Yesterday was the America’s Finest City Half Marathon and I mentioned to several people--my husband, my kids, my dad, my best friends, and myself—that I was not going to be setting any land speed records and not to expect me at the finish line any sooner than two and a half hours or longer. There is a strict three hour time limit for the event and I knew I could beat that but was not expecting nor did I necessarily train for anything faster.
The weather wasn’t going to make it any easier, either. At Cabrillo National Monument, where the race started, it was 70 degrees and 99% humidity with clear skies. We, all 8200 of us, were sitting on curbs, on benches, drinking tons of water and trying to stay cool. Training on our vacation to Lake Havasu in high temps and high humidity was a definite benefit!
Standing around, waiting to start with over 8000 of my closest friends made it a slow start but I had lots of time to get my Garmin ready, my music ready, and get my legs moving…ten minutes later I was off and running. My butterflies in my stomach were quickly outpaced and I found a nice rhythm within the first mile. I refrained from looking at my pace until I heard the mile beep on my Garmin and was surprised, amazed and elated to see that it was a 9:30 mile. I know how unimpressive that may sound to people who routinely run a 6, 7, or 8 minute mile but given the way I have been training all summer, it was beyond awesome…of course it was only mile 1 and I had little hope of maintaining that pace for 12.1 more miles.
Surprisingly, I maintained a sub 10 minute mile pace for the next 10 miles and only slowed to a 10:30 mile for the last 5K. If you have never run the last 5K of the AFC Half lets just say that all of the elevation loss at the beginning of the race is made up for in the last 3 miles. There were moments around miles 4, 6 and 10 that were utterly perfect; like I had just changed my tires and no one else had pitted yet, and I was flying through the crowd of runners (and walkers) like they were standing still. My feet felt great, my legs were tired but still strong and my heart rate was hovering at 150 for the whole race and only jumped into the 160’s for the last climb up 6th Ave. I was never breathing hard and I made it a point to walk at every aid station and drink water (a big thank you to all the volunteers who were scooping water from trash bag lined barrels as fast as runners would take them). I knew I was on pace in the beginning to run a 2:10 and probably could have pushed myself a bit harder but I was feeling so great and having so much fun, I just wanted to enjoy it…and I did! It is one of the best races I have ever run; not because of time or speed or a PR but because it just felt good to run.
Highlights: The Run Through ‘Car’ Wash just around mile 8 is a tent filled with misters and it is a welcome reprieve from the sun; there were several homeowners in Point Loma who, as we ran past, were hosing us down with garden hoses (YAY!!!); passing guys on the hill at mile 12!!!; knowing that this race was 54% women!!; Margaritaville handing out cheeseburgers at mile 10 (I didn’t, but they smelled great!); actually seeing the camera people and smiling instead of grimacing like I usually do; finishing in 2:15 and feeling great at the end!
What worked for me: keeping my foot turnover rate at 180 (more on this in another post); cliff shots (with caffeine); walking and drinking at the aid stations; relaxing and not letting my breathing change much (directly related to foot turnover rate); and enjoying the little moments.
It’s been 6 years since my last half and I have come back to my favorite distance with a fresh perspective and new strength. I really don’t have to beat the guy next to me to the finish line; I just have to be proud of myself and what I have accomplished when I get there. I feel great about yesterdays run and am so very excited for more.
To strong legs and happy feet!