It’s been over a week since I ran the CNO Indy Monumental Half Marathon, which means this recap is about 8 days past due. Spoiler alert: a new PR. Hello! It wasn’t a perfect race, and I definitely made some mistakes in the first half, though I’ve tried not to dwell on that too much. Don’t get me wrong, this was a great step forward, and I’m proud to have run a PR. It’s also left me hungrier to go at it again in the spring, and I’m grateful for that. But, it wasn’t my mostly evenly paced race and maybe that has altered my perception of this PR just a little, though mostly in the form of wishful thinking. “If I had run smarter, maybe the PR would have been bigger.” (The universal chorus for all PR’s, right?)
The week leading up to the race was a little crazy. Life/work was at a normal level of stress, but the weather was bonkers. On Tuesday morning we had a bizarre snow shower after the temperature plummeted overnight, then things warmed up a little and we had a thunderstorm Thursday night. Neither of these conditions was exactly comforting as far as race morning possibilities were concerned. I also had an awful headache on Wednesday, plausibly from the crazy swing in the weather, also plausibly because of something else I’ll get to in a second. It isn’t usual for me to get a headache that bad, but I figured I still had a couple of days to bounce back. TMI warning: I was also expecting my cycle to start on race day, which also had me on pins and needles, though I ran a new 5K PR in August under the same conditions, so I wasn’t too worried. Mostly I was worried it would be late, because usually it’s the day before it starts that’s the worst for me. (In case you’re wondering, the race deities smiled on me and I was a day early. Hallelujah!) I wanted to mention this for all you ladies, because this has always been one of my biggest race day fears. So, to recap, happened to me twice, PR’d twice. No pain mid-race. Just putting that out there…
I took off work on Friday to be able to sleep in and get everything ready with less stress. There was no race morning packet pickup, so I was planning to spend the night in Indy. Jogging a few blocks to the start line is infinitely easier than driving an hour and worrying about parking. For anyone local, I’ve tried to use Spot Hero to park downtown twice now for races and have failed to actually find the lots both times, but I haven’t exactly had a lot of extra time to drive around searching. Still, this seems like a service failure if it’s that difficult to visually identify lots. Anyway, I did all my usual pre-race shenanigans, like the mandatory good luck nail art, and headed up mid-afternoon. By the time I dumped my bag off at the hotel and made my way through the expo, it was time to eat and chill. I’m a Netflixer at home, so hotel room cable access is a weird guilty pleasure for me, dare I say one of the things I secretly look forward to before an overnight race. I started to get a little nervous about the whole female situation, but I took some Aleve and tried to sleep. Predictably, this did not happen immediately, or easily, but at some point I heard the first of my alarms go off and realized I had been fast asleep.
My pre-race breakfast is oatmeal with a little peanut butter and a banana, so I got up at 5 to eat for the 8 o’clock race start. I also sipped some green tea as the tea helps with everyone’s most desired pre-race event (you know what I’m talking about). I usually just lounge in bed until it’s time to get dressed, but I always set an alarm just in case I accidentally cat nap. The start of the race was going to be cold, but it has been every year that I’ve run this race. Temps at the start were going to be in the upper 30’s, but in the previous years I’ve run it in shorts and a light fleece I’ve been annoyed at how much I sweat, so I opted for shorts and a t-shirt. When I stepped outside I actually enjoyed the feeling of the cold air on my skin, and didn’t feel nearly as cool as I was afraid I would. In years past my legs were shaking in the starting corral, but for whatever reason this year I was comfortable. I’ll take it!
This was my third year running the Monumental half, and each time I’ve been so impressed with the volunteers helping everyone get where they need to go at the start. It feels organized and welcoming. I also appreciated the energy of the start generally. It’s not easy to get people fired up when they’re huddled together for warmth, but it felt like a valiant effort on the part of the announcer. (8 AM in pre-daylight savings Indiana time is dark, so I forgot to clarify that it was cold *and* dark.) My goal for the race was to run the first 2-3 miles in the 7:20’s and then to push down to 7:15-7:10 and hang out there until mile 10. Mile 10 was the point at which I was going to really push. (Don’t choke me when you read what is about to come, but you can file this intro under “omen.” Adding an “oopsie” in advance.)
Right on the money. 7:27 and 7:26, though GPS downtown was really wonky, so good job me on keeping it controlled and even. The start was crowded though, and after the second mile I told myself to start pushing it just a LITTLE, mostly because I was tired of trying to get around other people. So, I pushed a little teeny tiny bit. (Ahem.)
6:38. WTF, Sarah?!? This did NOT feel nearly that fast, I swear. I was just cruising. But, not a great idea to throw down a 5K paced mile in a half marathon. I told myself to chill out, though was still feeling good.
I’m not sure what was going on. Maybe I temporarily entered someone else’s body? I was trying to run comfortably by feel, and, again, I swear these felt easy and light. 6:59, 6:59, and 7:02. Umm…what? I felt so good during these miles that for a split second I almost thought I could hold onto it and that I was in for a phenomenal race. I felt like I was still at a conversational pace, and I was just cruising. Adrenaline, you sneaky little devil.
7:11 and 7:13. I started to rethink the glory of those previous 3 miles and told myself to reign it in. These were my goal paces, so I told myself if I could hang on to this for the rest of the race I would be golden. I still felt good, though after the 8 mile mark I felt a little drowsy, which was weird. I’ve never felt that way in a race, and it wasn’t like my legs were heavy, it was like my eyelids were getting heavy. I also started to feel a little cold. Maybe that fleece would have been okay after all.
7:33. After feeling cold and tired I started to seriously doubt my earlier delusion, and also possibly to kick myself for it, but my coach had suggested that there might be a slower mile closer to 7:30 in between the 8-11 mile range because of the course itself, so I didn’t panic and kept trucking.
7:16 and 7:06. The miles were starting to feel really hard, so I’m ecstatic that I rallied for that 7:06.
7:25. Holding on for dear life. I swore I had slowed to a very painful 9:00 min. pace. It was taking everything I had to keep going.
Approximately 7:19. I was taking manual splits and missed the 13th mile marker (if there was one), but my watch tells me I ran 8:17 for the final 1.13 miles. If this is true, this final mile was a miracle, and before I did the calculation I really thought I had completely tanked this final mile. Looking at it now, I’m beaming. Even if this isn’t totally accurate, it is not nearly as bad as I thought it was, even with a few extra seconds tacked on.
FINAL OFFICIAL TIME: 1:34:31
A few other notes—as I mentioned I took manual splits on the course. I’m always annoyed when my watch beeps a split at me significantly out of sync with mile markers, so I took matters into my own hand(s). Human error rang in some .99 and 1.05 splits, but, oh well. Also, I didn’t take in any gels or anything. I’ve trained with water, and that’s what I took on the course every 3 miles or so (my training protocol). I did have a sip or two of Gatorade around mile 9 when I started to feel off, more out of nervous energy than need, but I felt fine afterwards.
So, I don’t know. I think this race was better than I thought it was, and writing this recap has helped me put it into better perspective. I thought I floundered at the end, and even if I was struggling, I was holding on as hard as I could. Also, THIS IS A NEW PR! The fact that the first half felt as light as it did gives me hope, even if it wasn’t appropriate as a race strategy, or at least not the one I had set out to run.
Onwards and upwards,