Race Recap: Perk Up Half Marathon

imageAnother race that I signed up for that was out of my comfort zone, and I’d say it was a success! I considered not wearing a watch at all because this was not about pace…but I really wanted the Garmin data for the elevation. I went into this knowing that my chances for a PR were slim. The last time I actually raced a half marathon was in 2010, so my PR was a 1:35:25 and five years old. I thought I was capable of a PR, but the course was a wild card. I’d seen the elevation from MapMyRun, and it was ugly. That was part of the draw with this race. It was hillier than pretty much anything I’ve ever run (aside from Quadzilla) and I thought it would be a good training run. One local runner that’s a bit faster than me has won this half in the past with about a 1:31, and another girl that is similar in pace to me has run this race in 1:37. I figured if I could end up somewhere between 1:35-1:40, it would be a good indicator of how my training was going.

I chose not to taper for this race and ran on tired legs. It was a week after my triathlon, it wasn’t my long run (I did 18 earlier in the week), and it was the end of my highest mileage week yet (63 miles). I couldn’t be happier with the outcome.

Pre-Race/Packet Pick-up

The race offered race day pickup and I only live 30 minutes from the start, so it was a treat to sleep until almost 5:30 on the day of a race. I made some coffee, threw my stuff in the car and hit the road by a little after 6am. I ate breakfast on the road. I got there and had my stuff before 7am, and the race start was 8am. I had some time to kill so I hung out in my car and hydrated. As it neared closer to 8am, I got out of my car and headed to the starting line.

The Start

I lined up towards the front, and there were two other women lined up near me. One of the girls was a bit younger (22) and was pretty nervous/excited. She was from London, here for some sort of camp over at Lehigh University and was a 10K runner.Β  She asked me what I was shooting for, and I said hopefully something from 1:35-1:40. She said she was looking to run a 1:20, but this was her first half and she heard it was pretty hilly. Before we knew it, the gun went off and we were running.

Miles 1-5

As we begin the race, I found myself up front with the two other women from the start. One dropped off immediately and I never saw her again. Around the first mile, the 10K runner from London dropped me. I watched her go and normally would try to catch her, but I know that I’m in no shape to run a 1:20. It’s not even a goal that’s in my vocabulary right now. I’m glad she told me that was her goal so I didn’t follow her.

imageI knew the majority of the hills were going to be from miles 4-11. If you look at the picture above, the first real incline begins exactly at mile 4, they just keep coming after that. While it’s my goal to negative split my races (usually unsuccessfully – but it’s the thought that counts, right?), my goal was to make a conscious effort to do the opposite. I wanted to go out comfortably aggressive – at half marathon pace – and hold on until the hills so I could re-evaluate. I didn’t think I could hold onto half marathon pace once I hit the hills, so I was planning to relax and just run whatever felt comfortable. Once I hit the final downhill in mile 11, I hoped to run it in with everything I had left – maybe make up some time. I just didn’t know how bad that middle section was so I had no idea what to even try to plan for.

I took my first GU just before the first climb. The hill at mile 4 was the first of the big, long climbs and my pace suffered a little bit. I saw the London chick in the distance and I seemed to be gaining on her, but I refused to chase her. I was running my race, and if winning was in the cards today I needed to do it at my pace, not hers. My splits were 6:43, 6:39, 6:50, 7:11, 6:51. Other than the first climb, the sub 7 minute miles felt comfortable and doable. I was in second place, running my own race and I felt strong, comfortable and confident. I haven’t felt that good in a long time. Even the climb at mile 4 was tough, but I was still able to clock a decently aggressive pace for that mile.

Miles 6-10

I was feeling pretty confident after the climb at mile 4. I didn’t realize that the climb at mile 4 wasn’t the big one, so I thought the worst was over. HA! I hit that massive mountain and got a reality check – but I kept running. I passed men walking, but I wasn’t about to walk. Even if I was running at barely moving pace, I would keep running. It was on this steep ascent that I passed the London chick and took first placeΒ  – she was really struggling. I didn’t know if she wasn’t used to the hills, went out too fast, or what the problem was but I just put my head down and kept running. I cruised at the top and tried to run the downhill hard, but not so hard that it burned out my quads. My pace was all over the place during this section and nowhere near my goal half marathon pace, just as I’d anticipated. It didn’t bother me because I felt great, was running on effort, and had taken the lead.

