On Saturday morning, I drove up to beautiful Corning, NY to run the Wineglass Half Marathon the next day.
I was still getting over a cold, so I was a little apprehensive about the weekend. Traveling away from home, sleeping in a hotel, and running a half marathon aren’t necessarily on my list of “things to do while sick”, but I felt a little better as the week went on and decided to go for it. I didn’t want to miss out on my girl’s weekend, and because I started feeling better, I didn’t think I would get anyone else sick.
After going to the expo (not much to see there but I did have a delicious cheesecake sample) and picking up our bibs and (AWESOME) shirts, we went grocery shopping, walked around town, and just relaxed. (Sidenote: if this was my goal race, I definitely would have bought some gear. They had some really cute stuff!) That night, all the girls (Beth, Kim, Abby, Nicole, Ashley, Allison, Sylvia) and I went to a pasta dinner in our hotel. The featured speaker was the Chief Running Officer of Runner’s World Magazine, Bart Yasso! Love him and his story.
The next morning, we left the hotel around 6:30 AM and walked a few minutes down the street to hop on a shuttle bus to the half marathon start. (Tip: Stay at the Radisson in downtown Corning if you can! It’s only a couple blocks from the finish line, expo, and buses to the starting line…plus you can walk to a ton of different restaurants and shops.) It was super simple and a very low-key morning. We got there with plenty of time to spare, so a few of us ran a mile warm-up on a track (the start was near a school) before we lined up.
Going into this race, I wasn’t sure if I would be racing or just having fun. It was my cut back week in marathon training, so technically I could have finished the race and a mile or two extra and just made it an easy long run. I knew I wasn’t in shape to PR which kind of decreased my motivation to race. But I should still want to put effort into everything I do, right? Right.
So, I came up with a mini plan for practicing pacing. I decided to run the first few miles and see how I felt. In my warmup my body felt tight and kind of blah, but I was hoping after a couple miles I’d feel better, as usual. I planned to run the first 5 miles fairly conservatively, the second 5 a little harder, and the last 5K as hard as I could. I wanted to search out the pain for once instead of avoid it.
We started our point to point course right around 8AM. The biggest hill was in the first half mile, but it wasn’t anything crazy. Just short and steep. I settled in a little ways ahead of the 2:10 pace group, but pretty soon they came right up behind me. This was super frustrating, because at that point I decided I’d be happy with anything under 2:10. When I realized they were already scooting on by, my mood dropped a bit. Initially though, it seemed like their pace was all over the place. I felt like I was running a pretty consistent pace in that mile (who knows, maybe I wasn’t) but they kept coming up behind me, dropping back, and repeating that sequence. I finally ran to the side, slowed down, and let them all pass me. I vowed to not let them out of my sight, and planned to hopefully pass them once and for all in the last few miles.
I haven’t been running very fast lately, so I was a little nervous when I saw my paces in the 9s. I’m so used to seeing long run paces (closer to 10:10-10:30) and I wondered whether I would be able to keep it up. I wanted to push myself but I also wanted to have a strong race. I didn’t want to crumble in the last miles.
I felt okay in the first few miles and just enjoyed the beautiful scenery. The humidity was pretty tough to get through. (94% humidity!) Around mile 5, my hips and glutes were still feeling tight. The main issue was the cambering on the road – the sloping was aggravating at times and caused me to alter my stride (and gave me blisters!). In the past, uneven surfaces have bothered my IT band…and I definitely didn’t want that. I started running on the dirt off to the side of the road, and began started walking quickly through every other water stop (just for a few seconds) so I could get a good drink and stretch a little. It helped a lot!
I thought I picked up my pace in the next 5 miles, but as you’ll see by my splits, not much changed. Still, I can’t stress enough that the one thing that helped my mental state was just accepting that it would be painful if I pushed harder. By reminding myself that a solid race should be challenging, I accepted that pain was inevitable. Once I wasn’t scared of it, I started to embrace it. I was almost excited about that last 5K. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it and NOT be a wimp.
I actually slowed down between miles 10 and 11. (WHAT?! That was annoying to see.) Maybe I was subconsciously preparing to pick up the pace for miles 12 and 13, which I did. They were my fastest miles of the day (YES!) so obviously they felt a little more challenging. Still, I wasn’t completely miserable. I’m undecided as to whether that’s a good or bad thing.
I became extra excited when I surprisingly saw my friends Kenny and Brooke cheering near mile 12-ish. (Thanks SO much, guys!) Running over the last bridge and though the finish line, I felt determined. Every footfall felt strong and purposeful. You know that feeling that you’re exploding off the ground; like you’re pushing the concrete away from you rather than just feeling resistance? That’s how I felt. Gangsta’s Paradise (I’m such a gangster, obviously) came on my iPod and instantly I was like “YES. MY FINISH LINE JAM FOR THE DAY.” So random. I haven’t listened to that in forever but my pal Coolio spoke to me in the moment. I put it on repeat and finally blew past the 2:10 pacer in that last mile and never looked back. (I’m lying. I looked back once or twice to make sure they weren’t gaining ground on me.)
After a quick run up a tiny bridge, I turned a corner and ran down beautiful Market Street past lots of cheering spectators, and crossed the finish line.
I’m really proud that my last mile was run in 8:51, with the last .22 at an 8:17 pace. (I can barely run an 8:51 mile when doing a tempo run. What is that about?)
One frustrating thing is that I was still almost 5 minutes slower than my PR…but reflecting back now, that’s okay. I did an Ironman this year and focused almost entirely on endurance for many months. How much can I realistically expect from myself? And still, I’m realizing that I’m not as slow of a runner as I always think I am. I’m surrounded by fast runners so I constantly feel like an imposter, but in the grand scheme of things, I need to get over that.
The finish line area was pretty awesome – the race organizers had TONS of food and despite all the people, there was more than enough space to move around. Overall I give the course/the experience an A! (It also doesn’t hurt that the drive to Corning was stunning. I love Upstate New York in the Fall and look for every excuse to go.) Not to mention they gave everyone an amazing medal, along with champagne and a wine glass. And an awesome long-sleeved tech shirt! The whole town seemed to rally around the race. Everyone was very welcoming!
Another note in regard to the course: people always say this is a downhill course, but really…it’s just flat. There are a few downhills and a few uphills, but overall the difference in elevation isn’t much. (For the half marathon at least. The full might be a different story.)
Anyone else race this weekend? How’d it go?!