I’m not sure where to begin this post. I want to dive right in and tell you how it ended, but there is so much back story that I should probably start there. Last Sunday was the San Jose Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. It would be my 6th time running this race, as it is one of my favorites in the Bay Area. It’s mostly flat and the weather is usually on the cool side, although it can got warm late in the race.
My goal was to come in at 1:3X. Honestly, I really wanted 1:35, but even 1:39 would be a 5 minute PR, so I’ll take that any day.
Starting in Corral 1
This was interesting. I was standing right there with the elites and surrounded by some really, really fast runners. I didn’t feel like I belonged, as I don’t consider myself a “fast” runner. I’m of the thought that speed is relative and I know way too many runners that are faster than me… that being said: I felt that if I could break into the 1:3X category, then maybe, just maybe, I might be “fast.” The interesting thing was that there were so many extremes in a single corral. There were runners that would win the whole damn thing and others that would finish anywhere from 1:10 to 1:3X like myself. That’s a big gap.
Mile 1: 7:08
Wow. Corral one is REALLY fast. I felt like I was going out at quicker than planned pace, but I didn’t think I was going out that fast. I thought I might be in the 7:20 range, but I need to dial it WAY back. Even at 7:08, I was getting passed left and right. Corral 1 is no joke.
Mile 2: 7:48
Mile 3: 7:47
I have clearly over corrected here. Miles 1-3 were set to be in the 7:40 range. On average, it’s close based on my extremely quick start. At this point I am too dialed into looking at my watch and trying to get my pace under control. I’m already starting to see myself fade and saying “I started out TOO FAST.”
Mile 4: 7:38
Mile 5: 7:33
Mile 6: 7:30
Mile 7: 7:34
Mile 8: 7:28
I’ve stopped looking at my watch and deciding to run based on “feel.” I know that gets me in the 7:30 range, which was my planned pace for these miles. I’m feeling pretty good at this point, a little fatigued, but finding comfort in a nice consistent rhythm. I’m taking sips of water at the water stops and ate my Chocolate GU at mile 7, which may account for the extra few seconds.
Mile 9: 7:36
This was the turning point. This was my decision mile. I was starting to feel some weight in the legs and the mind games were starting to creep in. Is this where I fade? Is this where my race falls apart? Most of my speed work happens around 7 miles, so my legs are used to that speed for this long… but do I have another 4 miles? I just needed to get through this mile.
Mile 10: 7:20
I made a conscious effort to pick up the pace for this mile… not too much, but to start to warm up the legs for the final 3 mile “all out” run. I was aiming for 7:20 and nailed it. At the time, I didn’t know I had nailed it as I looked at my watch after the 10 mile point, so I missed my split, but nice to know I hit it.
Mile 11: 7:13
Mile 12: 7:03
All in. The plan is to give it MY ALL for 3 miles and use up every ounce of energy I have. I’m not even looking at my watch for the splits anymore, simply just running as hard as I can at that very moment. If I would have seen that I just did a 7:13 or a 7:03, I would have thought “no way I can maintain this.” I would have psyched myself out.
Mile 13: 6:43
At the start of the final mile, a guy just barely in front of me turned to me and said “You have been my rabbit this race. Great pace.” I looked at him and said “I’ve been chasing you the entire time.” We both laughed. The reason this guy stood out to me was that he was wearing an IRONMAN shirt with a shark on the back of it. I had been staring at that IRONMAN M-dot for 12 miles and I guess he was aware of my presence as well… although I don’t think I was ever in front of him.
I told him “home stretch” with .25 mile to go, he said “let’s go” and I waved him on as I was already at top speed. He kicked it into another gear and finished well in front of me. You iron-folks have another gear.
I had been running as fast as my legs would take me thinking “one mile, one mile, one mile.” I sprinted once I saw the finish line knowing that I could make it under 1:38… and just barely did.
Official time: 1:37:54, a PR by almost 6 minutes.
Knowing the course helped me a lot. I knew exactly where I was the entire course and where I still needed to go. My watch read 13.24 miles which means I did an amazing job of running the tangents and not weaving unnecessarily. That may be the best I’ve come to getting that close to the actual distance of the course.
Thank you to everyone that wished me a congratulations on race day and well wishes before. Putting my goals out there on the interwebs and having everyone be so supportive and encouraging is an amazing thing. It really does make a difference knowing that people are sending positive race vibes your way. I appreciate it and wish I could give you all a high-five… but as promised, my (attempt at) jazz hands:
Thank you for all the kind words.