Monday, April 8, 2019

Aquarium Run Half Marathon

Going into the Aquarium Run Half Marathon I was so excited. All my tempo runs during this training cycle were really strong and consistent. I had a 5 mile tempo at 6:48 pace, a 6 mile tempo at 6:45 pace, a 7 mile tempo with some strong winds at 6:48 pace, and an 8 mile tempo at 6:43 pace. Originally I was just hoping to run a PR which would mean 6:55 pace or under, but with how strong my tempo runs were I was really confident I could break 1:30 so that became my goal. Had it not been for those tempo runs, I wouldn't have decided to shoot for that time. In my mind it wasn't whether I was going to break 1:30 or not, it was how much I was going to break 1:30 by. Usually I run faster in races than I do in my tempos, even running extra distance. Even though my 8 mile tempo had felt comfortably hard like a tempo should, it was still pretty relaxed and it wasn't like I was pushing out of my comfort zone, I didn't think anything under 6:45 was realistic. That just seemed too fast! During my taper I ran my last little workout of 2 x 2 mile tempos with a half mile jog between. My first tempo felt pretty good with my miles at 6:46 and 6:51 but my second one was a struggle with my miles at 6:56 and 7:01. That made me a little nervous as it reminded me of what happened leading up to the Prairie Fire Half Marathon in the fall. I kind of bombed that same workout and then ended up with severe glute and hamstring pain following it. I was worried the same thing was going to happen so I stepped up to doing my PT exercises every day. The workout shook my confidence a little bit but I was so sure I would still have a good race with all the awesome tempo runs I'd had! I wasn't as confident I would for sure break 1:30 but I was really confident I'd at least run a PR. I knew last year they had the turn around in the wrong place which added a tenth of a mile to the race so I was a little worried that would happen again. I decided I'd just break 1:30 by enough that it wouldn't matter there was an extra tenth of a mile, I'd still be under!
Ready to start the race! Notice how my legs look normal-sized here compared to how they look in the finishing pictures.

Race morning was quite a bit warmer than I was used to. My warmest run leading up to race day was in the low 50's and it was already 62 degrees at the start of the race. The wind was fairly strong, but not too bad. They had been calling for rain but instead the sun was out and blasting.  As per usual at this race, we started really late. When we finally took off I quickly settled into a pace that felt comfortable. Of course, that was tempo pace. When I settle into 6:45ish pace I tend to just cruise along there. There are a lot of turns in the first few miles of the race so we got a good feel for which direction the wind was coming from. When we were running to the east I thought we were running into the wind. It wasn't until we turned to the south that I realized that's really where the wind would be at our face. That meant once we got to the Riverside trail, we'd have the wind at our back for the way out and would come back into the wind. I always prefer running into the wind on the way out and that's what happened last year. Before the race when I realized the wind was going to be an issue, I thought about holding back to 6:50 pace at the start of the race to save back some energy to run into the wind. Eventually I decided my best bet was just to run based off feel since I've done that so successfully in so many races and all my tempos this season. Jeremy asked what pace I was shooting for and I said 6:50. He said he'd take off with me and see how long he could hang.
Waiting for us to start the race.
Mom made them matching shark hats. She would have made Carter one but he was supposed to be at a boy scout campout which was cancelled due to the chance of storms.
Jeremy and I went through the first mile together in 6:44. Jeremy was a little concerned that it was so much under 6:50 but I felt good and didn't want to hold back so we just kept plugging away. Last year at the race I just ran off feel and ended up running a PR with an average pace much faster than I would have believed I could run. We went through mile 2 in 6:42. There were 2 college girls running out ahead of us a little bit and Jeremy mentioned we were definitely reeling them in. He said he thought I'd easily take top female if we could continue at our pace. I really didn't care about place at all, all I cared about was time. I would have been happy to not even finish in the top 3 females if I was able to break 1:30. Time was all I cared about, it was my single focus. As we took the turn toward Riverside we passed the two girls. They both latched on right behind me and stayed there breathing down my neck. We went through mile 3 in 6:50 and then mile 4 in 6:42. Jeremy and I were still running side by side with the girls right behind us. I heard one talking to the other and realized she was pacing her friend. Her friend was attempting to break 1:30. So we were working toward the same goal. Mile 5 was 6:45. Somewhere around in there a guy from their team came jogging over. He had paced one of the guys on the team for the start of the race and was now coming back to pace the girl. Since it was so hot and the sun was really shining, I took water at every water stop. They had stops about every 2 miles. Often times I don't take water that often but I wanted to make sure I stayed hydrated since it was so much warmer than I'm used to. When we came up on Riverside they had a police officer telling us to run all the way down to the stoplight before turning left rather than turning on the little turn lane ramp like we had last year. I knew that was wrong and didn't let it affect me but was disappointed when I saw my mile splits were reading a tenth of a mile long after that.
Where we should have gone based on the certified course vs. where they had us go on race morning for that turn.
Mile 6 was again 6:45 and I felt like I was in a really good rhythm. I was excited that once I settled into 6:45 pace I kept popping them off. It was too early to get excited about the possibility of my finishing time but I did feel good that I was enough under 6:50 pace if they had the turn around in the wrong place again, I should still sneak under 1:30. I checked my overall time at the 10k mark and went through the 10k just over 42 minutes. My goal was to go through the 10k in 42-42:30 so that was perfect! I ate my Gu at around 6.5 miles and it tasted really good. I had been tempted to skip it but was afraid I'd regret it if I did. At a water stop around in here the guy pacing the girl behind us cut over in front of me to get water and then slowed down right in front of me. I got really irritated and said something about it to Jeremy, the guy heard me and apologized and I wasn't very nice about it. I felt bad about it after the race. My head was just so much on time that I was mad he had caused me to slow down. I lost my rhythm a little bit there and that irritated me. A little after that I heard the girl pacing telling the other girl she was about to the point where she was supposed to drop and the guy would take over with pacing. I was glad because she was the one who kept trying to pass me and then would slow down and when she tucked behind me was right on my heels. I hadn't minded them running right on my heels but after 4 miles it was nice to know one of them would be gone. Somewhere around in here a bug flew down my throat and left me coughing for about a half mile which was annoying.

