Saturday, June 21, 2014

2014 Grandma's Half Marathon Recap

Goal #1: PR 1:17:45 5:52 pace = 1:17:01
Goal #2: 1:16:xx 5:50 pace = 1:16:28
Goal #3: 1:15:xx 5:47 pace = 1:15:48 (5:44 pace = 1:15:10)

All 3 Goals
1:14:249th place female, $400

Some stats:
5 minutes and 56 seconds faster than last year's race (28s faster per mile)
3 minutes and 21 seconds faster than my previous PR (16s faster per mile)
Every 5k in 17:34-17:38

Important Splits:  5k @ 17:34, 10k @ 35:09, 10 miles @ 56:46 (new PR by almost 2 minutes)

Mile by mile splits by race markers:
5:36 (16:59) and 5k in 17:35 ish
5:46 (22:45)
5:47 (28:32)
5:29 (34:02) 10k in 35:10 ish
5:40 (39:43)
5:28 (45:22)
11:24 (56:46) with Lemon Drop Hill
5:39 (1:02:25)
5:39 (1:08:05)
6:19 (1:14:24)  last 5k in 17:38

A perfect race rarely happens. They are few and far between, kind of like those important life moments you're "supposed" to cross off your list in the right order: go to college, marry someone special, have a kid. Prior to today, I truly only had experienced a perfect race once: at the 2010 Twin Cities Marathon. Under the tutelage of Coach Mark Hadley, I negative split and ran the fastest miles in the final 10k to qualify for the Olympic Trials Marathon in my debut race. 

Four years later, I am a different runner and, honestly, I am a different person.  I'm married...I've got a different coach Terry Shea.  In terms of running, I've been through a lot: mostly a lot of great moments, interspersed with very few bad moments that have greatly shaped who I am today and the path I'm about to embark on. I'm more serious, a bit tougher, and I know how to dream bigger, but more realistically. 

I'm about to move to a new city for my husband.  I'm about to begin an incredibly challenging executive MBA program while continuing working full time for Bank of America, albeit without my co workers just a cubicle away. I am about to say goodbye to all of my friends and co workers who have been there for me countless times.  

I'm about to change everything I've known for the past six years and it's flipping scary. 

But it's also very good. Change is good. A new start is good. I'm not saying goodbye to my friends, I'm just saying see you soon.  Eventually I'll find a community in Durham and I'll laugh at how big of a deal I thought this was. I will be just fine and that's what I am focusing on over these next few transition weeks and months. 

I keep telling myself all these things, but I'm still dreading Sunday, June 29th because it means it has happened...that my new life chapter has begun but the pages haven't been written yet.  And yet that unknown is exactly what keeps life interesting.  

Similarly, before the Grandmas Half Marathon this weekend, the chapter hadn't been written yet. I had a vague idea of what could likely happen, but I didn't know for sure. 

I never do.  

There are so many uncontrollables in races of this distance. You could have bathroom issues.  There could be a headwind, intense heat or torrential downpours.  You could get injured.  Or, you could just have a really bad day for no real good reason. 

Yet you can't focus on the things you can't control. Just like I can't change the fact that I am moving to Durham, I can control my outlook on what's to come and focus on the positive. And so I did the same for this race. I focused on what I could control: my attitude. 

I knew I had put in the work necessary to achieve a nice PR. I knew I was physically and mentally prepared to run 1:15. But I didn't know that I could run 1:14. Frankly, I thought running low-1:15  would be best case scenario and most realistic. I don't even know if Coach T-Bone knew!  Today, I surprised myself. 

And it's fan-freaking-tastic to surprise yourself!

Granted, things didn't go exactly smoothly leading up to the race. Southwest lost Michelle's luggage and so on Friday we embarked on a grand tour to go to (1) Target for clothes, (2) Gear Running for Newton shoes and (3) Lululemon for a race outfit. It literally was going to be a tour of the entire Twin Cities metropolitan area. Selfishly,  I was probably more stressed than Michelle because I was anxious to get on the road to Duluth because I'm an anal-retentive selfish friend. Miraculously, Michelle got a call from Southwest right before we checked out at Target...the first leg of our grand tour. I let out an internal sigh of relief. Problem solved and everyone happy, (mainly me because Michelle and Eric didn't give a crap about our arrival time to Duluth) we hopped in the car, sped to baggage claim and retrieved Michelle's coveted luggage. 

