Hilton Head Island Half Marathon Race Recap

Half Marathon #16
South Carolina Half Marathon #12
Hilton Head Island Half Marathon #3

Two big thoughts come after this race:
1. Hilton Head Island is the land of PRs. All four races (3 half marathons and 1 5k) have resulted in PRs.
2. I know I’ve said this many times before but I really should stop underestimating myself.

Going into this race it seemed like things kept happening that augured against a successful half marathon PR attempt.
1. The weather (forecasted to be around 55 with 80% humidity)
2. My body (TMI if I say more)
3. Waking up race morning to an email from the admissions department of UCLA. I won’t be a Bruin next year.

After getting that email this morning I thought for a little while about it. I could either let it throw off my whole day or I could move on knowing that God closed that door. Three more are either open or closed.

I chose to move on and go for a half marathon PR.

Mom and I left the awesome hotel with plenty of time to spare. It’s so nice knowing where we need to go. Getting lost with less than 10 minutes to spare (2011) is no fun.
About to head to the race start!

When we arrived we made our way over to the port o potty line (ridiculously long) right away. Normally I would forego this but I didn’t want another distraction during the race. The only negative thing I have to say about this race, not enough port o potties. (When is there ever enough, though?)

Instead of heading to a scenic spot I’d noticed earlier for a pre-race picture we settled for avoiding the port o potties in the background.
The port o potty line was too long so we had to take our pre race pic there #fun

We made it back to the race start with about five minutes to spare.

From past experience, I knew that the start is a nightmare because the half, 10k and 5k all start at once. Since I didn’t want to deal with the same frustration as last year I wormed my way as close to the front as I dared. Mission accomplished. I hardly had to weave at all. (Mom on the other hand wasn’t so fortunate.)

Almost before I was ready, we were off. No time to second guess myself now. Instead, I told myself that I wanted to aim for an average pace of 8:10. As I started running, I noticed that my pace was on the 7 min side of 8. It was then I made the decision that my tipping point would be 8:00. If my pace dipped below that it was time to step it up. Go home or go broke.

It felt pretty cool running in the boys club. At least that’s what it feels like when you run in the 1:4x:00 group.

The miles started ticking by with my pace holding right on schedule. Every year the mile markers and my Garmin have disagreed so instead of glancing at the Garmin I listened to the volunteers shouting out the times. (Big improvement from years past!) I let out a few fist pumps when the time was 15-30 seconds under the next multiple of 8. I was right on track.

I occasionally wondered when the wheels would fall off, when I wouldn’t be able to hold this pace. Somehow I kept the pace steady over the bridge. I started to feel like I was about to slow down just after coming off the bridge, around mile 5 or 6. Time to start hydrating. (I chose not to wear my hydration belt because the temps cooperated and hovered in the high forties rather than mid fifties.) Having run this course three times now, I know it almost by heart.

I walked for a few second at the next water stop to get down the two small sips of Gatorade (bigger cup next time?) before picking it back up.

Things reached another plateau for miles 7-9. I kept plugging away. (Splits were 8:02, 7:59, 8:01)

Then came the bridge again. The first time you cross the bridge the ascent is gradual but the descent is steep. For mile 9, the steep (but quick) ascent comes first. This was the one time that I did not time my fueling well. The plan: 2 Chomps at miles 3.5, 6.5, 9, and 11.

This meant that I would be trying to chew, breathe, and ascend the hill all while maintaining a 7:50-8:00 pace. I pretty much felt like I was dying.

Once I summited that bridge though I had plenty to smile about for the race photographer.

I started doing the math in my head. I knew that my sub 1:50 goal was in the bag. I know that I was almost assured of the 1:47 time that my smartcoach plan predicted. The thing that kept me motivated? Realizing that if my math was right, I would come in just under 1:45.

Not in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I could run a half marathon that fast.

After mile 11 is when the hurt comes. I would have slowed down if I hadn’t wanted that sub 1:45 so badly.

I saw two ladies up ahead and made it my goal to get as close as I could, maybe even pass them.

Mile 12 came and went. My legs felt so heavy I couldn’t believe they were still carrying me at a 7:50 pace. I definitely couldn’t push them any faster.

I passed one of the two women and gradually drew closer to the other. The effort of putting one foot in front of the other took so much out of me. I made some sort of involuntary grunt. The woman turned her head slightly and told me that I could do it. I managed to get enough breath to tell her the same.

I pulled ahead of her but just barely. She was on my heels the whole last half mile.

After we rounded the final curve and could see the finish line, I caught a glimpse of her in my peripheral vision. I don’t know what happened. Something (my competitive nature perhaps?) kicked in and I flat out sprinted to the finish, crossing just one second in front of her. My Garmin stats say that I ran the last .02 at a 4:29 pace. I almost believe it.

Thank you, Heather Coffey, for that spark of motivation!

I’m still in shock about this final number.
This just happened. 9 min PR, no biggie

I have no idea where I pulled that out from. That’s a 9 minute PR. 9 minutes! Visions of sub 1:40 now dance in my head.

Now came the waiting part. Mom had yet to finish. I had no idea how she was doing out on the course. There were a couple points where I might have been able to see her but I didn’t spot her.

When she came around the corner just after the 2 hour mark I was so excited. This time I got to take pictures of her!
Striding toward the finish!
(more to come in her guest post!)

She finished in 2:07:14!!

My mom’s a half marathoner!
Together we ran a marathon :)

For now (even though my next training plan starts Monday) I’m going to revel in this amazing victory as well as plot what I’m going to reward myself with.



Filed under half marathon, race recaps

21 responses to “Hilton Head Island Half Marathon Race Recap

  1. So proud of your success!
    As far as UCLA door closing, God is definitely in charge and His door will open for you soon.

  2. Way to make magical things happen! That is SO exciting 🙂 Congrats!!!

  3. Congratulations! Especially on the PR, that is just amazing to PR by that much, maybe next year at HHI will be another PR, who knows. And congrats to your mom on her half marathon, looks like you both had lots of fun.

    • Thanks! I wish I could run Hilton Head again next year but I’ll probably be living too far away (PhD program :D) to make the trip. 😦 We definitely did have an awesome time. 🙂

      Sent from my iPhone

  4. Great job!! I volunteered this year, but thinking I might have to run it next year! http://aseersuckerlife.com/2013/02/10/race-recap-hhi-half-marathon-volunteer/

  5. CONGRATULATIONS!!! Wow!! What a killer time!! I think you completely underestimate just how fast you really are. And since your 1/2 time is so close to mine, maybe that means we should be running together sometimes??

    • Thanks so much Corey! I would love to run with you if we can work out the schedules. 🙂 I’m going to talk about it more in a post in a couple days but … McMillan says with that half time I should be able to run a 3:38 full. I’m seriously thinking about making my San Francisco goal sub 4. Scary just saying it!

      Sent from my iPhone

      • Wow! It is pretty crazy huh? I find that McMillan’s predictor times get further off for each longer distance for me…I use that as my excuse to maybe say that I am better at short distances than long 🙂 But I know that some people see the opposite. Regardless, I have no doubts that you are capable of a sub-4:00 marathon (or faster!)

      • Thanks Corey! Since I know I underestimate myself, I know that I haven’t laid it all on the line for a full like I did with HHI. Who knows what will happen when I do?

        Sent from my iPhone

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  7. Congratulations on an AWESOME PR – wow! Maybe I’ll have to add HH to my to-do list! 😉 And a super congrats to your mom – what a killer first half marathon time! Super weekend for you both!

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