Race Recap: D&L Half Marathon (1:45 Pacer)

Back in September, I was asked to pace this race as the 1:45 pacer. I was beyond happy to accept the gig – the timing was perfect (a week before my own marathon) and I’ve always wanted to run this race. It never falls at a good time for me to race it, so I never wanted to cough up the entry fee to do it as a training run. I run the D&L Trail often, and I love it so I knew the race would be a spectacular fall event.

With my bum calf, this race was weighing heavily on my mind all week long. I hadn’t really put any mileage in and did a test run on Friday. While I was able to hold the pace no problem, my calf hurt by the end of the run. Ultimately, I decided to pace it anyway. First of all, I made a commitment to the race director and while I know he would have understood, I didn’t want to go back on my word on such short notice.

When I was first asked to pace this race I talked Charissa into coming for a visit to run it. I knew she’s been gunning for a new half PR and 1:45 was in the neighborhood she wanted to run. Additionally, my friend Kathy told her sister (Jill) that I was pacing 1:45. Jill also has aspirations of a 1:45 and thought it might be the right course to give it a go. So while I knew I probably SHOULD back out, I didn’t want to let anyone down! My ultimate deciding factor was that I should probably see if I could even run 13 miles before trekking all the way to Indianapolis to run a marathon.

Charissa arrived on Saturday night and we mowed down some pizza (gluten free!) to carb load. After a few glasses of wine, we headed to bed around 10. We didn’t even think about daylight savings time so we ended up getting a decent amount of sleep since I didn’t wake up until 5am for some coffee. After getting ready, we headed out around 6:15. The race is only a half an hour from my house, so we arrived with plenty of time to pick up our packets and relax in the gym. Before we knew it, it was time to line up at the start.

At the start, a few runners asked what I was planning to do to pace the race. I replied with my usual answer: even splits. I didn’t know the beginning of the course, but I knew the trail was pancake flat. A few of them were concerned about a hill in the beginning of the race, so I told them to keep me in their sights and catch me on the down hill. I honestly had no idea how big the hill could actually be.

The gun went off, and I fell into an 8 minute pace out of the gates. We began to descend a large hill, and I held back because I didn’t want to bank time. I promised even splits, and that was what I wanted to deliver. Well, what’s that saying? What goes up must come down…in this case, what goes down must also come up! At the base of the descent, we began to climb. And climb. And climb. And we just kept on climbing. I lost most of my group here and felt terrible for not knowing the course better and informing them of just how big the hill would be. I didn’t want to burn them out on the hill, but I didn’t want to be too far off pace that we would be fighting to make it up the rest of the way. When the hilly mile was over and my watched registered an 8:13, I knew I had to make up a few seconds. I also knew that wouldn’t be a big deal since the rest of the course was relatively flat. Most of my group was back in my sights after they recovered from the hill, and we pushed on.

We were still cruising on the road and running downhill at this point, so we clocked a 7:55 for the third mile. We hit the trail, and for the rest of the run all of my miles were right around 7:57, where I usually like to be for a 1:45 half marathon. At this point, I was running with a decent sized pack of runners including Charissa, Kevin, Ed, and Katie. I knew Charissa wanted to be in the 1:45 range, and I learned that Kevin was running with a goal of breaking 1:48. Katie was running her first ever half marathon and had her family waiting for her at the finish and had a goal of 1:45. Ed was a 71 year old guy who had been running for over 40 years but hadn’t seen an 8 minute mile in a very long time and wanted to run a 1:45.

image

This was a tough race to pace because I had poor reception on my watch. I had to run this race on effort, because being on a trail and in the woods was messing with my Garmin. Anyone I was running with had weird numbers on their watches. We were running in a straight line so there were no tangents to consider. My watch was consistently beeping early for awhile, and then it began to beep after the mile marker out of nowhere. I began to hit lap at every mile marker and run based on effort and clock time. For example, we hit the 10 mile mark in 1:19:42 so I knew we had about 18 seconds in the bank, but my watch was all over the place.

Through each of the water stops, I grabbed water and offered it to my crew. Most times they didn’t need it, but a few times Kevin grabbed my cup. I brought some Gu with me and offered it to my crew around mile 4. Around mile 9, Katie decided to give it a try to help her push her through the end of the race. It was salted watermelon flavored and she’d never tried it before. Her reaction was hilarious. “That is AWFUL!” she proclaimed as she downed it. But it must have worked, because she was looking extremely strong. Around mile 10, I told her that she was looking good and if she had anything left in her, she should start to leave me and pick up the pace and use whatever she had left. I told her to take one mile at a time, and not to let me catch her. She did exactly that, and she finished in 1:43:44 and got 3rd in her age group. She waited for me at the finish line and gave me a huge hug. It was so gratifying.

I crossed the finish in 1:44:47, which is 13 seconds fast. When I pace 1:45, I aim for 7:57-7:59 so a few seconds fast is expected. I was always told that you should never be more than 30 seconds over or under your goal. I was extremely pleased with this because it was within those parameters and it was tough to know what pace I was actually running since our watches were going crazy.

