Monday, April 16, 2018

Aquarium Run Half Marathon

I was so excited about the Aquarium Run Half Marathon, read more about that here. When race morning rolled around I had my alarm set for 6:30 but woke up at 6:20 super excited and unable to fall back to sleep so I went ahead and got up and started getting ready for the race. True to the forecast it was in the mid-20's with a feels like temperature of 16 degrees. I peeked out the window in the bathroom as I got dressed and saw there was a small layer of snow on the ground. I waffled back and forth on which pair of tights to wear. I have a pair with a zipper I could put my Gu in but they are my thinnest tights. I eventually decided on my thicker pair of tights and safety pinned my Gu to the inside of my tank top. I was ready to leave the house a little after 7:00. Right as I was heading out the door I heard Elise open her bedroom door. I told her I was leaving the house and gave her a kiss. She wanted breakfast so I went ahead and got her breakfast so Ty could sleep in a little bit. I ended up leaving around 7:15, drank a scoop of protein powder mixed with water while I drove, and arrived at the aquarium with plenty of time. Since it was so cold everyone was inside the aquarium and no one wanted to use the porta potties so I jogged over and used them before heading inside. The lines for the restroom inside were crazy! I found an area toward the back of the main room where there was some space and Thomas found me when they arrived. I saw him and thought it was him but didn't realize he had an awesome shark jacket!
Can you tell I'm freezing!?
Waiting for the race to start.
Notice dad and Thomas' shark fins on their heads.
When we headed back outside we used the porta potties one more time and I turned my Garmin on to pick up satellites. We headed over to the start line and saw they were still setting up the timing mats. It was so cold and no one wanted to be up front at the race start. We were at the front so we weren't in a group of people to keep us warm. My fingers were throbbing they were so cold. Jeremy checked the time and we had been waiting over 6 minutes past the start time. It ended up starting about 10 minutes late. Normally I wouldn't mind too much but in the freezing weather it was quite unpleasant. When we took off I couldn't feel my legs. I felt like it took the entire first mile for my legs to warm up but even then my fingers throbbed for about the first 3 miles or so. Within the first half mile I had worked my way up to 3rd overall female and there were a couple of women running together, leading the race. I went through the first mile in 7:02 and caught up to the women ahead of me. I pulled up beside the woman leading the race and she stayed right with me. I looked over and recognized her from the St. Patrick's Day 5k so I asked her name and introduced myself. I knew she was in my age group and thought it would be funny if I placed 2nd overall male or female and still got 2nd in my age group because we are in the same age group. We chatted a little bit about the wind and how cold our fingers were. I felt great but I was also feeling a little cautious because I knew we'd have 5 miles out on Riverside with a steady 17 mph wind and stronger gusts.
Taking off at the start.
I look like I'm in pain and it's because I was so cold from standing around for so long!
These are all pictures mom took. I was waiting on the professional pictures to post, but they still aren't up and mom's are really good so I'll just add more later when they're available.

I went through mile 2 in 6:49. I was glad I went out and ran the 3 mile loop of the race before you get onto Riverside since I was leading the race. I definitely never expected to lead the race, I just wanted to be familiar with the loop going into race day. We pulled away from the other girl in this section of the race. We went through mile 3 in 6:57. I was excited about how the race was going and was pleased to have someone to run with. We made it across the bridge and when we turned onto Riverside and were running into the wind the other woman tucked in behind me. I realized she was going to draft off me into the wind but I didn't mind because I was running for time, not place. I went through mile 4 in 7:02.

