Sunday, April 28, 2019

Golden Driller Half Marathon

After my disappointing performance at the Aquarium Run, I really wanted to run another half-marathon in the spring to prove to myself that I could do it. I had been pondering running the Golden Driller 10k 3 weeks after the Aquarium Run so I could go after a 10k PR. I knew I'd lose some speed and fitness waiting that long after the race, but I felt confident I could still pull off a 10k PR. I decided instead of running the 10k, I'd run the half-marathon. I signed up pretty soon after the Aquarium Run. A week after the race I ran a 4 mile tempo not feeling quite recovered yet and finished with an average pace of 7:05. I decided I'd be happy with finishing the race in 7:05 pace if I could finish strong and feel good about my race. Two weeks out from the race I was feeling off and wondered if signing up for the race on a whim had been a mistake. I hadn't really taken time to think it over and just signed up right away once I realized it would work logistically. Then the week of the race I felt really strong and started getting excited for the race.
My main goal was to finish the race strong and regain my confidence, but in the back of my mind I kept thinking a PR might still be possible. For some reason 6:55 pace kept sticking in my head. I felt like if I went out conservatively in 7:00 pace and then picked it up to 6:50 pace on the way back I could average 6:55 pace and run a PR. I felt strongly that was possible but I didn't want to put pressure on myself. I wanted to really focus on a conservative start and finishing strong. The week of the race I checked the forecast at race time. It kept showing 16 mph winds and that put a bit of a damper on my thoughts of running a PR. It was also supposed to be 62 degrees at the race start and the high for the day was in the mid-80's so it would heat up fast! My mind kept going back to the fall of 2015 when I felt like I was in shape to run under 1:40 and ran a 1:41 at Prairie Fire. Then I came back at the Route 66, finishing about 5 minutes faster in a high 1:35. I kept thinking it was possible I'd have the same thing happen here. If I ran 5 minutes faster than the Aquarium Run that would be a high 1:29. But I also knew I was running after a super long taper and tried not to let myself use that experience in 2015 to get my hopes up.

I set an Uber up to pick me up between 6:15 and 6:30 so I could make it to the race start well before the 7:00 start time. I set my alarm for 6:00 but I woke up at 5:15 so excited for the race I couldn't fall back to sleep. I went ahead and got up. I had plenty of time to eat my Clif bar, drink my Nuun, and get dressed. I also knew I'd have some time to finish getting my nutrition in on the drive to the race. I was ready early so I decided to do some pre-run yoga from Yoga by Adriene on YouTube. It was just a 7 minute video which put me ready for my Uber right when it arrived. We decided it wasn't worth me running with my phone so I left it in a bag by the door for Ty to bring me when he came to pick me up. He'd talked about bringing the kids out around 8:30 to see me finish but I wasn't sure whether they'd actually make it to the finish area in time or not. Since I didn't have my phone we decided I should take my mace just to be safe. I was a little worried because I memorized the license plate number before putting my phone away and it wasn't the right car. I didn't want to get in but the guy looked like the one shown on the app and he had an explanation as to why it wasn't the right car. I had my mace so I went ahead and rode with him and it ended up being fine.

