Sunday, November 28, 2010

Race Report: Space Coast Half Marathon

my lootI don't even know where to begin, so I'll just jump right in.  I nailed it! =) Not only did I finish my 6th half marathon with a HUGE PR, but I finally finished in under 2:30! My previous PR was 2:35:38, per my watch as it was an unofficial race put on by our training group. Today's time of 2:28:16 was over 7 minutes faster than that. I'm ecstatic! After so many setbacks, it feels great to finally have redemption!

official stats:
  • chip time - 2:28:16 
  • clock time - 2:31:41 
  • average pace - 11:20 min/mi
  • 5k split - 37:44 
  • 10k split - 1:13:41   
  • 15k split - 1:47:45 (PR)
  • overall place - 1060 / 1586
  • age group place - 75 / 122
expo/packet pickup: The expo was tiny, but I've seen worse. It was nice to check out the space history exhibit while there, and see the rocket garden. However, if they are not going to make the expo worth it, I wish they would offered race day packet pick up.

staying warm before race start pre race: Yesterday, I really didn't think I would finish in under 2:30, let alone almost 2 minutes under. I was still going to try, but I thought it was a pipe dream. This morning, I was a lot more confident and after the first few miles I knew it would happen if I pushed. I just told myself to dig deep, that it would probably hurt but that pain was temporary. I was prepared to suffer, without getting injured, to make it possible. To tell you the truth, yes it hurt a bit at the end, but I didn't really suffer.

weather: The cool weather was a huge factor in making this happen. It was cold at the start, but perfect racing temperature. I had a jacket on when we got there, but I quickly took it off and returned it to the car. I told myself to suck it up for the first mile or so because I knew I would warm up in no time. I wore a skirt, arm warmers, and my buff around my neck. I lowered the arm warmers a few miles in and tossed both to Jason after mile 5. I think my speed improved even more after that lol

gorgeous scenery the course: The course was flat and fast as advertised, with a great view of the Indian River the whole way. There were a few tiny inclines, but overall very easy. It was an out and back, so it got a little crowded once the full marathon joined us for their second half. It was hard for the wheelchairs to navigate this part, but it all worked out.

support: the half marathon had 7 themed water stops that we passed twice. Each stop had water, gatorade and gu! They even had gu roctane, so I could have run without carrying anything at all. I knew this, so I only carried 2 gu roctanes just in case. I took ate a regular gu at mile 1 (forgot to do it before the start) and mile 4, a gu roctane at mile 7, and gu roctane with caffeine at mile 10. Fun fact: all the pace leaders wore running skits, including the guys!

race strategy:
on the course As always, my strategy is to run negative splits because I know what happens when I start out too fast. In the past, I've had my Garmin to help me achieve that, but since it broke and I didn't replace it, I went old school for this race. I wore a stop watch with a lap button (that I pressed manually at each mile marker) and printed out a pace chart for a 2:30 finish on one side and 2:34 on the other. After mile 1, I decided to go for it and not even look at the 2:34 one. I ran the whole thing using 2:1 intervals.

I lined up at the start with the 2:30 pace group, but vowed to run my own race and keep them in my sights. I am glad I didn't follow them because I lost them within the first mile and didn't see them again until after mile 12 when I passed them :) There were many times when I wanted to surge ahead to keep up with someone, but kept reminding myself that I do best when I run my own race, start slow and conserve energy to speed up at the end. I tried to pick up the pace at every mile, but kept it relatively comfortable through mile 6. Once I neared the turn around point and saw the 2:30 pace group ahead of me coming the other way, I began to push the pace to catch them.

As you can see from the chart above, I nailed every target split within a minute or more and picked up considerable speed during the second half. I am always in awe that I can make up this much speed at the end of the race. I'm shocked at how many miles were under 11 min/mile and can't believe my last 5K was 4.5 minutes faster than my first 5K, and only 1 minute slower than my current 5K PR. It wasn't easy, but it wasn't hell either. I dug deep and kept pushing and finished really strong! I was hurting when I finished, mainly my calves and this weird cramping I get in my abdomen/abs when I push really hard, but that didn't last. I was so happy that I cried :) I clearly need to work on my core =P

swag: The finisher's medal is gorgeous, and we also got a finisher's beach towel that I love. The race shirt is a long sleeve tech shirt.

post-race food: They had the usual fare of bananas, bagels, and orange slices after the race, but they also had an egg/pancake/sausage breakfast and pizza. Nice! While pizza is a nice sentiment, I find the smell repulsive after running that hard, so I fed my support crew instead :)

post-race:  I thought it was a nice touch that the announcer called out everyone's names as they approached the finish line with plenty of notice for spectators to get their camera's ready. Once I crossed and it sunk in that I had done it, and that I wasn't injured and still felt great (albeit a little sore), I choked up a bit and cried a few tears of joy. I couldn't stop yelling at Jason when I saw him that I did it, and this continued at random intervals through the rest of the day. lol

After I refueled, we went to the car to drop off Jason's bike and I changed into dry clothes, then returned to the finish line to cheer on the marathon finishers. Congrats to Yolanda and Jillian on finishing their first Marathon, and to all my running buddies too numerous to mention that completed the marathon, many with PRs.

photos: See all the photos (and video coming soon) on Space Coast Half Marathon Flickr album.

overall experience: This was a fantastic race and I'm definitely going back to do the full marathon someday! It may be my favorite half marathon so far, and it reminded me how much I love racing this distance. It's enough of a challenge that I can't do it totally on a whim, and it's long enough that I have time to ease into a pace, but it's short enough that I can still function the next day :) When I got home, I registered for the OUC Half Marathon next Saturday. It was my first half marathon, it is only 1 block from my front door, and it will qualify me to be a half fanatic!

best paparazzi and cheerleaderthanks: A big thanks to everyone who left encouraging comments on my previous post and on facebook and for your votes of confidence. I carried them through the race and it really helped. And of course, a HUGE thanks to Jason, the best boyfriend/support crew/paparazzi/cheerleader any girl could ask for. He didn't run this one, but biked along taking photos and cheering me on. I love you!

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