Wednesday, May 02, 2012

montreal half marathon: yay for unexpected PRs

As I said last week - I registered for this race as motivation to keep me running through the winter. Both Suz and I had no idea what to expect so we went into this really unsure but excited to run on a nice Sunday morning.

The pre-race stuff was fairly uneventful - though the port-o-potties were magically camouflaged (who makes GREY ones? seriously?!) so we had to wait in line for the bathroom, but other than that and my inability to make a decision on what layers I needed to wear, things went smoothly. We easily got to our corral and just before the start looked at each other and gave the best pep talk around: Step 1 - start running...there is no step 2.

The first part felt fairly easy and seemed to go by quickly. Suz and I ended up chatting for parts of it and just kind of running. It was a beautiful morning for a run, and we were just enjoying it. I remember looking at my watch at 5 miles and thinking that it had gone by quickly. Having looked at the map, I knew that the next third of the race would be the most challenging mentally.

oh - hi Suz peeking over my shoulder
That second third was a series of weird loops (starting on the Indy Car race track - kind of cool) where we could see a LOT of the course and a lot of the runners. I'd look over to my left and think "oh, not too much longer and I'll be right there." But then I'd pass a kilometre marker and realize that they were a full km ahead. It was a little odd actually. This is also when I made the mistake of trying to lock the bezel on my Garmin before taking my top layer off. I ended up accidentally stoping the timer for what I figured was 10 seconds but that ended up being more like 20 or so.

That section also involved a full loop of the Olympic rowing basin. It was the windiest and most boring section of the course. Just as I felt my myself lagging mentally though, there was the gel station, complete with giant speakers and loud music. Both Suz and I commented to each other that it felt like exactly what we needed at exactly the right time. Just a little mental boost to get our minds thinking differently.

It was near the end of that second third that I started thinking about time. I've known that a 1:55 half marathon is an 8:46 per mile pace for a year now. It was my goal pace for Ottawa last year and my goal pace for the half in the fall. For the first 2 thirds of the race, I knew our pace was hovering around 8:46. I wasn't paying a lot of attention, but every time I looked at my watch, it was close to that "magic" number. And I was feeling pretty good.

hey look - no heel strike!
I went into the last 5 kms with a really unfamiliar feeling - the feeling that I was reining myself in and holding myself back from getting too excited and running too fast instead of struggling to keep myself motivated to continue in the pain zone. We saw our race crew twice (three times if you count the finish - but I didn't actually see them because I was so focused on the finish line) in that section and it felt awesome to be able to smile at them and even joke a little.

Yes, my legs were a little sore. My IT band was getting cranky and my butt and hips were feeling the race, but I didn't have that dead leg feeling that I often get near the end of a half (I credit my nutrition strategy and the temperature for that). I kept looking at my Garmin, seeing the speed, thinking "whoa there...let's not get too crazy here," and slowing down a bit

The last water station was at 1 km to go and I said to Suz "ok, if I stop here, I'm not sure I'll get up to speed again" she said she would for sure not get going and just reassured me that no, I didn't need water. I think I squeezed the last bit of Nuun out of my bottle at that point and knew that there was just a little bit of race left.

hey grey shirt - you just got chicked...
From then on, I just sped up. I stopped reining things in and just let my legs run. I could feel myself pulling away from Suz and just kept looking back and yelling at her to come with me. As the course narrowed and I could finally see the finish line (it was around a bit of a corner - so tough to spot) I heard her yell at me to go hard. I kicked as hard as I could, almost took a guy out (and actually turned my head back and apologized because I felt bad about it), and passed as many people as I could on the way to the line. My legs had a tonne of kick left in them and it felt awesome to finish with gusto.  I turned around to see Suz right behind me. She found her kick and surprised herself with the snap left in her legs and almost caught me at the line.
I looked at my watch and saw 1:54:48. I knew it was wrong but didn't know by how much. Turns out it was wrong by 16 seconds and I crossed the line at 1:55:04. Am I a little disappointed about that 5 seconds that would have brought me under 1:55? Yeah, a little. But at the same time, not really. That arbitrary 5 seconds (which would make no difference if it was 1:55:20 vs 1:55:25) doesn't matter. I had a really great run and a great experience. Instead of feeling like death and trying to convince myself not to give up at the end, I found myself holding things back and trying not to get too excited at the end. Definitely a win.

Random things about this race: there were a LOT more men than women who ran this one, I found it really well organized, I found the loops of the course oddly nice because near the end I knew what to expect, and I managed to drink a cup of water while running. I would definitely run this race again.
In summary: great weather for running, I used my gels wisely, I ran faster than I thought I would, it felt easier than I thought it would, and I had fun! Oh - and Suz is a rock star for running with a weird ear thing that has been causing the occasional vertigo-like symptoms. All of that, of course, deserves a high five:
I think I'm saying high five


Anonymous said...

Isn't it a great feeling when we pull our head out of our asses and actually do a bit more of what were're capable of in a race. I'm so guilty of holding back too. I always seem to rationalize being conservative. I love that you let it rip in the end and your friend told you to forget about the water. Your a strong runner (evidenced by your winter training! anybody willing to train in that is STRONG mentally and physically - I don't think you give yourself enough credit for that). So happy you pulled this one out!

Great job girl! I love successful running stories.

and ps. what was your nutrition?

kristen said...

Thank you! It was fun to run faster without putting too much thought into it. And even more fun to feel so strong doing it!

My biggest nutrition "win" was to be proactive about it. I took the GU before I thought I needed it and stayed on top of it. I had one at 4 miles, at 8 miles, and had one ready for 11 miles if I needed it.

Suz said...

Love it!!!! What a great Sunday Race.

PS- check out my shadow in the pic of our running legs. Made me laugh ;)

Leigh said...

Congratulations on a great race! Sounds like everything went just right for this half for you :)

Heather said...


Marlene said...

Great recap! You make me want to go do this race again. I remember that part around the basin too - killer.

CONGRATS on the sweet PR. What a great feeling to be so strong at the end of a race!

Marlene said...

Great recap! You make me want to go do this race again. I remember that part around the basin too - killer.

CONGRATS on the sweet PR. What a great feeling to be so strong at the end of a race!

Rebecca said...

Sunday was so nice for running!

Maybe next year if I like doing halfs I will consider this one since Montreal isn't too far away.

Holding back....haha, guilty of this one too. Case in point: my race on sunday.

Congrats again :-)

Jill said...

Congrats! Fantastic job!

Caroline said...

Congrats! I would love to do this race one day!

RoseRunner said...

That stride looks perfect! Love your perspective on the negligible 5 seconds -- I've been mad over ONE second before, and on another occasion over 9 seconds. So not worth beating yourself up over, especially if that means you were seconds away from your happy time. I mean, that's basically the same time...

PRs are truly what running is ALL about, so super congrats, ride that feeling for the next month!

Paulette Ference said...

Whoo hoo great job on the PR! Montreal looks like a really fun race.

Nicole @ Haute Runner said...

I'm so behind in my blog reading but I had to say a huge congrats on your amazing PR!! The unexpected ones are always the best!!