This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

City of Oaks Half Marathon Race Report

This race was my 'big' race of the year. I ran several throughout the year, but this is the one that I was striving for. I did a long race in February - Coach Bubba's 20k - so this was a good way to have another long race to end the year. Well, it's not really the end of my racing days, as I have a 10K this month and I am running a 5K with CJ next month...but those are fun runs. This one is *serious*. :-)

I was definitely well rested as I attempted to hold off an approaching cold. Well-rested also meant no running, or any other workout, since Wednesday. I tried to forget about the lack of activity and focus on the fact that I have been training for this for months and I had a lot of miles under my belt and that a few days off before race day was not going to hurt me.

I didn't have a restful sleep due to my excitement of race day. I got up around 4:45AM and got myself ready. Tim and the girls were up and we were out of the house at 6AM.

Traffic was pretty busy around the race. I convinced Tim to drop me off and not worry about seeing me start. The start is the easiest part, I told him. It's being able to cross the finish line that'll be tough...

It was a chilly morning: 45 degrees, I think. But I listened to my coach and wore shorts. If you run with me, you are probably gasping because, well, I don't wear shorts when it gets degrees.

But Tim agreed that a little bit of dealing with the cold was better than bulking up and getting hot. Boy, I was glad I listened because I was happy to have shorts while running. I had a long sleeve shirt over a tank and around mile 8.5, the long sleeve came adrenaline and the rise in temperature on a beautiful sunny day had me feeling a bit on the warm side.

I warmed up but only for about six minutes. I saw some running buddies: Ed, Ying, Cynthia, Auleen and Candace. And then we were ready to race!

I forgot to factor in the crowd. It took a good two minutes or so to reach the starting line. And for the first two miles or so, I was still bunched up with the crowd. I did what I know I shouldn't have, which is run sideways to get around people. I figured out soon enough that I was just going to stop the sideways and run behind someone until I made them make room for me to pass :-).

I felt great for the first four miles. The first mile was a 9:23 pace, which was way out of range for what I wanted. The second mile I hit 8:50 and I felt fine about that. Coach B mentioned not going under 8:50. It felt good too so I felt like I was finding my groove. Until I got to mile three and I had an 8:37 pace. Whoops. I need to keep myself in check because I have ten more of these (plus a .1) to go.

Mile four had me at a 9:08 pace. I wanted to keep closer to 9:00, to break two hours and then some. Mile five was an 8:45 pace and I was approaching Peace Street from Glenwood. This was fine as $Bill and I ran this course a few weeks ago. I was really thankful for running this beforehand as I knew where all the hills and turns were.

Mile six had me feeling my legs...and my thumbs were up...I thought this was a little too soon for me to start feeling tiredness in my legs...I wasn't even halfway there yet! My pace was a slow 9:37. I feel really, really thirsty and my legs are still running on low. The water stop is just after six (or is it before? I can't remember now) but I grabbed some and went to a slower pace. This was one of the first bad parts of my race.

Reaching mile seven is on Hillsborough Street and at this point, it's dead straight for what seems an eternity. It was here that some guy with heavy feet came by me and it's at this point that I don't want to be bothered by people talking, heaving, panting, or running alongside the sounds of an elephant.

I try to distance myself a bit and he was still there. I would slow the pace down a hair to let him go off, but he would slow down. I didn't have much to pick up the pace to lose him so I gave up and decided that I needed him as much as he needed me. So I found a rhythm with his elephant feet and kept pace with him for about a mile. I think from the outside, it would have looked like we were running buddies...that's how close we were to each other. And the best part, besides the 9:13 pace that he kept me doing, even though I didn't want to run that pace? The best part was we said not one word to each other. We had a kinship that needed no words.

The water stop was here and I grabbed one, lost my elephant-feet-guy but saw him a few feet ahead. I even ran to catch up with him (I do not like strangers, so this is an unusual move for me...but you must see how desperate I was at this point). We ran a bit more together until I decided that I didn't want to keep that pace and that is when I said to him "have a good race" and slowed down.

Mile eight approaches the turn-around for the half marathoners...and the full marathoners head into the direction of Umstead. Even though I am dropping my pace, I am so thankful that I was not going straight. Good for them, those 26.2 milers, but damn, this was already a tough course and it's only going to get more tough for them. I thought of Frank and wished him well...

Mile eight pace was 9:13. Not sure how that happened because it's this part of the race that is the second worst part for me. It's at this point that I say to myself: this is my race, no one else's. I have to run for me. In other words: accept that I will not make the time my coach and I discussed. Just get through this. I know that I will break my 2:08 PR.

Mile nine is a 9:29 pace. I dug deep and tried to find a way to tune out everything and just finish this thing. I look straight down to the ground and tune everything to the left, right, and in front of me out. My mantra is now "1...2...3...4...1...2...3..." over and over. This goes with the rhythm of my feet.

At mile ten, I see Coach B and she's excitedly screaming for me to GO GO GO. I needed that and dug deep, stuck with my pattern and decided not to look at my splits anymore.

But I saved them so I can at least relay them: mile 10 is a 9:19 pace. This seems an eternity on Hillsborough Street. I notice that I pass Cynthia and the elephant-feet-guy. I hear him try to pace with me, I think, but I'm feeling 'in the zone' and keeping a strong pace. Mile 11 is 8:45.

It's during mile 11, running on Pullen Road, that I hear some very well-intentioned volunteers yell "you have only a mile and a half left!" Course, when I'm ready to be done, this sounds like forever so it didn't make me feel good to hear that I STILL have a long ways to go. The worst part was running a good few hundred yards and hearing volunteers say the same thing "you just have a mile and a half to go!" I wanted to yell "that's what they said back there!" And then I was trying to figure out if the first people were lying to me and it's at THIS point that I have a mile and a half to go. In retrospect, who cares? But at the time, I cared very much.

Mile 12 is a 9:01 pace and its UP. I'm tired of the UPS. It's either before or after mile 12 that I peek at my time and I'm at 1:49:49. Oh,if I can keep pace I can break two! But I'm going UP and I am just not feeling it anymore. I want to make it but I'm tired and ready to be done. A girl in pink that I've seen throughout the race is talking to herself, trying to cheer herself on. She says something to me, complaining to me, about 'this is no way to end!' and I give her a curt 'yup'.

We are back to where we started. The finish is close...just not close enough. I slow down. I know I have. I am almost there and I can't get my legs to pick up the pace. One guy says 'to the light and it's downhill from there'. He lied. It's to the light, then slightly up (not to the naked eye but to the runner's eye) and then there's a TURN, THEN IT'S DOWNHILL FROM THERE. See, I take everything literal...

And it certainly is down but I don't feel the rush or the adrenaline to push my pace up. I'm just letting gravity take it's course and looking for the finish. Mile 13 ends up being a 9:24 pace, so you can see how tired I was because that's a slow pace for going DOWN.

I pass no one going to the finish and quite a few sprint pass me to their finish. I see the clock and it says 2:02. I hear someone yell my name and I can't tell if it's Brennan or someone else. I don't know if I crossed at 2:02 but my watch had me at 2:00:26.

And while I am extremely happy with that time because the course was a tough one on my legs, I will be thinking about that last mile and wondering why I couldn't just push myself a LITTLE BIT MORE to break those :26 seconds...:27 seconds, to be exact.


  1. Great job! I'm impressed, especially since you've been sick this week.

  2. Great job, you went out and gave it your all, you should very proud of your progress this year.

  3. nice job, and great write up! You have to be very proud of your accomplishment!!!