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White River Half Marathon: Beating all of the boys is fun (part 2)




Part 1 of my White River race recap is here.

The first mile of this race contains a significant downhill, and then the course follows a curvy road along the river out and back 6.05ish miles.  My plan was to start at my goal pace, 6:05, which would be like 6:25 effort (per Strava's grade adjusted pace) on mile one, making it kind of a "free" mile.  Last time I ran the race, many runners went out ridiculously fast on the downhill, so I expected that again.  I eased out and while I felt like I was barely moving, there were only 5 men ahead of me, so I checked my pace to ensure I wasn't going too fast.  It was 6:24 at that time, so I let myself pick up the cadence, making it slightly more comfortable, and moving up a couple of positions.  I really felt like I had the brakes on through the whole downhill, but I came through in 5:55.  I will never run a Revel race where every mile drops that much - ouch.  Around mile 1 you pass nearby the finish line, then run the same road out and back, which is one reason I love this course (no turning except one hairpin turnaround and in the final 100 meters or so).  The other reason is that it is super flat from mile 1 to the finish.

There were 3 races that started together:  a 5K, the half marathon, and a full marathon, so I didn't know which race the 3 men ahead of me were in, but I was gaining on 2 of them pretty rapidly during mile 2.  Those 2 turned at the 5K turn around, moving me up to second runner overall.  The first male was significantly ahead of me (from Strava I saw he ran a 5:19 first mile), but I focused on him and hoped I could gradually pull him in.  Whether he was in the half or full didn't matter at that point, because the full runners would run the half course twice.

The wind was only 9 mph per weather.com, but it sure felt stronger by the river!  I focused on settling into half marathon effort and kept telling myself that I would work my way up to the man ahead of me and draft off him.  I wanted to keep my average pace around 6:05 in order to finish in 1:19, and I was staying right around where I wanted to be.  I looked at each mile split because it felt more like a workout than a race, running alone.  I felt fine, but I had to focus to keep my pace where I wanted it, in contrast to my final long run workout 2 weeks before Indy when I ran 10 miles at 6:02 pace and had to keep myself from running too fast (I was supposed to run that a tad slower that day and was hoping to feel that good for this race).  The pace felt do-able, but not as easy as I hoped it would feel, and I drifted to 6:10ish if I lost focus.

When I signed up for the race, I knew that there was a possibility I'd end up running it solo, so I'd been mentally prepared for that and also confident that I could "time trial" a half PR on this course on a decent day.  I used other things to help me along:  looking towards the man ahead of me, using the energy from the early start marathoners I passed (many of whom were beyond sweet and encouraging!), pumping myself up when the aid station volunteers told me "Go get that guy, girl, you're strong!".  On the way out, my Garmin was beeping after each mile marker, which is pretty typical, and I knew the last time I ran this race it measured 13.09, so expected to be really close to or just under a 13.11 reading on my watch (it is also famously adored in our area for measuring exactly at 13.1).  Breaking 1:20 takes 6:06 average pace, so I thought I was good as long as I maintained 6:05 or under.

A bit after mile 6, I caught the man.  This excited me briefly, until I realized that I wasn't going to be able to draft off him or work with him after all; he was slowing (he would go on to finish in 1:26).  I encouraged him as I passed and then I led through the U turn that was around mile 7.

Since the course is mostly out and back, you get to see everyone else in the races no matter what pace you're running, which is really fun!  Behind the man I'd passed, I saw Chelsea with a pack of men around her, Eliud Kipchoge Breaking-2 style.  They were not very far behind me, and my initial thought was, "Well, crap, she has a whole entourage to help her and I'm fighting this stupid wind by myself", but I quickly changed that to, "I'm strong enough to do it on my own" and I pressed on towards my pace goals.  For several miles I passed the rest of the field running the opposite direction.  I knew many people running the race, and their encouragement helped me immensely.  Many runners I didn't know cheered for me extra hard, being a women in the overall lead, and the water station volunteers who'd seen me in second overall on the way out were particularly excited that I'd taken the lead!

The 6ish miles of the course going out feel like decline, but running the opposite direction on the same road also feels like decline!  Strava tells me it's just flat both ways, and apparently I just don't run anything flat because a lot of Indy also felt like decline.  After the first time I ran this race I told everyone that the course was downhill in both directions (in contrast to our local Frisco trail, which is uphill in both directions!).  However, in 2019, it also felt like it was against the wind in both directions!  I thought we'd get a reprieve after the first half, but I think with it being by the river and the road winding, it wasn't as simple as headwind going out and tailwind coming back.  Amy agreed that it was downhill both ways but against the wind both ways.  I guess that evens out, eh?

All things considering, I felt good on the way back - not amazing I'm-going-to-crush-the-world and drastically exceed my expectations, but strong and like I could maintain through the end.  My Garmin was beeping before the mile markers on the way back, but I wasn't worried about that at all since I'd gotten 13.09 on the course in 2016, rarely are any mile markers in a race like this exactly right, and sometimes it would beep just before and others significantly before (just like on the way out, it would sometimes been just after and others 30+ seconds after).  I pretended that I was running a workout and that my coach had told me to average 6:05 or faster for 13.1 miles.  I had a few splits drift slightly, with 7 at 6:07, 8 at 6:08, and 9 at 6:10.  I didn't like this trend and knew that I needed to keep my pace down to run 1:19, but I focused and felt good when I saw 6:03 for mile 10.

I told myself that I "just" needed to run under 19:00 for the final 5K and I'd have it (in hindsight this is kind of nuts because it wasn't long ago I could barely break 19 in an open 5K)!  I grabbed a cup of Tailwind at the mile 10 aid station and did a little swish and spit.  I checked my pace more often than usual, seeing 6:0X steadily.  Mile 11 and 12 were both 6:04, and my average pace was 6:05 at that time.  I was hurting, but I believed I could run another mile at that pace.  I thought, "I'm going to get that 1:19, and I did it all by myself!"  I pushed with everything I could, with mile 13 coming in at 5:59, although I did not look at that split until after the race because I was running with all I had to the end.  The finish is slightly off the main road in a little curvy cul-de-sac, making it difficult to get a great final finishing sprint.  Also, the finishing clock isn't visible until the final 10 seconds or so, and when I saw it the reading was over 1:20.  It was really fun to win the race outright, and I was smiling through the finish line - and even remembered not to stop my watch immediately!  I stopped my Garmin at 1:20:20 at 13.22 miles and my official chip time was 1:20:18.


I am happy with this finishing shot

My race recap continues with part 3 here, and I'll post it here in Loopville in the near future!







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