Thursday, September 18, 2014

Parks Half Marathon - Take 2

Looks who's back! I've been training, I've been coaching, and I've been teaching, but I haven't been blogging for some time. I wanted a break from worrying about it, and from being connected to technology all of the time. However, I still want to make sure I document my races as it's fun to look back on them months and years later.

My focus for the last few months has been the Parks Half Marathon, which I also ran last fall. I used the Hanson Method for Half Marathons this summer for training, but it wasn't great training because of my own doing (not because it isn't a great program - it is an excellent program). Once school started, my training and sleep took a hit. My A Goal going into this race was to get 1:27:XX, but my B, and more realistic goal was to get close to my PR, but still be under 1:30.

This Sunday was the coolest morning it has been here for some time and it was around 50 degrees at the start. I was surprised to see that there were no "elite" female runners at the start like last year. It turns out they waited too long to sign up and didn't want to pay to run. Bad for them, but great for me. I was hoping that with their absence I would be able to place higher in the rankings this year. I knew I had to hit sub 6:47 miles to get a PR, and I was confident on the line that I could manage that. I was focused and ready.

Miles 1-3:
6:22, 6:30, 6:42

I was the first girl leading the start for a few hundred yards, but I didn't want to be in that spot. I didn't want to make the mistake I've been making in 5ks. I wanted to hit the first mile around 6:45ish, and pulled back the pace, allowing 3 girls to go ahead of me. I stayed relaxed, felt good, but still came in too fast.

It turns out that the first two miles were downhill, and I had forgotten that before and during the race. A smart runner would have prepared for those downhills and I could have put in less effort. I wasn't worried when I saw my first splits, and ran calmly. I wanted to see what was in me.

By mile 3, a woman in pink had sprinted past me. She looked very strong and I doubted that I would be able to catch her. The first three girls were long out of sight and I knew there was not hope of catching up to them.

Miles 4-6: 
6:45, 6:38, 6:34

When I got to mile 6 I decided it was time for a gel but the coldness of the air had left my hands stiff. I struggled for a few minutes (no joke) to reach into my pocket that was placed INSIDE the back of my shorts. Seriously Nike, what were you thinking? I probably mooned the people behind me trying to reach for the gel. My breathing got off, my stride was off, but I was happy to get some fuel in me and to see that I was hitting some nice mile splits. I could no longer see the 4th place woman and could only hope that I had a strong 5th place. 

During these miles, as we went up and down hills in the woods, I realized how much I truly enjoy this race. It's in the woods, it's peaceful, and I loved that there were no crowds around. It felt like a "grown up" cross country course because of the paved trails. While I had men around me the whole time, we were all staying in our mental zones and working to get through it. 

Miles 7-9
6:48, 6:42, 6:40

Tom was cheering at mile 8 and I felt good when I passed him. Mile 9 was a different story though. I started to feel cramps in my calves, something I have only felt once before - at the end of the Cherry Blossom this spring. My calves may be fine in my flats in a 5K or 10K, but the longer distance was killing them. I tried to hold on, but began to fear what lay ahead. I knew my calves were going to suffer for the remainder of the race. As I ran, the knotting in them got worse. 

Miles 10 - 13
6:42, 7:06, 6:59, 7:13, 0:42

Check those splits! They do all of the explaining and I am sure you can guess what happened next. I struggled to get my feet to move. The last two miles, which are totally flat and in a straight line, killed me. Around the end of the 12th mile a turn around spot gave me a glimpse of the runners in a 30-45 second window behind me. I was praying there would be no female, but alas, there was! She was withing those 30 seconds and I knew that the last mile would be my slowest. I entered the last straightaway hoping that I could hold on to the 5th place finish. 1:27 was out of question, but I had hopes to still get a PR and knew I needed to focus.

At one point I asked myself, "what hurts?" Is my breathing off? No. Is my upper body sore? No. Are my hamstrings or quads out of energy? Sadly no. The only thing holding me back was the inability to respond to the signals my nerves were sending in my calves to make them function.

Tom was cheering 0.3 miles from the end, and when I passed him I was trying with all of my might not to stop and to just make it to the finish. It could have been a cute moment where he could have helped run me in, but I told him not to. I was so focused on trying to move my feet that I didn't want a distraction.

It was sad, but still a slight relief, to see the clock read 1:28:26 when I crossed - a 20 second PR. The 6th place woman finished not too long after me as I was able to hold onto some distance between us.

Final Time: 
20 second PR
5th female out of 983
$100 prize money

Like last year, the post race was excellent. I was finished by 8:30am and was offered sandwiches and pizza by 8:36. I had to laugh it off. No thank you to pizza that early in the morning. 

I have to remind myself that there were positives to this race: 
  • I loved the course
  • I was calm
  • I was focused at the start and excited for it
  • I was running great splits for a majority of it
  • and I still got a PR. 
However, it still isn't the race I wanted it to be, and I didn't expect to not be able to work my calves. I know my training was not top notch and I should have ran in my flats more. That will be fuel to work harder next time around. I want to see a 1:26 or 1:27 and know that it takes some serious determination to get there. I'm ready to put in the work.


  1. Congrats on the PR!! Sounds like it is a great race and can't beat good food after too. I really want to chase down a half PR soon. Are those A5 flats? The first few longer distance races I did in them took some getting used to for the calves. Eventually It got better, but getting more practice with them definitely helps.

  2. Awesome job Dani! Any PR is wonderful news :)