Ed stayed by my side until the final mile. He was so much fun to talk to. He had a marathon PR from the 1970s of 3:14 and told me that his favorite marathon was actually IN Marathon – as in, Greece. He also told me that he thinks women make much better pacers than men, which prompted me to tell him a little about my story from Hartford. I didn’t tell him the pace group, but I mentioned that my last run-in with a male pacer was less than ideal since he came in 8 minutes ahead of his time. Ed began to fade in the final mile, but he still had a smile on his face and ended in 1:45 flat. He crossed the finish line and gave me a sweaty hug.

As for Kevin and his goal of 1:48, he hung with me until mile 11. Around 10.5, he began to fade. I said to him, “You’ve already blown 1:48 out of the water. Just stick by my side until mile 11. You can do anything for a half mile. Then we take it one mile at a time.” He stayed glued to my side and when my watched beeped at mile 11, he began to fall out of step. I couldn’t slow the pace for fear of not meeting the 1:45 goal, but I turned and said, “Keep me in your sights for as long as you possibly can!” He finished in 1:45:13, completely crushing his goal. He thanked me, hugged me, and introduced me to his family. The pure joy of his huge PR had me on cloud nine!

imageI know Charissa will want to recap her race herself, so I’m going just say that she had a really awesome day 🙂

As for the rest of the runners in our pack, several took off and finished well ahead of me, and we lost a few. At the start, I met a woman named Alyssa that wanted to run a 1:45, but she finished in 1:50. I talked to her at the start but I lost her in the first mile. My friend, Jill, never caught up after that first big hill and finished in 1:48. I hope my pacing efforts didn’t ruin their race, but I tried to stay as evenly paced as possible. I sometimes play with the idea that I should start slower and negative split, but not everyone trains that way.

After the race, the race directer had rented out a banquet hall down the street. They had tons of food, and held the award ceremony there. There was also a cash bar with wine and beer. We ate, had a drink, and hung out with some of my local running friends to celebrate everyone’s great finish.

And as for my calf, well, it didn’t feel as badly as I’d anticipated. It HATED the big hill right in the beginning – as soon as we started to climb, it made it’s presence known. It ached the whole run and was pretty sore as we milled around the finish area. But as the day wore on, it felt no worse after the half than it had after my four mile run a few days before. So there’s that. Pacing and helping people achieve their goals is so gratifying and I’m so glad I got to pace this race. I highly recommend the D&L Half Marathon for fall racers looking for a new PR!

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49 Replies to “Race Recap: D&L Half Marathon (1:45 Pacer)”

  1. Great pacing, Allison! I think your pacing strategy was dead on. I’ve never run with a pace group for a whole race, but it really throws me off if I happen to run with a group for awhile or just see them go by in a race and they are trying to bank time at the beginning or running slower and then speeding up. I don’t know a lot about pacing, but I generally expect them to be running even splits- that makes the most sense to me. It seems like you do more than just set the pace, though. You offer support and are sort of a cheerleader, and I think that’s awesome!

    1. Thanks! I really love pacing. I try to pace at least one race each season. We have a really cool local running community here and it makes me happy to be able to give back a little. I’ve made some of my closest friends through running in the Lehigh Valley, and I am so thankful for our community!

  2. It sounds like you did a much better job pacing than your marathon pacer! How do you feel about coming to Seattle to pace me? You’ve convinced me that it might be the best way to get a PR 🙂

  3. Congratulations on pacing and finishing just before 1:45. You were right on the money (like I say, pacing is like the Price is Right of running, finish within the time without going over). I do understand it is hard to run even splits as a runner and as a pacer, especially if a course isn’t pancake flat. But it sounds like you did a good job of pacing the course and its nuances, you helped a lot of people achieve goals that they otherwise might not have, that’s what matters. Glad your body held up for the 13 miler too!

    Daylight savings was such a blessing to so many runners this week!

    1. I definitely would pace you! You guys aren’t too far away. I pace the Garden Spot Half Marathon in April. You should check it out! I think you and Ben (I think that’s his name!) would like an Amish Country race!

      1. Don’t you ever pace flat races? I took a look at the elevation map and I started hyperventilating from the lack of oxygen at that altitude. I kid, I kid.

        We actually do love that area and may go out there for that race if work isn’t too bad.

  4. It was really fun reading a race report from the pacer’s point of view. Pacing sounds like a ton of fun, especially the part where you get to hear everyone’s backstory. It was like I got four race reports for the price of one. 😛

    1. Pacing is so rewarding! It’s a different way to recap the race because I feel like it is such a different experience from when you are racing. I like it better – less pressure, and more of a chance to socialize!

  5. So glad that your calf pretty much behaved itself! Your Hartford comment prompted me to read that post (I also ran Hartford so of course I was curious)…and I was HORRIFIED. I mean, come on guys. You had one job. Kudos to you for, you know, actually doing your “job”

    1. I don’t know if I knew you ran Hartford! But seriously. They had one job. Ha. I don’t know if you read my Hartford post or my post on pacing, but the guy who paced 3:10 finished in 3:02! Like what even IS THAT!!!!

