Scottsboro Half Marathon Race Report…PR BABY!

It’s a good feeling where my running page is outdated because I haven’t added my most recent PRs yet. I need to do that this week! WOOT.

Should I have put a SPOILER ALERT! warning on that preface? I mean, in case you were reading this race report in breathless anticipation wondering…Did she do it? Did she break her 3-year old 13.1 PR yesterday?

I should add a disclaimer about that 3-year old PR…I haven’t been trying to break it for three years. I felt pretty dead the day I got that and I was fine knowing that would be the best I’d ever achieve. The course was flat, the weather was great that day, I had no problem dying with that 2:07 PR. Also, sometimes it’s hard to embrace the fact that sometimes you can get faster with age. I mean, I’m almost 40 now! I was just 35 then! How could I compete with that young whippersnapper!?

Yet…this last 6 months of racing has shown me that I have gotten faster. At least on the long distances (PR’d 2 marathons and 2 50Ks) – and I hoped maybe some of that would translate to a shorter race. So, this was really the first time in three years that I even tried to beat my old 13.1 time.

But still! For 3 years I’ve been telling people, “My best 13.1 is a 2:07,” to give a gauge of my running speed. However, my best 26.2 is a 4:38, which is a bit slow for a 2:07 half-marathoner, so I usually depend on that more as a reference point. Either way – I’ve been throwing out that 2:07 for three years and now? I HAVE TO GIVE IT UP!

Now…On to the race report!

I went into this race with a 2:05 goal because there was going to be an official 2:05 pacer and I much prefer to run with a pacer and leave the stress up to THEM than to stress out on my own. I had two BIG issues facing me that morning:

1) Rain. I like running in the rain, but on race day it’s not ideal
2) Reflexor Tendonitis. I’ll write more about that later but basically it’s some irritating pain and swelling on the top of my foot.

About 30 minutes before race start, it starting POURING. OF COURSE. And that’s when I realized: Wait. I didn’t wear wool socks.

See – that’s a mantra amongst runners in our local FB running page. When people pop in and say, “Advice on running in the rain?” everyone always says: WEAR WOOL SOCKS. And I have some wool socks I break out often – mostly during my wet train runs because your feet stay wet all day on the trails. But for some reason yesterday – I wore regular running socks. Which, are NOT as bad as cotton, but no where NEAR as wicking as wool.

That was rookie mistake #1.

I also realized I didn’t bring any fuel. I like REAL food so on my long runs lately I pack sandwiches in my hydration pack. But this is a road race! I don’t carry my hydration pack in a road race. Also? I was going to be racing – not just running – and I’ve been taught to fuel every 30 minutes if you’re racing. And I had NOTHING. No gummies. No gels. No nothing.

That was rookie mistake #2.

Luckily there were Starburst in our race packets so I just unwrapped all of them and put them in my water bottle. I also had a friend offer 4 of her running gummies which was a GODSEND because the Starburst all started sticking together in the rain.

So…my wet socks and my lack of REAL fuel were my biggest downfalls in this race. You know, because I’ve never run before and I don’t know anything.

The first few miles were weird because my pacers didn’t have GPS watches and I don’t know that pace very well and they were trying to get the feel of it and at times I felt like we were running too fast, but I wasn’t sure. My watch reads immediate pace, not average, and on a hilly race that’s not easy to work with. Which is why I was hoping to depend on the pacers. They stopped at an aid stop and I kept going and just thought, “I’m just going to gauge the best I an with my watch and not think about the pacers.”

I did okay, even though I kept thinking…What I wouldn’t give for just a 3-mile long stretch of flat road to zone out on… The constant hills kept me very flustered about pace and at times I think I was probably pushing too hard, but other times I wasn’t sure I was pushing hard enough. None of the hills were bad, at least not like I’m used to with hill running, but they’re just CONSTANT rollers. If you’re used to pacing yourself flat (which is what I do when I’m doing speedwork) it’s very hard go pace yourself on hills. Usually I don’t focus on time when I run hills…this was a new experience. Basically, what I ended up doing is spending more time just looking at the elapsed time than the pace, and setting myself time goals: Get to this mile by this time…

Around mile 8 things started getting bad. I was irritated with the course (even though I’ve run it before) because I just wanted some LONG and FLAT so desperately. I also was chugging gatorade at every aid stop since I didn’t have the right fuel. I’m not sure if it was the chugging gatorade or the constant fluctuation in pace, but for some some reason I started getting the burps (YUM!) and then I got some KILLER side stitches.

Now…side stitches are like blisters…there are a million things “they” tell you to do to prevent or get rid of them. (Here’s a good article for starters.) I tried EVERYTHING. NOTHING worked. I kept taking short walking breaks and slowing down and focusing on my breathing, and at one point I thought: Welp…there goes my PR.

The 2:05 pacers which I had passed around mile 4.5, but were still right behind me around mile 6.5, passed me around mile 10 or so. I found this VERY disheartening, especially when I was trying to wrestle my sidestitch.

But then I got further into mile 10 and started doing the math and thought Wait a minute. I can still PR. If I keep all of the rest of this race under 10-minute miles, I’ll still PR. DO NOT GIVE UP.

So, I started pushing again and just stopped thinking about the sidestitch. It was tough too because my wet socks had given me HELLA blisters which started hurting at that point. But I just pushed. My 11th mile was under 9:30 which was my desired pace for the entire race ANYWAY. I started catching up with a girl who had passed me on my last walk break and who had cheered me on to push through. I thought let me just catch up with her. I just kept pushing even though I was SO VERY MISERABLE. I was also ready to be done, and ready to PR. I could TASTE it and it tasted WONDERFUL.

I passed the girl who cheered me on during the last mile. Then I caught up with another girl who had passed me who I knew her PR was 2:11. I caught her on the home stretch and cheered her on. I said, “WE’VE GOT THIS!” because I knew if I was PR’ing with a 2:07, she was PR’ing too. I didn’t think I was close to a 2:05 though because the pacers were long gone.

When I rounded the corner to the finish line a friend cheered me on and I screamed, “I’m about to PR!” I thought I was hitting about 2:06 or slower, but I knew it was under 2:07.

Then I looked at the clock. It was 2:04:XX…DAMN IT! I wanted to hit 2:05 SO BAD! That was my original goal!

I SPRINTED the last 20 yards to the finish line and the clock said 2:05:03 when I crossed.

But my CHIP time (thank GOD for chip-timed races) was 2:04:51. I was SUPER stoked! I actually met my original goal even though I didn’t run with the pacers at all!

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I am having mixed feelings about actually racing races. I don’t like not being able to chat with other runners to pass the time. I can’t do that because A) I can’t talk and run race pace at the same time and B) I can’t lose focus on my watch or I’ll slow down. I like talking to other runners, it passes the time. I don’t like going into a race knowing I won’t have that. I also hate that miserable feeling of pushing when I just want to SLOW DOWN or WALK. I’m not running happy during a lot of races lately, and I hate that.

BUT HOLY CRAP, the euphoria from a PR is SO AMAZING. I’m still on cloud 9 about it. And that? Kinda makes it worth it.

But that’s it for the races I’m racing. I’ve got two more weekends of races, but nothing I have to push too hard on for any reason. I should PR my duathlon without trying since I have a better bike, but I’m not positive. Either way – no stress! If I want to push, I can, but I have no reason to do it. I’m going to enjoy just running for fun for a few weeks.