a blog about running fast with style
Nike Women’s Marathon: The Hilly Half
I really wasn’t thinking much about my racing season when my friend Jules and I decided to put our names in for the lottery for the Nike Women’s marathon/half back in April. I was thinking of some Tiffany blue.
I figured this would be a “just for fun race” because I was hoping to run Twin Cities or Portland the week before. By mid summer it was clear my legs and my aerobic threshold were not going to be ready for an October marathon so I signed up for a December one and this little race entered my marathon training plan.
I must have told my coach like a zillion times I wasn’t going to race it. Lucky for me he knows me a bit better than I know myself.
So I raced.
You’ll get to hear all (and by all I mean part) of the madness that was the pre-race in my Week in Review, but for now let’s focus on the race.
The plan seemed simple enough: “run the flats between 6:40-6:44 if you can find them :)” said my coach. I’d run the full before and remembered the brutal hill at 6 or 7 but really didn’t remember the other hills (except the ones that were only on the full course). I figured one big hill and then we’re good. I remembered some crazy down hill and figured I’d make-up some time on it.
Clearly I missed the memo that this race was being run in San Francisco.
I finally got around to looking at a race course map the week
before of the race and it must have sent me into major denial. I saw the hill at 6-7, was reminded of the hill at 3 (or 4?)but completely ignored 8-9.5 (or is it 9-10.5?). Confused? Me too. I managed to see the climb from 11-13 (?) but forgot that this was in fact the marathon map and not the half marathon map, and yes the course splits at like 11… I think.
What I do know is that mile 7.5 to the finish is hazy. I just remember climbing up and up and up into the misty SFO morning. But look at me getting ahead of myself.
Lets go back the start shall we.
The race started at 7:00AM and we were walking distance to the start. I wanted to get to the start early so I could warm-up a bit, find my corral and hopefully a port-a-potty.
Lauren was running her first ever half and decided to venture out early with me in the morning.
Poor Lauren had to put up with “pre-race Robyn”. She’s really no fun to hangout with either obsessing over ridiculous details or nonstop chattering. I’m sure she was just a little bit happy to part ways.
I’d planned on meeting my friend Emily who messaged me on Saturday morning before the race. We quickly hatched a plan to run together over Facebook. Following my coach’s instructions we were going to stick to 6:44’s on the flats and whatever happens on the hills happens on the hills. She was aiming to sneak in under 1:30, I liked the idea as well but was less committed to a final run time.
Don’t mistake my lack of commitment to a time goal as indifference. I really want to run under 1:30, but after a pretty awful half in May I just wanted to get through this one (preferably without crying).
After Lauren and I parted ways I tried to find Emily but failed. It was my fault, I left our meeting tent to find a honey bucket and somehow managed to find the only line filtering into one turquoise palace (you know what I’m talking about).
After an eternity in line I realized I wasn’t going to get much of a warm-up in and decided I better hurry to my corral. Surprisingly no one checked my bracelet which indicated what corral I was in (I think it was the 6:30-7:30 one) the second one closest to the start.
As I stood in my corral I tried to spot Emily over the sea of women (luckily at 5’9″ I could see over the crowd of ladies). No Emily. I tried to politely push my way further towards the front of my coral but wasn’t making much progress. I stood wondering what to do when I heard women talking about running 2:10 at their last half. Wait a minute what corral am I in?
I panicked a little and decided I needed to get a bit more aggressive: I wasn’t up to weaving my way through people for the first mile (I had done that at this race before even passing walkers in the first mile).
It wasn’t easy and I’m sure I looked like a jerk but I finally got there and quickly realized the corral ahead of me was pretty empty.
What to do?
Yep, I just slipped under the rope and was in. Before I had time to feel bad about this choice I saw Emily and we were ready to run.
And now for the highlight of my day, and yes maybe the trip: Emily told me that she’d accidentally mistaken me for Kara Goucher in the warm-up tent. Yep, walked right up to her tapped her on the shoulder and started talking to her and quickly realized it was not me.
I don’t think I even have to race now.
But I did.