A little after mile 4 we moved from the road onto the paved trail. I knew the wind would be stronger running down closer to the river. Mile 5 was 6:57. The wind was definitely slowing me down a bit but not considerably and I was getting excited that a PR might be in my grasp. I just felt so strong! Mile 6 was 6:55. I ate my Gu around 6.5 miles and switched over to see what my overall time was on my Garmin. I saw I would be super close to a PR if I ran the same split for the 2nd half of the race as I had run the first. I had averaged 6:59 pace for the first half. Then we went up a little hill and hit the windiest section of the course. Miles 7 and 8 were the toughest and I went through them in 7:17 and 7:08. I took water at a couple of water stops. There were chunks of ice in the water which made it difficult to drink. I wasn't expecting it at the first stop so I went to drink it like normal, pinching the cup, but the water wouldn't come out because the ice was blocking it's way. I tried chewing up the ice and that didn't work very well so I ended up just tossing the water at the first stop. The next time I took water I didn't pinch the cup and drank it that way which worked better but sloshed water on my face. 

I knew we would hit the turn around a little before the 8 mile marker and then would run a little bit back on the trail before we came across mile 8. My watch beeped for 8 miles and I still hadn't hit the turn around. I figured I just remembered the map incorrectly. I was definitely pleased when I finally saw the turn around and knew I'd get to finish out the final 5 miles of the race with the wind at my back! It felt good to turn around and have the wind at my back. I could feel that my legs were a bit fatigued from running into the wind but I still felt strong. I knew I could finish with a negative split and was pretty sure I'd be super close to a PR. It was fun to see the half marathoners still running out on the course. Jeremy cheered for me and told me I was 1st. Thomas cheered for me too. I got a lot of support and cheers from runners I didn't know too which was fun. Mile 9 was back down to 6:49. The wind at my back didn't speed me up as much as I had expected but I knew as long as I could stay under 7:00 pace I should PR. I kept thinking, "I'm really going to do this! I'm going to PR! 11 years later and I'm finally doing it!" When I hit mile 10 I got excited, knowing I only had a 5k to go. On the way out my watch had beeped for the mile split right at the mile marker on the course. After the turn around I noticed my Garmin was registering about a tenth of a mile long at each mile marker. I was a little worried but chalked it up to the mile markers being placed in the wrong spot.

Going into the last 5k I was excited and really wanted to pick it up but also didn't want to start my kick too soon. I went through mile 11 in 6:53. Then we met up with the 10k runners and I started having to weave a bit around them. I started to feel tired and mile 12 was the toughest of the race for me. I told myself I was almost to the last mile and these were the miles that would make or break my PR just like at Route 66. I told myself not to let myself lose a PR in the final 2 miles like I had at Route 66. I checked my overall time and figured if I could run around 7:00 for the last 2 miles I should be under 1:31:30. I was rounding up my time to the nearest minute and giving myself a minute to run the last 1/10th of a mile. I always like to give myself a cushion when I figure out what I need to run, especially because I usually end up with 13.18 or so from weaving and turning on the course. Mile 12 was 7:02 and I was relieved it was still close to 7:00. I had felt like I'd fallen off pace more than that. Then we went to cross the bridge and it was the only area of the course that was a bit slick. I was weaving around 10k runners and trying not to slide or fall which was stressing me out since I was trying to run a PR. Looking at my overall time going into the last mile I knew if I could run a 6:50 last mile, I'd definitely run a PR. I was giving myself 6:50 for the last mile and 40 seconds to finish out the last tenth of the race, again rounding my time up to the nearest minute. Each time I wanted to slow down, I told myself, "Don't lose that PR!"

The 10k runners in front of me came off the bridge and went out onto the road instead of running on the trail. I followed them. A police officer told us to get onto the trail but I didn't want to because I'd have to run across grass and down a slope to get there and I knew that would mess up my legs and slow me down so I just kept on keepin on. Around that time I could hear mom cheering for me and I really surged toward the finish. As I turned the corner to the finish I saw 1:31:30 on the clock and knew I wasn't going to finish in PR time, I really hauled in as much as I could to break 1:32 but finished in 1:32:05. At first I figured I must've miscalculated what I needed to run the last mile in because I ran it in 6:48 and then finished out the last portion of the race at 6:14 pace so I should have been under 1:31:30. Then when I looked at my watch I noticed it showed 13.25 miles so I figured my Garmin must've been having trouble or something. I was a little out of it to think that. But I was so happy. I felt like I ran a flawless race. Everything went so well and I ran the best race I possibly could have. I didn't give up when it got rough in those last 2 miles and I got tired. I didn't coast in even though I was ahead of 2nd place by over a minute, I kept pushing and I was determined. Not to mention I ran the race from mile 7 on alone. It takes focus and determination to run a PR without anyone around to push you.
Riding the pain train in to the finish. The people behind me were in the 10k. 2nd place was about a minute behind me.
On the pain train at the finish!

