I love running Derby! As a Saturday race about an hour away the logistics are easy, and it’s a flat, fun course with lots of spectators. It’s also close to my heart since it was the site of not only my first-ever half marathon, but also my first sub-2 half.
I had two goals: one I was fairly public about (sub-2:00) and one I had discussed only with my coach and a few other people (1:57). Though honestly, I hadn’t thought too long and hard about goals. This was partially a factor of my new relaxed approach to running, but mostly due to race day falling in the midst of a super busy time at work. Less down time = less time to overthink.
So going into the race, I was all chill … except about the weather. Specifically, the predicted high temperature. A key factor here is that I am not a solid hot weather runner; I basically wilt in the heat! In two of my marathon DNFs, heat played a role. If you follow training logs, you might remember I had a pretty terrible peak long run in the heat a few weeks back, so I was hoping that maybe that had somewhat acclimated me for the season, or at worst, if I’d slogged through that, I could manage finishing a race, right?
I took a half day off work the day before and drove up with my friend HB. We had a nice low-key evening of checking into the hotel and grabbing our stuff from the expo before picking up some takeout pasta and watching Netflix.
Race day came and it looked warm, but not quite hot, low 50s at the start. We left in plenty of time to meet other folks from our run club for a group photo and gear drop and to run a one mile warmup. Then we hugged and headed to our separate corrals.
My pace band said 1:59, but I had the 1:57 splits on a piece of paper tucked in my pocket. I was determined to start out slow and not get caught up in the excitement, so I started roughly around the 2:00 pacer, thinking I could always kick it into gear later for a negative split.
My determination got the better of me, and so that first mile was a tad too conservative, and I wound up overcompensating on miles 2 and 3. I finally found my stride and went through mile 4 pretty close to where I should be. It was still a little fast, but I had truly sandbagged that first mile. I saw my friends and smiled. “Ok, this is good,” I thought. “I can do this.”
But after that, it just never clicked. I fell off pace, but in a way that was little bit by little bit. I kept trying to reel it back in, and I did, to a degree. I’d run a 9:28 and then bring it back to 9:15.
I tried to keep focused and keep grinding, but I was so hot at this point, and as it had in my last 10 Miler, the toe seam of my left compression sock was bothering me. It seemed worse than before, and I realized it was actually a seam/ridge on the top of my orthotics. Fun! Like at the 10 miler, I knew it wasn’t an injury and I could push through, but damn, was it a terrible, irritating feeling. The more miles I ran, the more bothersome the rubbing became. I was determined to tough it out, but at this point, the whole race was more of a slog. Nearly on the verge of tears but determined to keep going, all I could think was, “I’m going to do this and then I’m going to see my friends and cry it out and collapse like Shalane did on Amy Cragg at the 2016 Trials.”
Just after mile 11 I came across a group of college-ish aged kids cheering their hearts out in front of a table that had Stryofoam cups. “Is that beer?” I asked, desperately. When they answered in the affirmative, I let out a joyous expletive and downed it. This was a first for me, as I’ve always been one to take racing oh-so-seriously, but I knew by now that goals A and B were both out the window. Having a beer brought some levity and helped me get my head back in the game.
After that, I just kept going. I could do this. (I followed the beer with some water from the next aid station.) I wasn’t going to get the time I wanted, but I was pretty sure I could beat my 2:09 from last fall. All I had to do was get across that line.
And I did, in 2:03:49.
This race experience feels like new territory for me. For my goal races, usually I’m either ecstatic with my PR/time/place or upset because X, Y or Z went wrong, but this time is different. It wasn’t the day I wanted, but you know, it’s fine. I’m pleased, all things considered. I dropped six minutes from my October time! I pushed through the Dark Place. I had fun with it (well, fun-ish). And since I drank a beer, now I have a beer-drinking PR! I kept some perspective and didn’t lose my shit mid-race or get into a funk afterwards.
Speaking of perspective, my time falls smack in the middle of my last five half marathon efforts.
But really everything I want to say about my 2019 attempt at the Derby Mini half all boils down to this. Did I hit my goal? No. Was it an improvement over my last half marathon? Yes. Will I take what I can get? Absolutely. There will be other days and other races. Now, on to the next!