When we arrived in Duluth, it was 40 degrees...a whole 50 degrees cooler than it had been in Charlotte.  A shock to my system, I was glad packed my jeans last minute.  As uncomfortable as the temperature was to casually walk around in, it was perfect racing weather.    

Things got a little hectic the morning of the race.  A throbbing headache was threatening to tear away all motivation as I stepped off the shuttle that dropped us off just a mere 30 minutes before the start.  I was a little nervous and anxious as I walked through a sea of 5,000 runners to make it to the elite area, but I kept my emotions in check and reminded myself about how prepared I was.  I also remembered what Meagan had told me about her breakthrough performance at ATM - how the quick pace just felt right and wasn't even hard.  I prepared myself for that feeling and it was my inspiration for the day. After a short warmup with Alex Cadicamo, I finally stepped up to the start line feeling mentally prepared to kill it. 

Five rows back from the start line, the bull horn went off and my legs began moving at what felt like a pedestrian pace.  I positioned myself behind a group of about four women and forced myself not to look at my Garmin for pace quite yet. After about 1000 meters, I finally decided to look and was surprised to find 5:34 pace because it felt that easy and natural.  That was the story for the next 11.5 miles.  I wasn't even breathing hard and was entirely relaxed.  I tried to count the number of women in front of me and lost count after 15, so I decided to forget about place for the moment.

Up until mile five, I was either leading our small pack of women or tucking in behind some helpful guys that had the same goal as me.  There was one minor hitch in my race plan, when I got a bad ab cramp in the middle of my stomach. It wasn't a side stitch.  Rather it felt like the exact same cramp I got just 10 days ago in a workout.  A guy sped past me as I tried to ignore the pain and so I tucked in behind him so I wouldn't falter.  This strategy worked and by the 10k mark, the feeling passed.  After I hit the halfway point, I started  passing women.  Four girls down and I thought maybe I had a chance of being in the top ten, but I still didn't know for sure. 

At mile 9, Lemon Drop Hill came and went as if it wasn't really there.  I didn't feel like I had slowed much and I passed another girl here which gave me some extra speed.  My body still wasn't going into survival mode and my legs were still carrying my body downhill as if they had a mind of their own.  The climax of the race - that moment when I knew I was going to run really, really fast for me - was when I finally looked at the cumulative time on my Timex watch at the 10 miler marker.  

It said 56:46.  

I couldn't help but let a huge smile spread across my entire face.  At the same time, a tingling sensation passed through my entire body because it was in that moment that I knew.  I knew that I was going to achieve a big goal that had eluded me for the past two years.  At the same moment, a spectator spotted me and informed me that I was in 9th place.  I told myself: You've so got this.  

I kept expecting the slow, painful death march to the finish to come, but it never really did.  The worst I felt was in the last mile but not because my body was dying, but more because I was so annoyed with the sharp turns and the change in momentum they caused.  Since I had seen my 10 mile split, I knew that I was going to break 1:15 by a fair amount and stopped caring as much to kick it in and hurt the most.  And so you'll see that basically I ran a completely even race, with most of my 5k splits ranging from 17:34-17:38 at the slowest.  In the final straightaway to the finish, I broke into a smile again because damnit was I going to look happy as I crossed that finish line.  

After I crossed the finish line, it was somewhat anti-climatic.  I didn't know anyone in the chute and I didn't have anyone there to cheer me in.  And then I saw Billy, Alice's dad, who had convinced a group of fans next to him to cheer me in to the finish line while he took a sweet video of my final strides.  After I gave him a quick hug of thanks, I scanned the chute to find any women I may know.  When I didn't, I grabbed my bag and fished out my phone with frozen hands and called my coach.  Terry was the first person I wanted to talk to.  Not my husband, not my parents, but my coach.  I couldn't have done this without his guidance (and also probably not without Laurie's help on all my workouts).  We had a quick chat before I met Alex to cool down back to the hotel.  

