Ever since I ran a 1:40:17 half marathon in December (this was also without doing any race-specific training, other than running a couple tempo runs here and there) I made it my goal to break 1:40 for the half marathon in 2016.
The winter was tough training wise (but when is it ever not tough)--my mileage was still on the higher side due to my coaching, but most of those miles weren't "my" miles--so that left little room for any sort of hill repeats, tempo runs, or a couple double-digit "long" runs. I did manage to do a 10 mile race and place 4th in my age group in February, which definitely was a surprise (especially since it was 2 degrees outside, but it felt like -13...Fahrenheit!). In mid-March, I decided to sign up for a women's only half, following the same course that I had done in December. Even though I again hadn't aggressively training for it, I knew that I could still aim to see how close I could get to 1:40 or under.
On race day, it was already raining before the start. And I had had a couple nights (including the night before) where I hadn't sleep very well...I blame my teething 16 month old. I started as close to the front as possible as to not lose time weaving in and out. Then we were off. We thinned out almost immediately...some ladies were FAST...clocking sub-7 (and sub 6:30) miles. For this race, I told myself to try to keep my pace around 7:30-7:35 as long as possible and not have anything under 7:25-7:20, or anything above 7:40. Usually I tend to run with more "range" in my splits, sometimes with the thought that I could get some "money in the bank"...but since I know my body a little better, I knew that if I started to have a couple miles around 7:25 or under, I fade really quickly (as I learned during the marathon!). My fitness isn't quite there yet.
With each mile that passed, my splits were like clockwork. But never once did I tell myself that I had it 'in the bag' to break 1:40. It was also a little tough because for the first time...there weren't a lot of people around me that could motivate me to keep going and stick with them! It was an out and back course, so at one point, one person who I had lapped told me I was #10. While this was certainly a boost, I'm glad I didn't get too confident...because at mile 11, I got a bad side stitch and my pace hit 7:50. Fortunately, I pulled it together, and got myself back on track for the final two miles. I pushed it hard until the end as I wanted to be as under 1:40 as I could summon the energy for. When I finished, my time was 1:39:25. And it turned out, that I actually got my first age group award...#3 for the 30-39 age group! I don't know what I was more happy with...breaking 1:40, or getting an award!
A couple days after, my fellow coach Tom congratulated me on my race, and asked me if I thought I could still do better. I took a minute to respond, as while I definitely pushed myself during the race, and when I crossed the finish line I felt like puking and nearly peed in my pants (I did not)...I never was sore in the days following the race. And, I didn't train hard for it. I thought strategy-wise, it was my best race, but I definitely think I could still bring my pace down just a bit. So yes, I definitely think I have the potential to break 1:39, or even 1:38. Or maybe someday 1:35. But who knows...I am just really happy with my current result. And really proud of how far I've come. When I ran my first race, at age 28, it was half marathon--I finished at 1:56. And now, at age 34, it's 1:39. At one point, I will "peak" (have I already?) and then just get slower. That's what happens. But for now, I'm living in the moment, and like where I am.