Monday, December 16, 2019

Sly Fox Brewery Half Marathon, Pottstown, PA, 12/15/19

What a great way to end 2019! I drove almost 2 hours to PA this morning to see what I could do. This course was new to me. It was run on a trail along a river. I emailed the RD to ask about the terrain. I wasn’t interested in driving two hours to run slow on muddy, rooty terrain when what I really needed was the chance to run HARD and see how fast I could go. I was told there would about 8 miles of "trail" some gravel (it was cider) and some paved sections of "trail". The rest was on closed roads. It was primarily downhill on the road to the trail, which meant uphill back to finish. 

On 12/8 I raced a 5k in 6:20 pace but I really thought I should have been faster. If I used my recent 3:08 marathon as a guide, I would come in around 1:28:xx, but if I used my 5k as a guide I would be 1:29:xx. Funny. It isn't supposed to work that way. 
I really was hoping to chase a new PR, which is currently 1:27:21. But I really wasn’t sure if today would be the day. I would try.

I miserably failed to properly manage my pre-race routine. I left my house at 5:50 when I should have left at 5:30. I had enough time for about 1M of warm-up. Thankfully I used the bathroom right after getting my bib but with nerves taking over I felt I like I need to get back online. I looked at my watch and I had 12 minutes until the gun…. ugh. The bathrooms were steps from the start so I got online and decided to wait to see how far I get with 4 minutes to go…. well, I never made it but the truth is I didn’t need it. Nerves make me feel like I need to pee when I don’t. I should have just kept warming up.

The weather was perfect today. 43 degrees for December in PA is awesome. There was some light wind. I wore shorts, calve sleeves, arm sleeves, gloves, and a singlet rather than a T-shirt. I expected to pull off the gloves at some point, maybe the arm sleeves and maybe even the singlet if I was overheating and felt just a sports bra would work. But I kept it all the entire race. No sunglasses today because it was a little grey. Has the sun broke through it would have definitely warmed up. 

I line up at the front because based upon last year's race results, a 1:29:xx won it. I look at the ladies up front wondering if there could be anyone faster than me here today. I see at least two women who I think could be fast just based upon body composition and choice of racing gear. At the starting line, this is usually all we have to go on.

The gun goes off and we start up a mild hill, turn a corner and then head down and mostly downhill until 2.3M. There was some uphill in that but it was mostly down and at one point it was long and steeply down (which I knew would be challenging on the way back). I hold back my speed on the way down because I don’t want to exhaust myself at mile 2.  I know there will be work for me at the end. I tell myself it is only 2.3M of work and that isn’t too bad. I will deal with that challenge when I get to it.

Once off the closed road, for the next mile to a mile and a half, we ran on a paved trail along the river. It was flat, fast, and peaceful. From the gun, I am the first female. I am in a small pack of men. One guy (Wayne) seem to hook up with me. No words exchanged. Our pace was just in sync with neither of us fighting for it. I know I was trying to hold on to a pace that was as fast as possible while still allowing me the ability to negative split.

Wayne and I are side-by-side, but running our own races. We take turns leading which really just maintained the pace. It became clear we were working together just from the proximity of our bodies and how our strides were often in sync. It felt nice to fall into a flow state with a complete stranger without discussion. I am not a fan of chit-chat when running fast. I want to conserve my energy. I want my mind to focus on my race, my pace, how I feel, what I need, not where someone is from, what their goal is, how many races they have run, etc.  We can get to know each other later.

The energy was very positive and collaborative. Little things like how one of us if in the lead would point down to some branch or post or obstacle if we saw it first as a way to put the other on notice made it clear we were a team. We were moving well at 6:40 pace (which was my goal) and reeling in the men ahead slowly.

At about 3.75 miles, I believe, we hit the gravel part of the course. The path turned into damp cinder. Wayne spoke.  He said “Oh I don’t care for this at all. It is slippery.”  He was right. I said “I thought it was just my shoes. The traction is poor here."  The shift in the surface caused us to slow a bit, but then we got back up to speed.  

At about 5 miles, we pass a spectator who called out “You are the first woman!” and this makes Wayne glance back. I ask, “Do see any other ladies back there? I am afraid to look” ;)  He says “Oh no. There is no one. I think you got this.”  I say, “Well, it is early still. Not even halfway yet.”

I am hoping to negative split so if I don’t see any women near me or ahead of me by the halfway mark, I do feel the since most people don’t negative split, this means I will be hard to catch. BUT I am about running about 20 seconds per mile faster than my 5k race pace and I know there will be 2.3M of uphill at the end… so it is still early and things could go south before the end.  

