Do I Half To?

I knew I was going to race this past weekend. It was the kickoff weekend for the USATF Mid-Atlantic Grand Prix series, and I wanted the opportunity to score some points for the Keystone Track Club.There was a 5k race on Saturday, and a 1/2 marathon on Sunday. Being the queen of indecision that I am lately, I teetered back and forth between the 2 races. I would stand a better chance of being competitive at the 1/2 marathon because I feel my endurance is more of a strength than my speed. But at the same time I hadn’t run a 1/2 marathon in well over a year. In fact I haven’t run longer than 10 miles since I don’t even know when. I decided to wait it out until after the Cary Duathlon, to see how I felt at that race.

I was feeling pretty flat for most of the week following the Cary race (I’m blaming it on the time change), so I decided to suffer through a nice short 5k. But alas, online registration had closed, and there was no race day registration. The decision was made for me – the Caesar Rodney Half Marathon in Wilmington, DE. I can’t say I was looking forward to the race, but I was okay with it. Then my inov-8 team kit arrived on Friday, and I was definitely excited to race!

It was a brisk and windy day in DE, but considering the weather the day before, we were lucky. I felt calm and relaxed prior to the start of the race. I had no goals for placing and didn’t have a time goal in mind either. I simply wanted a respectable time, and to work on pacing properly so I didn’t fade in the last few miles. I found teammate Katie O’Regan at the start line, and she filled me in on the details of the course which was helpful. We were both positioned further back from the start line than we were used to, but when the canon went off it wasn’t too tough to work our way through the crowd. With a downhill start, it was very easy to go out too fast, and I was happy when I hit the first mile marker at 6:00.

For the first few miles I was feeling amazing. I felt strong but relaxed and in control. The miles were ticking off quickly, and I was feeling really happy about racing that distance. Katie was ahead of me the whole race, and it was fun to watch her form as she picked off the male competitors. At mile 6 the hills began. It felt like miles 6 through 9 were all uphill. Then throw some wind into the mix and the course changed from flat and smooth to rather challenging. But I was confident that the change in terrain was not wearing me out, and I loved how strong I was still feeling. I mean, wind and hills are my life training in Solanco – so it was easy to draw upon my training, and how I’ve learned to maintain my pace through the strong winds. I was really enjoying myself when I thought I would be in agony.

I held 5th place the entire race. I knew the 4  ahead of me were not going to be caught, but I didn’t know who was behind me. As long as I could finish strong, and not be passed, I would be satisfied. Coming into the last 1/2 mile we made a turn and there was one last hill to conquer before seeing that finish line. And that was where I felt it. I passed a guy going up the hill, and pushed him to stay with me and finish strong. The course leveled back out into the finish and I didn’t have much kick left. I was looking at the clock, and remembering that Marty Stiegman had predicted a time of 1:23:45 for me the day prior to the race. I just fell short of that goal, but it was nice to have something to push for.

I didn’t realize until I checked my PR spreadsheet on Monday (of course I have a spreadsheet for this!) that this was a PR for me 🙂 So now I really couldn’t be happier. Hitting a PR in March for a distance I have not trained for is a good sign of things to come this season. Since I will be focusing on long course events, the 1/2 marathon gave me the confidence boost I needed. Training is on track!

Katie was 3rd overall for the day, and I discovered the Keystone Elite team members who raced the Adrenaline 5k also had an awesome showing. We are off to a great start. Congrats all!

Finishing time: 1:23:48

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