Not every year is going to be a good running year and that’s the way 2011 was for me. My sweet Ashton was born that year and I learned a lot about priorities and starting over again. A couple months after my son was born I suffered a sacral stress fracture from trying to do too much too soon. My body wasn’t ready to jump into marathon training. When I finally started running again it took months to build up to the half marathon distance. Soaring Wings was going to be my comeback race. To make a long story short, I went out too fast and hit the wall (which I didn’t even know could happen in a half marathon). The second half of the race was awful! When I finished I wasn’t sure if I would ever run this race again.
“Well, as you can probably tell from my lack of posting, the Half Marathon did not go exactly as planned. I set what I thought was an obtainable pace (goal) and learned mid-race that it was NOT realistic for me at the moment. While I know that I may one day run a sub 7 minute mile for an entire Half Marathon- Saturday was not that day!! Let’s just say that I had 7 decent miles in me but the last half of the race was HARD!! I was not prepared for the hills… Once I realized I couldn’t keep my pace on track I got completely discouraged and down on myself. WHY DID I GO OUT SO FAST?!?! Not smart racing AT ALL.” (Excerpt from my Soaring Wings 2011 Race Recap.)
Over the last few years I would sometimes consider registering for it but my mind immediately went back to how I felt in the last couple miles and it was not something I wanted to relive. Why would I put myself through that again?
This summer, a couple of months after the Little Rock Marathon I received a message from the race director of Soaring Wings. She offered me a comped entry to the race. I decided it was time to give this race another chance and I challenged myself to run a better race. I’ve learned a lot over the past 5 years about myself and I’d like to think I’m a smarter racer than I was in 2011. This was my chance to prove it.
My strategy going into the 2016 race was completely different. My coach actually wanted me to use it as a hard effort workout to prepare me for my marathon. My goal was to stay smooth and relaxed, always in control. With temps in the 60’s and rolling hills I knew I needed to start conservative. When the race started the women’s winner from last year (a very sweet and talented young runner) took off quickly, I’m guessing around a sub 6:15 pace and I knew better than trying to run with her. That pace would really be pushing it for me given the course and the weather which would most likely lead to another 2011 race experience. I knew I had to run my own race and find the pace that felt right for me. I passed one guy in the first mile but that was it. For the rest of the half marathon no one passed me and I never caught the runners in front of me.
After a couple miles on my own I made up a pacing game to occupy my mind and to stay on task. I wanted to keep every mile in the 6:30’s. This pace range made me work but it also felt smooth and comfortable enough. My watch displays overall workout average pace but it also displays the current mile pace. The challenge came when a mile would start going up a hill. I would have to work to bring it back down in the 6:30’s. Or if I noticed I was in the 6:10’s after going down a hill I would pull back and coast. Somehow this game really kept me focused and in the mile since I was alone and never saw another runner. I did see John and the girls in 3 different sections of the course.
I knew I was holding back a little but I did NOT want the second half to break me like it did the last time. Once I made it through the big neighborhood section I decided it would be safe to pick it up a little. This was right around mile 9 and when I saw John I yelled “Feeling good!”
I wanted to negative split the last 5k which I knew included the big hill in mile 12. Honestly, it wasn’t as bad as I remember it being. I realized at this point in the race that my perspective had changed quite a bit in the last 5 years and I have other race experiences to thank for that. In 2011 I had not yet run the Little Rock Marathon so I had not experienced the joy of climbing the Dillards hill in mile 25. I had not yet run the hills of the San Francisco Marathon and the list could go on.
I finished feeling strong physically and mentally which is always a good way to end a race.
Official Finish Time- 1:26:20. (2nd female OA). Official Results can be found here.
Splits: 6:30, 6:33, 6:34, 6:36, 6:32, 6:38, 6:34, 6:33, 6:31, 6:33, 6:27, 6:26, 6:16, 5:38 avg. for last .27. (6:31 avg. pace.)
It was actually a 10 minute course PR for me but this improvement did not come easy. It took (5) years of training, succeeding, failing, winning, and losing to make it happen. This race reminded me that every experience changes us and even the bad ones can motivate us to do better.