Somehow I just still wasn't quite done. After a quick recovery from the half I sent Michelle a note and said I wanted to do the Tucson half marathon and yes it was only 5 weeks away but I wanted a PR. My old half marathon PR was a 1:45:32 at the Ogden marathon in 09. My last half was at the Women's half Marathon last Nov where I ran a 1:45:47 - I felt like I was in much better shape now, and was ready to work hard to get some speed.
Michelle put me to work immediately and had me running 4 days per week. One long, one ez aerobic, one speed and one race pace tempo mid distance run. I did this for 4 weeks and then had a ez 5th week taper. The first week was a little hard. My legs were tired and I was working to hit some speeds she gave me. The second got easier and by the 3rd week I was feeling good. The 4th week of hard work was a long run where the goal was to run ez for 45mins then start decreasing the speed ending at a 7:40-7:50 race pace. The run happened to fall the day after a big party so I was certainly in no shape to do that run, but somehow got it done. I figured after that effort (hungover), the race couldn't feel anywhere near as hard.
My goal went from just wanting a PR (anything under 1:45) to stating I wanted to run 7:40s. In my head I figured if I was training ending all my long runs at this pace, and doing tempo mile blocks at this pace, then maybe I could hold the pace on race day with a downhill course? Somehow I got 7:40pace = 1:40 race time, but I didn't realize I was a little off until the day before the race…. I knew everything would have to go flawlessly to get this done and I had my pacer husband to try and get me there.
But, before I get to race day I have to share one of the best pre-race days I've had yet. Maybe, just maybe it was my lucky charm. On Saturday I had the pleasure of participating in the Run4Sal 5k. I don't think I need to go into detail the story of this event, but what I can say is I thought it would be the most PERFECT time for my niece who has been dying to do a run event with me to participate as well. It would be her first 5k and what better place to do it? Shane & I signed up to do the race with her and all I can say is I'm so incredibly proud of her! She struggled a little bit with the cold and her lungs (asthma), but she finished strong and finished just under 38mins. Can you imagine running 3.1 miles at age 8??? Yah, me either! I can't wait to find out when she wants to do another one…
We headed to Tucson after the race and rather than going into a crazy long report of what happened over the next 24hours I just have to say the race could not have gone any better. We started the race with my speedy friends who were both trying to get a NY marathon qualifying time of <1:44 & 1:37. I figured I would be somewhere in the middle of those two times, but we all started out together. My plan was engraved in my head to start EAZY despite the most drastic elevation drop in the first half and then save some energy for the end. I had been practicing this for over a month and felt confident.
I had my garmin auto lapping every mile and giving me splits, but I kept the screen on overall AVG pace. My goal was to start around 7:45's and slowly trickle the pace down. After the first 2 miles it was stuck on 7:40 but the effort was EASY so I just kept plugging away. It was a very cool morning, but we were extremely lucky having the wind literally at our backs keeping it warmer and after the first few miles I had shed my layers and felt great.
One of our friends picked up the pace and pulled away after the first couple of miles and while part of me wanted to go with her, this pace was completely unknown territory for me… I was determined to stick to my plan. A gel at ~ mile 6 then the miles TICKED by and I started to see the avg pace slowly drop until it stuck around 7:37 until about mile 8. My breathing was finally getting a little harder but I still felt fantastic. Around mile ten I took a "SLAM." My new favorite pick me up! Miles 10 & 11 were some of my fastest at 7:25 & 7:22. The only real incline of the race came at mile 11-12.5. It wasn't incredibly steep, but you definitely had to work for it. Shane pulled out in front of me to sort of "pull me." I could feel my pace slow down so I switched my garmin pace to see the avg and saw it getting closer to an 8min pace. I tucked my head in and used my arms to help pick up the speed and wouldn't you know it, I did it. I ended that tough mile with a 7:41 pace. I'm fairly certain the last time I did this race that mile was closer to a 9:30.
With one mile left my quads were starting to cramp. My breathing was labored but at the same time I was slowly one by one passing every person I saw in front of me. I used that as inspiration to just keep going. In the last half mile I had my eyes on a girl in pink (go figure). She was till moving pretty well, and I wasn't sure I had enough time to get past her. Shane pulled out in front again and passed her and I gave it everything I had to reach her. At mile 13 I was side by side her to make the last right hand turn to the finish. I gave it everything I had an crossed the finish line about 2 second in front her her.
My legs locked up and I nearly fell to the ground. Shane gave me a huge hug and told me he was proud.
I did it. I set a goal, I followed a plan and I gave it everything I had out there. I know this was no Ironman and there were no age group placings, but this race might have just been my best to date. I did the work and in the end everything fell into place when it mattered.
My official time was 1:39:05. 6:27 half marathon PR, 9:37 course PR. Holy crap. One of my girlfriends finished a little less than a minute in front of me and will be working towards that 1:37 NY marathon qualifying times in a month & my other girlfriend PR'd by ~2 mins & hit her NY qual time. It was a picture perfect day and the most incredibly way to end my 2011 season.
I can't WAIT to find out what happens in 2012! Right now, I feel like the sky is the limit!