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The T-Town Half Marathon: Race Intoxication


SIbbetson

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The short:

I won a half marathon and set the Oklahoma female masters state record! I had an amazing race trip with my friends! Runners are the best people ever!  Everything is wonderful!

I didn't run quite as fast as I'd have liked at T-Town, but 60 degrees in March is much warmer than 60 degrees in September.  I was proud of my even pacing and solid performance running solo on a course with some tricky elevation.  As per usual, I'd have preferred a 30-40 degree day, pacing partners, and an easy course, but given the circumstances I don't really think this could have gone any better.  And, I got to break the tape!  Oh, also I ran 10 miles after the race for a 25.7 mile day (and had the restraint not to run 0.5 mile farther).

Official results are here, with my details here.

My Strava activity is here.

My dad's video of my finish is here.

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The long:

I hadn't raced a half since White River in November 2019, so to say I was incredibly excited about this one is an understatement.  After I raced the Cabin Fever 20k in February and my workout paces came down throughout February and March, my anticipation kept growing, and by race week I fully in race intoxication!

Several members of my Miles from Mentor running group made the trip down to Tulsa, including Elise, Sean, Colin, Casey, Abby, and Brad, and my friend Andrew from Kansas City joined us in Oklahoma.  Several members of the crew were PR ready, which was extra exciting for me because I've been writing training schedules for several of them this season (proud "coaching" moments!).  I'm going to write a seperate post with trip stories, because the getaway was amazing and I kind of felt like I was in college again, including getting very little sleep on Friday night.

Spring weather in the Midwest is pretty unpredictable but almost always windy, so leading up to the race I'd been worried we would have a 20+ mph headwind for half of the out-and-back course, since I'd had several recent workouts in high winds.  I didn't think about it being warm since we'd still been having cool overnight lows and the race started at 7:30 a.m., but somehow race morning managed to be the highest overnight low of the year so far at around 60 degrees.  60 degrees feels much warmer the first time you run hard in it each season, and even when I am used to it I never run as well in it as I do at 30-45, so I just decided to be thankful it wasn't windy.  I race by effort, and one of the many perks of changing to that approach has been that I don't have to think about how much to adjust my goal pace for weather conditions; actually I don't have to think about my goal pace at all, although based on my workouts I knew 6:00-6:10 should be where I was at on a good day.

I warmed up with my friends then we lined up with some extra space and masks until the last minute due to COVID protocols.  After the gun, Brad was quick to take the lead, a few other men were out fast, a woman in buns took off, and Colin was following.  I settled into a comfortably hard pace with Andrew and had a pretty relaxed first couple of miles, although I told him I definitely wanted to chase down the woman ahead of us.  We caught up with her around mile 2, which was also when we moved from the road onto a running/bike trail, and then she hung onto us for maybe a quarter mile after that before I took the female lead.  I felt like I'd gone out conservatively and also felt very strong, so I was confident with leading.  I was hoping that Andrew and I could work together for most of the race, but he didn't have a good day and fell back by mile 4 (based on his recent workouts I fully expected him to beat me, but he had a little illness that cost him a good race).  I could see a man in black significantly ahead of me, but there were also a lot of non-racers on the trail and it was a little confusing; the trail split into two sides at parts, which I later learned were the bike portion and the run side, but I was unclear on where I should be so looked ahead to others.  I think the race assumed most entrants were local and knew what they should be doing, but everyone in our Missouri group was confused; our trails are nowhere near that advanced, hah!

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Me and Andrew on the bike path

I mostly just focused on maintaining my effort and running the tangents on the curvy path.  I did the calculations and figured I'd see Brad about 0.25 from the turn around, so when he came back the other way I knew I was getting close.  I then saw Colin in second and two more men before I came upon an aid station.  There'd been one every couple of miles on the trail and this one was no different, so I thought the turn around must be a little farther up.  After I'd run maybe 10 seconds past, the lady at the aid station started yelling at me to turn around at the table.  I immediately turned back at that point, but I lost some time and nicely told her that she should let people know to turn around sooner since it wasn't marked (I later found out that she told Casey but Elise did exactly what I did).  I grabbed a water bottle off the table to take with a gel.  I usually don't take anything in halves, but since I was running so far on the day I knew I needed to stay on top of fueling, plus I always appreciate a mid-race caffeine boost.

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Once I turned around, the race became even more enjoyable.  A cyclist with the race began riding with me as I navigated the "back" against the rest of the racers.  I saw Andrew and encouraged him to come get me.  I saw Casey in second female position not far behind.  I saw Elise in fifth female rapidly gaining on fourth.  I then saw the rest of the field at some point between miles 6.5 and about 10.  So many people cheered for and encouraged me; it was amazing!  I had a huge grin on my face, which I think then made more people yell "first female", "you're moving!", etc.  Runners are really the most encouraging and supportive people on the earth.  The race didn't have mile markers so each time I heard my watch beep I made sure to mentally note where I was at, and I was doing a countdown on miles left to 12 (because the final mile takes care of itself).  I also budgeted my energy for the final 2.5 miles with a lot of climbing - it had been hard to enjoy the downhill at the beginning knowing I had to go back up it!

