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Indy Women's Half: Thankful, but Not Satisfied

This is a copy and paste from my personal blog page, but I wanted to start somewhere!

The Short:

I ran a bright, shiny new half marathon PR of 1:20:50 under circumstances that were not nearly as ideal as those I had for my previous PR of 1:21:26.  I walked away from this race feeling like I'd nailed one of my best workouts ever, but not exactly like I'd raced or PRed (you'll have to read The Long for an explanation of why).  However, the more I analyze this race the happier I become with it.  I placed 5th overall, netted some cash, and best of all enjoyed an amazing weekend trip to Indianapolis with my parents.

Official results can be found here.

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Sunny clock shot courtesy of my mama

The Long:

I looked at a lot of fall halves trying to find the "perfect" goal race before deciding that none were.  The major things I was looking for were: A) fitting into my schedule (marathon training and non-running), B) likelihood of good weather, C) straight course/minimal turns, D) flat course, E) competitive field, and F) within driving distance.  The Indianapolis Women's Half fit the bill on 5 of the 6, only missing requirement C), but the more courses I looked at the more I realized how hard it is to find one as nice as the White River half (which, alas, does not meet requirement A) this year since it is only 2 weeks before my goal marathon).

So I landed on Indy, and was accepted as an elite entrant and honored as one of the "5 Women to Watch" in the race.  The race organizers were amazing and I was fortunate to be a part of this event.  The race was on a Saturday, so I made the trip to Indy on Friday with my parents.  Since I won't pull Albani out of school for a race, she and Jon weren't able to come.  I treasure my time with my parents so greatly, which also meant that even if I bombed the race, it would be worth going to!  I never got nervous for this race, and I think that was big part of why.

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From the event program

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Expo fun

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More expo fun

I was quite excited for this checkpoint in my marathon training cycle.  After 10 consecutive weeks of mileage in the 60s plus 2 weeks with mileage in the 70s, I had a 50 mile week the week of this race.  While I may not have been completely rested since I ran 20 miles one week before the event, I was the most rested I'd been in months, and I also had the opportunity to race in NOT 70-80* with 100% humidity for the first time in months!  I felt like a new woman!

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Feeling like a new woman in the hotel room pre-race

Based on the "5 Women to Watch" and a handful of other elite entrants, I expected to have several woman right around my pace.  I lined up on the starting line feeling very relaxed and ready to give it a go.  I kept reminding myself to trust my training and to trust God, and to go get what I'd trained for!  Nothing is ever guaranteed in these long races, but fretting about it never helps.  I planned to aim to keep my pace at 6:05-6:10.

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I'm looking weird on the starting line as per usual

At the gun, a lead pack eased out, and a check of my Garmin around a quarter of a mile in showed 6:05 pace as I settled in right behind the leaders. For a brief moment, I thought, "Perfect!  Maybe this will be the 6:05 pace pack!  Couldn't be better!"  After that brief moment, I could feel 5 of the girls accelerating (the 2 others who were not accelerating were 2 I expected to drop off before the mile at 6:05 pace).  I couldn't decide; should I risk going through the first mile in 5:55-6:00 for the benefit of running with the pack, or should I stick to my plan?  I let them go and stuck to my pace.  I knew that if they could maintain sub-6:00 pace, I could not compete with them, and if that was too fast for them, they would come back.

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When 6:05 pace was briefly happening

The 5 quickly pulled away from me, and at the mile I gauged them as over 20 seconds ahead of me (I later spoke to one who said they went through in 5:45).  I came through the mile in 6:08, right where I wanted to be, but so alone.  I felt antsy during mile 2, and really had to hold myself back because I wanted to chase the leaders, and kept questioning my decision about not going with them.  However, the gap grew and I settled into complete no man's (no woman's?) land.  Somehow I could feel that no one was close behind me.  With the turns on the course, I simply couldn't see anyone.  I had to start paying attention to the course markings/signs, which the event did a really good job with (including course marshals at all turns), but which just takes extra work.

