It was one of those days where everything came together. Fontana is known as “the fastest half marathon in the world.” It is pretty much all downhill. My previous PR was set here last year and I always put a little asterisk on it, since it is such a downhill course. Even so, I had my sights on yet another PR here. I was hoping to take two minutes off last year’s time.
The weather was perfect. It was chilly at the top of the course as we waited for the start. I regretted not bringing my throw-away sweatshirt as I shivered in a garbage bag. Even after we started running, I was a bit chilly in my tank top. It was perfect, however, for the mid sixties at the end of the race.
Last year, I held myself back in the beginning of the race. This year, I decided to go with the speed. I didn’t want to accelerate down the hills, but I wanted to go with it. The first part of the race, I had a tough time getting into a groove. I felt not one side stitch, but two. It was almost like my chest was a little compressed. I couldn’t breathe easily. So when everyone else took off like bats out of hell, I chose not to push to follow.
Luckily, I got myself into a nice rhythm. I had hoped to run the first half of the race around 7:45 and to slow to 8:15’s or so for the second half. My goal was to run a 1:45 (8 minute miles). Those first miles flew by as I ran the first few miles in 7:36, 7:40 and 7:44.
The next three miles slowed slightly, but were still smokin’ fast (for me) and I felt like I was building up a comfortable bank. Miles four, five and six were 7:50, 7:55 and 7:49. That made sense to me, since the first three miles had the steepest grades. I knew that my fastest splits would be in those first three miles.
The biggest surprise for me was that I didn’t slow down. I got into a rhythm and was happy to look down and see a 7 in front of my pace. Miles seven, eight, nine and ten were 7:41, 7:44, 7:44 and 7:54. At this point I knew my PR was in the bag! And I was still feeling good!
I started to get a little tired toward the end. I slowed down a bit. Funny… my slowest miles were still faster than my average pace from last year’s race! Miles eleven, twelve and thirteen were 8:01 (my only mile with an 8 at the beginning—CRAZY), 7:52, and 7:59. I ran the last section at a 7:10 pace. My overall time was 1:42:30, beating my goal by almost three minutes (and my previous PR by five)!
I caught up with the rest of the crew. Everyone was at the expo getting various samples of recovery drinks etc. I knew we needed to go and look for Sandra. With all of us having such great races, I knew Sandra would have an incredible PR as well. In her first half marathon she ran a 2:25. I had thought she would come in around 2:10, but I wanted to watch for her around the two hour mark. We were there before two hours but didn’t see her. At around ten after the two hour mark, I was starting to get worried. Then suddenly I saw an ecstatic Sandra beaming at me. “I ran it under two!!!!!” I was so excited and we hugged and jumped up and down a bit. She ended up running the race in 1:56:19!!! That is almost thirty minutes faster than her previous half marathon!!!
I should have been thrilled beyond words about my fantastic PR, but something ate at me a bit. This next section are my personal feelings that I am NOT proud of. I know I seem petty and overly-competitive. I am more upset about my feelings than I am about the circumstances causing those feelings—if that makes any sense. As I was running along, I kept thinking I would catch up with Kelly. I knew that Marci, Kim and Rod would finish ahead of me, but I honestly thought I could catch Kelly. I knew Kelly’s history and thought I knew how she would perform. They started super fast and I assumed that she would slow down as the course flattened out a bit. I would look down at my Garmin, seeing 7:45 or 7:50, thinking that there was no way that Kelly could keep up that pace on the flats. I should have been super proud and excited for her (she finished in 1:39:56!!!!!!). Instead, I was upset with myself for not being able to catch her.
More than anything, I started doubting my ability as a coach. I research and read and try to be as informed as I can. I use my RRCA training and pull from my own experiences (5 marathons and 16 half marathons). I stress the importance of a race plan and pacing in order to finish strong. I give my friends advice (solicited and unsolicited) on how to run their races. When Kelly didn’t ask for or take any of my advice, I shrugged, thinking she would learn in her own way. Instead of having a race plan, her only plan was to go “balls out.” I warned her not to go out too fast.
Well, she went out very fast. And you know what? She didn’t slow down. In fact, her average pace was as fast as her one mile time trial for Body Back. What the hell do I know? Why in the world would she every want to take my advice? Had she listened to me, she would have run with me and finished over two minutes slower. Not only will Kelly probably want to think twice about my marathon training advice, but Kim as well (who I am trying to coach to a Boston Qualifying time). It is probably just my own misconception, but it seems like they all look at me a little bit differently now.
In looking back, I still think I ran a smart race. It went better than I could have anticipated. I think even knowing what I know now, I would have run it the same way. Going “balls out” doesn’t work for me. I like following a race plan. It helps give me comfort. It also helps me finish strong. Am I leaving some out there? Maybe. It just means I need to know my capabilities better.
I am thrilled that everyone did so well. Did I mention that our entire group had PR’s that day? Marci even took third in her age group!! Her time was an incredible 1:37:57! It was funny how age groups work. Kim finished ahead of Marci in 1:37:52, yet in one age group higher she was 9th. Ironically, she would have also been 9th in my age group, which is even older. That tells me that we don’t necessarily get slower as we get older. Or maybe the older runners sign up for more races? Whatever it is, it is unpredictable.
Marci with her medal!
This race was fun. The combination of a downhill course and great spring weather made it a perfect half marathon. I will definitely be running this race again. Don't get me wrong. I am super happy for my friends and we all did GREAT. The purpose of this blog is to share my personal thoughts on my own running journey. I am proud of myself as well as my friends (and so many others) who really killed it.