Saturday I ran the CASA Half Marathon. This was the 2nd time running this particular race. It's a smaller race, but for a great cause as it supports the CASA Women's Shelter. It's still a new race, and is continuing to grow, and for good reason. It's truly a flat and fast course. I earned a PR last year at the race actually.
Because of my marathon training, I initially wasn't sure if I would go into this as a race or as a training run. The day of, I knew I was racing 100%. It was in the mid- to upper-40s at the start with overcast skies, but very little wind. My plan was to just go with how I was feeling, find a pace and try to sustain it for as long as possible. I know many runners start out slower and increase their pace. I tend to be pretty consistent with my splits throughout.
I did a super easy 1 mile run to warm up before heading to the start. I wanted up closer to the front, but not the very front of course. I was far less nervous than I usually am. I was just ready to go, get moving and see what happened.
I saw the first mile marker but my Garmin was showing almost a tenth of a mile short, usually it's already buzzing at me, so when it finally did indicate a mile, I was well past the sign and it showed a 7:15. Initially I felt the urge to pull back thinking I was going out way too fast and was going to crash and burn quick.
But I stuck with it and just went by feel, keeping somewhere between a 7:16 to 7:20 pace. Of course, my watch was behind so I really wasn't exactly sure what my overall average was, well, I knew what the watch said, but I didn't know the true pace since it was off.
I decided that I needed to try to take my fuel sooner, something I struggle with. So I actually carried the gel in my hand as a reminder, which worked well. I took my first at mile 5, I usually wait until 6 or 7. I am getting a little better at getting water in at the aid stations without choking on it, so that's a plus.
The miles were kind of a blur to be honest. I was focused on breathing, on trying to maintain a solid form that felt more efficient. I did pass some young teenaged boys at one point. One of them said, "Good job" and I said, "Good Morning." He replied something along the lines of not being so sure about that. Then I thought (didn't say it) yep and you just got chicked by a 40 year old lady! Ha!
The running community is really tight here and there were so many positive affirmations and words of encouragement all along the course from runners as we passed by each other. It was a great feeling since the crowd support is fairly minimal. I had one man pass me at mile 8 saying, "Looking strong." And he meant it, you know how you can feel when someone is genuine, and even congratulated me again as I finished.
As I mentioned, the course is truly a flat one. There is one blip around mile 9.5, which of course does feel even bigger that far into the race. But other than that, flat flat flat.
Again, I thought I was pacing at a 7:19 average and was beyond ecstatic with myself. I couldn't believe I was able to hang onto that pace. I started to hear a couple coming up from behind. The guy was pacing a girl (who I had actually barely beat last year, which I find a funny coincidence) and he kept saying something about them hitting 1:35. Well, that and "It's only a 5K left, you do that every weekend! blah blah It's only a 5K blah blah ..." Super annoying and I had the urge to trip him. But, I digress. When they got up next to me I asked to confirm (the pace not the 5K bit) and he said yes, that's what they were shooting for.
What? Holy cow! That can't be right. There's no way I'm going that fast. Oh wait, oh wow, man. No you can't do that. Yes I can. ... I just might be able to ... hang on to them, keep up keep up ... those were the thoughts going through my head. I started to hit 7:07 then a 7 minute mile.
This was all going down just after mile 10, mile 10 to 11. By mile 11, however, I started to almost hyperventilate. It scared me. I couldn't catch my breath, it kept getting more and more shallow. I thought I was going to have to stop to be honest. So I slowed myself to about a 7:45 pace and started to just take slow, steady breaths trying to gain control. Thankfully, I was able to get my breathing in check and able to get my pace back up. Only 2 miles to go. I knew I could do it. I knew it. I think I was already starting to smile outwardly at that point.
I saw Jason shortly after I had passed the mile 12 sign. It was that last bit of encouragement I needed. That last boost. The finish kind of stinks, however, as you have to take a hard left then another hard left into the parking lot then around the lot behind a stadium. Those lefts are super sharp and hard to recover from in terms of speed.
As I rounded the corner coming from behind the stadium, I still wasn't sure of my time. I thought for sure I was getting my 1:37 (my secret goal), then I saw the timer and it was in the 1:34 range. I absolutely couldn't believe it. So I gave it every last ounce I had and sprinted as hard as I possibly could to that finish line.
When I was done and realized my time, I was nearly in tears. Jason rushed over to me to congratulate me and all I kept saying was, "Holy crap, Oh my gosh, I can't believe I just did that." I was beaming from ear-to-ear. I knew I needed to get in a recovery mile then stretch well, so I did that before heading over to get some fuel at the recovery area.
By this time, the sun was out and the temps were warming up nicely. I knew that my time had secured me first in my age group. I was 8th female overall and I had a huge new PR by 3 minutes and 2 seconds: 1:35:16.
What I didn't realize was that I had secured 2nd place in the Master's Division this year since I aged up. My prize was this amazing hand crafted glass dish by a local artist James Hayes. I had eyed those prizes last year, but knew I was never getting top 3 female to win one. Little did I know how the Master's Division worked though and that I could win one.
Once again, I'm learning that when you let go of your doubts, you can achieve so much more than you ever imagined.
When was the last time you let go of your doubts?