In regards to the course markings, in many places the cones on the road were set up in a way that did not allow you to run the tangents on turns and curves.  When a course is certified, it is measured on the tangents of the road, but I noticed early on that many of the tangents were blocked.  I knew I was not running the shortest route, but I didn't want to risk disqualification by going outside of the cones (and in some places the tangent was occupied by an aid station in the road, which I clearly could not go through).  I was frustrated about this early on because I knew I was picking up extra distance, and there was nothing I could do about it.  We all know I dislike anything out of my control!

Between miles 4-5, I picked up a cyclist escort.  I believe there were 10 cyclists, for the prize money positions, but I am not sure why they didn't pick up with the runners until that far into the race.  I sure needed my guy earlier!  Having him was a great help in regards to navigating the course, but I think the cyclists were probably told not to aid the runners (as they should be), so it wasn't helpful pacing-wise.  I was extremely thankful to have him to keep me on course though - no more thinking about markings and signs!

Between about 5.5 and 7.5, the course doubled back on itself, so I could see the runners ahead of and behind me.  The leading 4 ladies were still pretty closely bunched when I saw them, significantly ahead of me (about 1:30).  There had been 5 women ahead of me when I lost sight of them, but one of them was in the 5K (I hadn't been able to see the 5K turn off, but confirmed the 5K winner from the bib number in the photo above).  At the time I thought maybe someone dropped out or stopped in a porta-potty, but regardless I knew I was in 5th at that point, with little chance of moving up.  As I turned the other direction, I saw that 6th was farther behind me than I was trailing the leaders, so I also had little chance of being caught.  I checked my watch at the 6.55 mile mat, and I was at 40:23, which was about what I wanted (the online results have the 6.55 splits wrong for everyone).

I pressed on, feeling solid at the pace I was at and happy with my splits, and also really channeling those long tempos that I'd done solo.  I kept thinking, "This is just like that 8 mile tempo, only 5 miles farther" -- which I am really not sure was the most encouraging mantra I could have invented, haha!  I've really been working on pacing by feel, and after the first 2 miles when I used my Garmin to ensure I didn't go out too fast, I only looked at it when it beeped mile splits.  I believe all of my tempo runs have really helped me pace consistently.  My pace felt like exactly what I could maintain for a half marathon, but at the same time it's intimidating to try something you've never done before so I hoped that the wheels didn't fall off before 13.1!  I tried to focus on trusting -- trusting my training and trusting God -- but I kept coming back to, "It's just like those 8 mile tempos, just 5 miles longer."  Hah.

Around mile 9.5, for the first time since about mile 1 I could see someone ahead of me!  I realized that one lady had fallen off the lead group and even though she was still uber-far ahead of me, I was gaining.  I told myself to give it my all to finish strong and to pull her in.  I looked at my total time when I passed the mile 10 marker, and when I saw 1:01:35 (a huge unofficial 10 mile PR), I knew that it wasn't my day to break 1:20 because I knew I couldn't close with an 18:24 5K, but I also felt confident that I would PR.

I worked on pulling in #4 throughout the final 5K.  Mile 11 felt great, and then the final 2 miles were into the wind.  I truly believe that I maintained a 6:00-6:05 effort on those 2 miles, but when you're running into a 14 mph wind, that does not translate into 6:00-6:05 splits.  Although this was a tough time to encounter the wind, I am thankful that much of the course had fantastic wind block, because the main other time I felt it was at the beginning of the race (which makes sense, since we started and finished in the same area).  Also, for what it's worth, Strava gave me a grade adjusted pace of 6:02 for mile 13.

