Saturday was an extremely busy day, so I never did get in my short run. Curtis and I went out to dinner at Noodles & Company so I could get my carbs for the race. I had the pesto pasta with chicken breast, which was perfect. We got home and I got all my stuff ready for the race and was in bed by 10 PM.
4AM came very early Sunday morning. Even Suli was still asleep, and not begging for food yet. 😮 I jumped in the shower for 5 minutes to wake up, dressed, and ate my oatmeal with half of a banana and some peanut butter. We hit the road at 4:50 and picked up my friend, Caitlin, who was going to ride with us and run her first half. We left Manhattan for Lawrence by 5AM and thankfully were able to get a few more precious minutes of sleep in the car. We arrived in Lawrence in great time at 6:22 and went straight to packet pickup. Despite being bundled, it was quite cold and still pretty dark that early in the morning with a good strong Kansas wind.
We went back to sit in the heated car till it was time to line-up for the race. The start was scheduled for 7:30, so we had about an hour to kill. I ate the other half of my banana and tried to relax, but was far too jittery for that! We made a quick porta-potty run, with perfect timing, as the lines were just starting to form. We also noticed that the packet pickup line was now stretched out the door and across the street! I was glad we had gotten there when we had even though time moves so slowly before a race and there was still so much time left before we could line up.
Finally, 7:15 rolled around and we geared up and headed to the starting line from the car. This race had pace group leaders for finish times ranging from 1:30 to 3:05. I had never run with a pace group before, and didn’t intend to do it with this race, but it seemed a reasonable idea to line up near the 2:25 pace group. My previous half-marathon time from April 2010 was 2:25:28 and my half-marathon time from the end of my half-Ironman in August 2010 was 2:37:51. My goal for this race was to beat both of those times. I knew I could get close to 2:25, but with the few bad long runs I have had lately, I was not feeling very confident about that.
Starting with the pace group gave me the opportunity to warm-up and hold back at the start. I am fairly good about pacing myself, but the adrenaline of a big race (~1500 lined up for the half) always makes it difficult to hold back at the start. Caitlin and I quickly realized that the 2:25 group was just a little slower than we wanted and joined the 2:20 group. The two group leaders had paced several races together this spring and had quite a rapport. They were friendly and talkative, keeping the group on pace with morale high. It almost felt like cheating! 🙂
My strategy was to stick with the pace group till the turnaround point (~7.5 miles) and then begin to pick-up the pace. Hubby was waiting for us around mile 5 to cheer, photograph and let us hand off our outer layer of clothing. It had warmed up quite a bit, since the sun came out. Around mile 6 we started to break away from the pace group and had completely lost them by the turnaround. Caitlin and I both felt great at this point and discussed trying to catch the 2:15 pace group for a strong finish. We knew we had the biggest hill of the race leading to mile 10, so we decided to wait till that point to drop the hammer. 😉
Mile 10 came and we were still climbing. Finally, we hit the top of the hill and started to pick up the pace. I was surprised by how strong I still felt at this point. I was guesstimating that we were still about 3 minutes behind the pace group, so it was going to be tough to catch them. We were going to try anyways! The last 5K went by really fast and soon we saw DH again near the finish line where he was waiting to run us in if we needed the moral support. I managed to sprint to the finish line for a strong finish.
My official time was 2:16:50.7, which is a PR of 8:37.3 better than my previous time!
This was a really fun race that I will definitely consider doing again. The course was beautiful and wound through downtown Lawrence as well as the KU campus. The only criticism I have of the course was that a significant portion was on sidewalks that were really too narrow to handle the volume of runners. This portion overlapped with the turnaround point and people were unprepared for the lead runners looping around, so were not getting out of their way quickly enough. Other than that, I thought it was a great course, quite well-organized and well-worth doing.
Now, I’ve got the racing bug. I really want to break a 2 hour half-marathon. I think it’s definitely doable, I still had a little left to give at the end of this race. Over the next several months, I’m going to try and work on speed and see how much more time I can knock off.