I ran my first road half marathon on Sunday. I've done two road marathons though, so I really have raced the distance on the roads before. Except in a full marathon, I tell myself that the REAL race starts at the 13 mile mark. With the Half Marathon, I planned to run hard the whole way. In my first marathon back in October 2009 (Silicon Valley Marathon), I had clocked a 1:45 first half, and in my 2nd marathon in December 2009, I clocked a 1:42 first half. My A goal was to break 1:40 and my B goal was to break 1:45. I've had no speed training lately, and my longest training run in the last 2 months was an 11-miler on trails (2.5 miles of which were an uphill hike).
Originally, I wanted to run the full marathon. But I developed a calf strain in June and an ankle sprain just a week ago, so I never got in the "mandatory" 20+ miler in training that I was hoping to do. One of my best friends was running the 5K, while his wife was running the half marathon. I was going to just sign up for 5K and hang out with my good friend, but the 5K sold out! And since I didn't want to be left out, I signed up for the half marathon. My friend also had a sister and two brother-in-laws doing the half marathon and three sisters doing the 5K (big family, very much like mine, except my 4 sisters are wimps when it comes to running). I've known my friend since we were in pre-school and we even ran Cross Country together in high school. He is like a brother to me, and I treat his family like mine own. So right from the start, I was among family and friends. It also helped to have my good friend pick up my race packet, and drive me to the race (one hour away)!
We were bused to the 2nd half starting line near the midpoint of the race, where we would join up with the marathoners and finish with them. In this race there is the "first half" and "second half" to choose from for the half marathoners. The "first half" is hillier, but they get to run across the Golden Gate Bridge, which sounds pretty cool (probably the reason why it sold out). The "second half" gets to run around Golden Gate park, has a lot more downhill, and it starts at 8:15AM.
I was hoping to run my mile splits at 7:30 and keep all my splits under 8:00 if possible. I didn't eat breakfast (since we left at 4:50AM from my friend's house), and knew I was going to need some gu along the race course, which I got at mile 3 (that might have saved my race). I ran a mile warmup (11 minute mile) and did some stretching before my 2nd wave start at 8:20. The first mile felt slow because of all the congestion. I should have started with the 1st wave (during registration, I put in 2 hours as a goal time, when it should have been 1:40). Still, I ran a 7:38 first mile. But after that first mile, the next two miles felt harder for some reason (looking at the course profile afterwards, I saw that it was slightly uphill). I still tried to keep my mile splits under 8:00, and succeeded with two 7:55 mile splits for mile 2 and 3.
After downing the gu, things started to feel better. Mile 4 - 7:32. I start to open up my stride a little more, and I let gravity do its thing on the downhills. I try to attack the uphills, especially the short ones. I am passing a ton of marathoners, and at the midpoint of my race I'm pumped up by the dance music that they were playing. The miles fly by very quickly until miles 12 and 13, where I start to fade. The course flattens out here and I knew that I was running out of fuel. There were no more aid stations with Gu, so I just planned on gutting out the final 2.1 miles. The 1:40 pace group passed me during this stretch. I tried to keep up, but they kept getting further and further ahead of me. They started in the first wave though, so as long as I kept them within visual range, I still had a chance to break 1:40. During mile 13, my pace crept up over 8 minutes, so I worked extra hard to speed up. Mile 13 split - 7:57 (mission accomplished). The last 0.32 miles (I wasn't running the tangents very well) were tough. I finished with a 1:40:41 time according to my Garmin. Its the fastest I've ever run 13.1 miles on asphalt, in a race.
After getting my medal and drinking a free small Jamba Juice and a chocolate Muscle Milk, I turned back around and started walking back up the course to cheer on the incoming runners. I was also in search of my good friend's wife, who has also become a great friend (her being a runner is extra special). This was her first half marathon, and she was struggling with IT Band problems even before the race. I knew she'd be hurting, and I wanted to pace her in, to give her company and encouragement. I've been there, so I know how hard it can be to hobble in to the finish. On the 2.5 mile fast walk back up the course, I had a blast cheering on my fellow runners. I yelled loudly a bunch of sayings like, "This is what you came for!", "You're almost there!", "Finish strong!", "Hang in there!", "Looking good!", and "Turn that frown upside down!" (something my 3 year old daughter has been saying a lot lately). For some people who were obviously in pain, I told them in a more serious tone, "I know it hurts. Some of the best things in life hurt. Hang in there. You're almost there." I found my good friend's wife and sister running together, one with IT Band pain, and other with patellar knee pain (undoubtedly due to the few steep downhills). I ran with them, talked to them, and encouraged them as best I could. And sometimes, I just kept quiet, because suffering also needs silence. I told them that its okay to walk, and that they were going to finish, which is the important face. I told them that when they can see the finish line, that's the time to run and give it all you have left. They finished together, at a 3:02 chip time. And I was proud of them, because they gutted out a tough finish, in pain, for their first Half Marathon finish. Great job, girls!
7:55 (I should have eaten breakfast!)
7:32 (Feeling better thanks to GU)
7:10 (second fastest split)
7:04 (fastest split, probably downhill aided)
7:29 (This was supposed to be my pace throughout the race!)
7:51 (Fading. I wonder if some GU would have helped...)
(.32 mi) 6:48 pace, 2:09