I finished eating on the drive and threw away my water bottle when we got there. It was a little bit chilly just standing around in my tank and shorts. I wished I had worn a long sleeved shirt to drop at the start, especially because the wind was so strong and chilly. I actually thought about running a warm up because I was so cold. Since I've never run a warm up before a half and I was running this one as a bonus half after a long training cycle I decided not to push it by adding extra mileage. I found a bush down by the river to stash my mace in and was pretty confident no one would find it and take it. I was right as it was still there when I was finished and went over to get it. Then I found a place to do my calf stretches out of the wind so I kept from getting too cold. My stomach was feeling a bit off and my Clif bar didn't seem to be sitting very well in my stomach. I was a little worried about how it would feel once I got going. I headed over to the race start with about 5 minutes to go before 7:00. They said the race would start at 7:00 sharp and it did which was perfect. At the start line I saw a woman who I had seen doing a warm up and drills before the race. She looked fast and I noticed her eyeing me and checking my bib to see if I was in the half or full marathon. I enjoyed that because I always feel like I am a bit on the heavy side to be a fast runner so I felt good that she picked me out as her main competition.
I guess being 4th overall and running a faster pace for my half than the marathoners, I should have started up farther.
When we took off I was surprised by how slow the race went out. I guess because there were likely some marathoners up front but it took me a little bit to get down under 8:00 pace. If I ever run this race again, I'd start up closer to the start line. It sprinkled a little off and on in the first miles of the race and it was cloudy which helped keep it from feeling too warm. I thought we were going out toward the bridge on Southwest Boulevard and would cross to the other side of the river on the bridge. I was disappointed to see we were going under the bridge on the old train bridges turned into a running trail. That kept us from running up a hill to the bridge but it meant we ran in the Bermuda Triangle of Riverside where my Garmin loses satellites so my mile split is always off going through there and I lose anywhere from 0.05-0.1 on my distance. I went through the first mile marker on the course before my watch beeped for the first mile which didn't surprise me after running through the Bermuda Triangle. When my watch beeped for the first mile, it showed my split was 7:18. I figured that was likely due to the loss of satellite connection but I also told myself if all I had was 7:18 pace today, I'd be okay with that. The woman I'd seen at the start had a decent gap on me and I was tempted to try to close it but I kept telling myself, "run smart and be patient." After that first mile we turned with the wind at our face. It didn't seem as bad as it had been at the Aquarium Run which may have been because we were running out into the wind instead of coming back into the wind!
I felt really strong even running into the wind and I started to feel like it was going to be my day even though it was pretty early on. I could feel that the wind wasn't effecting me as much as it should have been. I went through the 2nd mile in 6:51 which was faster than I had planned on but I didn't worry about it. I figured that mile might have registered fast since my first one had likely been slow due to Garmin malfunction. Plus I felt like I was just cruising and I figured if I was going to have a good day, there was no sense in holding back too much and wasting it. It was a little scary to listen to my body and run what felt like the right pace when doing so at the Aquarium Run had ended so badly! We hit the first water stop around in there and I grabbed water. I made sure to take water at every stop since it was so warm and I'm still not quite used to the heat yet. I had my sunglasses on my head so I could put them on later when the sun came up and the wind almost blew them off a few times because it was so strong! Mile 3 was 6:53 and then we had an uphill in the Gathering Place. I felt strong going up it and could see that I was closing the gap on the woman ahead of me a little bit. She looked like she was running conservatively on the way out as well. She'd tucked in behind the man ahead of her and was allowing him to block wind for her as we ran into the wind. I was a little jealous she had someone to run with as I didn't. I'd passed all the men around me and was running alone.

Mile 4 was 6:52 and I was excited with how easy that pace was feeling. I went through mile 5 in 6:55 and was pleased knowing I could likely pick up the pace on the way back with the wind at my back. I went through mile 6 in 6:56 and saw the guy leading the race come back by so I knew we were close to the turn around. I was having a little bit of a mental pep talk with myself that I started to feel a little rough around mile 6 of the Aquarium Run and since I was feeling so good at 6 miles here, even running into the wind, that hopefully I wouldn't fall apart again. I switched my Garmin over to the next screen so I could see my overall time and overall pace at the 10k mark. I went through the 10k in 43:15 and knew I was off pace for a sub-1:30 but was pretty sure I was on pace for a PR. I ate my Gu a little before the turn around and it went down fine. It actually seemed to calm my stomach a little. When we hit the turn around I looked and was at 45:40. I told myself if I could run 44:20 or under for the return trip I could run under 1:30. My Garmin showed I had run 6:59 pace on the way out which was exactly what I had hoped for in my wildest dreams hopes before the race. I started attempting to calculate what I pace I needed to average on the way back but then realized I was calculating for a 10k and not for 6.55 miles. I was able to pick the pace up when I turned back for the return trip but then could feel that my legs were tired from running into the wind which made the return trip a little harder. The woman ahead of me had seen me behind her at the turn around and really took off. I was maybe 45 seconds or so behind her at the turn around. Within a mile or so of  the turn around I caught and passed the guy she'd been drafting behind on the way out.

