Friday, April 1, 2016

Tobacco Road Half Marathon

This post is about 3 weeks late, but better late than never I suppose...

When I started out the year and listed out some running goals I hadn't planned on attempting to run a half marathon until the Fall. But as I was training for my 10k I realized that as I was slowly increasing my mileage I was feeling really really good. As I was approaching double digit mileage for my long runs I was feeling no pain. I started flirting with the idea of running Tobacco Road as a long run and was given the go ahead by my physical therapist. I simply wanted to be on the start line and to finish. My main motivation was to prove my first PT wrong when he said I would never be able to run a half marathon again.

I don't care that Lost has not been on in years, this is a
perfectly legit and timely reference.

All I had to do was mention it to my running partner, Caitlin, a few weeks before the race and she was all in. I was a little concerned that Tobacco Road was the week after my 10k race. The 10k remained my primary goal, I just started increasing my long run miles on the weekends.

I haven't run a half marathon since Philly in 2013. I am now at least 20lbs lighter and running faster, so even running it as a long run I would set myself up for a nice PR as an added bonus.

This race has remote parking and you are bused to and from the start/finish area. We had heard horror stories about this from previous years where runners almost missed the start of the race due to traffic. We decided we would rather be early and wait around then be stressed out about getting to the race on time. This meant we had A LOT of time to kill waiting for the start. Luckily we ran into some fellow Oiselle teammates and the time passed rather quickly.

The first couple miles of the race are on the roads with gentle rolling hills. Caitlin and I were feeling fresh and our pace reflected that. I mentioned that I wasn't sure if I could maintain 10:00/mi pace for the whole race. We decided to keep it comfortably hard for as long as we could and just relax and settle in. We were looking forward to turning on to the trail because we knew a big group of teammates would be cheering. It was so much fun passing them. It gave us a great push as we turned onto the trail.

I love this team! (Photo cred: Julie)

Once on the trail we continued feeling good. The trail is nice and soft and mostly flat. Within a couple of miles we ran into Brooklyn who wasn't having her best day. The three of us worked together navigating the crowds on the narrow trail and checking in and making sure everyone was feeling ok. It was warm and humid so we made sure to hit every water table. I started pouring water on my head as well because it was getting pretty warm.

Because the course was and out and back we got to see a few Oiselle girls on their way back. It was nice to see so many friendly faces!

For the first 8 miles we maintained about 10min/mi average pace and everything was feeling pretty good. Things started falling apart in mile 9. We walked so we could take a gel but right after we got going again we came up on a water stop. Because of the heat and humidity we didn't want to skip it. Right after the water stop I got a rock in my shoe that I tried to ignore. I knew it had potential to cause a lot of problems, so we had to stop for that as well.  It was really hard to get our grove back and mile 10 was also a struggle. Caitlin asked to walk a couple of times. She told me to go ahead, but we were in this together and I wasn't about to leave her. What I didn't know at the time was that she was suffering with some pretty gnarly blisters. Afterwards when I found out I was shocked she finished as strong as she did.

We slogged through those two miles knowing that we'd see the Oiselle cowbell corner again at mile 10.5. We were really looking forward to that. We needed all the extra energy we could get to get to the finish.

Fake it til you make it (Photo cred: Kelly)

The last couple miles on the roads felt long and we were looking forward to finishing. We had picked up the pace again but walked up a couple of the hills. We knew we were looking at a 2:15 finish and I was pumped.

My favorite pic of the day. I should probably buy it.

We crossed the finish line in 2:15:38. This is a 12:50 PR for me and over 18 minutes faster than the last time I ran this race. I was so happy just to finish the race without feeling any pain and to have a pretty substantial PR was just icing on the cake. It was a fantastic day overall.

PR Bell!!

Best running partner ever!

Two PR's in two weeks, and without my hip bothering me, is what I would call a successful winter of training! Looking ahead to the spring, I'll take a couple of weeks easy and get back into training for the Kiwanis 15k in Asheville in May and the Running of the Bulls in June. I am excited to try my hand at some structured speed work for the next couple of months!