I was happy to see the mile 12 sign, and I knew I could gut out one more mile, but I was sure ready to finish!  As we turned onto the final stretch, the finish seemed so reachable yet so far.  I gained a lot of ground on #4, but not enough (she went on to finish in 1:20:40), and it was apparent I wasn't going to catch her by the long final stretch.  It was a mental battle between easing off since I couldn't pass her, and going with all I had left to get the best PR I could.  My kick was a far cry from my best (5:59 pace), but it was what I could do mentally and physically at that point, and that final half mile or so was the most prominent incline of the race (still very minor, but I could feel it!).  I crossed in 5th in a new PR of 1:20:50.  My dad's video of the finish is here, and the announcer even pronounced my last name correctly!

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Splits

I guess I called it quite well when I noted here that I felt ready for a half PR but not ready for a 1:19!  Although I'm very thankful for this race, I could also identify key factors that, if different, would have led to a faster time:  A) less wind, B) people to run with, and C) being allowed to run the tangents.  My Garmin read 13.19 at the end of this race, and in my last 3 half marathons it has read 13.10, 13.09, and 13.08, and it almost always reads slightly under on certified courses (it read 26.10 in my last marathon and 6.15 in a recent 10K).  Whenever someone says their Garmin was right and the certified course was wrong, I am the first to say that, nope, your Garmin is wrong and the course is right; but we were not allowed to run the shortest route on the road, which is how courses are certified, and I think that cost me about 30 seconds.  The course was right, we just didn't run the shortest route that it was measured on.  My pace on my Garmin was 6:07.X (must have been 6:07.9+ because Garmin Connect rounded up to 6:08), and per the course was 6:09.96 (no, I am not rounding up to 6:10, bahaha!), so not a huge difference, but when you're chipping away at your PR, every second counts!  A 1:19:59 takes 6:06.07 pace.  Fun fact:  my last 8 mile tempo was 6:07 pace, so this pretty much was just like that 8 mile tempo, just 5 more miles!

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One of these distances is not like the others...

However, I've decided to let these factors boost my confidence that I can run faster.  When I ran a 1:21 in Arizona, I wasn't sure if it was something I could top because everything aligned so nicely for that one; I am very pleased to beat that time when things did not align as well.  The lower you work down your PRs, the more you really need that White Unicorn of race day conditions to improve them.  I got a bit spoiled because I actually had those conditions for not one, but for three winter/spring races (Arizona Rock 'n' Roll half, BMO Mesa-Phoenix full, and the Wash U Distance Carnival 10,000 m).  Maybe I can find them again at CIM, God-willing!  When I told my coach about the race, he said, "You need to see what you can do on a straight course", and I look forward to doing just that.

I've also been thinking, we often discuss trusting God when things go wrong, but it's just as important when things go right!  Throughout the race, I kept reminding myself to trust Him, and to relax and just remember that whatever He had in store for me that day was far better than anything I could have planned myself.  Luckily, things went right in the form of a new PR, but regardless I trust Him and I trust the process.

"God is within her; she will not fail." - Psalms 46:5

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Awards ceremony

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My sweet dad

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My sweet mom

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One of these things does not belong (that would be ME!), w/ podcast affiliated runners & the race director

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I got to post-race brunch with my dear friend Briony who was in Indy from Kansas!

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Bling

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Results

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The trip home

Now it's back to marathon training!  Less than 9 weeks until CIM!

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Congrats on the Top 5 finish, I think I saw you running solo about a mile in. My wife ran in it and the wind got to her as well. 

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Nice racing! I have to learn to trust that my "by feel" tempos can be extended to the race distance.

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I've used that "tempo pace" race strategy before, too, and really liked what it did for my head. Your training is really showing solid gains. Can't wait to see how CIM goes.

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You ran it smartly, and those cone markings are not official ever, FYI.  Run the tangents! Great race anyways. 

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Nice racing, congrats on the top-5! I hate when an otherwise well organized race does something like put an aid station on the tangent line...

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Woo Hoo!!   Congratulations!!   Any time I have not "run my own race" I have crashed and burned.  Way to play it smart.

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Congrats on the PR and being honored as a woman to watch.  That's quite the achievement.  Training must be going well.

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