Sunday, October 2, 2016

A Half-Marathon PR and How I am Like a Chihuahua

This morning, I had the pleasure of running one of the best races of my life so far!  The world worked completely in my favor as I woke up to temperatures in the 60s, overcast skies, and a beautiful course to look forward to.  The Inaugural Historic Hillsborough Half Marathon ( proved to be a gorgeous and memorable race, complete with a new PR, that I will definitely run again. 

I wasn’t originally planning to do a race this weekend but when I looked at my marathon training plan and realized there was a half nearby that coincided with the weekend I was supposed to run 13 miles anyway, I figured I’d go for it.  If I’m going to run 13 miles, I may as well do it with other people on a scenic course and get a medal for it, right?!?  I got to Hillsborough around 5:45 in the morning (an hour and 15 minutes before race time), parked in a parking garage and walked the block and a half or so to the starting area.  This is the point at which, during every race I’ve ever run, I apparently become a Chihuahua.  I get nervous/excited and I suddenly have to pee practically every 10 minutes until the race starts!!  Thank goodness for race starts well stocked with Port-a-Johns. 

I had decided ahead of time that I had no real expectation for this race.  I wasn’t worried about speed or splits… I just wanted to run a nice, easy 13.1 on a scenic course.  So my first 6 miles were pretty average (and even a bit slow) for me.  There were a lot of small hills and I didn’t want to wear my legs down in the first third of the race.  Plus I wasn’t really paying attention to my Garmin anyway.  I was too busy enjoying the beautiful, misty wooded trails we were running on.  

Once I hit mile 7, the course opened up and evened out and I naturally started to pick up the pace.  I gained 30-40 seconds per mile during miles 7-10.  During these miles, we were running on a long out and back stretch past farms and fields with cows and horses.  Very picturesque and distracting in a good way.  I was still feeling strong but despite my pre-race Chihuahua-like behavior, I had to make one super quick pit stop just before mile 8.  I guess I hydrated pretty well last night and this morning!

If you look closely, you can see the cows in the distance.
 As I came to the final 5K portion (out and back on a dirt trail through the woods), I checked my Garmin and realized that I could actually get a new PR if I could speed up a just a little more.  So, not being one to back down from a challenge, that’s what I did.  Mile 11 was another 30 seconds faster, mile 12 was about the same, and mile 13 was my fastest mile of the whole race!  I was getting a little tired and my knees were noticing the difference in terrain, but again the views were gorgeous, it was still in the 60s (though it felt more humid now), and it was misty and overcast… perfect.  As I came to the finish line, I realized that not only was my new PR within reach, but this would be my first negative split in a race (where the back half of the race was faster than the front).  I sprinted happily across the finish line where an adorable little boy of about 5-6 years old handed me a medal and said “Congratuwations”!  The teacher in me briefly thought about correcting him, but the auntie in me thought it was just too sweet and adorable!

My post-race routine was the same as always: walk around a bit, sip some water, get a picture with my medal for my parents, eat something (this time was ½ a bagel and ½ a banana), and drink my nuun Active before heading back to my car.  When I got home, I stretched (a lot!) and tried to spend most of the remainder of the day on my feet.  It helps to keep my muscles from stiffening up and helps me to be less sore the next day.  Later on, I’ll foam roll and take a bath with Epsom salts as well. 

I highly recommend the Historic Hillsborough Half Marathon to anyone looking for a beautiful, not-to-hilly, and well-designed race with lots of supportive volunteers and happy runners.  I will definitely be signing up again next year.  Happy Running!!

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