Half Marathon #28
SC Half Marathon #20
Hilton Head Half Marathon #5
Before I left the hotel room this morning I tweeted “Headed to the start of my 5th #hiltonheadhalfmarathon #sub140orbust
“Bust” didn’t happen.
This race was an excellent tune up/fitness test leading up to Rome. (Scary thought for the day: Rome is only 6 weeks away!)
After racing hard in San Francisco last summer and snagging a PR but failing to get that 1:39:xx, I really wanted to try again. I haven’t been training for “shorter” speed lately but knew that Hilton Head would be my last chance to try until the end of the year if that depending on which fall marathon I choose.
So…I put it out there, told my coach that if he thought it feasible, I wanted to go for that sub 1:40 again.
I looked at my training plan at the beginning of the week and saw 7:35/1:39:30 typed for today. That scared me just a bit. I hadn’t done any tests ahead of time to see if I could hold that pace for 13 miles. I still wasn’t sure when we walked up to the start line for the race today.
I kept telling myself to aim for 7:35 for as long as I possibly could. I would gain nothing from wimping out and taking it easy.
Since people have no concept of lining up according to pace I lined up as close to the start as I dared. All three race distances started at the same time as well. (They may have fixed one of my big pet peeves and put the race name on the bibs but they still have not addressed this issue.)
I did not really have to deal with much congestion at all, thankfully. Instead, I kept looking down at my Garmin trying to figure out just exactly what a 7:35 pace felt like and trying to stay there.
The course starts with a mile out and back so at the turn around it was nice to get an early look at the standings. (The 5k runners were still part of the group at this point so I did not bother counting.) I loved seeing how close to front runners I was when I made the turn.
The mental battle started early this race. As I look back on the race, I realize that none of the miles (even the last few) felt nearly as hard as the end of San Francisco and I was running a similar pace. I am simply amazed by that. However, my mind made me doubt myself and wonder if I would be able to hold a 7:35 pace for 12 more miles.
This lasted for a few minutes. I kept telling myself to aim for that 7:35 and hold it as long as my body cooperated. I kept getting frustrated. I would feel like I was holding the right pace and look down to see 7:40 or 7:45 or even 7:50 on my Garmin. This would also usually happen after I’d tucked in behind some windblockers (aka other runners) while on the Cross-Island Parkway.
I wanted to keep pushing though so I made a move and passed them each time.
Then came mile 5 and the bridge. This is my 5th time running this race so the bridge is no surprise. No amount of preparation can make it suck less. :) Running any hill at that pace or faster is bound to be hard. Plus, this time over the bridge we headed up the long, slow incline.
I knew this would be my (potentially) slowest mile. It was. 7:45.
(Side note: My first time over that hill 5 years ago, Katy Perry’s song “Firework” came on my iPod. To this day I think of the bridge when I hear that song. Today? My bridge crossing song was “Roar.” There’s something about Katy Perry and that bridge. ;))
Conquering the hill somehow helped me win the mental battle. That part of the struggle was done after that.
Another thing that made me forget all about it? For the first time in 5 years, they changed the half marathon course. I have no idea why they did it. We get off the bridge and head into a … parking lot. Seriously, a parking lot for one of the local parks. Not only that, we ran through almost the entire lot, up one way and down the other. To add insult to injury, we also had a small segment on hard packed trail. It wasn’t bad. They marked every slightly protruding route with something being white. However, with some much paved trail on the island, I see no need to change the course as they did. I think at one point while on the trail I said out loud. “Why on earth did you change the course? This is stupid!”
We exited the trail and rejoined the normal course just before mile 7. I was a bit frustrated because even though I felt great, I could not get my mile splits down to 7:35 or below. I kept hovering right above with 7:39 and 7:36.
Then we came to a point where we had a brief out and back. I counted the women in front of me and saw just 4. I knew I was close to the front but some other women could have passed before I had a chance to count them.
At that point, feeling good, I decided to see how many I could pick up and how close I could possibly get to the top of the leaderboard. I also could not believe how good I felt at that point, holding that pace. So weird.
Miles 7-9 were fairly uneventful but tinged with the thought that the reverse bridge crossing still lay ahead. I told myself to keep pushing over the bridge, that we had the short, steep incline this time with plenty of decline afterwards to gain the time right back.
During these miles I came up with a new mantra “settle in and pick ‘em off”. I spotted a woman ahead and decided to try to pick her off, to try to pick off as many as I possibly could without putting it all out on the course too early.
I slowly reeled her in and passed her but she would not let me drop her. Loved this. It was just the motivation that I needed. I told her (in my head), “you want to race to the finish? Let’s do this!” She was on my heels until the end of the race.
Then came the bridge.
Again, that bridge nearly did me in. (Garmin says that the elevation changed only a few feet but I definitely do not believe it.)
Once I crested the top of the bridge, I knew that I was almost done. The run was starting to get hard but nothing like how I felt at this point two years ago when I snagged a 1:43:xx.
The woman I had passed earlier was still just a little ways behind me. On top of that, I saw another one a little ways in front of me. Could I reel her in too?
These miles on the CrossIsland Parkway are anything but scenic, distracting or motivating. I’m glad I had something else to think about.
Somewhere around mile 11.5 I passed the other woman and slowly but surely dropped her. I felt like I was picking up the pace a lot more than my Garmin testifies too but that last 5k was my fastest of the race. Miles 10-13: 7:31, 7:28, 7:25
After mile 12 I did not look over my shoulder. (If I had I would have seen that first woman I passed closing the gap. She finished just over 10 seconds behind me!) I kept pushing and tried to pour on a sprint. I guess I came close, especially for that point in the race.
As I entered Jarvis Creek Park I had done the math. Sub 1:40 was mine! All I had left to do was determine by how much. Those last few tenths hurt but in an oh-so-good way.
Hows that for hitting my prescribed average pace on the head?
Another amazing thing? The results company/page that the event (and go-green) use had the results available almost immediately.
Then it was back to the course to wait for Mom.
In an almost identical time to last year (missed her PR by 2 seconds!) here she came!
(She had her hands raised in celebration but I didn’t get the picture in time)
Since the awards were an hour away we made a quick trip to Starbucks where the fabulous drive-thru barista gave me my drink free because I was a “champion.” :) (Mom mentioned that I had won my age group.)
We made it back right on time for the awards. Just like I predicted. He struggled with my name. I am now “Jeannie Enjunen.” After saying “Jeannie” (not the name I expected him to get wrong) he actually paused and asked the girl next two him how to pronounce my name. I had already started to walk forward and say “Enjaian” properly as loud as I could. Good for a laugh.
Phew. That was a long one.
I am absolutely thrilled with this race and with my results. Blown away is more like it. I think I’m still in shock.
Six weeks until Rome!