So I had nearly forgotten about this race. I knew I was signed up for it, and I was looking forward to it, but I wasn’t scared or nervous. I’ve been doing a lot less running, and a lot more cross training lately. While I remain in search of the elusive sub-2 finish, I knew I wasn’t properly trained to really try for it in this race.
The Quarry Lakes Regional Park was absolutely beautiful. The scenery was amazing, with miles and miles of trails, rolling hills, and people swimming in the quarry. I’ll be heading back for some more miles, either by foot or bike, and a picnic sometime soon. The Mermaid races are always impeccably organized. We pulled into easy parking right by the start/finish lines and grabbed our numbers and t-shirts with no issue.
(thanks to Andrea for the gorgeous picture!)
Full blown nerves had kicked in on the ride down, and as I pinned on my number I realized that I was already in my shorts and tank top and I was plenty warm. It was going to be a hot day.
I lined up at the start line, several rows back. There were only 184 entrants in the half marathon, so we weren’t crowded at all. (The race also had an 18 miler, a 10k and a 5k that started at different times). We lined up, counted down, and took off.
My goal for the first mile was just to keep the pace even, and slower than a 9 minute mile. This was my fifth half marathon. The last three, I’ve felt so great at the starting line that I went out too fast and blew up hard by mile 9. I was determined to avoid that this weekend. I ran a 9:05 in the first mile, which was still faster than I had planned, but felt much slower than my legs wanted to go. As I clicked off splits in the early miles, I kept saying to myself “just stay in the game.” Being smart early would make a good race possible in the later miles.
My PR in the half marathon was 2:04:17, run in my second half marathon in Hyannis in 2010. The two half marathons I’ve run since I moved to California I ran in 2:19 and 2:20. I knew I was better trained for this race than a 2:19, but wasn’t sure a PR was in the cards.
The early miles clicked off with mile 2 in 9:03, mile 3 in 9:15, and mile 4 in 9:07. I kept my Garmin just on the lap pace instead of on the total distance and average pace for the race. That way I could only focus on the mile I was in. I have a tendency to look at the total time and focus on a goal slipping away from me. This way all I could do was control the mile I was running. I took my first gu at a water stop at mile 5. Split in 9:13.
At this point, I was determined to get to the halfway point and then see what my legs could do. Mile 6 in 9:17, mile 7 in 8:55 and mile 8 in 8:57. My legs were feeling great, but there was still a lot of race left to run, so I tried to stay conservative and reminded myself to “stay in the game.” There wasn’t a lot of shade on the trail, and at this point I was searching for the mile 9 marker. I never actually saw the mile 9 marker, which threw me into a bit of a panic that my Garmin might have been wrong. The course was mostly flat but had a lot of short steep down and ups to go under the bridges where I might have lost satellites. Mile 9 in 9:19.
I finally saw the mile 10 marker (my watch was running about 0.2 long at this point) and started desperately looking for the next water stop. Mile 10 in 9:28. I was starting to overheat. I don’t regret not carrying water, as I never run with it, but I really wished for water at this point in the race. I finally saw a water stop around 10.5 miles, and I took a second gu. Looking back, I don’t think I needed the second gu, but my legs were getting tired, and I hoped it would give me a little boost. I walked through this water stop. Mile 11 in 10:13. The mile 12 marker was on the other side of one of the bridges, and I could see it from about half a mile away. I tried to pick up the pace, knowing I had less than 2 miles still to run. Mile 12 in 10:07.
I grabbed a cup of water at the mile 12 water stop and tried to further pick up the pace towards the finish line. My friend who ran the 10k had already finished and back tracked down the half marathon course and met me with about 0.6 miles to go. I was so glad to see her, and she helped me pick my pace back up to the finish line. Mile 13 in 9:16. You could see the finish line with still more than a quarter mile to go and had to actually run away from the finish line before you could loop back around and finish. That was mentally tough, but I picked it up and sprinted to the finish. Last 0.3 miles at an 8:06 pace.
I crossed the finish line in 2:03:36: a new PR, and good enough for fourth in my age group. I was really so happy with this race. While I’d secretly hoped that today would be a sub-2 half marathon, I know I ran a good, smart race. I felt strong through nearly everything, and at no point did I feel like walking or quitting. I know my legs have that sub 2 in them somewhere, but on a day when it was 83 degrees when I crossed the finish line, I’m beyond pleased with a new PR.
I cannot say enough about how much I enjoy the Mermaid races. This was my second race with this organization; I ran the San Francisco 5k with them last November. At the finish line of this race they gave us adorable silver necklaces that said “inspire” on them instead of medals. Our race bibs were personalized with our names on them, and the volunteers all along the course and at the water stops cheered for us by name. The announcer is hilarious, chatting with people at the start line, calling names at the finish, and cheerfully handing out awards at the end. The whole race atmosphere is so welcoming. The half marathon had several out and back sections, and the woman who won the whole race said “good job!” to all of us each time she passed us on an out and back section. Everything about the races is well thought out, the location was beautiful, with plentiful parking and bathrooms. The start times were well staggered so I never felt crowded despite how many people were there for all four events.
The race even had a photo booth set up that allowed you to get your photo taken and then immediately post it to facebook or twitter. I didn’t try this option out, as I was nervous before the race and then exhausted after, but I thought it was just another great touch. The half marathon was $65 which is totally comparable to other local events that I’ve run.
I’ll definitely be at the Mermaid San Francisco run again this fall, but I’ll be seeing them a little sooner than that. All that cross training I’ve been doing? It’s in preparation for the Mermaid Triathlon in Alameda next month. I’m completely petrified about swimming in the Bay, but I know that if I come out of the water in one piece the rest should just be fun. I’ve never done a triathlon, and two months ago I couldn’t swim 50 consecutive yards. I’ve registered for the “friends and family” division which takes off first, so hopefully I won’t have to worry about another race fear which is being the last one out of the water. Open water swimming has always freaked me out a little, so I’m kind of looking forward to facing this fear.
If I survive my triathlon, I think the rest of the year will see me searching out another half marathon to try and track down that elusive sub-2 finish. I’d like to get it done before the Nike Women’s half marathon in October, which I want to run just for fun.
Any triathlon advice for me? Or do you know a great PR half marathon course I could run between the end of June through August?