This past Saturday I ran my 11th half marathon since I started seriously running in 2009. After running into some IT Band issues in January while training for the Shamrock Half, I decided to pick a goal race a little further out to give me extra breathing room with my training. I settled on the Asbury Park Half Marathon (part of “Runapalooza”) since it was a day before the New Jersey Marathon, which gave me the flexibility to cheer for all my friends the next day. I should have known that when I signed up for yet another race along a shoreline, the wind would be an issue. But as runners, we’re good at forgetting the painful parts about races and training runs, aren’t we?
The race started at 8:30am, but since I’m an hour away from Asbury Park, it was a super early morning. Thankfully since it was so early, there wasn’t any traffic on the way down. I got to the Convention Hall just after 7 a.m. which gave me plenty of time to pick up my bib, take a trip to the portopotties, and meet up with teammate Lauren and #brobird GB!
It was pretty chilly in the morning, but by the time I walked out of the Convention Hall and lined up for the race the sun was shining and it was relatively warm. The race started just after 8:30, and I made an effort to get out front and in a comfortable position. While that mile should have been relatively easy, I wound up clocking a 7:08 (a solid 30 seconds faster than what I initially wanted to start with). I was nervous to have such a fast first mile, but I decided to go with it. I found myself in a group of about 4 men and a woman that were all going about the same pace, and I tried to tuck in with them as best I could to alleviate some of the headwind. I ran the next three or so miles with them in 7:16, 7:22, 7:21.
There were a lot of turns on this course. I mean, a lot. I tried to run the tangents as best as I could, but at some points I was so tired of running a block, and turning. And running a block, and turning. There was a nice out and back around mile 5 that was relatively calm in terms of the wind, and it was nice to see the leaders come through for the first time. Since it was a small race, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to start counting the women to see where I was. As it turned out, I was the 10th woman as we made our way around the turn to head back towards the boardwalk. I’ve never been in a lead pack before, and it was surreal to have people running in as we were running back out and cheering for us! I grabbed some water at the water stop, and tucked myself in and ran comfortably with three other women and let them do the work for a bit. I have to admit, all of the articles I’ve read recently about elite runners and their racing strategies paid off during this race when it came to pack running and using other runners!
Of course by the time we made it to the boardwalk around mile 7, there was a lot of wind. I kept a pretty solid pace the first 9 or so miles (aside from my way-too-fast start), but by the time we turned for the last 3.1 miles, the wind was gusting right in my face, and I was tired. It was also slightly defeating to run right past the finish line at mile 9 and know you still have 4 miles to go. Miles 5 through 9 were 7:22, 7:09, 7:14, 7:11, 7:16. I bargained with myself to take it easier miles 10 and 11, and that I’d pick it up the last 2 miles. I picked off three of the other women I had been running with earlier, and just tried to hang on. I ran miles 10 and 11 in 7:26 and 7:22. As it turned out, the wind was worse during the last two miles, so they were actually the slowest of the entire race! I’m obviously not proud of that, but I know that in those moments I was doing everything I could just to fight through the wind. At one point a woman I had passed earlier came up on my heels, and I could tell she was trying to use me as her wind shield. I slowed down because I didn’t want to do the work for her, and I let her go. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough fight in me to stick with her, but I’m glad she passed me at mile 12.5 without making me do the work for her, rather than her just blowing past me at the end after a mile of me being her wind breaker. And despite all the negative split, progression, and fast-finish training runs I did over the last few months, miles 12 and 13 were my slowest by nearly 10 seconds – 7:37 and 7:35.
By the time I made the final turn back onto the boardwalk for my attempt at a quarter mile sprint to the finish, I was thrilled to not only be able to see the finish line, but to see a solid 1:36 on the clock. I pushed it to my ultimate puke pace, and managed to cross the finish line at 1:36:51. It took me a few minutes to gather myself (I felt like every possible bodily function was about to happen at once – yum), and then it hit me. I PR’d by nearly five minutes from my time at Shamrock in March, and I crossed the finish line of a half marathon with 1,131 finishers as the 33rd runner, 8th woman, and 2nd in my age group! Oh, and yes… I am wearing $5 sunglasses from Five Below. So stylish.
Going into this race I really wanted to PR. I was hopeful I could run a 1:38, but I really wanted to be under 1:40… I even said I’d be happy with a 1:39:59! So a 1:36 was way beyond what I thought I was capable of running. A lot of people seem to tell me I’m faster that I think I am… and I’m finally starting to realize that (maybe just a little). I’m really looking forward to a summer of short and fast races followed by a fall marathon PR. It’s time the marathon and I have another date since I have unfinished business with her… almost an hour’s worth!
Did you race this weekend? How did it go?!
What’s next on your running calendar?