I’ve been running for a little over 10 years now. I’ve had a few lapses in my training, but I’ve always run a fair amount of races every single year. Last year, the Fishhook Half Marathon in Park Rapids was the first half marathon in about 4 years where I’ve felt like an actual runner. It was my fastest half marathon in four years (by about 18 minutes!). Although I came into last year’s race with only about 9 weeks of training, I was at least consistently running at that point which is more than I could say for the previous few years before that.
Coming into this year’s race, I was coming off of a 1:33:05 half marathon a month ago (my third fastest half marathon I’ve ever run) in Perham. The goal coming into this race was a) dip under 1:30 for a half – a number which has been on my bulletin board for years and years or at the very least b) lower my half marathon PR.
Mile 1 – 6:35 – I felt like in my last half marathon, I got out a touch too slow. I ran 7:16/7:08 for the first two miles. If your goal is to run under 1:30, it’s tough to start off with a 40 second “penalty” especially with hills coming up. So, I knew for this race, I wanted to get out a touch harder. My goal was somewhere around 6:50-ish, although I was going off of effort rather than starting at my GPS watch. Coincidentally, I didn’t wear my GPS watch this week. More on that in a little bit.
Mile 2 – 6:38 – Feeling quite strong. At this point, I was in about 10th place. The first place guy was already gone. I could see 2nd thru 3rd, though. I just saw on the race that 3rd place won $50, so I kept that in mind. If I get anywhere close to that guy at the finish, I’m going to grind to try to make back my race fee!
Mile 3 – 6:40 – Started going by a few people. At this point, I think I’d moved up to 7th or 8th place. Feeling really strong.
Mile 4 – 6:43 – In my head, I’m starting to do some math. For some strange reason, “finish line math” helps occupy my mind during the race. To run 1:30, I’ve got to run 6:52s for the entire race. I know I’m about 52 seconds up on my goal time at this point. I’m also doing PR math. 72 seconds ahead of PR pace. Best news is I’m feeling awesome!
Mile 5 – 6:44 – Still feeling strong. Get passed (what the heck!?!) and I’m now back in 8th place. I try to hang with this guy for a little bit, though and he helps me pass another runner. I still can see 3rd through 7th on straightaways, though. I still was a little taken aback because when I’m fit, I generally don’t get passed in these smaller races. Oh well – my pace is still feeling really good, so I’m not feeling bad.
Mile 6 – 7:01 – Here was my description of mile 6 from last year’s race report: “Care to guess during which mile the hills really started?” Last year, I slowed about 22 seconds on this mile compared to the previous mile. This year was only 17 seconds. Not what I wanted but not terrible. As you can see on the course elevation map above, the next five miles are pretty constant up and downs. I know my pace is gonna slow a tad over these.
Mile 7 – 6:39 – Was feeling really good about this mile. Did some quick figuring in my head. Figured even though I had a 7:01 the last mile, the last two miles were a net 4 second gain on my 6:52 average. At the start of the race, we were standing at the starting line and they told us “…the miles are not accurately marked. Trust your GPS watch…” That’s definitely something I wish I would’ve known 10 minutes earlier as I had my fully charged GPS watch sitting in my car. I prefer wearing my regular running watch, but now I was really wishing I had my GPS watch.
Mile 8 – 7:20 – Made my first big mistake of the race. I hit my watch on this mile split. A few seconds later, I looked down and saw “11 seconds” as my mile split. AKA – I hadn’t looked down soon enough to see my actual mile split. I didn’t think much about it, but in hindsight, I would’ve really liked to have known that I’d given back almost 30 seconds in this mile.
Mile 9 – 6:45 – Finally caught one more runner on this mile. The only down side is that since we’ve turned off the straight away and back towards town, I can no longer see anyone in front of me. Guess these last four miles are going to be a time trial.