We hit the turn around and the pace on my watch is 6:41 average.  I know my PR half pace is 6:39.  I do a quick 180-degree spin around the chalk "turnaround" dot on the ground and pick up my effort. I would like to try to get my pace down to PR pace. I would LOVE to set a new lifetime PR today! 

I know to have a chance to PR I need to really work the course from here through 2.34M to go because those last few road miles are going to hurt. I know they could easily cause me to not Negative split and I am ok with this. 

I drop Wayne at the turn around. I was sure he was waiting as well to push the pace on the way back too. His breathing sounded good. He was so fluid. But I had a PR on my mind and I needed to stick to my plan. 

I dig and I see 6:35. I feel ok. I tell myself, this is going to be a 10k race home until it becomes a 5k race home… and I start working carefully to make up time.

There are two men ahead and I go after them. The trail is filled with runners coming towards me who are so excited to tell me that I am the first female. Two of the most memorable comments include the one guy who could have been my age call out “You are doing a good job, ma'me!”  (my first “ma'me” in a race. I am not sure how I feel about that except to say that I sincerely appreciate anyone who errs on the side of being “too respectful.”) A few minutes later, I am greeted by a woman who calls out “OMG!!! YOU ARE SO BADASS!!!” It was crazy loud. She made me smile… and I thought about the last year of my life and said to myself “You have no idea, sister!”

Then we hit the paved trail and I look down at my watch is reading 6:24 pace. I look at the watch and think “Holy Crap…. this doesn’t even feel that bad.” I hold on to it for as long as I can. I know I will fade from that speed on the climb back to the finish. 

I catch the two men and one says with surprise “Oh wow! Nice work!”  The other does a double-take, appears to realize I am a woman, and he won’t let me pull away without a fight to stay ahead of me. After a few surges back and forth, he drops back and I continue on with my plan. I am not racing him. I am racing ME.  I am waiting for the road to come. I am sure I psyched myself out thinking way too much about the hills at the end. I need to not do that. 
I am alone now and make a turn onto the road and not only do we start to incline, but there is also a headwind.  Oh, come on!!! I can feel my quads getting hot. I think to myself “This is why you lift! You are strong. Dig!!! It is just 2M!!!” 

I am pushing and I see 6:40s, and this is fine. The turns are frequent and I am watching for the white marks.  It was all so clear on the way out, but there was one turn on the way back that confused me. I was tired. I pushed up a hill. The volunteer saw me. He took out his phone and snapped a photo. I saw the mark on the ground point to go left but it looked unclear as to whether I need to stay all the way left or make a quick right.  I called back “Which way?!” He didn’t hear me. He was looking to see if he got a good photo. I was slowing down… I didn’t want to have to backtrack. I was so unsure. Ugh. The guy I passed on the path turns and is catching me now. I ask “This way????”  He called out “I think so” while shrugging.  He is following me. Great!

I had worked so hard to drop my average pace to 6:37 and I expected to lose some on the climb but not because I wasn’t sure where to go and practically coming to a stop?  I am sure the course was marked fine and I was just tired and easily confused.

Then I could see in the distance a guy in a yellow vest at an intersection. I felt better knowing I was on track. I tried so hard to get my pace back down but the hill kicked my butt. They were not easy. I pass one guy who was walking, with maybe .8M to go.  

At this point, I know my watch is at least .1 off so even with my pace reading 6:39 (PR pace), I know I won’t run a new PR, but I give it my all. Once we turn the last corner we get to go back down the little incline we started on and I open up my stride. 

Where is that finish line! Finally, I see it and I see the clock.. 1:27:58… 1:27:59… 1:28:00 and 1:27:xx is gone. Darn it 6 seconds later I am done.

As soon as I cross the line. I try to stop my watch. The RD is at my side. She asks me if I was able to get my watch stopped. I lean forward, hands on knees, trying to breathe. She asks me to stand up. She hands me my award. The photographer snaps a photo. I am sure still have snot on my face. She takes the award back from me. Hands it to another lady. That lady repacks it for me and that is it. I actually thank her for doing the awards as we finish (but seriously holy crap, I needed like just 30 seconds to catch my breath, LOL.  Talk about efficient. I respect that! Good for her!). 


1:28:06 (6:44 pace for 13.1)
1st Female Overall
6th place OA 

Bring on 2020! 

Lifetime PRs, look out. I am coming for you :)

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