Darn that extra distance, Strava shows a new half-marathon PR of 1:31:01.
It wasn't until Jeremy finished and I was talking to him that I realized the turn around may have been placed in the wrong place. His Garmin registered 13.28. I started thinking about how after the turn around I suddenly was a tenth of a mile over at each mile split. My friend, Sara, suggested I compare my Strava map to the course map and I saw that they had placed the turn around in the wrong place, causing the course to be long. I was disappointed because one thing I love about this race is how spot on it is. Last year I ran 13.13 miles. Normally I'm more like 13.18 in half marathons because of not running the tangents and weaving around people. I was even more disappointed when I put my pace into a pace calculator and it showed a 1:31:06 half marathon. That would have been nearly a 30 second PR! It was a huge bummer to have run a PR race but not get to claim it because the course was long. But I was still proud of finishing in 6:57 pace and having such a strong race. Given the conditions I had thrown away any hope of running a PR until we were actually off and running. Once we got going and I felt great I was confident I could run a PR.  
The left is my Strava map and the right is the course map. We should have turned just past 61st street but ran almost all the way to 58th. 8 miles should have been after the turn around but I hit the 8 mile mark before we turned around.
What my pace calculates to for 13.1 instead of 13.25.
Mom and dad ran the 5k which started 20 minutes after the half marathon. Mom ran the race in Thomas' face mask she'd made him last year and said she didn't know how he'd run in it. I gave dad a hard time about knowing the course because he missed a turn last year and ran way extra. This year he had no trouble! Dad finished in 25:44, placing 35th out of 384 overall and 2nd out of 11 in his age group. Mom finished in 36:22, placing 167th overall and 3rd of 12 in her age group. Jeremy finished in 1:42:23 which put him 14th of 311 overall and 3rd of 12 in his age group. Thomas finished in 1:51:06, placing 43rd overall and 5th of 12 in the 30-34 age group but he actually should have been in the 25-29 age group since his birthday isn't until the 20th. He would have been 3rd in that age group. I finished in 1:32:05 and placed 1st overall as well as 1st out of 205 women and 1st out of 30 in my age group. The race was definitely on the smaller side this year, I'm sure due to the terrible weather!
Mom finishing the race.
Jeremy running to the finish.
Thomas finishing.
After the race we went into the aquarium to get a picture of dad and Thomas by the sharks. It was nice to walk around for a little bit just looking at the animals without trying to wrangle children. It was the first time I'd gotten the chance to just stand and enjoy watching the animals since the first time I visited the aquarium with Ty back when we were dating. I didn't realize until walking through the shark tunnel that I never really get the chance to look up and enjoy watching the sharks swim overhead because the kids walk through the tunnel really quickly every time! Jeremy was disappointed the sea turtle was sleeping when they went through but when I went by he was up for a brief stint before laying back down. As we were preparing to leave I couldn't find my keys in my bag. I knew I didn't lock them in the car because I remembered double checking my bag to make sure my keys were in it multiple times before closing the door. After dumping everything out of my bag and searching through it, it finally dawned on me that they were likely in the bathroom. I had dumped my bag out in the stall to change into dry clothes and I figured I didn't get my keys back in my bag. Sure enough we went into the bathroom and someone had set them on the counter for me, thank goodness!
While I was disappointed that I had run the equivalent to a PR but couldn't count it, thanks to a volunteer's mistake, this race gives me confidence that a PR is definitely within my reach. Initially I really wanted to find another spring half marathon to go for a PR but decided my best bet is just to go for it in the fall. Ty told me how proud he was of me that I'd made some difficult decisions this season which turned out to be in my best interest, but it's always so hard for me to decide to do less. When I was having a lot of issues with my glute and hamstring I skipped a couple tempos, knowing it would just irritate my muscles even more. I typically lean toward pushing through things and getting workouts in no matter what, but I finally learned from last spring that it's not worth it. I did fewer tempos, less speedwork, and less weekly mileage this spring than last spring but ran over 2 minutes faster even running an extra 1/10th of a mile! It goes to show it's better to be healthy than to get in the extra mileage and workouts! I'm so glad I caved and went to see a PT because I feel great running and I'm having so much fun! Every run is a joy compared to lots of painful and unpleasant runs leading up to this point.

