Training with Elite this year led me to sign up for their series of three races – the Frigid 5 Miler in January, the Spring Thaw 10 Mile in February, and the Just a Short Run half marathon this past Saturday. Last year the first race I did was the Carnegie 5K the week before the Pittsburgh Half. So it was new for me to be racing in winter. And I figured that all three races would be more like training runs, since they all fall within the training schedule. The Frigid 5 was a challenging hill run, the Spring Thaw a good 10-mile long run, and I thought the JASR half marathon would be the same.
But then I PR’d.
How cute is the medal?
Here’s the reasons why this should not have been a PR for me.
I had a hot mess of a race morning. I was really busy and exhausted the night before, so I didn’t spend time laying out my race-day gear like I usually would. I woke up super early on Saturday, but I lolled around too much and ended up running around trying to find my usual head wrap (which has yet to be found, so I subbed in the blue gaiter that I’m wearing in the photo). I hurriedly fueled up with my usual pretzel roll and drank a bunch of water, but I felt like I couldn’t find anything. And then I completely forgot my gloves at home. Which leads me to the next part.
It was cold. Single digit “feels like temps.” I was really hoping this would be a run that would start to approximate the temps we will likely see on May 3, but this wasn’t it. Thankfully the turtleneck I was wearing had cups at the end of the sleeves to cover my fingers because I needed them. (I will thank Jennifer here for offering up gloves from her car that we’d pass during the race. Thank you!)
I didn’t have the greatest pre-race evening meal on Friday. Well, I take that back. It was delicious. But a little too much grease to be considered optimal for pre-race fueling. Mark and I volunteer at a fish fry on three Fridays in Lent, so we eat leftovers with the help afterwards. It’s a great fish fry – everything is homemade and the fish is hand breaded! (Bethany Evangelical Lutheran in Dormont) But it’s still a fish fry. Which meant (amazeballs) macaroni and cheese and (delicious) fish.
I was sick just last weekend. My first run back from the flu was only 6 days before this race. I had missed 10 days and 7 runs of training, and I wasn’t expecting 100% out of my lungs yet, as I had residual mucus issues during my runs in the week.
So I got to the start line, cold and with my mind on going to the Pens game after the race. I popped in my earbuds and decided to listen to an audiobook of all things, something I’ve never done while running outside. (I usually listen to podcasts on the treadmill, but outside I haven’t been running with any music or distraction.) I picked William Shatner reading Star Trek Memories of all things. I fired that up, started Map My Run, and we were off.
I am known to complain vociferously about North Park. I find it boring, most especially when all of the vegetation is brown and crusty from winter. That coupled with the construction makes it extra gross right now. I know it’s like the runners hub in the city, but blech. I prefer the city trails.
I got updates from MMR in my ear every quarter mile, and I knew I started off the first mile fast, at 10:45/mile. My long run pace has been 11:30, so I knew I should probably slow down if I was doing this as a training run. But my legs were getting stretched out and I wasn’t huffing and puffing and I was busy listening to Captain Kirk. So I just kept doing my thing and started to try to run by feel instead of pace.
And the miles ticked away with the quarter mile updates telling me every single time average pace 10:45. 10:45. After awhile, I started feeling like Map My Run was screwing up, because the distance was also a little off as well, which is always the case with races when you don’t care about the tangents. (I will never care about tangents. This isn’t math class.)
But I felt so good. So I kept listening to the book and kept going and finished the first 3.1 and the first 5 mile lake loop. I had decided to use the water stops in this race to practice starting again after stopping to drink, so I don’t have to carry my own water for Pittsburgh (unless the temps mean otherwise). That was going really well except for the fact that the water was frozen. (But way to go volunteers, for being there in that weather!)
I didn’t enjoy the fact that the construction had us running on some highly sloped surfaces. That always spells trouble for my knee and hip, since my body does not like to have one side higher than the other and was something that led to my initial IT band injury. I could feel my hip bugging me a little on those sloped sections and I was even happy to be on hills as long as the surface was level.
Somewhere into the second lake loop, I started doing some mental calculations because my average pace had stayed between 10:45 and 10:48 the entire time I was running. I realized that if MMR wasn’t entirely off, that I would have a potential to PR, even making up for the distance discrepancy. I tried not to get too excited about this, telling myself it was a casual race and I wasn’t out to PR. So back to the audiobook I went, one foot in front of the other.
Around mile 12 I took the total elapsed time and did some math and realized I was looking at a few minutes of a PR with one mile to go. So I decided to stick with it and maybe push just a little bit more once I hit the tennis courts. I figured a few seconds extra of PR couldn’t hurt. But at the same time, I really didn’t believe this was actually happening, thinking there was no way I could run a half marathon under an 11 minute mile average and I prepared myself to see a higher time on the clock as I rounded the bend. My mind decided to focus on getting to the bagels, and I just went for it.
And it turns out my calculations were right and MMR wasn’t too far off, because I finished in 2:22:49 chip time, a 10:55 average. MMR recorded 13.42 miles in 2:23:46 with a 10:43 average (was too excited to switch it off until I got to the bagels, which accounts for the extra time).
So I got to do this when I got home, because I had just taken 5 minutes and 29 seconds off my personal record.
Here’s a couple of reasons why I think this happened, now that I can wrap my brain around it.
I wasn’t nervous. At all. Treating it like a training run made it so that I had no pre-run anxiety. I had no expectations of myself and just wanted a good run. And I had one.
I have been training the right way. All the extra miles on my legs this year has really paid off in my strength and endurance. I know now how much following the right plan and committing to it really makes a difference.
I had a lot of rest recently. Perhaps the resting I had to do while sick ended up being beneficial to me. I had run 17 miles in the week leading up to JASR, but before that I had a full on break. Maybe my muscles were less fatigued from that.
A big stress is now gone. This is my first long run after finding out I got a new job, and there has been a great peace and a lift of a burden I was carrying from that decision. I don’t know how much that was a factor, but I’m somehow not surprised that I ran my fastest half marathon when I felt free for the first time in a long time.
So there you have it. I have been training for a PR this year and met my goal already, 5 weeks before the Pittsburgh Half. I’m not sure if I will adjust my goals for the Pittsburgh Half, but I think I’m just going to sit in this happiness for awhile. Or rather, run in it. May 3 isn’t that far away now.