Today I ran the Potomac River Run Half Marathon. I had high hopes of getting a PR in this race, since the half marathon is the last major distance I need to PR in since having Kevin almost 20 months ago. Spoiler alert: it didn’t happen. And surprisingly, I am 110% okay with that.
Let’s start at the beginning! The night before the race I decided I would focus on 3 Ps for this race: patience, perseverance and positive thinking. I wanted to be patient in terms of my pacing by not going out too fast, persevere by hanging on while feeling uncomfortable, and keep a positive attitude no matter what. Even though I didn’t get the outcome I originally wanted, I did end up using these 3 Ps to get me through the race and they definitely still applied.
This morning my running buddy Amanda met us at our house at 6:15 and we all drove up to the C&O Canal Path together. We arrived just after 7:00 and were able to find close parking, pick up our stuff, and use the (indoor) bathroom twice before the 8:00 a.m. start. I love small races!
We were pretty chilly before the race started but I knew I’d be fine in my tank top in shorts once I got started. This race offered a 7:00 and 8:00 a.m. start, but since the temperature wasn’t supposed to get too high (this is me foreshadowing… LOL) we chose the 8:00 start. We headed to the start line by walking down a gravel path. The course was almost all packed gravel, but there were some bigger rocks here and there. It was a beautiful out-and-back along the river. I couldn’t wait to get started!
I said goodbye to my boys and lined up with Amanda toward the front, because this race was not chip timed and I learned my lesson before about those types of races. Sometimes every second counts!
After the National Anthem and some instructions from the race director, he quickly counted down and we were off! I ran with Amanda for a few seconds then we went our separate ways.
I felt really good the first half of the race. I focused on half mile chunks and that helped the miles tick by. It was still cool and the breeze felt good. I was maintaining around an 8:05 average pace pretty effortlessly. It didn’t feel like I was going out too fast at all. I ate my chews every 20 minutes, alternating between Honey Stingers and Clif Margarita Shot Bloks (for extra sodium) and each time it gave me the little boost I needed. I was focused on getting to the turn-around point so I could head back and then hopefully pick up the pace in the later miles, since I felt so good.
- Mile 1 – 8:05
- Mile 2 – 7:56
- Mile 3 – 8:07
- Mile 4 – 7:59
- Mile 5 – 8:14
- Mile 6 – 8:10
At the halfway turn-around point my watch said I was at 53 minutes. I did some math and realized that put me at a 1:46 finish time, which would be a PR since my current one was 1:48:55. I was really excited, but things started to change right after I turned around. It felt like the temperature had suddenly risen by quite a bit and sun was really beating down. There wasn’t a single cloud in the sky, and although parts of the trail were shaded a lot of it was not. I wasn’t prepared for this, because the forecast had said it would be 50 degrees and cloudy, and would only get to 60 degrees by the time I finished. It was definitely getting to be a lot warmer than that and I started to worry.
It was then that I saw Amanda headed toward the turn-around. I asked her how she was feeling and she was all smiles when she told me she was keeping a 9:10 average pace. I was so excited for her because I knew she’s been working toward a 9:18 goal half marathon pace (this was more of a training race for her- her goal race is in 2 weeks). Seeing her gave me a little boost, but then I looked down at my watch when it beeped at mile 7 and saw that I had slowed down. After that my body started to hurt and feel the effects of the temperature and the effort I had put in so far. I quickly realized I was going to have to adjust my goals for this race. Ever since my DNF, I am a lot more careful when it comes to pushing myself. I don’t even want to push my body too far again, and I promised myself I would always err on the side of caution if I needed to. I knew that my body just wasn’t used to running in warmer temperatures yet, after such a harsh cold winter that seemed like it would never end. So I slowed down. I started walking through water stations. Then I started taking walking breaks whenever I wanted to. Talk about a positive split for the second half of the race!
- Mile 7 – 8:30
- Mile 8 – 8:47
- Mile 9 – 8:43
- Mile 10 – 9:00
When I hit mile 10 I turned off my watch. I wasn’t angry or upset though. How could I be mad? It was a beautiful day and I was running on a gorgeous course. I turned off my watch because I didn’t want it to take away from my race experience and I didn’t want my climbing pace to ruin my day. I was determined to keep a positive attitude and enjoy the rest of the race. Those last 3 miles felt super long, but luckily I was able to watch turtles swim in the water and cheered on marathon runners that were going out for their second lap (while secretly thanking God that I wasn’t doing a full marathon!) I could feel myself getting a painful blister on the bottom of my foot from wearing worn out shoes on rocky terrain and kicked myself for not getting new ones like I knew I should have. There were bugs swirling around my head and trying to go up my nose and in my mouth. But I still wasn’t frustrated or disappointed. I just kept moving forward doing walk/run intervals, and finally I saw the finish line and my boys waiting for me.
After seeing them I turned the corner and headed downhill to the finish line! The clock said 1:57 and some seconds. Not my slowest and not my fastest half marathon, but a time I was proud of.
- Finish Time: 1:57:17 (8:57 average pace)
I could tell Kevin wasn’t sure how to react at first. He knew my goal was to PR and he obviously knew I missed it by a lot. I told him I was fine and that it was a difficult race for me, but I finished and I was happy. I explained a little about what had happened and told him I did enjoy the race, but I felt like I was done with ‘hard’ racing for a while. My heart just wasn’t fully in it and I could tell my body was ready for a break. He agreed with me and told me he was so proud of me anyway. He is the best :)
About 12 minutes later Amanda came through at 2:10, only missing her PR by a minute! She was so strong on a tough day and I was so proud of her! And this was just a ‘training race’ for her. I can’t wait to see her kill it at her goal half marathon!
We chatted about the race once she was finished and she agreed with me on many of the same things. She also lost steam around mile 7 as the temperatures got warmer. She told me that accidentally ate a bug that flew into her mouth, survived some tummy issues AND saw a snake in the middle of the path at one point! She is a rockstar.
This race reminded me that running isn’t always about getting a PR. Even though it was a tough day, I finished with a smile on my face and absolutely no regrets. I am proud of my effort and how I kept a positive attitude. A year ago (or even a few months ago!) I don’t think I would’ve been so happy with myself and my results, but I have come a long way and done a lot of work in that area of my life since then.
I have to say though, I am pretty excited to be done with training for a while. My body needs a break and I am so ready to run when I want to without following any type of plan! Here’s to running more with friends, my hubby, the baby in the stroller, and not running when I don’t feel like it. I can’t wait to spend my time focusing on other people and help them with their running goals as a running coach. I’m also excited to get back to the gym and the classes I love! It’s been a great year and a half of hard training and I have accomplished so many of my goals, but it’s back to easy running for me for a while. And I could not be happier about that :).