Mile 7 was 6:56 and I hadn't felt like I'd slowed down. I was a little worried I wasn't going to be able to maintain 7:00 pace or under on the way back into the wind after how that mile had felt. We saw the lead guy go by and I was glad to know the turn around was coming up. Although I also knew that meant I would have to run into the wind soon. We had a couple hills in this mile and I told myself not to worry if I fell off pace a bit because miles 7 and 8 were my slowest miles of the race last year. I didn't think about it until after the race, but last year we ran out into the wind and this year we would run back into the wind. The girl who had been running right behind me started falling off pace here and I realized if Jeremy didn't stick with me, I'd be running alone for the final portion of the race. When we approached the turn around there was a group of 6 adults walking and one of them was pushing a stroller. I knew they weren't in the race so I was shocked when they decided to turn around the cones at the turn around and impeded me as I attempted to turn so I had to run out past the cones a little bit before turning around. Jeremy told them there was a race going on and they should watch out as they walked. They were rude to him in return which frustrated me more than them getting in my way. That was a problem with it being warm for the race, there were a lot of people not in the race out using the trails. They apparently didn't notice a race was going on and were getting in our way. That was the first time we had a major issue outside of a group of bikers taking up the entire bike side of the trail and spilling onto the pedestrian side in our way. When we turned around I realized the wind had really picked up in intensity since we started the race. Dad said the wind got stronger throughout the whole race which explains a little bit what was to come.

We hit the 8 mile mark a little bit after the turn around just like we were supposed to and I was very excited the turn around was in the right place this year. I had totally forgotten about the turn earlier in the race where we'd added about a tenth of a mile. I went through mile 8 in 6:59 and was pleased I was still under 7:00 pace. My goal for this half marathon had been for it to be the first half marathon where I ran every mile under 7:00. I've run an average pace under 7:00 many times but I've always had at least 1 mile over 7 minutes so I was excited about that. Jeremy had fallen behind me a little bit during mile 7 but caught back up with me by mile 8 and we continued running together. He tried talking to me and pumping me up a little bit but things were quickly spiraling out of control for me. I realized I couldn't respond to him when he talked to me and was only able to give him a thumbs down when he mentioned how strong the wind was. The wind had definitely picked up during the race and running into it on the way back was killing me. I just kept telling myself, only 4 miles into the wind and then I can turn and have the wind at my side for the last mile. When I went through mile 9 in 7:21 I knew the last portion of the race was going to be a train wreck. I told myself even though sub-1:30 was out the window, a PR wasn't. If I could just hold it to around 7:00 pace I could still pull off a PR.

