Changing Gears: From 1500m to the Half Marathon
I had every intention of writing a reflection to 2015 after my last race of 2015, but it seems like this race deserves it’s own reflection.
I had decided early in November that I wanted to run a half marathon. Knowing that cross-country running and I had a coloured past I wanted to make sure I got to pick a race and end the season on my terms. At the outset it didn’t matter so much if it went well or not, what mattered was that I picked the distance and place (I needed somewhere warm. See my XC 2015 update).
With all of the base training I had been doing I suggested to Ross that I try to run a half marathon. I just had to find one that was easy to get to and warm. The Rock n’ Roll Series had a race in San Antonio seemed like an ideal place and I put in a request for an elite bib.
Bib secured, travel arrangements made I was headed off to San Antonio on December 5th. As the race date approach some super star women declared they were running the half as well. First Kara Goucher, fellow Oiselle/Skechers athlete, then Shalane Flanagan, Amy Hastings-Cragg, just to name a few!
To be honest, while I was nervous, I was so excited. What a unique opportunity to run with some of my running heroes. I was going to get to stand on the start line with these ladies; seriously it was like a kid in candy store moment.
I had no expectations before the race. I have done no half marathon specific training. I had been increasing my aerobic endurance this autumn, the goal had always been training for 8k cross-country. When Ross and I first started chatting about the race the plan was to try to run around 1:15 pace, again with no specific training what could we expect. But as the start list started to have some star-studded names, Ross said go with the 1:11/1:12 and so I did.
At 7:30 when the gun went off I tucked behind Amy Hastings-Cragg, Shalane Flannigan, and Kellyn Taylor, with our fearless pace-leader, Alistair Cragg. My plan was to hang on as long as I could and other than that there was no plan.
I remember looking down at my watch in the first 500m and thinking this seems a little fast. According to my watch it was, we were around 3:10 pace and like that the pace slowed. I told myself to stay to calm and sit in.
Very early in the race (I think around mile 2) the women’s lead vehicle dropped back to check on the second group of ladies. Kara was up the road with her pace rabbit. They were trying to get a photo of us ladies, do some live tweeting, and check in on us. All I heard was ‘who is 323? who is that girl?’ Who am I? I am someone who probably doesn’t seem like they should be in the mix, but I’m here.
Around the 5.5 mile, and thanks to my flockmate Andrea Duke, I knew the course went sharply upward. I had no idea what I was really in for. It felt like every time we turned a corner that the course climbed and then climbed some more; and there were many, many corners.
On one of the uphills the tether almost broke. I narrowed my focus and stared at Alistair and Shalane’s backs the gap closed and I was right there again. I had to tell myself not to panic, I was worried that my legs were going to give out on me. At mile 7 I thought back to my cycling tactics, sit in, relax and recover, and some how I did!
At mile 9 I actually felt great again. I didn’t comprehend at all what was happening. I was focused. Alistair was ahead of the suggested 5:35 pace. At mile 12 I said to myself ‘holy crap, only one mile to go. I’ve actually done this.’ Amy and Shalane were sticking to pace and I wanted to try to make the top 3 Canadian Half Marathon time for 2015.
The next part is a little embarrassing. I thanked Alistair for his awesome pacing work. I then asked Amy and Shalane if they didn’t mind if I picked up the pace to try to make that top 3, of course not. And then I had to announce to Shalane that I was a super fan, and that it was amazing to run with someone I admired so much (I also said it my high voice I often use around Rol when asking for something, like a foot massage!). Yup, I was a fan girl holding the pace with a running idol; that doesn’t happen everyday.
I crossed the line and they still had no idea who I was! Oh well, you cannot take away my 2nd place, my 1:12:35, or the thrill of it. all. I felt great. I know there is more in the tank. I know I want to get faster over the half marathon distance and I know this can only help my 1500.
What else can I remember? The course was really twisty and turny, so very many turns to be made. Looking at the map pre-race I should have realized this, maybe I just chose to ignore it. There were so many awesome bands.
It was an ~8:00 min personal best. I finished the 2015 fall season and whole year on my terms. Another personal best, another step in the right direction.
Oh and one more thing. I am not delusional. I know Shalane was doing a workout and sticking to pace; she did more of a workout after she crossed the line too. I am not denying that I had a great day, but as Melissa Bishop said so eloquently, “Respect all, but fear none.” I have a great respect for Shalane and Amy, these are two Olympians and world-class runners and I am thankful for their support at the half-marathon on Sunday.
Now it’s time to refocus and get ready for some speedy stuff on the track. First a few days off to let these legs recover and then for me I get to really start playing with speed. I cannot wait!
A very special thank you to Oiselle for making this possible. Without them I would not have been able to make this trip. And a huge heartfelt thank you to my friends, family, and the flock for all of their kind words and encouragement; love you all back so much.