Have you ever had a race/run where out of nowhere it gave you an incredible runner’s high? The run you weren’t really looking forward to, but did it anyway because you made the commitment?
That was what happened to me last Sunday. I won an entry to the Los Angeles 13.1 Half Marathon from RoadBunner. This race is about an hour from my house and as it approached I wasn’t too excited about doing it by myself. My friends didn’t want to do it and I didn’t push the issue since it was a $100 race. I was further un-excited when I had to drive an hour to pick up my packet.*
So without any taper [10 hard, hilly miles the week before; normal runs during the week; 8.5 miles the day before; 44-day run streak leading up to it] I decided to run without a solid plan.
Last year, I ran that race in 1:49:08. It would be nice to run it faster than that. A 1:45 would be spectacular. So even though I didn’t think I could keep the pace, I started out hoping to run between 8 and 8:15 minutes/mile. Normally, I don’t like going out too fast; I hate hitting the wall at the end of a race. But in this race, I didn’t really have anything to lose.
Miles 1-4—7:48, 7:48; 7:57, 7:54 Was a 1:45 possible?? Sub-8’s were feeling easier than they ever had. I had only run that fast during a 5K and during the Fontana Half Marathon last June, which has a major downhill loss in the first half.
The course this year was SO much better than last year. We ran along the boardwalk in Venice beach and then around the bay of Marina del Rey. I have never been in Marina del Rey and it is beautiful. There is something very peaceful about a marina.
Miles 5-7—8:04, 8:04, 8:08 My legs were starting to feel heavy. I am not sure if my fatigue was helped along by the concrete beach path. I really felt like my feet were pounding. This part of the race reminded me of the beach path during the Long Beach Marathon. There were a lot of winding turns. Even though I tried to run the tangents, I kept losing mileage; the the halfway point of the race, I was about .1 off on the mile markers**
Miles 8-11—8:18, 8:18, 8:18, 8:19 Right before the mile 8 marker, there was a mean hill. This was a race along the ocean,so I didn’t expect hills. It is advertised as a flat course, so I didn’t expect hills. I don’t usually mind hills, but my tired legs were NOT loving hills at this point. Then there was another at mile 9. This one kicked my booty pretty hard. For the first part of that mile, I was running in the 9’s. Luckily, it flattened out and we hit the turnaround. You know what that means…we got to run back down that hill. Yeah! Unfortunately, I was so wiped out by that time, I couldn’t take full advantage of that downhill.
The worst part of the entire course was during this section. Around mile 8.5 I smelled a horrid smell. At first there was a strong chemical smell. Then a pungent smell of sewage. I tried to breath out of my mouth as best I could, but it was really nasty. Unfortunately, this was an out-an-back course and the way back was even worse.At around mile 10.5, the smell was nearly intolerable. I definitely had to breathe exclusively through my mouth. This smell ruined the race for one runner. G(r)eek Melie felt nauseous from it and didn’t recover the rest of the race.
Miles 12-13.25—8:21, 8:06, 6:45 pace Around mile 11, I hit a serious wall. I didn’t stop, but I wanted to. I knew if I stopped to walk just once, I would not be able to finish strong or finish at all. For the first time in a long time, I was hating running right then. I just wanted it to be done. I was putting one foot in front of the other. I knew if I kept doing that, I would get done with the race. This part of the course was straight and slightly downhill. The downhill was the only thing that kept that mile respectable.
When my Garmin hit mile 12, I knew I just had a couple more songs on my iPod and I would be done. I thought of my encouraging words to my friend, Jen in Santa Barbara, “it will stop hurting when we cross that finish line and stop.” I kept telling myself that the agony would be over when I stopped. So I picked it up and basically gave it everything I had to the end. I was shocked that I could still pull out an almost 8-minute-mile being that tired.
Toward the very end, I picked it up. Then I saw a woman ahead of me who I had seen throughout the race. I guessed she was close to my age.*** I decided that I didn’t want to be beat in my age group by a couple of seconds. I started to sprint. I ran faster than I can remember running in a race. All I wanted to do was to beat that random woman. The crowd helped me by cheering me on. I ended up beating her by three seconds. I thanked her at the end and told her good job. That last bit of the race was some of my fastest running ever. In fact, when I kicked it into that final sprint, I felt so strong! 6:45 pace? Wow…that is FAST. Go me!
My official time was 1:46:59, which was in the top 10 of my age group. That is nine seconds faster than Fontana of 2010, making it my second fastest half marathon. My PR is 1:42:30, but that is an incredibly fast downhill course. I don’t even really count it as a PR. Sunday’s race was a more true PR.
I am super proud of myself and very happy with my performance. I thought I had lost some speed. Tempo runs have been few and far between and a struggle to run under 8-minute miles. I found a new gear and overcame very tired legs. It makes me wonder how I would do if I actually trained for a half marathon with speed work and a decent taper.
I was on an incredible high for days. I was there by myself, but found plenty of friendly runners to chat with. I shared a beer with one runner (darn, I forgot her name!), some food with others and a shuttle seat with a lovely lady named Magaly.
Oh…and the bling wasn’t either.
Next race…Tinkerbell. I am really looking forward to dressing like a fairy and running with some great women. I will be meeting at least one online friend for the first time.
Don't forget to enter my Favorite Things giveaway!! Tomorrow is the last day!
*There was no expo, just people passing out bibs. Really? What a waste of gas and time! This fact became more annoying when I saw them passing out bibs the morning of the race. I kicked myself, because I should have emailed the race personnel to see if this was an option that wasn’t listed on the website. Grrrr….
**I enjoyed the fact that there were mile markers with clocks at every mile.
***When checking the results, it looks like she was actually in the age group above me.