This is a long overdue recap because..to be honest...I had a hard time remembering how to recap a half marathon. I am so used to recapping full marathons where you go through so many different emotions and stages in those 26.2 miles. I basically use those stages to guide me through my race recaps.
When I first started this recap a couple days after the race it was ..write.delete.repeat. I eventually just gave up…people probably don’t care too much about a half anyways. I almost gave up entirely but it kept creeping in my head because let’s be honest, I am proud of it… and at the end of the day, this blog is for me. It is my personal highlight and lowlight reel. I use it pump myself up before big races or lift my spirits when I am in the thick of another injury that feels like ‘the worse thing ever’ to remind myself that it too will pass.
So..here we are. I will do the best I can to try to piece the race together even though there really aren’t that many pieces. The race was the type of race all runners hope for. The run just comes out of you, the momentum is strong and the miles pass by at a comfortably uncomfortable pace.
Race Goals – The half marathon distance is probably my favorite distance but once I started doing marathons, I just kind of got sucked into the distance and always seemed to have a race on the calendar….and when there wasn’t a race on the calendar, I probably wanted nothing to do with racing/running and wanted to focus on enjoying the down time and doing well at Crossfit. This has been an ongoing cycle for 3 years which is why I haven’t truly raced the half distance in that time period . In those 3 years, I’ve had moments of not wanting to go back to the half because I felt like my 1:26 PR from 2014 was just untouchable and so out of reach. I’ve also had moments where I wanted so badly to go back to the half just to prove that other part of me wrong.
When I put Ithaca Half on the calendar after coming back from an injury that kept me sidelined for Boston, I wanted this to be my chance to see if I can come close to my old times. I knew 1:26 was not realistic with only 2 months of training post injury so I set my goal to sub 1:30. I haven’t gone below 1:30 in over 3 years so despite being almost 4 minutes off my PR, it would still be a huge accomplishment.
Goal 1 – sub 1:30, Goal 2 – Top 3, Goal 3 – stay consistent with my splits.
The race was one that all runners dream to have…well…the second half of the course and the temperature were not a dream..so maybe it wasn’t a runner’s dream but it was a race where things just came together and stayed together. As runners, we set all these little goals but at the end of the day, we just want to run our best on that day and hope that it is an accurate reflection of what our best should be based on training.
The Race – As always, I got over excited and went flying off the start line, clocking a 6:24 first mile… eekkk, not part of the plan…pull back ASAP! In hindsight, it may not have been such an awful way to start because I snagged some confidence from that first mile. Wow, definitely not what I should have done but DID 6:24 really feel that good. Now, of course I am sure it wouldn’t have felt good for much longer but I didn’t think that far ahead, I simply pulled back and pocketed that little piece of confidence.
At about mile 1.5, we entered an 8 mile long gravel bike bath. Leading up to the race, I was nervous about the gravel slowing me down but it actually was perfect because it kept us in the shade for a good portion of the race which was a major plus on a sunny and 80 degree day.
This picture right here sums up the first 8 miles perfectly – laser focused, tucked in with a pack, and staying calm.
At mile 8, we entered downtown Ithaca and the gravel turned into pavement. The pavement felt nice, but it didn’t take long for me to miss the gravel and the straight, shaded path. The sun was MUCH stronger on the road and I didn’t expect all the sharp turns.
For all the times, I looked at the course map, I don’t think I ever really focused in on all those turns! I felt like a ping-pong ball bouncing back and forth all while trying to maintain momentum. When I started getting frustrated with all the sharp turns, I just kept telling myself to ‘RESPOND’…I can’t control the course so I need to just respond to each sharp turn. Bounce back as quick as possible and find my momentum immediately. My watch splits were staying consistent so although I may have been exerting more energy, I was still getting the job done and it wasn’t the time to think about what I COULD be doing if there weren’t so many sharp turns.
At one point, we crossed the Ithaca Farmer’s Market rock-filled parking and it was the first time in the race where I had to slow down because stepping wrong on a sharp rock was a recipe for disaster for either my ankle or the sole of my feet. Thankfully, that portion was only about a minute but it was definitely my slowest mile.
Another comical part of the race was crossing two suspension bridges. As I was approaching the bridge, it looked like a nice, solid, wooden bridge. False. The second I stepped on the bridge, it started moving and it felt like my feet were stuck in quicksand. What is happening?!? Thankfully, the bridge was short and probably only 15-15 seconds so it wasn’t a big deal until… oh look another one, Jesus take the wheel. At least this time, I knew what I was in for so I approached it with caution and just took very short and quick steps to avoid any large movement.
As you can see from the map, mile 11-13 is pretty straight and bless our soul there were no bridges and no rock obstacle course. My heart, legs and feet were happy…sorta..at this point, fatigue was hitting but I was drawing strength from knowing that all I had to do was hang on and I was going to hit 1:28 or 1:29. I knew I wanted to go sub 1:30 but I never thought I would be close to 1:28 so naturally, I started thinking, wait, if I pick it up a bit, can I go closer to 1:27?! That idea kept me fighting hard even if my math was way off and that wasn’t actually realistic.
You know how I complained about all the sharp turns from mile 7-11? Well, Jesus took the wheel and straightened me out because mile 12 was just one straight road to the finish. Don’t get me wrong, the straightaway was exactly what I wanted after the 4 mile obstacle course but seeing the finish line for a solid 3/4 of a mile is a major tease. Does anyone else find themselves closing there eyes when they are kicking it in? And every time I opened my eyes, I thought the finish line would be RIGHT THERE but I really only moved an inch. I think the only reason I wear sunglasses is so people don’t think there is something wrong with me when I enter the pain face stage.
Ok, ok..I am sure you all are as anxious for me to wrap this up as I was to reach the finish.
As soon as I crossed and saw that 1:28 on the clock, I was on cloud nine. FINALLY. It’s taken3 years to come close close to old times and in those 3 years, I’ve let plenty of negative thoughts creep in. You don’t have that speed anymore. You should probably just stay away from half. I can finally put those negative thoughts to rest. I know I am capable of touching that 1:26 with more training and time. I don’t have any half marathons on the calendar for the year and will be focusing on marathon training come August, but I am definitely going into training knowing what I am capable of and with the right training. This was a nice little reminder that I CAN run comfortable 6:45s for 13 miles. Also a reminder that these paces never really feel good in training and can mess with your confidence but on race day, things really do come together. Don’t let tough training runs get in your head too much. Run what you’re supposed to run, ride the struggle bus and move on to the next day.
And one more thing about the day…this cutie won her age group.
That’s a wrap. Ithaca, you have always been one of my favorite places to visit but this experience just adds to the many reasons why I love you!