I don’t think words can express how happy I am about this race! I literally could not have asked for it to go better, and it was everything I secretly hoped it would be!
Eight months ago, my sister, Kristy, and her husband, Nick, made plans to come to Alaska mid-July. I convinced them to come for the Her Tern Half Marathon, which is my favorite race all year! By the grace of God, I overcame my hip injury, and we were both able to be healthy for this race. (This has not always been the case; often times one of us is injured.)
Training leading up to the race went really well for me. I’ve been running mileage in the 50s and 60s and topped out at 67 miles one week. But then I had a 7 mile workout just two days before the race where I was supposed to run 3 x 2 minutes at goal half marathon pace, which Nichole said was 6:40-6:45 pace (1:27-1:28 finish time). This pace-for just 2 minutes-should have come very easily for me, but I was majorly struggling! The 6:40/6:45 pace felt so hard, and I kept thinking, How am I going to run this pace for nearly 90 minutes in two day?!
But you do what you can, and put your best foot forward. I knew I was capable of a 1:27/1:28 finish time, but I also secretly hoped that I could run 1:26-something. This was my ‘A’ goal, which I usually don’t share with anyone. I tried to rest as much as possible on Friday and Saturday, but it was hard because I was getting ready for my sister and brother-in-law and their trip here to Alaska: cleaning the house, doing laundry, prepping food, while watching Cullen all day.
Kristy and Nick flew in the day before. I ended up spending more time on my feet than I wanted to with coaching the training group in the morning, working at the Expotique that morning, and then getting ready for their arrival. Finally, after dinner, I put my feet up and tried to give them a break. I also took an ice bath Saturday night, which I am definitely going to be keeping in my pre-race ritual.
Sunday morning, I got ready, had half of a bagel with vegan cream cheese for breakfast. I never eat anything before running in the morning, so it is hard to get myself to eat something on race mornings. I also had a few sips of decaf coffee with non-dairy creamer, my Generation UCAN pre-workout drink mix, and a GU right before the race started. Kristy and I left for the race and had about 40 minutes to warm-up, which was the perfect amount of time because I felt ready to go by the time the gun went off.
Kristy and I had strategized quite a bit before we ran the race. We decided we were definitely going to run the entire race together. We have run a handful of other races together, but we have ended up running them at our own paces: Twin Cities Marathon and Boston Marathon. We could only think of 3 other races we have done together and all 3 we weren’t as competitive because either I was doing it as a workout or one of us was injured. We talked about what pace we were aiming for, the course profile, running the tangents, how much we were going to talk, etc. So when the gun went off, we pretty much knew the plan, and now we just had to execute it. Starting out, I felt really good (unlike Friday’s workout!), so I was optimistic I could maintain a pace closer to 6:40.
One of the faster girls took off from the start leading the rest of the way. (By the way, she is only one year postpartum and is wicked fast! Congrats Mandy!) That left Kristy and I in 3rd and 4th place behind another runner. We followed her for about 5 miles. I kept trying to read whether or not she was going to be able to maintain this pace or if she was going to drop off. I wanted to be competitive and pass her sooner, but I knew that wasn’t smart, so we stuck with her for about 5 miles. We finally gained a little ground, but I knew she was still hanging on. The turn-around is at mile 7, and she was still on our tail at that point. I kept thinking I needed to put more distance between us and try to lose her for good. (In the nicest way possible!) Luckily I never heard her behind us again, so I knew we had 2nd and 3rd place secured.
The majority of the race is out-and-back, so on the way ‘out’ there isn’t much else going on, but on the way ‘back,’ we get to see all of the other people racing, which was fun because I was able to cheer for friends or for ladies from the training group. (Sometimes all I could do was smile or wave though because I was too out of breath.) It was also encouraging to get cheers from other people running.
The way ‘back’ is every so slightly downhill, and I can always feel it. By the last few miles, my legs were pretty beat up, so they appreciate this decline. However, then last half mile of the course is a gradual uphill to the finish with a steep one-block hill the last 0.1 mile. This is when things get really tough. I hit the bottom of that hill, and I had to tell Kristy to wait for me because my legs were beat. I felt like I was walking up that last hill, but then I saw the clock-1:36:xx, and I knew I had to book it to get under 1:27 because it was about to turn.
Kristy and I stayed side-by-side (and even stride-for-stride) through the finish line and tried to cross at exactly the same time. I glanced down at my watch and saw 1:26:56, and I was so incredibly happy! I had gotten my ‘A’ goal!
I knew the computer would have to pick one person to be 2nd and one to be 3rd, so when I saw I had beaten her by one one-hundreth of a second (0.01), I burst out laughing and told her I would split any prizes with her because really we had tied for 2nd place.
I think it’s funny that it looks like she beats me in this photo, but from a different angle it kind of looks like I inched her out.
Throughout the whole race, I think Kristy and I exchanged a total of 10 words. Of course we weren’t going to do much chit-chatting since we needed to conserve our energy for running, but she told me she doesn’t like it when people talk to her when she’s running, so I kept quiet. It was fine because we have ESP, so we pretty much could read what the other was thinking anyhow. I pushed at the beginning a little more than I know she would have, and I could tell by her breathing she was struggling a little, but I also knew she would hold on. Then I felt she wanted to pick up the pace at mile 10, but I didn’t have much left in the tank, so she hung with me.
We saw 2 moose right off the trail during the race. Luckily they are pretty used to people, so they didn’t bother us.
I didn’t take any energy gels while running. You have enough glycogen stores for 90 minutes, so I know I don’t need anything. More recently my half marathons haven’t been much more than 90 minutes, so I haven’t been taking an calories in mid-race, and I haven’t felt a dip in my energy while racing. I think the Generation UCAN really helps me have sustained energy throughout the race.
Local newspaper (Alaska Dispatch News) article HERE.
I am still on cloud nine from this race, and I am so glad Kristy was able to run it with me!