America’s Finest City Half Marathon – attracting elites and fellow runners from forty-five states and eighteen different countries. I had high expectations for this race. I completed the course last year (on what was said to be the hottest day of the year) in 1:38:10 and in a year’s time I had improved a lot and had done quite a few other races in the year so far. In fact, this race was the second slice of bread in my half-10k-8mile-half sandwich in a month’s time.
Of course, I wanted a new PR and beat an earlier 1:28:27 I did in the spring. I felt really good about it. My legs felt good, my heart and lungs felt good, and I was ready to race hard. But for this race I needed to try my best to run by feeling and not by my watch. I had just begun racing with my Garmin and I knew I didn’t quite have the balance of pacing by watch and pacing by gut.
Barely sleeping at all, I got up race morning, had some yerba mate, a HoneyStinger energy bar, and headed to the bus transportation site. I had almost an hour and a half of wait time once I got to the starting area which was annoying, but that’s what happens when you have to deal with buses. The race did, however, start a few minutes early and we all know that NEVER happens.
I spotted some people I wanted to beat in the first few miles, and then got tagged by a guy that stayed with me for five miles. I was annoyed, but also surprised he stayed with me for that long. He didn’t seem like he could hold the pace, but then he admittedly wished me a good race as he dropped off. After that, I caught up to a girl I wanted to beat from the beginning and we leap frogged for a few miles, but I couldn’t push the pace she was going for – she left me behind with a few guys, but the field had become pretty sparse. I guess it was the awkward group that was far behind the elites, but faster than the average.
A little after that halfway point I opened my HoneyStinger gel and experimented with a mantra. I think I like having one. It seemed to help. And no, you don’t get to know what it is. Anyway, for miles 7-10, an obnoxious by stander followed in a car in the open lane of traffic with “Eye of the Tiger” blasting on repeat. I had to chuckle, even at his added “Yeah baby dig deep!” comments, but it got old real fast. I caught up to a guy running from England and asked if bystanders were that loud over there and he assured me they weren’t. Ha!
It was smooth sailing so far, and I felt like I had a good pace. Heading into the 11th mile, I was sure I was going to PR. The last few miles were at a good incline, so my pace slower, but I still felt strong. Picking off a few more runners less than a mile from the finish, I headed down the final stretch. The finish line was just around the corner and I heard the announcer congratulate a runner ahead of me finishing in 1:29. What? My heart sank. I had been good about not looking at my watch or race clocks, but I felt like I did better than 1:29! I was disappointed and frustrated that I had to settle for my second best time. Final results: 1:29:30 – 65th of 3940 overall – 15th of 2079 female – and 1st of 153 in age group.