I don't even know where to begin with this race report. This race meant so much to me, it's going to be hard to put into words.
Since I ran the Madison Mini last August in 2:05, it's been my running dream to hit a sub-2 hour half. Taking a whole 5 minutes off a half time is hard - really hard. Especially at the end of the 2:05 when I felt that I couldn't go any further or faster and pretty much wanted to die - in a good way. I knew it would take a lot of work - but if I'm motivated by anything, it's a good goal.
So we followed the advanced half marathon training plan from Hal Higdon, and started a carb/sugar-free primal lifestyle about two months before the race. We raced Shamrock Shuffle in March, and Crazylegs in April. We also added some weekly yoga in the last three weeks leading up to the race.
Since we've been "primal" for two months, I was slightly nervous about fueling for a race. Previously, fueling was "eat as many carbs as I could get my hands on" two days before racing. So I did quite a bit of reading on primal fueling for races - and found that adding some grain-free carbs the night before and then taking in pure, natural energy like honey during the race could have a huge impact. So we indulged in some roasted sweet potatoes the night before, and I had two Honey Stingers ready. By training on a low-carb diet, when you add carbs to the mix during racing, you get an immediate boost.
My mum was visiting for the weekend to watch us race, which is amazing because she is not only the best cook, but also the best race support. Krista and Megan, friends who were also running, came over for a little pre-race dinner. We dined on grilled chicken, broccoli, asparagus, and sweet potatoes. We even had a glass of wine and dessert of stewed strawberries and rhubarb and whipped cream.
5am came quickly, but it's always easy to out of bed on RACE DAY! Breakfast included two scrambled eggs with a splash of cream and cooked in butter (primal is amazing) and also a half banana and berries.
Other than training, weather is the major factor in a race. At 90 degrees (like last year) I wouldn't have tried for a sub-2 - it would have been way to much stress on the body. So I was giddy with the fact that it was 50 degrees.
We met up with Krista and Megan at 6:30a and walked towards the starting line, re-organizing gear, setting up garmins, and handing stuff off to our "race support" aka my mum.
Race started at 7a, and we were off. Krista and Tim took off ahead, and Megan and I started out together. We both had headphones in, and while on training runs we talk and talk, we were both pushing a pace where talking wouldn't come as easy.
We fell into step with each other, and when one of us would pull ahead, the other would catch up. I prefer to walk through water stations for 10-15 seconds, and make up for the time, where Megan would get through the water station faster than me. But, at mile 6.5ish, I could tell that Megan wasn't feeling her best (she just PR'd a couple weeks ago and ran a sub-2!) and without words being exchanged, we were able to say "see you at the finish line I hope you have a good rest of your race k bye."
Through mile 5ish, I was feeling slightly doubtful about reaching my goal. The 2:00 pace group had pulled away to the point where I couldn't see them, and I felt I was running as hard as I could with 8 miles to go. But my garmin told me I was running an average of an 8:50-9 minute pace, so I kept pushing. I also took my Honey Stinger at mile 5, and felt an immediate boost. The next several miles into the Arb were probably my favorite. I felt strong and fast, I caught up with the 2:00 pace group (still 20-30 yards ahead of me) and just loved running in the Arboretum.
My running high was quickly halted with Edgewood Hill. At mile 10.5, we had to climb this hill on the north side of the high school/college, and it was horrific. I would say the majority of the people were walking up it, but I tried running. This "running" up the hill basically became a march, and I could feel my IT bands tightening. At the top of the hill, it was hard to regain my momentum, but used the downhill on Monroe St to my advantage as much as possible.
I ran 10 miles in under 1:30. At that point, I knew that my sub-2 was possible if I kept pace. But, I could really feel the toll on my body in mile 12. We were along the bike path, and I saw Krista's hat, and caught up to her to say hello. I could tell she wasn't having the best race, so stayed with her for a bit, and kept going. She is a total inspiration to me (this was her 30th half marathon) so I was really happy to see her.
Coming around the Kohl Center, I started to feel sick. I said a little prayer along the lines of DEAR BODY DO NOT FAIL ME NOW. Thank goodness the "sick" feeling passed, and I climbed up Dayton, around the MMoMA, and up State Street. I took out my headphones to appreciate the crowds and let them fuel me to the finish.
As I turned on the Square, I heard my name - and it was Tim. I yelled, "I'm going to do it!" and totally choked up. He ran next to me on the sidewalk all the way to the finish line. True love by my account.
I crossed at 1:58:07. I blew past my old PR by 7 whole minutes, and hit my sub-2 half.
Tim crossed at 1:43 - which is insane. His last PR was 1:55, which means he shaved 12 minutes off his time. For a half marathon that is just craziness. So proud of him.
Megan and Krista finished only minutes behind me - and although they had hard races, they still loved it. That's the thing about running - even if it's not your best day, races are still amazing.
We caught up with my mum, who took some post-race pictures: happy but sweaty. Thank you, mum, for being our race support!
We spent the next hour enjoying some free beer and talking about the race with friends. These girls are the best. And I couldn't have started or completed this journey without my husband who always believed I could run a sub-2.
A friend asked me on Facebook: What is your secret is to your improved half times? Truth is, there is no secret. For me, it was hard work, a lot of pain, and hard decisions (I said no to donuts FOUR times in the last two months). In reality, I've been working towards this sub-2 for three years. I ran my first half marathon three years ago at this race and came in at 2:23. (At the time, I also thought I would never walk again). I've run 2 marathons and many more half marathons since then. All of these races, training, and daily fuel choices contributed to this half. It's the journey, people. And the destination (because that's the fun part).
So here starts the post-race depression. Nah - I actually don't get that. I'm pretty good at enjoying it, and basking in the relaxation part that comes after a race. I'm truly happy with my performance, and feel complete. I'm looking forward to running the Rock 'n' Sole Half in Milwaukee in three weeks for fun, and to enjoy running for....running.