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This is not much elevation overall, but the
way it was distributed was a bit of a trick

Around mile 10 my lead cyclist handed me off to a police motorcycle escort.  Once we got off the trail I was really thankful for him, because the course was kind of confusing and not well-marked (Casey actually got off the course at that point because no one directed her, although she ended up getting back on the course in a different spot that was a little longer).  I was gaining on the man in front of me, and around mile 11.5 he turned around and asked my police escort where to go.  Trying to catch him kept me pushing in the final couple of miles in spite of the hills, and grade-adjusted the final mile was my fastest of the race.  Toward the end I continued to feel really strong, but not necessary speedy, which is unsurprising given I've been doing strength-based training and high mileage (that I probably didn't cut back as much as I should have for this race - it was a 90 mile week). 

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Police motorcycle escort (lights were
flashing but you can't tell here)

Coming down the finishing stretch with the motorcycle was fun, and as I got closer I saw a finishing ribbon held out for me to "break", which was great!  The announcer said my name, town, and overall female place while I raised my arms through the tape with a huge smile on my face.  I also saw 1:21 on the clock, which I was pleased with on the day.  Before the race I'd predicted 1:19-1:21 as my range, although if I'd have known how warm it was going to be I'd have changed that to 1:21-1:23.

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Finish!
I smiled for some photos, found friends, changed shoes, and grabbed a lot of nutrition to tackle 10 more miles for the day (I've been calling it a "10 mile cool down", but that is a bit of a misnomer).  Colin is also 50k training and was in for the extra 10, Abby made the trip with us in order to visit and cheer so did this for her main run, and my friend Liz who lives in Tulsa joined us as part of her long run.  I wasn't quite sure how the extra distance would go, but I'd learned from my Cabin Fever cool down bonk that I needed a lot of nutrition so I felt like I was eating much of the run but that definitely helped (2 gels, a bottle of UCAN, a pack of chews).  I could have used more water and thought the fountains on the trail would work to refill the small bottle I had, but they were turned off (thanks, COVID).  I actually only needed 9.3 miles to hit 25 total, but Colin hadn't warmed up quite as long as I had and I felt great so I ran until he hit 25.  I was then of course tempted to just go to 26.2 since I was a half mile away, but there really wasn't any reason to.
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Amazing crew

All in all, it was a wonderful experience.  My friends are amazing, and my race was my best on the day.  I'm proud of my 25.7 mile day and of my even pacing.  Everyone in the group was 2-4 minutes off the times expected, which I didn't like for anyone but made me feel like I'd have definitely run faster in different weather, since I'm 100% sure they all have faster times in them right now.  Finish times with predicted times in ( 😞 Brad was 1st overall male in 1:15 (1:12), Colin was 3rd overall male in 1:20 (1:17), Andrew won his age group with 1:24 (1:19), Casey was 2nd overall female in 1:27/really 1:26 (1:23), and Elise won her age group with 1:34 (1:31) - Sean was a bit injured so was more off but it was for a different reason.  I've been very guilty of chasing the perfect race and being unsatisfied with anything less, but I think I'm finally learning that I can be very happy with my race AND know that I have a faster one in me.  I also appreciate the running community more than words can express.

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Miles from Mentor group (minus Brad)

The masters state record was a wonderful surprise, because it wasn't even on my radar...I kind of think I'm still 29, bahaha!  The man in charge of maintaining the records said they are working on updating the website - link coming soon - but he sent me the files of the records for age groups. Masters is 40+, so I'm including applicable age groups here - Joan Benoit Samuelson actually had the record at 1:21:57 before me, so it's sure a good thing that I didn't run any farther past that turn around!  This is definitely the first time I've broken a record held by a marathon Olympic gold medalist (1984 marathon), although her 1:21 at age 51 is astronomically more impressive.

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In regards to my pacing, Strava doesn't do grade-adjusted pace on free accounts any more, but my latest hack has been looking at the race on someone else's paid account and converting my own mile paces to GAP.  It takes a little effort, but it's worth my monthly Strava savings considering that's the only paid account feature I want.  Here are my splits:

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I could use a little work on miles 10-11

I am so thankful for the joy God brings me through the running community and racing.  And now I have a half master's PR to beat!

Edited by SIbbetson

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5 Comments


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You broke a record held by Joan Benoit Samuelson! How cool! Congrats on a great race. 

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You are really running well. Time off from lots of racing has been good for you.

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Fantastic racing, Sara! frustrating about the course not being well marked and marshalled.

I need to work on my "race intoxication" rather than race fear. 

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10 hours ago, ocrunnergirl said:

Fantastic racing, Sara! frustrating about the course not being well marked and marshalled.

I need to work on my "race intoxication" rather than race fear. 

Thank you!  It's not unexpected for smaller races to have hiccups, and smaller races are the only ones happening right now, so I'll take what I can get.

Definitely work on race excitement - it makes the whole experience even better, and I'll be your run better (vs. when fearful) too.  Get out there and enjoy your victory lap after all of your training!

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On 3/30/2021 at 7:55 PM, amarie2009 said:

You broke a record held by Joan Benoit Samuelson! How cool! Congrats on a great race. 

That was NOT something I'd ever expected to do.

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