I found myself running almost completely alone. I took my second GU around mile 8.5 to help me push through the final miles. I could see two men in the distance up ahead, and one guy who kept passing me and then walking the hills where I’d pass him. The course was no joke, and it was almost completely in the sun. It was a hot day with 88% humidity, which didn’t make this difficult course any easier. My splits for these miles were 8:00 (that was the biggest climb), 7:23 (the rest of the steep climb), 6:56, 7:18, 7:30. Just when I thought I would make up some time, I’d hit another steep climb. By the last climb at mile 11, my legs felt like Jell-O. Wobbly and unsteady. I knew the last two miles were going to be about survival.

Miles 11-13.1

Mile 11 meant the last significant climb, and then I knew I had a steep descent and rolling hills with a net uphill through the finish. I was hoping to be able to resume half marathon pace for the last mile or two, but my quads were shot so I did whatever I could manage. I was thinking a lot about a 12 miler I ran at Babcock Lake two weeks ago and thanking myself for doing it, because though my quads were tired, I wasn’t tired. My energy level was good and everything else felt great (all things considering), so hopefully I’ll feel that good for my goal half marathon.

I was holding on to first place, and I had no idea how close 2nd place was to me. Once again, I put my head down and ran as hard as my trashed quads would allow. I turned a corner and could see the finish line and the crowd in the distance. As the finish came into view, I could see the clock. I crossed at 1:34:05 (7:11 pace) and it was good enough to be the 1st female and 7th overall finisher. It’s also a PR by 1:20 seconds! I am still so stoked! My splits for the end of the race: 7:50 (the final climb), 7:16, 7:23 and 6:20 for the last .1.

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 9.08.55 PMI came through the finish and once I chugged some water, a few of the guys who finished around the same time as me came over to say congratulations. One guy mentioned that he runs the race every year and he finds the course to be consistently around seven minutes slower than the other half marathons he’s run that year. Seven minutes sounds a bit excessive, but I could absolutely see how this is NOT a PR course! I did set a PR here but honestly, part of that was definitely due to the fact that I haven’t raced this distance in a long time. I wouldn’t expect another PR here if I choose to run the race next year.

London chick’s name was Steph, and she finished about 3 minutes behind me for 2nd place. She came through the finish, came over to me and we gave each other sweaty hugs even though we’d only exchanged a few words at the start. After surviving that course, I feel like we are all one big family. Everyone was so friendly and supportive and it was such a great dynamic. Steph told me that she went out around her 10K pace and thought she could hold on. Made sense, because I passed her around mile 6. A few minutes later, my friend Jory came through the finish. She ran 1:46 and won her age group!

Every finisher got a medal, and I received a trophy and some random gift cards (Applebees and Road ID) as my prize:

I’m beyond happy that I decided to run this race and I would absolutely sign up again next year. It was hot, sunny and hilly as HELL but such a good challenge. It gave me an awesome confidence booster for my upcoming fall races.

Ever add a challenging course to your race schedule to test your fitness?

55 Replies to “Race Recap: Perk Up Half Marathon”

  1. Great race!!! Nice trophy too! πŸ™‚ I did run a 50K, and that was definitely out of my comfort zone because it was a trail race and I’d never run on trails! I took a few painful face plants, and shed some tears, but eventually laughed it off and finished it. Talk about a long day… oh man.

  2. AMAZING JOB, LADY!!! You crushed it out there on that tough course. I tend to steer clear of the tough courses because I don’t know how to pace for them but as I become more experienced I think I will become more and more willing to try picking up more challenges. Running something like this on a hot and humid day too?! Girl, I can’t wait to see what your times will look like when the temperatures drop πŸ˜€ Congrats on an amazing race!!

