Little did I know what Saturday AM had in store.
Dirk and I found our way to the start after finding ourselves lost in Anacostia (oops, wrong place for two white guys to get lost...), and did our warmups and waited at the start line. I wasn't quite certain how to warm up for a long race, so I did a couple half-ass striders and a 10 minute jog. Big group of runners... evidently over 8,000! I lined up 4-5 rows back to make sure I didn't get sucked into Dirk's pack of elite runners.
The gun (horn) went off and all of corral 1 started out at 5:30 pace or faster... um? But we settled down after about a quarter mile and I assumed my 5:50 pace. It felt pretty slow though and even though I tried, I couldn't keep it at 5:50. My pace was in the low-mid 5:40s. But surprisingly that did NOT feel fast! After 2 miles, I wasn't breathing hard and I felt like I was bouncing. I thought if I felt this good, I might as well keep it up! So I changed my plan... Keep 5:45 as long as I can, until mile 10 and start to pick it up from there.
6 miles in, I was still feeling great. The course had changed from flat to hilly, but I maintained my focus on pace. I was passing people... but not getting confident. There was still 7+ miles to go. Jake was on the course and he told me to trust my fitness, that I am ready for this race. I kept reminding myself of that. Saw Michelle and Brian around mile 7.34502 and that helped keep my confidence up.
Around mile 9, I was beginning to feel a little tired, but nothing to slow me down... but the irrational and unreasonable doubts started to creep in. I reminded myself of what Jake said and ignored those thoughts. Just before mile 10 I saw my family and knew that I was close to the milestone (pun not intended) marker. I had no idea of my current time as I set my Garmin to watch my pace and distance... and I was in for a shock... 57:37!!!! Holy moly! That's 4 minutes faster than my 10 mile time at Annapolis 10 miler in August! I got really excited here. I knew that 1:16:30 was in my grasp, easily. I had been averaging 5:45 up to this point so I knew I was on my way to even beating that time. But this was no time to get complacent, I had a race to finish. Maybe I could break 1:15:00? I began to pick up the pace to the low 5:40s/high 5:30s.
Everything was going great until mile 11.5, when I got my first cramp. Dangit! I haven't had a cramp in a race since freshman year of high school. No water in sight, and I knew I hadn't hydrated properly, having skipped by 2-3 water stations. Not accustomed to taking water at my shorter-distance races. And I ate only half my Gu earlier in the race. This was not the time to finish it, as I'm supposed to eat it just before drinking water. So I decided I had to tough it out. My pace was higher though, close to 5:35, but the cramps were building, both in number and pain. Got to mile 12 and kept reminding myself of Jake's statement and that I only had a mile left. I really needed to pick it up to get under 1:15:00, but I didn't quite have it in me. I passed one more runner (I must have passed at least 20 during the race!!) and gave it all I had to the finish. I still had no idea of my time....
I looked up at the clock... 1:15:22!!! Whoa! I didn't see that coming! I was even impressed with myself... and I'm rarely ever proud of my times. For a first half marathon and first run over 11 miles in 2 months? I think that's pretty good. Dirk ran a 1:07:30something, which is fantastic for his first. He is going to own half-iron races.
And shockingly, I really enjoyed the race... 13.1 miles isn't too long and I can use some speed tactics in it. I just might do some more of these. Also a good omen for half-ironman triathlons!