As I mentioned in my last post, this past Sunday I ran the Rock CF Rivers Half Marathon. This was my first time running this race, and due to Boston being only three weeks away, my coach instructed me to run the first ten miles at a 7:00 to 7:05 pace per mile, and then use the last 5K to up my effort level. A workout within a race setting.
Confession time: races freak me out. It makes no sense. I love to run and train for races, but the actual race part - not so much. It's so silly. I am not trying to qualify for the Olympics, and the people in my life, although they are supportive of my running, could not be less concerned with my finish time. They cheer me on no matter what. So the idea of using this half marathon as a training run, rather than a race, was a game changer. No pressure to PR, no obsessing over what I ate, no stressing over getting to the race site super early. In fact, the night before I ate steak, french fries, and ended the evening with some Cadbury Mini Eggs. I wouldn't be caught dead doing that the night before a race! Although it thankfully did not come back to haunt me, don't follow my lead, ok?
The Rock CF Rivers Half Marathon takes place in Grosse Ile, Michigan, an island in the Detroit River. Getting to the race was a breeze - you can enter the island via two bridges at either end. There was plenty of parking at the local high school, which was less than a half mile from the start line. And even better - race day packet pick up and post race refreshments were inside! Race day morning was cold, windy, and cloudy, with temperatures hovering around 40 degrees, so having access to a warm building was amazing. The race course itself was mainly flat and well marked. The only drawback on the course was the near constant pot hole dodging for the first three miles. The aid stations were plentiful, and serving my favorite electrolyte beverage, lemon lime Nuun. No dreaded Gatorade that always sends my stomach into a cramp fest. There was also Carb Boom energy gels, which I did not feel like I needed given I wasn't racing.
Prior to the start of the race, I ran a very easy two mile warm up, changed my shoes, and headed to the start line. On the drive over I drank Generation Ucan, my usual pre-run fuel. My main goal for this race was to hit the 10 mile mark in 70:00. According to my timing chip, I hit 10 miles at 69:44, so I was running about a 6:59 pace. I felt GREAT during these miles! Anytime I noticed my breathing speeding up, I would look down at my Garmin and see a 6:45 or 6:50 pace, and made an effort to slow back down. After the ten mile mark, which took place just after running through an airplane hangar and onto a runway, I knew I had the option to go harder. Around mile 9 I noticed the wind picking up, and once we turned onto the runway, I felt like I was being blown sideways at times. The final three miles didn't involve much changing of direction, so I was pretty certain the wind was here to stay. I decided to stop looking at my watch and focus on increasing my effort, so although the pace not might drop, and it didn't, I would be working harder running into the wind.
My finish time was 1:31:53, 7:01 average pace. A PR? Nope. That was not part of the plan today. However, I hit my goal pace, got to practice being patient when it comes to pacing (I love going out too fast and that never, ever ends well), and more importantly, I had an absolute blast and never once stressed about my time. I placed first in my new age group, 40 - 44, and was seventh overall female.
I was really impressed with this race. Well organized, great support on the course, and the race shirt was one of the best I had seen in a long time. They ran quite small, so when I exchanged mine for a women's medium, I made the mistake of not trying it on, and realized when I got home I had been handed a men's medium. Lesson learned, and I now I have new pajamas. I will keep this race in mind next year because I think it is a very PR friendly course. And - added bonus - you get a FREE download of one of your race photos!
This was a very positive race experience for me, one that I hope will stick with me when I toe the line in Boston.