Well, that half marathon PR was short-lived.
Weather aside, pretty much everything went well for me in Saturday’s race. And the 40-degree rain might not have been such a bad thing after all.
I got to the start on the south end of Ward Parkway about 45 minutes before race time. Had no problem finding a parking space just across from the finish line. The bathrooms weren’t arranged in an organized manner, but there were enough of them to be efficient anyway. After a warm-up jog much shorter than last week’s, I lined up with the 1:45 pacer and awaited the start.
The pace leader planned to run a few 8:30 miles, then crank out 7:50’s in the middle en route to the 1:45 finish. I thought this sounded like a decent idea, but 8:30 felt a bit too slow at the start. Or maybe I just can’t psychologically handle getting passed and left behind by people I feel like I should be running with. Either way, I ran the first 3 miles around 8:15 pace.
When I cranked down the pace, others around me did as well. Perfect! The rain started to fall harder as we approached 10K. I crossed the mats just a hair under 50:00. I still had some time to “make up” from the slightly slower start in order to average 8:00 miles.
I continued to run miles ranging from 7:45 to 7:55. By 8 miles I had brought the pace down to 8:00 overall, but I was still trucking along. It’s a good thing, because there were a few hefty hills around Loose Park. The homes were gorgeous, though, so I tried to focus on the scenery instead. Eventually we came down off of the bluff and back onto Ward Parkway for the straight-away run back to the finish.
The 1:45 pace leader, whom I had not seen since the start, had mentioned that the wind might be tougher on the way back. Luckily, he was wrong. I was completely drenched and soggy, but thankfully wind was not a factor. Surely thanks to the rain, neither was heat or hydration! Running in the rain is not all bad, my friends.
I generally try not to slow down much at water stops – just grab the water, fold the cup, and hope for the best – but the station at the tenth mile was a bit gruesome. More people were tired and therefore slowing down/stopping for water, which really slowed down my pace early in mile 11. As I tried to find the balance between making up for the slowdown and using my energy too soon, I fell into pace with two other people I had seen periodically throughout the race. The guy noticed I was obsessively eyeing my Garmin and asked if I was timing my kick. No, I replied, just the opposite. I’m trying not to go crazy too soon! It turns out he had been considering kicking it in at 11 miles, but my conservative statement encouraged him to hang out for another mile. It was at about this time that the woman keeping pace with us tore off the plastic bag she’d been wearing for nearly 11 miles. I didn’t envy her outfit in the early miles, but by this time the rain had (sort of) let up and she was dry and aerodynamic in a racing tank. I was certainly jealous then!
At the 12 mile mark, both of them cranked up the intensity big-time. As I followed along, I realized that I felt pretty good. So this is what it feels like to have energy left in the tank. The last 1.1 miles, I felt as strong as I have felt since college. Mile 13 wasn’t insanely fast – 7:11 – but it felt amazing. And when I crossed the finish line at 13.1 and saw the time on the clock – 1:43:29 – I was elated.
Seven minute PR? Check.
And guess what?
Based on that finish time, Runner’s World thinks I can run a marathon in 3:35!
All together now: HOORAY!
**The full Rock the Parkway results are located here on MARA Running’s website. They are based on gun time and not chip time (although there was a starting mat) but I have determined that I am not going to cry about 10 lost seconds. I’ll just have to run faster next time.**