Mile 10 – 7:36 – I was quite shocked when I saw this split. I really hadn’t felt like I’d slowed down a ton. It was doubly shocking because I’d been doing some more finish line math. In the last mile or so, I’d done myself a huge disservice. I figured I was almost a 1:39 ahead of pace. I was having these mental visions of running 6:55s the rest of the way (which certainly seemed reasonable before I saw this mile split) and having a shot at closing in 6:30 to sneak into the 1:27s. Now, I saw this mile split and realized in actuality, I had only been 0:39 seconds ahead of pace. Remember, I missed seeing my 7:20 mile split two miles ago and I’ve been under 6:52 by a minimum of 7-8 seconds for every single mile (that I had seen) so far. I hit this mile split and realized I was not only NOT over 1:30 in the black, but rather 5 seconds BEHIND pace at this point. I wasted a lot of mental energy over the next mile freaking out about this. To say the least, it really took a lot out of me to realize I was this far off on my time.
Mile 11 – 7:16 – I was trying to rally myself to the finish. In my head, I figured even if I could run these next two miles in 7:00/mi pace, I would be able to run a 6:35-6:40 in the last mile (which certainly seemed do-able) given the last mile was on a flat, gradual downhill. I was doing my best to push, but this mile was just a few seconds slower than I needed it to be. I was really wishing I could see someone… anyone… up ahead of me or around me that I could run for or help push me, but there just wasn’t anyone around.
Mile 12 – 7:14 – I continued to push, but I was also starting to get mad at myself. I knew that if I didn’t run this in sub-7, my chance at breaking 1:30 was gone. A 6:30 would be extremely tough. If I put my position to run anything less than that, I just don’t think I could do it. I was pushing to try to get to that next mile marker, but when I hit my split, I just knew… sub-1:30 wasn’t going to happen. I would have to run around a 5:55 mile to break it. I knew I couldn’t do it.
Mile 13 – 7:13 – I almost hate to admit it, but this wasn’t a “lets lay my guts on the line mile.” I was still feeling bad for myself about miscalculating my time. I was pushing comfortably hard. I definitely didn’t jog it into the finish, but I’d be lying to myself if I told myself that I gave 100% of everything I had.
Last 0.1 – 0:40 – Again, gave a solid B or B+ kick, but once again, I didn’t dig inside of me to find my inner Steve Prefontaine and give everything I had to get to the line. Had my watch said 1:29:30 instead of 1:30:30 when I hit the mile marker, I feel like I would given everything I had to get there as soon as possible.
Final Time 1:31:11 – Instead, I’m running to the line and starting to realize that I might not PR. And I didn’t. I missed tying my PR by 5 seconds. I sat near the finish line for 10 minutes with what was probably the most disgusting look on my face. I was dumbfounded. I was ticked. Not breaking 1:30 stunk. My PR has been within a few minutes of the mark since May of 2005. My last race in July was the first race I though I had a legitimate shot at breaking 1:30 since January 2008. This race, I genuinely thought I had a chance. At mile 8-9, I was smiling ear to ear because I just knew there was no possible way I WASN’T going to run under 1:30. Then, over the course of one bad mile and one bad time miscalculation it was just gone. Instead of seeing if could run 1:30:30, I felt bad for myself and it cost me a chance to PR. I was ticked at my self, but in the end, I deserved it.
After about 10 minutes, I started to feel a little less sorry for myself. In the end, this was my 2nd best half marathon I’ve ever raced and probably my 3rd best overall race I’ve ever run (I still count my 1:07:04 10 mile run as my best run I’ve ever had). I ran 5 seconds off my PR on a significantly tougher course. I dropped 1:56 in the last 3 weeks (again, on a tougher course). I’m as fit as I’m ever been which is evident by essentially running right at my PR. I ran nearly 4 minutes faster here than I did at this point last year. Despite the fact that I’m still upset at myself for not setting a PR, I can’t be entirely mad because I did run well overall. I only have two more half marathons on the agenda for the rest of the year. One of them (on the flattest course), is two weeks after my marathon. The other is in three weeks. What if I get hot weather in three weeks and my legs aren’t recovered from the marathon. I’m just upset because you are never promised that you are going to run faster. One of our former Perham runners – Gabrielle Anderson – recently PRed at a 1500 in Monaco. She said you have to celebrate every single PR because you never know when another one is coming. On the flip side of that, if you put yourself in a position to PR, you have to dig down and give everything you have to do so. I didn’t do so and unfortunately, that’s something I’m going to have to live with. Hopefully, in three weeks, I’m in position to do something different. I’m hoping to let this disappointment fuel my training and racing until then.