Mile 7 was 6:51 and then mile 8 was 6:41. Around the 8 mile mark the sun finally came out and I was so glad it had been cloudy up until then. I really started to feel the heat and I felt like the sun started to effect me. By the time I finished, my face was bright red! I hadn't looked at my watch other than to see my mile splits and check my overall time at the 10k point so I decided to keep my watch flipped over to overall time and pace. Mile 9 was 6:44 pace and I told myself when I got to mile 10 and had a 5k left I'd check to see what I needed to run the last 5k in to run under 1:30. We had the hill at the Gathering Place to go up again and it got me a bit this time. I struggled to get up and over it and could see the woman ahead of me really pulling away on the downhill. After the turn around when she took off I knew I wouldn't be able to catch her but it was fun to have her close enough that I could focus on her. She started pulling away enough that I couldn't see her as well. Once she really gapped me it was much harder to keep pushing without anyone to run with. Mile 9 was when I really wished I had Jeremy to run with again. I really missed him at this race and that's when I missed him the most! I went through mile 10 in 6:53 and knew if I could run the last 10k in 21:00 or under I'd be able to run under 1:30. At first I felt 6:45 pace was doable but once I went through mile 11 in 6:52, I knew it was not going to happen, especially considering I would have to run into the wind for the last mile. I started to feel a bit rough during mile 12 but nothing compared to what I've experienced in the past at Route 66 in 2016 and the Aquarium Run last year in 2018. I had hoped to run my last mile the fastest for the Strava Last Mile event but I knew with the Bermuda Triangle and the wind, that was a tall order. Once I knew sub-1:30 wasn't going to happen, it was hard to keep pushing. I told myself to go for under 1:31. Mile 12 was 7:03. There was a water stop with a mile and a half or 2 miles in the race and I was hot so I went ahead and took water. It was a bad pass so it all spilled and I had to reach back and grab some Nuun. I normally only drink water during races but I wasn't worried about taking Nuun since it doesn't sit on your stomach like Gatorade does and I had no trouble with it.

When we turned back into the wind, it was really demoralizing. It felt like the wind had picked up during the race but it also may have been that I was tired so the wind felt worse. I was coming up on 10k runners who were making it to the turn around and I felt like I wasn't blowing by them as quickly as I should have been. When I made it to the last half mile I started picturing running that section of the course during the Race Into the New Year and how I had really rocked the finish. This area of the race was where I struggled the most with running all alone. There were also no spectators out on the course and I didn't realize that was making the race harder until I came up on the finish and got a huge 2nd wind when people started cheering for me. Mile 13 was 7:21 but that was also likely not really my mile split since I lost satellite connection during that mile. I felt like I had slowed down and was concerned I wasn't going to finish in under 1:31. When I turned the corner to the finish the clock was at 1:30:30 so I knew I was going to break 1:31. I heard my friend Audrey cheering for me and I felt a huge rush of emotion over what a victory this was, especially with how scary it was to come back to race after the Aquarium Run's fall apart finish. I gave her a big smile and started pumping my fist. I knew that would slow me down, but I didn't care. I finished the last portion of the race in 6:20 pace and finished in an official time of 1:30:41. I heard someone yell my name and looked up to see Ty approaching. Carter and Elise came running over to see me right after I was handed my medal. I was pleased that even with my last mile I ran a negative split. My first half of the race was 45:40 and my second half was 45:01.

Audrey took a picture of the family together after I had Ty take a picture of me with her. I had finished 4th out of 291 overall, 2nd out of 182 females, and 1st out of 20 in my age group. My average pace was 6:55 pace which I thought was crazy since that's what I secretly hoped to run and felt like was attainable for me. I had been a little worried that I'd lose too much since I tapered for 2 weeks for the Aquarium Run and then followed that up with 3 weeks of low mileage and mostly easy running afterward. I definitely think if I could have put together a solid race at the Aquarium Run, my PR would have been much bigger, but I was pleased to have the chance to still get a PR out of this training cycle! I also think without the wind I could've maintained 6:50 pace or possibly under. I'm so glad I had this big confidence boost to show me I did have a big PR in me! I was so happy with this race, especially sneaking it in so long after my goal race and taper. I hadn't run a hard workout in 6 weeks by the time I stepped up to the starting line of this race. Carter and Ty were headed to a boy scout campout which had been rescheduled due to rain and needed to leave around 9:00. So I picked up my award early and we headed home. They dropped me and Elise off and then drove to the state park for their campout. I'm so thankful Ty is so supportive and understood how much I needed this race. Even though it wasn't convenient he went out of his way to make it work for me. He never complained or tried to persuade me not to do it. When I suggested it, he immediately said I should do it. If it hadn't been for his support I don't know that I would have been brave enough to put myself out there again after what happened in the Aquarium Run! That meant just as much as the PR does! It was also a confidence boost when I mentioned to my dad that I'd be happy to finish the race in 7:05 pace and he said I'd run faster. Even with my big blow up, he still believed in me!
Me and Audrey.
Me and the kids with the Golden Driller statue replica.