I just couldn't push my pace down at all and mile 10 was 7:32. I felt myself leaning to the right and I could feel my form going to shit. I couldn't believe the wind was destroying me as much as it was and I was helpless to do anything about what was happening to my race. I gave myself pep talks and told myself no matter what I couldn't give up. Jeremy started to pull away from me and I told myself to go with him, but I couldn't. My body was rebelling. It was one of those situations where I just couldn't get my legs to move. Jeremy told me we were going to have to Prefontaine it and gut it out into the wind. I was pushing as much as I could, but my body was not responding. I felt the grimace on my face and was so close to tears. I had no idea how I was going to be able to run 3 more miles. I tried to be positive and told myself, just a 5k to go. Mentally I was focusing on finishing the race. I knew a PR was no longer possible but I told myself I was a sitting duck for the girl in 2nd and I had to keep pushing. Mile 11 was 7:36 and then mile 12 was 8:09. I was devastated. I couldn't believe I had run a mile during my half marathon that slowly. My slowest mile in my marathon was 8:11 and that was with a monster hill. This was totally flat. I could feel the tears bubbling up in my chest but I would not let myself give up. I told myself, one foot in front of the other. You can do this!
Coming up on the finish with a 10k walker behind me.
When we finally made it to the bridge where we'd get to turn out of the wind and I knew I had one mile left it looked like it stretched on forever. Imagining this race I had pictured myself hauling across this bridge and sprinting in to the finish for a final mile under 6:40. Here I was just barely moving. Jeremy cheered for me as he turned off the bridge and could see me. I was unable to muster a response. He yelled that there was no one near me but it wouldn't have mattered. If the girl had caught me, I would have had no response to a surge. I kept suppressing the urge to cry because I knew that would only slow me down more. I had lost total control of my form and could tell I was leaning severely to the right. As I neared the finish line I went through mile 13 in 7:56. I saw dad with Carter and bent down to high five Carter. I could hear my mom cheering for me and told myself to pull together a finishing kick for mom but I just didn't have one. I ran the final portion of the race in 7:36 pace. For comparison I finished the last portion of the marathon in 6:50 pace. So it was pretty pitiful. As I crossed the finish line the clock said 1:37 and I was so out of it and knew I'd really bombed the last miles so much, I thought that was right. When I finished I bent over and thought I was going to cry but I didn't. I walked around grimacing for a while sure tears were coming but they never did. I just felt empty.
I just kept laughing over the difference in our faces at the finish. I said it was when you dominate the race vs. when the race dominates you!

