Saturday, June 16, 2012

USA Half Marathon Championships

#1 - PR (faster than 1:18:49)
#2 - 1:17:00
#3 - Have fun!

#1 - PR - 1:17:49
5:40, 5:49, 5:42, 5:55, 6:03, 5:58, 5:58, 6:05, 6:02, 6:04, 6:03, 5:54, 6:00, :36

I'm over a week behind on my blog, so I'll keep this recap uncharacteristically short.

Meagan and I were surprised to discover we each were provided a free room, courtesy of the USATF Athlete Development Program.  Like normal people, we opted to stay in just one room together.  That being said, we woke up at 4AM to catch our ride to the start line.  With a quiet calm (or sleepiness?) we both put on our race gear and headed out the door to load the bus at 4:30am.  The bus ride was filled by sharing one earphone with Meagan to listen to "Call me Maybe" ten different times.  Never gets old.

By the time we made it to the elite athlete area, the sun was already rising and we just used the bathroom a lot and talked to other girls.  The highlight for me during this time was when I took my last pee break.  I walked up to the porta john line, where Kara Goucher had positioned herself kind of in the line and kind of out of the line.  I asked her if she was in line, and let's just say her response was pretty classic.  Probably my first and only time interacting with a running celebrity, and I'll cherish it for the rest of my life...and Kara will never even remember it. In the end, America's sweetheart runners are just like us!

We were corralled to the start line, and Meagan and I situated ourselves in the third row back.  Knowing that we would likely be a full seven minutes behind the leaders, we didn't want to get in anyone's way.  The gun went off and Meagan and I just tucked in behind a group that seemed to be going around the pace we wanted.  Mile 1 passed by -- whoops, not on pace at all.  5:40.  Allison and Alana were just a couple of meters ahead of me, as I was positioned in the back of a pack that they were leading.  By mile 2, I didn't feel Meagan near me anymore, and I glanced back and didn't see her. I had a sinking feeling that it was just going to be me today because of the issues she'd been battling with her leg.  By mile 3, even with another fast mile at 5:42, the pack had already dropped me.  There were a few girls surrounding me, but eventually they gradually pulled away from me or fell back.  Soon, it was just me on the course (or so it seemed).

For miles 4-8, the course stretched endlessly ahead of me and I could see Allison and Alana in the distance ahead of me the entire time.  No one passed me, but I passed a couple of girls--maybe 3-4 at most.  I didn't bother looking at any splits after mile 5 because it was just too discouraging.  At mile 9, one girl passed me, but then I passed her back on one of the few uphills right before the 9 mile marker.  At this point, I didn't feel like I was aerobically pushing it, but I just didn't have any motivation whatsoever to try to push a little bit harder, to dig deep and to hurt.  I wanted so desperately to have Meagan running alongside me, providing me that extra drive, but I didn't have that and I was racing ike a baby.  By mile 10, I could tell I was gaining on some more people and passed a couple more girls, but I knew that the race wasn't long enough for me to catch any others after that.  I winded through the streets of downtown Duluth and was just mentally ready to be done.  I realized with 1 mile left that I might actually PR so I picked it up a tad, but not by much.  Instead of crossing the line in triump, I passed it in relief.  I had achieved a PR, but I didn't feel as physically worn down as I felt like I should have.

After the race, I spent some time looking for Meagan at the finish line, gave up, and grabbed some water in the elite tent.  I hung out with Mark, Alana, Allison, and Pezz.  I learned that almost no one PRed that day and everyone seemed a little disappointed with their performance.  Although Pezz didn't PR, she did place 9th and came away with some prize money.  Allison was a solid minute off her PR time and Alana was 15 seconds away from hers.  I know that all of these women are in shape to run a lot faster, so it was a bit of a relief to realize that several people ran slower than they had anticipated.

Eventually, Meagan found us and informed us that her leg hurt too much to push it to the finish.  Meagan and I slowly walked our way back to our hotel that was just a block away.  After a couple of hours of lounging around in the hotel room, we finally made our way to breakfast, where I ordered 4 eggs + 2 egg whites, 1 blueberry pancake, and 1 yogurt with granola.  Surprisingly, afterwards I didn't even feel full or bloated. I must have been hungry!

Prior to the post-race party at an old train depot, Allison, Meagan and I enjoyed our Sutter Home individual wine bottle that was provided in our goodie bag.  We then made our way to a delicious dinner and dessert bar at an old museum with lots of old train cars.  It was great to hang out with Meagan, Pezz, Allison, Alana and Mark.

I gotta say -- Duluth is pretty darn awesome.  I would definitely love to come here to vacation. Perhaps if I run this race next year, I'll stay a couple extra days and check out some of the other natural beauties in the area.  Also, the Grandma's marathon staff really stepped up their A-game for the competitors in the USA championship race.  The goodie bag, the flower and four-pack of Red Bull all added a personal touch to the race that I've never experienced before...not even at the Trials!

Additionally, I have decided that the USA championship series races aren't the best for me at this point in my fitness. I am in between the B and the C groups at these types of races, which usually means that I end up running a race by myself.  I'm better off going to NYC or Washington DC to race against several men that are right in my target pace.  I might finish as the tenth woman overall at Army ten Miler, but I'll have a much higher probability of achieving a PR.  I'll probably do the half champs again next year, assuming that I'm in shape to run 1:15.  Even Pezz, who ran 1:13, said she was alone for the majority of the race. For me, a race solo isn't nearly as fun as a race with tons of guys around me to push me.

What's Next?
I'm going to take a couple of days off before I start my training cycle to prepare for Philly Marathon. I've got Beat the Heat 5k in July and the OrthoCarolina 10k in August. The Olympics are in August, and I'll be there for four days to catch the women's 10,000m final and the women's Marathon.


mfranks said...

Congrats! Girls got to get her protein some how!

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