After a few minutes of nervous stretching we were off.
I was glad we were up front, we had room to run and were really well positioned with our pacing. We quickly found a little pack and tried to settle in.
It will be a surprise to almost no one that I had watch issues. We’d been standing around at the start long enough and my watch went back to the time screen. I’m not sure how much time passed but when I got it up and running again it kept telling me I was running 9:00-9:30 pace. If this was true I’d be in some serious trouble.
Lucky for me Ems had some fancy Nike watch and assured me we were on pace.
The first few miles sailed by. I tried to focus on staying relaxed but could tell my legs were more tired than I wanted them to be. I had a little pep talk with myself and told myself that I run workouts on tired leg all the time and this would be no different. No need to panic.
We made our way up the first hill at 4. The group separated a bit but we regrouped at the top. I felt okay up the hill but my running buddies definitely were feeling better. Still I recovered and we carried on.
Miles 5 and 6 (before the big hill) I started to get a bit worried about pace. My watch said mid 6:30s and that seemed fast. I didn’t want to lose contact with the group and my breathing wasn’t any worse than anyone around me so I tried to just stay connected.
And then we hit THE hill.
Every woman for herself.
I brought-up the back. We climbed and climbed and climbed. I knew this one was going to be hard. I knew it was a mile and I just forced myself to keep going. I was tempted to think that after each turn we might just crest the hill, but I knew better.
The good news about a hill is that it does eventually crest and then yes it does go down. And down we went.
I think the mile marker was near the top so when my looked down to see my pace for mile 8 it was in the very low 6s.
Here we go.
I managed to catch part of the group but as the course leveled out I realized I probably shouldn’t be running my 5k pace. So I settled in and tried to relax.
And that’s where everything gets a bit blurry. I don’t really remember miles 9 and 10. I know I wanted to quit. I know it felt like we just kept going up and up with no downs, but I also know I just kept pushing.
I never gave-up and I didn’t back down. My head may have been struggling but my legs didn’t get the memo.
I remember seeing mile 10 and thinking I need to prepare for the last gradual 3 miles of uphill (or so I thought). I got passed by a girl, not going to lie it hurt, but I told myself to run my own race.
I tried to gather myself and just kept pushing. As we approached the 11 mile marker I realized that the course wasn’t climbing and I might actually be able to get my legs moving. They didn’t feel good or fast but I just tried.
Mile 12 marker gone and one more to go. I’d stopped looking at my watch by this point. On some miles it beeped early and some late and I got tired of trying to counter it. At this point I thought I might get under 1:30 when I looked at my watch but then remembered I’d started late so I put that out of my mind and just ran.
I’d been able to see Emily and our group in front of me for the last several miles but couldn’t catch them. As I started the final mile I’d remembered all the tempos we’d run with the last mile fast and tried to find another gear.
Must have found something.
I finally reached Emily as we rounded the corner to the finish. I looked up and could see the clock 1:29:30. Ugh, I’m going to have to really push. And push I did but I could tell the clock was going to get the best of me. 1:30:08. I knew I’d get a few seconds back with the chip time but not much.
Ems finished right behind me (she’s high 5ing people in the background) and we were ecstatic: sure we weren’t under 1:30 but we both PR’ed. And I will take that any day.
We made our way through the finish, picking up our Tiffany & Co. blue boxes, neon green T’s and food. It was a relief to have this one done.
We somehow found a group to cool down with (including the winner of the race) and made our way back to the VIP tent.
I think the post race time at the beach was my fave.
There was too much awesomeness to summarize. You’ll just have to take my word on it.
On our drive back to the hotel my friend texted me and told me we were the 19th and 20th women finishers… and we were ahead of some pretty fast ladies.
But honestly I was happy with my little blue box and white ribbon.
And it’s shiny new contents.
But for those of you that like running details, here are the splits from Emily’s watch. Miles 8 and 9 were most likely slower for me and 12 and 13 were a bit faster for me… guess I’ll never know for sure (sorry Garmin… I know it was a hard day for you too… don’t worry… it happens to all of us: you are not alone).
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