As I settled into my warm hotel room, I thought about how drastically different this race experience was than the previous two here had been.  In fact, my average time at this race from the past two years had been 1:19:04 (1:17:50 in '12 and 1:20:19 in '13). Both of those years, I never noticed the downhill miles and I only noticed the seemingly uphill miles or the sharp turns. This year it felt like a whole new race course.  I saw downhills that I didn't even know existed before.  I charged up a hill that I previously had thought was a mountain.  It's all about attitude, I swear!

I spent the rest of the morning tracking my marathon friends - Michelle, Eric and Alice - before heading down to the 25 mile marker to give them some final cheers of encouragement. This weekend was a great way to spend an intimate weekend with some close friends before making the final move to Durham.  At the very least, I know that I'll always have people to call upon for a quick getaway weekend for a fun race trip.  And for that, I'm grateful!

Below are my raw notes that I wrote after the race on my iPad so I wouldn't forget.  For those that may care (but mainly for my own record):
Mile 1 (5:36) - snuck in behind a solid pack of women. 
Mile 2 (5:45) - tried to count how many women were ahead of me and in my pack. By my own estimations, I was in 15th or higher.  I couldn't help but notice the small headwind. It was annoying. Tried to tuck into a girl in front of me. 
Mile 3 (5:36) - another fast mile but coach terry had told me miles 1,3 and 6 were fast
Mile 4 (5:46) - the pack of girls had tucked in behind me or fallen off. A man pulled along side to help me do the work and I asked him what he was aiming for. He said mid -:15. I said me too. He said we are ahead. I reassured him that miles 1 and 3 are fast so it was okay. I never saw him again.  
Mile 5 (5;47) - intense stomach / ab cramp, similar to one I got in a workout toe weeks ago.  At this point all the ladies from the pack had fallen back so some guys passed by me and I tucked in with them so I wouldn't lose my chance of a pr because of a stomach cramp. No matter what I was going to make my mind believe it wasn't there. 
Mile 6 (5:29) - 10k 34:10 obviously the stomach cramp went away and I was rolling down the hill with the guys. I tucked in behind them with another flanked by my side. It was fun.  One of the guys asked when we were going to catch the people ahed of us and I said soon.  He said we are maintaining pace. I said they will come back to us
Mile 7 (5:40) - started passing more women here. Women who I've looked up to and thing I could never beat. 
Mile 8 (5:38) - passed two more girls and encouraged them to come with me 
Mile 9-10 (11:24) - lemon drop hill was mile 9 and I didn't even notice the split. I didn't even feel bad yet. A man barreled past me and I told myself that didn't mean I was slowing down.  At mile 10, I finally paid attention to my cumulative time and saw 56:46 and got a huge tingling sensation all across my body and my face erupted into a ginormous smile because I just KNEW it was going to happen today and that no matter what I was going to break 1:15.  I had just broken my 10 miler PR en route to a half marathon by almost two minutes. I also still wasn't hurting yet and I was finally noticing that this course can be fast. All the downhills seemed to be placed there just for me.  Such a contrast to the prior years where my average time was 1:19. The course didn't seem fast then but not suddenly it did. 
Mile 11 - 5:39 still rolling with some guys. Not many had passed me and I just tucked in.  A man who sounded like a monster pulled alongside me and annoyed the crap out of me with his outrageous breathing noises. 
Mile 12 - 539 at 11.5 I started to hurt but not bad enough that I was going to slow down. 

Mile 31.1 - 6:19 in the last moments of the race I stopped caring about trying to kick because I knew that I was going to be sub 1:14:30 so I didn't kick as hard as I should have. 


lucinda smith said...

HUGE congrats, caitlin. when i saw your place/time in the results, i was floored, but after reading your thrilling recap, i'm even more impressed. you're such a smart runner! so evenly paced and you do a great job at keeping your emotions and thoughts in control. this is super inspiring and i hope to work my way back to my previous fitness or better. if that goes well, maybe we'll see each other at the OTs again. ;) good luck with the move and enjoy the success of your awesome efforts!

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