Audrey took live photos so on my phone Elise's hair is whipping around in the picture. So. much. wind!
Best support system ever!
Although I would have loved to put together an awesome race at the Aquarium Run, I'm thankful for this experience. It taught me that no matter how well prepared and tapered you are for a race, things can go wrong on race day with no clear explanation as to why. It also made obvious what an amazing support system I have through my family. When I was trying to figure out how to run this race with Ty and Carter going to the campout, my mom immediately said they would come watch Elise for me so I could run if they didn't have anything going on that weekend. When they realized they did have plans, Thomas was willing to spend the night at our house to be there when Elise woke up. Thankfully with the 7am start time and Ty not needing to leave until 9am, it worked where no one had to cover for me! I am so lucky to have the amazing, supportive family that I do. They just get it. It means so much to me that they saw everything I put into this season and were willing to make sacrifices so I could see that work through. No one wants to end a season of hard work, great tempos, and faster than ever speed workouts and 5ks with a blah goal race to show for it. I'm so glad I was able to pull together a good race on Saturday and reap the benefits of all that hard work and even more thankful I have a family who will go to great lengths to help me achieve my goals. Now I just have to decide if I want to add a flat half-marathon to my schedule in the fall to try to chip those last 42 seconds off my time, or if I want to only run the Route 66 knowing with 400 ft of elevation gain those last few seconds will likely remain. Decisions, decisions!

So pleased for this PR!


  1. I was really excited to read about this race! I had a feeling you would PR and I'm so glad you went for this one. You were right on with that 6:55 feeling! I know this was just a preview of bigger things to come, and just think how much more appreciative you are after the fluke that was the Aquarium Run! I also think your family is super awesome. :-)

    1. It's funny that I just had this feeling that I'd be able to run 6:55 pace. But it was also scary to put myself out there and go for a hard effort again after what had happened at the Aquarium Run. I was proud of myself for being mentally tough enough to do that. Once I got running I really didn't have any doubts. I just felt good. I was thankful for that! I did appreciate it so much more! If I'd run 1:30:41 at the Aquarium Run I would have been disappointed because I felt I was capable of sub-1:30. Here I was just so happy to have a strong race and the PR was icing on the cake!

    2. In general I think the best thing for confidence is just to get out there and do what we've trained for! It is so hard after a bad experience though. I'm so glad you are leaving the season on this high note!

  2. Oh, also you should look at the White River half in Arkansas in November if you want to PR. It's the same weekend as Route 66, but it's the fastest half course I've ever run. The first mile is downhill so it's basically a 12 mile race (provided that you start at pace, which will be a much easier effort, and don't try to blow out the first mile and bank time), then it's just an out and back pancake flat course. It's a small race but the course is so nice it more than makes up for the potential of time-trialing it.

    1. I will definitely look at that race for 2020 if I'm still trying to run sub-1:30 and just can't get there. I'm running Route 66 this year because Jeremy and Thomas are both doing the marathon. I'm excited to finish before them so I can cheer them on! After Prairie Fire Thomas said he wouldn't run another marathon and he's already signed up for another, I love it and I know you will too!

    2. That is great that both your brother are doing the marathon - you're right that you can't miss that! I think you can run a fast time on a hilly course - I don't think I run much slower at Rock the Parkway than I would on a flat course and it has 550ish ft of gain. But there are some other flatter options in October you could always do for a goal race if you decide you want something besides Route 66 in 2019. Decisions! :-)

    3. I know! I'm leaning toward just doing Route 66 because all the October halves would be within a week of either the Zoo Run 10k I'll be running or the Tulsa Run 15k. I think it is possible to run a fast time at Route 66, just a little harder. I almost ran a PR there in 2016 and all my marathon PRs have been run on the course, haha!

    4. I think one thing that's really going for you at Route 66 is that it's almost always cool or cold! I personally would rather run a hilly course in cold weather than a flat course in the heat, no doubt.

    5. That is so true! I've done better in the 17 degree races than the 60+ for sure! Spring is always windier too.