Coming into this race, the goal was really to have no real goal. Just improve on my 1:40 half marathon I ran two weeks ago in Fargo. Even a 1:40 would’ve been considered an “improvement” by me just based on the course profile (very hilly versus Fargo which had a whopping 8 feet of uphill/downhill in the last 8 miles). I prepared for the race exactly how you shouldn’t – stayed up too late, ate hot dogs instead of pasta, hydrated so-so, and showed up 20 minutes before the start of the race not having picked up my race packet and not ever really knowing where packet pickup was.
Mile 1 – 7:07 – Two weeks ago, the goal was to go out in about 7:20-ish. I ended up running a 7:07 which coincidentally was the exact same I ran this mile. Overall, though, I wasn’t too disappointed. It’s not like I ran a 6:40 or anything.
Mile 2 – 7:19 – Intentionally backed off just a touch. Last race, I ran a 7:03 here with a 10 second shoelace break. So I was pretty happy with the 7:19. So far, the course was constant hills as advertised.
Mile 3 – 7:05 – Feeling really strong here. At this point, I’m hoping to keep this going because I feel entirely different than I did during my last race.
Mile 4 – 7:22 – Really upset because my shoelace came untied here. I’m debating whether I want to run 9 more miles with a shoe untied or suck it up and tied it. Cost me about 20 seconds to double knot both of my shoes. Was disappointed in myself because I made this mistake last race, too. Note to self: when I’m trying to break 1:30, TIE YOUR FREAKING SHOES!
Mile 5 – 7:00 – This was largely a really pretty mile through downtown Fergus Falls. Not a ton of spectators for the race, but there were enough to make it kind of fun. Just a really pretty course, though.
Mile 6 – 7:10 – For the first time in the race, I was starting to feel the legs a little bit. There was one point we took a right and went uphill and into the wind. Was pretty pleased when I saw this mile – which felt like it was slowing quite a bit – was still 7:10.
Mile 7 – 7:16 – Hit the marathon relay at this point. Was really starting to feel it. Hit the halfway point in 46:2x. Doubling that would be a 1:32:40. I didn’t think that was going to be possible. Mentally, I thought if I could maintains 7:30s and finish around 1:36, I’d have been thrilled.
Mile 8 – 7:36 – This was a really tough mile for me. I had forgotten, but this is the most uphill mile of the course. It hurt. Luckily for me, I had a guy that I had passed (and then he passed me – we repeated this process about 6-8 times from mile 3 to the finish). He passed me every uphill (and then I’d get them on the downhills) but I managed to stay close. Without him here, I may have fallen off a bit.
Mile 9 – 7:03 – Got done with the hills and I was just thrilled with how I felt this miles. At this point in Fargo, I ran an 8:07. In this race, I now feel like I’m attacking the course. My legs feel like they’ve got some pop.
Mile 10 – 7:09 – As I hit this mark, I knew that I was capable of running a good time. I actually saw my wife and daughter for the first time here which was a big boost. More than anything, I’m running with a sense of elation simply because I feel fit and I feel like myself. After 6 weeks of taking beta blockers, I was really struggling feeling sluggish. Every single run felt like it was at the highest altitude I’ve ever run at. Now, I’m feeling strong and getting stronger because every mile I feel like I’m gaining confidence.
Mile 11 – 7:10 – Starting to meander back through town. My Grandparents are from Fergus Falls (about 45 minutes away from my hometown), so I grew up sitting in the backseat of the car driving around these streets while my Grandma went and got groceries or while my Grandpa was headed out to the golf course. There was something kind of neat about running a race in a town I’m quite nostalgic about.
Mile 12 – 7:42 – This was the “wheels fall off mile” to a certain extent. I felt really initially catching two runners I’d been anywhere from 25-100 meters behind for about 7-8 miles. I passed the first guy in the initial part of the mile. I could tell he was hurting a bit as his pace had slowed pretty considerably. The second guy had bothered me the whole race. He was an older guy who was running without a shirt on. About a mile or two into the race, he was ahead of me when he stopped, pulled out his camera and took a picture. He proceeded to do this (no lie) 30 or 40 more times during the course of the race. Every time, I’d make up about 5 seconds on him, but he was constantly ahead of me. It just bugged the crap out of me getting beat by a guy who was stopping to take nature pictures! I finally passed him while he was taking a picture on this mile. Although this mile was my slowest and toughest of the race, it was also the prettiest as you ran 1 mile around a little lake that sits in the middle of town.
Mile 13 – 6:58 – Right after I hit the 12 mile marker, we started to make our way back towards the 1 mile straight home. About 300 meters into the mile, I started running into the back of the 5k walkers. While it started off as just a few of them, it turned into literally hundreds of walkers. I know some people have horror stories about dodging 5k walkers, but they had the road completely shut down, so walkers stayed in the right lane and runners stayed in the left. It was actually awesome because all of the walkers starting cheering you on as you went by. I had the music cranked up to 11 at this point, but I could still hear the people cheering me on. My legs were heavy and I was struggling, but I can’t begin to describe how ecstatic I was to find out I ran the fastest mile of the race as my last mile. It’s been sometime since I’ve run a sub-7 mile at the end of a half-marathon.
Final Time – 1:34:08 which was good enough for 8th place overall and first in my age group. I don’t know if that won anything as I had to almost immediately head out to go to a birthday party with my family. All day, though, I was just feeling fantastic. Last year, I really recommitted myself to running. I really wanted to break my lifetime half-marathon PR of 1:31:07. I started by running in the 1:40s at the Fargo half and Perham half marathon before knocking out a 1:36:53 in August followed by a 1:36:23 in September followed finally by my season best of 1:34:53 at the Fargo Mini Marathon. I ran a poor race for the last race of the year, but it makes me feel phenomenal to think that on June 1st, I’m in better shape than I was last year after putting in a ton of work all summer/fall. I’ve worked really hard to get to the point where I’m at now and I’m finally once again proud of what I’m doing as a runner. I know that there are tens of thousands of runners in the world that can clean my clock in a race, but I race to be competitive with myself. And all the hard work I’ve been putting in has paid off as I’m nearing the best running I’ve ever done. I actually am starting an 18-week training cycle this Monday, so I’m optimistic that, of course if I can stay healthy, I may have the opportunity to put up some new personal bests at a bunch of different distances.
Up next, I’m just planning on training. I’ve got speedwork for the next few weeks. I’ll probably hop into some shorter races (Turtlefest 10k and possibly a 5 mile race on or around the 4th of July). My next half marathon (and hopefully at attempt to finally shatter the 1:30 barrier) will be at my hometown Perham Half Marathon on July 20th.