Going into this race I felt like I was in really good shape based on how my training runs went the two weeks leading up to the race. But all my tempos and speedwork had been slower than the fall of 2016 when I missed a PR by 14 seconds so I didn't have confidence a PR was a possibility. I think the flat course with 100 feet of elevation gain compared to a mildly hilly course with almost 400 feet of elevation gain made a difference. I also didn't think about it until after the race that my tempos and speed work this spring were all run in quite a bit of wind compared to little wind in the fall of 2016. So really my workouts were probably more comparable than I was thinking. Due to the suggestion of my friend, Sara, I ran some 15 mile long runs this season. The longest long runs I had done preparing for a half marathon in the past had been 12 miles so I think that may have also helped me out. This was also the first season I've actually stuck with strength training and completed it on a regular basis. I did a short 10-15 minute strength training workout 2-3 times per week. It wasn't much but I figure anything is better than nothing!

Having this race under my belt lets me know the PR is there and I'm excited to train to get it in the fall! I know holding out to go for it in the fall is the best decision for me and I'm definitely ready to run just base miles for a few months before I jump into my fall training cycle. I'm excited to seriously train for a marathon for the first time ever and drop some serious time from my marathon PR too. It would be super exciting to throw a half marathon PR into the mix as well. I'll be shooting for sub-1:31:35 in the fall rather than sub-1:31:06 which should have been my time here so that will make a PR easier! I'm looking at the Prairie Fire Half Marathon in October as my next half-marathon and it's really hard to wait because I just want to run another one right now! But I know it's in my best interest to give my body some down time. I also want to get my glute and hamstring fully healed. My glute started getting really tight around mile 9. I don't think it slowed me down, but it would definitely be better to have no pain or tightness at all. My next race is a 12k leg of a marathon relay at the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. I'm running with my friends I run with early in the morning some days and it should be a lot of fun! My plan is to just keep running mileage with no tempos or speedwork between now and then and hopefully not lose too much speed. I'm hoping to run somewhere in the 7:00-7:15 minute per mile pace for the 12k. I think that's doable even without speed work. Hopefully I can ride out this training into a decent split for my team!


  1. I loved reading about this! I am frustrated about the turn-around mess up for you, but you're right that you know you can PR in the fall. To run so well in the wind and cold without competition says a lot!

    1. This course is so flat so I wondered if I could run as well on even a slightly hilly course. I looked back at Prairie Fire when I ran it and it only had 130 ft of elevation gain! Now Thomas is talking about running his first marathon at Prairie Fire!!! I’m super excited!

    2. I'm glad that's working out! I have never run the fall Prairie Fire half, but the marathon and half ran together for the first 10K when I ran the full. There is an incline that would account for most of that gain in mile 5. The full course had a corresponding decline in mile 16, and that was when the courses were again over-lapping, so you'll have that later in the race. That placement in elevation is helpful I think!

  2. Thomas's hat was perfect for the cold, and once or twice too warm. How he ran a half marathon in it last year when it was so much warmer, I don't know.

    1. He did the 5k last year but even then I don’t know how he did it because it was so warm last year!