      1. Just no. Congrats to him for being able to run that, but people were counting on him to run a very specific pace and had trained based on that assumption! Arghhh. Such rage.

      2. Yup. Exactly. I am over it now, but I was SO FIRED UP after the race. I don’t blame him for my race. My job was to execute my race strategy. I honestly did think my Garmin was toast, though. Like a dumb ass, I chased him. Lesson LEARNED!

      3. Definitely lesson learned. I wore my Garmin for the race and now I don’t trust it because it was SO off from the mile markers. I’m (pretty) sure it was the tangents but I would hit a mile minutes before the marker.

      4. That happens to me in almost every marathon. The miles are so off, and usually it beeps early. In Chicago, the satellites were so off from the skyscrapers/interference that I had no clue of what pace I was running. I missed a PR by 1 minute. Had I known how close I was, I would have sucked it up and road the pain train to the finish line!!

  6. I love that you help people reach the PR of their dreams! I also respect that you run even splits, not negative splits. I am always under the assumption that’s what a pacer would do, so I know if I’m ahead of a certain pace group or behind them, I know where I stand. Thank you for giving back to the running community!

  7. Pacing is a terrifying thing for me. I helped a friend pace some ROTC cadets for their PT test (in the middle of my first 20 miler nonetheless) and it was only two miles but I was a nervous wreck! I had two girls that had to be under 19:30 and they were way behind after the first .75. Ahh! I think pacing evenly is the way to do it and based on the gun start, because you never know who’s going to see you and join on. So I think what you did is perfect and ideal. Ultimately it’s the runners job to run their own race and nobody else’s, so they shouldn’t blame the pacer (unless lol, Hartford) on not catering to them, y’know?

    1. LOL! It is DEFINITELY the responsibility of the runner to execute a good pacing strategy come race day. I like to think that my job is simply to support that and keep everyone focused! I choose to run even splits because it seems to work well for most runners. Personally, if I am racing I like to try for a negative split but not everyone operates that way!

  8. You did an amazing job pacing – thank you thank you thank you!!! Especially with the Garmin signals being a little nuts. It was also amazing how you would grab cups and offer them to us. I never thought about doing that before and I don’t know if I could handle that, but I’d love to be an official pacer for a race one day. Sounds like so much fun! Hope your calf is feeling a bit better now!!

  9. So awesome! I love that you had such a good group of people. I’ve never stuck with a pace group before. I’ve also been less than impressed with the ones I’ve seen at my races. It’s so cool that you and Charissa got to run together.

  10. I’m really glad you were able to pace the race with no major issues. It sounds like your pace group was awesome as well. I can’t wait to see how the marathon goes and hopefully your calf isn’t obnoxious.

    1. I think it’s going to be obnoxious, but I am at the point where I know I had a good fall and I will finish out the season and rest. Even if it’s a long day, I will still enjoy the race, the trip, and my friends 🙂 Pacing was so fun! You should so run that half next year – I bet you’d PR on that course!

  11. Now that is some good pacing. And so fun that so many people met their goals or smashed them! Congrats on a good run and being a stellar pacer. The fact that you did most of it based on effort says a lot about you as a runner. Seriously well done!

    1. Thanks, Sarah!! I run that trail after work and I know the watch signal gets a bit weird. I had a feeling I might have trouble with my watch. Since it was flat, it was easy to figure out what an 8 min pace felt like since the course didn’t have any elevation changes!

  12. I’ve only paced in an unofficial capacity. I paced my father-in-law to a PR marathon a year ago in Dayton, and a buddy of mine and I showed up to a marathon in Washington state with 3:59 and 3:58 pacer signs for the hell of it (with the organizers’ approval, of course). They have been incredibly rewarding experiences. It’s also a bit of an ego boost, because you realize how far you’ve come as a runner, that you can comfortably run a time that was once considered an ambitious PR. Isn’t this sport awesome?

    1. So awesome and so well said. My first half marathon was something like 1:53. I didn’t break 1:50 for a LONG time. It’s only been this last season that I’ve cracked 1:30. But to just know I can get up and pace a 1:45 – especially with minimal running right now because of my calf – is also so rewarding. It also makes me realize that the goals I have are not crazy, because hard work really does get you there. Me being able to pace 1:45 is proof that anyone is capable of achieving any goal they set their mind to!

  13. Great job!! I find your pacing information really helpful. I will be running a half next weekend with a friend running her first half. I’m trying to come off as being pretty experienced and all, but mostly I’d like to help her meet a decent time goal and have a great experience. I don’t want to make her run too fast, but I want to keep her happy. I think I should have no problem with the pace she choose, but I would be quite embarrassed if I totally sucked on the last part of the course which is hilly! Hopefully she will have the same exhausted feeling by then 😉

  14. I loved reading this post. Knowing how to pace is a skill I have yet to master and you were spot on! I also loved that you got to know who ran with you and encouraged them to meet their goals.

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