It’s funny now that I’m repeating some races, that recaps now need to include the year.
In the days leading up to Rock the Parkway I began to feel anxious–something I haven’t felt before a race in quite some time. The last two halfs I did were both while training for my first full, so I didn’t have any ‘real goals’ for those races. When I ran my first marathon my goal was to finish alive (check) and my goal for the second was to enjoy it (check).
Last year, I set a half marathon PR at Rock the Parkway and I did, at 2:20:18. I didn’t break 2:20 but I was very satisfied with my efforts at that race. Every half I ran last year was slower than that time, ha! But it was because my goals had shifted to a marathon, which I run at a much slower pace than half marathons or any distance shorter than that. Basically, I had gotten really good at running slowly for stupid long amounts of time, but had to fine tune my speed before lacing up for RTP.
Friday night I fueled up with lots of hummus and a huge Greek salad at a new-to-me Greek restaurant with my friend Shelly to plan our trip to Minnesota next month for Med City (she’s on her way to running a half in every state)! It was fun and delicious, and I was at home in bed promptly passed out by 10:30pm. This is the first race I’ve been able to sleep in my own bed the night before in 6 months! It was glorious! I loved being able to set out all my things where I wanted, and not having to check out of a hotel at 6am.
I wasn’t totally sure what I was going to have for breakfast race morning, but 5am on Saturday rolled around and I scrambled up some egg whites and two slices of Genesis 1:29 bread, with a large iced coffee (which I NEVER do before a run) to get my nervous poop out, because I knew otherwise it wouldn’t happen. At 6am I was out the door and a good thing too, because though RTP is only in it’s third year, the popularity of it has grown exponentially! They had to cap the race at 4500 half marathoners, up 1000 from last year, and it showed in parking!
This was Jen’s first half marathon, and Bridget came down from Omaha so her family (who lives pretty close) could all finally see her race! They came in VERY handy too in cheering me on at the race course when I was feeling like death multiple times, but onto that later. After doing the standard 2+ pre-race potties, us ladies headed to the start line and said a pre-race prayer and were herded in like a bunch of cattle. Moooooo.
The forecast had predicted some possible storms for Saturday morning, and I prayed for no lightning and no hail. I should have been more specific and asked for no humidity too–I forgot I live in the humidity capital of the world. It was around 60* which was perfect, but about 85% humidity. You could cut it with a knife. We were also so packed in at the start line that we were very close behind the 2:15 pacers, which is what I secretly wanted. My baseline goal was to break 2:20, but if I could run faster than 2:15 I was going to be elated. It was ambitious, but I was willing to put up with the pain and effort to reach my goal.
Ten minutes into the race I was already sweating and running at a faster than what is comfortable pace, which I knew would bite me later in the race. I was with Jen for the first 5k, but knew she could pick it up and I lost her at a water station. I didn’t want to hold her back and knew that I needed to run my race. Regardless, I was still right behind the 2:15 pacers which I was okay with. Here for a portion of the run I just let my mind go. That’s one of the things I really like about running–it let’s me turn my brain off and I don’t think about anything. At all. Right after mile 3 there was a slight incline, but running around a 10:20 pace I was really feeling it. I thought several times, “There is no flipping way I can hold this pace for 10 more miles. No way.” But I couldn’t let myself get down about it, I just kept pushing.
We passed the 5th mile right before 53 minutes and that’s about what I run when I’m on my own, and the 10k mark at 1:03 which I was actually pretty proud of. They changed the course from last year and added a loop around a downtown park, which consequently added a couple of more inclines. I was silently cussing out the inclines and trying to keep from getting frustrated. I was giving it my all, but I still felt like it wasn’t going to be good enough, then I realized there was still half of a race to go which made me feel a little sad, I didn’t know how much more I had left.
Earlier in the morning I stuck a gel in my bra just in case I wanted to take it, and after mile 7 I was thankful for thinking in advance. At that point I would take any extra boost of energy I could get. By this point I was also ringing my shirt out of sweat, my clothes were absolutely dripping (literally, dripping), and made sure I took at least 2 cups of water at each aid station. The course is an out and back, a beautiful one, and at this point we were now on the ‘back’ portion, which was thankfully mostly flat. My aunt surprised me at mile 9 and it was so good seeing a face I knew, even though I could just muster out a ‘Love you,’ as I passed by, with a totally off center high five.
Three thoughts were going though my mind: “Four miles four miles four miles,” “I can’t do this. What was I thinking. Is this goal even attainable?? I’m going to die.” and finally, “Kelsey if you don’t freaking believe in yourself you WON’T reach your goals. BELIEVE in yourself, woman and get it!”
Honest to God, I took more walk breaks than I imagined I would (uhh…3 between miles 9-11) but was okay that I was moving forward. I had to convince myself that I would be happy no matter what because I knew I was giving it my all and leaving everything out on the course. A few familiar faces and cheers later and after the 10 mile mark, I convinced myself I just needed to run the last 3 miles as fast as I ran the first 3 and I would be done.
I allowed myself a final walk break up another dang hill at mile 11 and promised myself no more walking. I can go balls to the wall for two miles. Even if it means feeling like you’re going to pass out. I kept looking at my watch…I knew I was going to PR. I didn’t know by how much, but knew it was going to happen. After 12.5 I picked it up, and it helped to have other racers who had finished cheering me on because they could tell I was going for it. I ran harder in the last .6 miles than I ever thought I could–I couldn’t feel my legs, but I knew they were pumping. I’m not sure I was even breathing, I don’t really remember. My aunt snapped this beauty…how was I smiling while in so much physical pain?
I’m happy that at least my form wasn’t absolutely terrible. I don’t know how it wasn’t, but I’ll take it. And then I finished.
My head was spinning, I wanted to keel over, but knew if I could stay on my own two feet I would be alright. I got my water, timing chip off, and medal and then miraculously found my aunt and sat on a rock. I wanted to puke, every inch of my body was sweaty and I just needed to sit with my eyes closed. I missed out on the runners high on this one, and I wasn’t even as happy as I imagined I would be to have a new PR.
The one thought that can encompass my race was, “I have never ran that hard in my life.” And in that, I am happily satisfied with my new half marathon PR of 2:19:35.
Jen did amazing and pulled out a sub 2:10 for her first half, and Bridge gave her absolute best (overcoming injury, sickness, and oh yeah, she’s a mom too) and ran faster than her last half!
Then I realized I’m doing this again next weekend. Twice. Three half marathons in nine days…I clearly did not have my brain plugged in correctly, and sometimes I wonder if it’s plugged in at all. I’m gonna love it anyways! Maybe I can set a new PR next weekend too, ha!