I DID IT!
I accomplished my goal of running 13.1 miles in UNDER TWO HOURS! While my official time was 2:03:25, my goal was to break 2 hours of actual running time.
I paused the Garmin Forerunner only when I stopped to drink water, quickly eat a Clif Shot Block and/or cantaloupe, and once to pee. I never walked one step of the actual 13.1, and my average pace was 9:04. I PRed everything. I can’t believe it!
THE FIRST FEW MILES
The night before, I force-fed myself all the carbs, and then fell asleep at 8:30. This was not hard to do after a grueling 5-hour dance rehearsal.
When I woke up at 4 am, I felt well-rested but not super excited. I think I knew deep down that I was attached to my time goal, no matter how hard I tried to let it go and just enjoy the race. I knew I wasn’t going to have much fun. I knew I’d be pushing myself the whole way.
And that I did. I started in corral “H,” with a conservatively estimated finish time of around 2:15 or 2:30. I ended up passing everyone, it felt like.
The weather was overcast and cold, which is perfect for running well and running fast. And with that, I made the typical mistake; I started off way too fast… but it felt good and like I was listening to my body. Race paces were: Mile 1 (8:41 pace) and Mile 2 (8:42). This is considerably faster than how I trained, but I just could not get my legs to slow down.
Mile 3 (9:09) went through the Denver Zoo! The cheetah was out and about, and he looked like we wanted to join us (or chase us, rather). I saw longhorn bulls, monkeys, flamingos, and mountain goats. So cool! I was expecting the animals to still be sleeping but was pleasantly surprised that they were moving about.
In the zoo, though, people were slowing down and the route was narrow. Meanwhile, I was ready to gun it. I passed a ton of people, weaving in and out, on a mission.
At Mile 4 (9:14) I finally was able to calm down and control my pace. I figured I had bought myself a little time with the first two miles, so I rested a bit and got my head on straight.
A LONG STRETCH
The course is flat, which is nice, but the out-and-back aspect isn’t my favorite. Running down East Montview Blvd from the Zoo was a bit tedious and redundant. There was a slight incline, which forced me to use a lot of mental energy to maintain my pace. Then it was an easy downhill before turning around to come back on 17th and then eventually Colfax Ave.
Mile 5 (9:02)
Mile 6 (9:01)
Mile 7 (8:55)
I finished Mile 8 (8:59) right after the Aurora Fire Station. When I looked down at the Garmin, I was astounded at how consistently fast my miles were looking. I was hitting my runner’s high and, consequently, totally goofy. A photographer was planted right after the Fire Station, so I gave him a big, cheesy smile and a double-thumbs-up. What a dork. (You can see that picture and other official race photos here.)
Also, at mile 8 I finally stopped to use a PortaPotty. I’d had to pee since waiting in the corral before the start! It was… not pretty in there, but I was in and out and on my way.
A SHARP PAIN
Around Mile 8.5, I got a sharp pain in my lower abdomen. It was scary, and I wondered if I should stop… but I eventually breathed it away, thank god.
Mile 9 (9:20) and Mile 10 (9:04) were probably the most excruciating. My legs were hurting. The adrenaline was gone, and my runner’s high wore off quickly after completing the 8th mile (probably lost momentum when I stopped for the bathroom).
I was on the lackluster stretch of Colfax (strip club signs galore… not the most inspiring), and I felt kind of alone and unmotivated.
I really had to dig deep for these two miles. I had to push myself harder than I’ve ever pushed before. I was saying things to myself like, “You are going to do this under 2 hours. You are going to push your pace when you’re tired. Especially when you’re tired.” I discovered a strength I didn’t know I had.
THE LAST 3
After completing my 10th mile and realizing I had PRed everything up to that point, my mind started to play tricks on me.
“You’ve just run 10 miles. Not only that, but the fastest and strongest 10 miles of your life. You are a badass. I now give you permission to let up a bit. How important are another 3 miles, anyway?”
It was a ridiculous game of tug of war. I wanted to walk, just for 15 seconds. I want to sit on the grass. I saw a family of onlookers eating doughnuts and fantasized about quitting the race and eating a doughnut with them. Maintaining a ~9 minute mile for over 10 miles was starting to wreak havoc on my energy level—mostly my mental energy, my positivity.
Mile 11 (9:22) was my slowest. But I didn’t stop. Actually, it was mile 11 that I decided to run miles 12 and 13 with everything left in my soul. I used mile 11 to recalibrate my goal, my priorities, and my resolve. I did the math and figured out how fast my last 2.1 miles needed to be to make my sub-2-hour (on the Garmin) time goal.
NOTE: Doing math for me is hard in general. It’s especially hard while running, even though runners have to do it often. Doing math while running a half marathon when you’ve already exhausted your energy stores for 10 PR-speed miles? Nearly impossible. But somehow I did the math correctly.
I was basically Rocky at Mile 12 (9:02). I was passing everyone. I would choose someone in front of me, and work to pass them. My favorite moment was running straight through a group of incredibly athletic-looking men running what I’m sure was a 7:30 pace. I left them in the dust! It felt so good. I could taste the finish line.
Mile 13 (9:14) was brutal, of course. Having run mile 12 with intermittent sprints, I thought I’d reached the end of my rope. But I didn’t stop! I kept sprinting randomly, so I could buy myself some easy-running time.
I hated all the things during the last mile: happy people, cheering onlookers, squirrels, music—all the things. I wanted to punch everyone. That’s just the way it was. Sorry to ruin it for you, folks.
The last .1 mile felt like an entire month! I didn’t have it in me to sprint, but I also wouldn’t let myself slow down. I crossed the finish line and looked down at my wrist. The Garmin read, “1:59:02.” DONE and DONE.
After finishing and getting my medal, I stumbled around delirious and cold, grabbing bagels and yogurt and bananas near the finish line. I sipped hot coffee and waited to reunite with Michelle. She finished her first half marathon in 2:26 like a badass! We ate our free meals and then I drove home to take a bath.
I was—and am—so proud of myself. The feeling of accomplishment, of being able to see such improvement in a short amount of time, is astounding.
This was my 5th half marathon in the past 9 years. My slowest time was 2:45. My previous best was 2:13. I beat my previous best (official) half marathon time by 10 whole minutes.
My actual average pace (9:04) had been my 1-minute sprint pace a few months ago.
I used to succumb to the temptation to slow down and stop after the 9- or 10-mile point. This time around, I pushed myself even more at those spots.
I used to get overwhelmed by sprinting and passing people, for fear I’d see them pass me again later. This time, it was my chief strategy at gaining energy and momentum.
I used to run for the ease of it. This time, I was running to find my true limits.
Good stuff, all around.
Side note: I had an hour to take an epsom salt and lavender bubble bath before heading to another 4-hour dance rehearsal. I didn’t feel too sore until I got home that night and could finally rest. Yikes!
WHAT WAS YOUR PERSONAL BEST RUN?