High fiving Carter toward the end of the race.
When I looked at my Garmin I saw I had actually run a 1:34 but I didn't care. It wasn't so much that my time was way off what I felt like I was capable of running, it was how hard I'd bombed those last miles. It was scary. Something happened to my body and there wasn't anything to explain it. The wind and the heat were bad but they weren't running an 8:00 mile during a half-marathon bad. There was really no good explanation for what happened to me. It was definitely a lot warmer than I was used to and all my tempos were run in 40 degree weather or below so I know the temperature was a factor. The wind was strong but I had also battled some strong winds during my 7 mile tempo and was still able to hold together a decent pace. It wasn't like I went out and forced the pace at the beginning of the race, attempting to run a pace that was too fast for me. I settled into my tempo pace and only looked at my mile splits to see how I was doing. I wasn't forcing the pace at all and everything felt fine until everything started spiraling out of control in mile 9. Everything felt great until all the sudden, it didn't. I ran the first 8 miles of the race in an average pace of 6:48 pace when I ran my 8 mile tempo at 6:43 pace so I really should have been able to hold it together better than that! After walking through the finishing area, I talked with Jeremy for a little bit, congratulated the 2nd place female who had also been going for sub-1:30 and finished over a minute behind me, then I headed over to where mom and dad were to cheer for Thomas. He looked strong and I didn't know it until later but he stopped his Garmin at 13.1 miles and thought about walking from there to the finish because he thought it was bull shit the race was long, I thought that was hilarious!
Me and Jeremy posing with the eel which was on our bibs.
Carter posed with Opa and the sharks in Elise's hat because Elise didn't want to take a picture.
After 2 days of wallowing off and on over how disappointing this race was, I'm made my peace. I think what I struggled with the most was how much I died at the end. I had the tempo runs to show I was capable of running the pace I started the race at. I knew I hadn't been ridiculous and gone out pushing a pace that wasn't doable. I took off running what felt sustainable. Although this wasn't at all what I wanted, I was proud of myself for pushing through the pain. This was the most I've ever wanted to walk in a half-marathon but I kept putting one foot in front of the other. The purpose of running in my life is to make me feel better and to bring me happiness. I decided I wasn't going to allow one bad race to make me unhappy. I have run awesome races all season. Even though my training cycle didn't end in the half-marathon time I was hoping for I did run a 5k in my fastest ever road race time and fastest 5k time in 11 years! That's not a small feat! Plus I enjoyed the training so it's not like it was pointless. At first I was terrified to attempt running another half because this one hurt so darn bad and I wasn't really sure why so I didn't have a way to prevent it from happening again. But the more I thought about it, the more I felt like I needed to run another one to reclaim it for myself. The half has always been my favorite race distance and I didn't want to leave it with a terrible experience on my mind. One of my running buddies told me the fact that I was afraid to put myself out there was exactly the reason why I needed to do it and the more I thought about it, the more I agreed! So I'm signed up for another half marathon in 3 weeks. It is also run on Riverside Drive and is a spring half in Oklahoma so the chances are great that I will again experience heat and high winds. I just want to run it to enjoy a half again, not to try for the time I trained for. I want to reclaim the half and love it again.
Opa and Elise before the Fun Run.
Elise and Opa finishing the run run.
Jeremy finished in 1:33:31 which was his fastest half-marathon since his accident by far. He was really excited about it and told me multiple times during the race how excited he was that I was pacing him to his fastest time since his accident. I hated that I wasn't able to show my excitement for him or enjoy it with him because I was in so much pain. I hated that all his encouragement was met by grunts and thumbs up or down from me because I couldn't even talk! He was 7th out of 282 overall and 1st in his age group. My time was 1:34:40. I finished 8th overall, 1st female, and 1st in my age group. Thomas finished in 1:46:53 which put him 16th overall and 3rd in his age group. Mom ran the 5k in 35:34 which put her 205th out of 581 and 3rd in her age group. Dad ran the mile fun run with Elise. Carter ran the fun run by himself and Ty spectated. The age group awards this year were awesome. They gave us a coupon which we could use to pick out at stuffed animal in the gift shop or to get your time engraved on your medal. It was kind of funny because I saw they mentioned they would have medal engraving available at the race and I asked Ty if I could get my medal engraved if I broke 1:30. Here I could get it done for free but had no interest in engraving my time on my medal. Mom gave her coupon to Carter and he picked out a sea turtle stuffed animal. I gave mine to Elise and she picked an otter which she named Thomas but told me is a girl. Jeremy got his time engraved on his medal since it was a huge victory for him! He has come so far since his accident, it's amazing! Next time we run together during a half-marathon I hope I can enjoy it and feel excited for him!
Elise loves her Thomas Otty!
Carter loved showing his sea turtle stuffed animal to the sea turtle who was out and active while we were there!
The sea turtle just posing for a picture!
Read about last year's race here, 2017's race here, 2016's 10k here, and 2013's 10k here. Looking back over these race results I have to give myself credit for how far I've come. Although I ran a PR last year with significantly fewer good workouts than this year, I ran a similar time to 2017 with a tenth of a mile added to the course this year. I beat my 10k time from 2016 in the first 10k of this race and I ran a 15k PR within the first section of the race. Then you consider that my slow, terrible mile from this year's race was close to my goal pace for the 10k in 2013!


  1. I thought it was too hot! I'm glad they had the stuffed animals for age group awards.

  2. I have so many comments on this!
    1) I know you are in 1:28 shape. You know how good I am at predicting race times, so it has to be true!
    2) Having a race when things go poorly and you don't know why is the worst, and I'm sorry it happened to you. Every runner understands. We have all had races where we did something dumb (like went out too fast, raced when sick, tried a new gel on race day, etc.) and while we feel bad about those days, being able to explain them helps.
    3) Those hats your mom made are the CUTEST!
    4) I'm glad you're doing another half with no pressure! While chasing time goals is super fun and rewarding, I know that both of us would keep running even if we knew for a fact we would never PR again. The joy is in the journey!
    5) The pictures of you and Jeremy side by side with completely different expressions are hilarious!
    6) I love the stuffed animals as awards.
    7) I am going to remember that this race is more often than not not the correct certified course.
    8) The other girl who faded even more than you has to show you something too - the temperature and wind sucked.
    9) That is so funny that Thomas stopped his Garmin at 13.1!
    10) I am sure I forgot 10 more comments I had!

    1. #2 is exactly it! I'd feel better about it if I knew what went wrong. I think that's what shook me the most, I don't know how to prevent it from happening again because I'm not sure why it happened! The joy is definitely in the journey! I didn't regret having done all those hard tempos but not reaping the benefit on race day because I got so much joy from running those awesome tempos!

      Thomas was hilarious! When I saw his Strava showed 13.1 I couldn't figure out how in the heck he cut the course to get the right distance. I was thinking maybe he turned on the inside of the cones where we should have even though they had a police officer stationed there. When he said he stopped his watch I just cracked up! I didn't even notice when I hit 13.1 because I was dying and just staring down the finish line, haha!