The Third Time’s a Charm
In the Fall of 2010, I ran my first half marathon. I finished the Baltimore Under Armour Half in 2:02:48, with very little speedwork under my belt. A sub-2hr half should be easily achievable sometime next year, I thought. Not so fast (no pun intended). The following spring I ran the Maryland Half and hit the wall at mile 6. Just went out too fast, and finished in about 2:07 (I can’t remember the exact time – I’ve successfully blocked it out of my head). After training all summer, with some significant speedwork, I took on the Rock ‘n Roll Half in Philadelphia in September 2011. A flat, easy course, I had heard. It was all of that, but once again, I went out to fast. I did get a PR, by about 1 minute. Getting closer, I thought, but I sure believed I would have been able to shave off those 3 minutes much faster than I was.
Later that Fall, I signed up for the Annapolis Zooma Half in the Spring of 2012. I chose Zooma for a number of reasons – beginning with limited travel time from Baltimore (I dislike hotel beds), and ending with their motto: “run. laugh. celebrate”. Love. That. I also loved their approach to racing. Their website urges you to “Imagine a powerful sea of women on the move–encouraging fellow runners and celebrating personal running triumphs.” That just seemed, well – perfect.
I took it relatively easy on myself over the winter, gearing up for a long and steady training schedule. I was determined to have lots of 10+ mile LSDs and some quality speedwork. My training schedule had all that in it, and also had some flexibility to allow for craziness with work and the kids – always the key to a successful training plan, in my opinion (at least for my life!).
The morning of June 2 came and I was optimistic about breaking the 2 hour barrier, but not entirely confident. We had just decided to put down our dog of 15 years (she had declined very quickly) and I wasn’t sure how that would play on me emotionally. Thank goodness my best running buddy Tammi was there to let me lean on her. I’m certain that morning would not have gone as it had if she had not been by my side. We left the house at 5 AM to ensure an on-time arrival for the 7 AM start. No traffic, plenty of parking and plenty of porta-potties (you know you’re a runner when you get giddy at the sight of a large row of porta-potties) made the pre-race jitters mostly disappear. The weather could not have been more perfect – about 60 degrees at the start, with pretty reasonable humidity. About the best you could expect for June in Maryland.
The race course itself was just terrific – a nice mix of the urban in downtown Annapolis, the scenic (the Severn River bridge is very challenging, but rewards you with spectacular views), rolling hills and some peacefulness on the B&A trail. If I could dial up a 13.1 mile run, this is what it would look like. I would have liked some bigger crowds, but since I compare everything to Eutaw Street going into Oriole Park at Camden Yards (for the finish in Baltimore), I suspect until I run the NY marathon, nothing will compare. Along the course, the Zooma folks had frequent water/electrolyte stops with lots of friendly faces there to hand it out.
As for my race plan – well, I nailed it. I followed the strategy outlined here – http://www.roy-stevenson.com/half-marathon-racing.html – maintaining pretty even splits throughout, with almost every one of the first 11 miles being between 9:00 and 9:10. With 2 miles left, I dug deep, assessed what I had left, and ran an 8:57 and an 8:49, for a 1:59:09 finish. The race finished with a great expo, including wine and massages. I was particularly pleased that I got to meet Sarah Bowen Shea, co-author of “Train Like a Mother” at the expo after the race. I unfortunately didn’t get the chance to meet her co-author, Dimity McDowell, who ran the race with the amazingly strong woman she talks about in this post . If you didn’t have perspective about running and life, well, now you do (by the way, Sarah and Dimity’s podcasts are awesome, as are their “Badass Mother Runner” shirts).
The best part of the race? The sweaty hug from my best running girlfriend where she said to me, “I knew you could do this, and I know you did this for Ani”. Ani, our beloved shepherd mix who we put to rest later that day, had been my running buddy for 10 years of her long, well-loved life. In the height of her life, I know she would have loved this run, just as I had.
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