I ran the Huntsville Half Marathon in 2006 – my FIRST half marathon. Don’t let this finish line picture fool you. I hated it. I was happy because it was over.
That was the year I tried to become a runner on my own (without a group) and didn’t train super-consistently. Also? It was raining. And cold. And the race was a lot smaller back then. So even though my finish time wasn’t too bad (2:33) I was super alone and was depressed and at one point saw my family in the race at mile 10 and started crying and wanted to quit. It was so hard. My race report is here.
Yesterday was my 15th half marathon and my 6th go at the Huntsville Half. 5 times in a row since I actually started running for real (with groups) and consistently in 2011. And yesterday? COULD NOT HAVE GONE BETTER. As evidenced by this picture taken around the halfway point. I AM SO GOOFY. (Edited to add this because I LEFT IT OFF: Official Time: 1:56:04.)
Let’s back track 2 years first…
2 years ago I spent my season focused on my attempt at 50 miles at a 12-hour race in the Spring. I did well/PRd on all of my 50Ks and marathons that year, and did a half marathon (Oak Barrel Half) where my friend Kevin really pulled me to breaking my 2:05 PR with a 2:01. I knew that entire day I could not have done it without him talking to me the whole time and pushing me. He got me a 4 minute PR and I was BEYOND AMAZED AT MYSELF. I also PR’d a local 10K and finally got below a 25-minute 5K that season. IT WAS THE SEASON OF THE PR’s.
When my friend pulled me to a 2:01 that year though – even though it was a 4-minute PR – I still couldn’t help but think “That’s SOOO CLOSE to a sub-2 hour…” which I never thought possible in my skill set.
Last year I got zero PRs. Last year I was focused on just grand slamming and I was not training well during the week and things were just a mess. I put on weight because I was stressing about selling our house and it just was not the year to break time goals. I grand slammed which is great, but no PRs. AND OF COURSE THAT’S THE YEAR SOMEONE MADE THE PR GONG. And I didn’t get to hit it ONCE.
SO NOW…this year’s Huntsville Half. I had been considering trying to break 2 hours here for awhile. But I knew my big race weekend was the next week and I didn’t want to be sore for that. Also? I needed a pacer. If there was anything I learned the race I got my 2:01, it was that I need someone to pull me to my goals. I can’t do it alone. Also? WEATHER. So much depends on the weather.
Up until last week I still hadn’t found anyone to pace me. BUT THE WEATHER WAS GOING TO BE AMAZING. And I had been doing “speed work” on the treadmill so I knew I was getting faster. I hate speed work, and really all I do is negative splits on the treadmill, but that’s still work to get faster so I call it “speed work”. I was still considering it but I had NO PACER, and I was worried.
Then my friend said her husband signed up last minute and he was probably shooting for a casual (for him) 2 hour. Obviously I’d be working hard for my 2 hours but doing it alongside someone who can talk at that speed is the way to go because I knew I wouldn’t be able to.
I felt GREAT on miles 1-9. We were keeping sub-9s pretty easily. I was even talking a little bit here and there. It was hard, for sure, but I felt good and I didn’t have to think too much about holding the pace. I felt I could hold it for 2 hours.
But then we got to that dreaded 10th mile again where you lose your shade and you just have a long stretch of road in the sun and it suddenly became harder. It didn’t get bad, I was never considering quitting or giving up my goal, but I was doing math in my head and realizing we had banked some good time under 2 hours and maybe I could slow down a little bit and still make my sub-2 goal.
So I focused my energy on ignoring that voice and just holding steady. AND IT TOOK ALL OF MY ENERGY. I stopped talking and just focused in on the reports my friend was giving me. Luckily he counts down things exactly like I do. “Quarter mile until we hit that 10-mile point” and “6 laps until the finish line” and “Just this one more hill and then its downhill” – so he was vocalizing everything I needed to tick all of those things off so I could just go one mile at a time, or even one quarter-mile at a time, and not think too far ahead. When you’re running outside of your “happy pace” then every half of a mile is hard. My happy pace takes me 30 miles, yesterday’s pace? 13.1 ONLY.
The funny thing is that our fastest mile? Was mile 12. We did that sucker in like 8:18 I think. We killed it. I was so ready to be done!
And at the finish line my friend learned that I’m a hugger because that was my first instinct when I saw my time at the finish line.
I’m a sub-2 hour half marathon hugger, I can’t help it.All in all? The perfect day. I don’t feel terrible this morning, just stiff, so taper week is still on track. I’ve got 9 trail miles on the books today but they’ll be easy ones and should feel good on the old legs. I’m happy. I’m happiest because I can die with that PR and not be disappointed so NEXT YEAR, next year I’m going to finally volunteer at the race. I owe them that!
So, when someone asks me what training plan I used to finally get a sub-2hour half? I have to say, “Um…a 100K training plan. With some negative split treadmill training.”