t achy or sore, and not even that tired. I thought about the time I hit my last PR, how incredibly sore and tired I was coming home. It felt different yesterday. I ran most of this race at a pretty comfortable pace, and only really pushed it the last few miles. I gave it a hard effort the last few miles, but could have given way more during the other miles. That’s exactly what I wanted.
I finished this race thinking….”Man, if I did that after a week of travelling and on tired legs, without even giving it my all….what could I have done if that was a goal race?”. I have been going back and forth on what my goal race distance would be for the spring, and this run made me curious enough that I think I may go for another half.I ditched my @Garmin and had my 'aha' moment in #running Click To Tweet
Thoughts on the Diva’s Half Marathon
I enjoyed the smaller race (about 1,400 runners in the half marathon), as it wasn’t crowded but I never really felt alone. It was my first half marathon I’ve run that wasn’t a big production, and it felt just right for a training run. The water stops were well organized and well manned, and there were pockets of crowd support (mainly just friends/family members scattered along the course) that kept me going. One of my coworkers told me yesterday that she ran this race last year, and the water stops were really poorly done that year. This was only the second year of this race, and I would have never of known that it was such an issue last year. They really did a great job correcting that issue.
I really enjoyed running in Peachtree City. The course was really beautiful, I thought several times about taking pictures because it was so enjoyable. I think hills may be similar to what we’ll experience in Richmond. I’m going to compare the elevation charts and see…and if it is, Carrie and I are going to do one of our 20 milers down there.
The swag was good. The t-shirt is a women’s cut tech tee, and it’s both flattering and comfortable. I know I’ll wear it a lot. The medal is substantial and the “extras” make this race special.
With your packet, they give you a tutu in case you want to wear it (there were a LOT of tutus and pink shirts!), and of course the firemen and champagne really add to the fun.Boys, Bubbly, and a PR - Diva's Half Marathon Recap Click To Tweet
The downside to this race was the disorganization at the beginning with the parking and start waves. I think they should have more start waves and think through the parking a little better. The parking was in a field that was already muddy…if it had been raining it would have been a disaster! If you decide to run this race, I definitely recommend getting there way earlier than you think you should.
I’d like to run this race again next year and recommend it to anyone looking for a fun half marathon close to Atlanta. It was a really great one!