  3. Aww, I love the sweaty hug bit. It’s so great when we can do that as runners! This older guy and I stuck together for a half once without saying a single word to each other and then when we crossed the finish we shook each other’s hands and talked. Runners are fantastic peeps! Congratulations on that win. I love the smile in your trophy photo. You’ve got a sub 1:30 in the bag, lady!

    1. Thank you!! We’ll see about that sub-1:30, I want it so badly! I agree – runners are the best! It’s so funny because it’s such an individualized sport but the camaraderie is awesome!

  4. I dunno, 7 minutes seems about right…a 1:27-1:28 for you on a flat course/with taper sounds totally reasonable to me based on what I’ve read of your training since I’ve been stalking your blog! Either way, you crushed it as usual; congrats on the big trophy!!

  5. Amazing run Allison! This shows your in fantastic shape for your sub 90 minute attempt – especially if sub 7 min miles were feeling comfortable for the flat bits. Can’t believe you managed to PR on what looks like SUCH a hilly course too – a massive achievement! Congrats on your first place superstar πŸ™‚

  6. Congratulations on the win and great job pushing through for the PR! I went over 2 years without running a half for time and then PRed, I’d actually PRed the distance in a few training runs which is crazy. But that’s what happens when you don’t race them a lot. This seems like a great prep race for a marathon and an unexpected PR and win is always great. Hope you enjoy the gift cards too (Applebee’s has some yummy drinks in the bar… πŸ˜‰ ).

  7. Awesome race! I can’t believe that elevation gain – WOOF! You absolutely killed it and what an awesome trophy!! I’d proudly display that in my living room for all to see πŸ™‚

  8. Congrats again! You did an amazing job! And, this course will really prepare you for the hills of the Pittsburgh Marathon *wink wink* juuuuuust sayin!!

    Steph sounds like a badass. Most men can’t run a 1:20 half marathon. Holy smokes! The good thing about doing your first half on such a tough course is that her next ones will be cake, so there’s that!

    1. Thank you! I will totally keep you posted on Pittsburgh – I won’t sign up for spring races until I’m through my fall ones, I’m weird like that πŸ™‚ But it’s on my list! That girl was pretty badass but she ended up with a 1:37, though I think if she trained right for the distance she could have smoked me for sure! Funny story – I was doing a track workout yesterday. I do my workouts at Lehigh University, which is right around the corner from my house. She was in some sort of camp there and showed up at the end of my workout to do her own run!! Small world!

  9. Congrats! That elevation profile is insane, which makes it even more impressive that you PR’d and won. You’ve got a sub-1:30 in you, easily, especially once this nasty humidity (aka the sea level version of elevation training) goes away.

  10. Whoa!! Kick ass!! Well done. I love that your “slow” pace is faster than I can possibly run πŸ˜‰ hahah. I miss doing half marathons, now that I’ve only been doing marathons and ultras, I miss the “quick” races. I’m doing one in December out here, but it’s the Griffith Park Trail Half Marathon, and it is HILL-LEE.

    1. Thank you so much! I know how you feel – I haven’t raced a half since 2010 because I’ve been knocking off marathons (trying for that 50 state thing!) and never have time for halfs. This year, I made time because my friend/neighbor, Bart Yasso, once told me that if you want to get faster in the longer distances, you need to get faster in the shorter distances. So I made it my mission this summer to sign up for shorter distances to take me out of my comfort zone! We’ll see how it works out come fall!

      1. I feel dumb when I say that but I feel like I need to specify who, haha! If you were a local runner here, he’d know you too. He is so great with the local running community, really loves to be part of it!

  11. Woweee! You are FLYING! Well done πŸ™‚ (and I shan’t complain again about the bumps I’ve been running up and down this week- that race is rather hilly!)

  12. Congrats on your PR and your win! That looks like one hell of a tough course! Good job staying focused on running your own race in the early miles instead of chasing down the leader. I can’t wait to see how you do on an easier course, sub 1:30 for sure!

  13. CONGRATULATIONS!! Ah, I loved your recap – I am so psyched for the half marathon I am planning to run in the fall now. I’d love to add more speed work/tempo runs into my training and see if I can turn it into a PR (though I think it’s safe to say I won’t be first overall woman. πŸ˜‰

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