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May 9, 2011

Race Report- New Prague Half Marathon

1:36:24

Now you don't have to scroll all the way to the bottom to figure out what I ran. Clearly the wind was not at my back and I didn't hit my goal of running under 1:35 but did run a PR.

I should say up front that this post is more for me than it is for you, but feel free to keep reading anyway.

It was a perfect morning for the race which was completely uncharacteristic of New Prague. It was a little windy but it didn't feel like anything I couldn't handle. I ran a warm-up with Shawn and Regina and settled in near the 1:35 pace group at the start. When we took off, I felt like we were crawling but I stayed behind the pacer. I was so surprised to see the first mile tick off in 7:12 and I couldn't believe that I didn't feel like I was working at all. Gotta love adrenaline.

Once we got out of town and turned into the wind, I knew that I was going to have to work a little bit. I tucked in behind the pacer and just kept my eyes on his feet. There were some early hills that took a bit of a toll (damn flat lake paths!) but I still felt good.

At mile 6.5 the course turns again and the wind was officially at our backs. The sun was out and it was definitely warm. And hilly. The hills aren't super steep but they are long. During this stretch I was feeling really good and another girl and I pulled ahead of the pace leader by a few feet, not intentionally but we were just ready to move.

I was still feeling great and was thinking that I would throw the hammer down after we got up one last big climb at 8.5. It was on this long, gradual hill that I started to struggle. I just felt like I started to hit a wall. The pacer caught me at the top of the hill and I stayed with him. By this point, it was just the pacer and one other guy in the group. The girl that I had been with had pulled ahead and looked great.

Around mile 9.5 we had yet another climb and a gap opened up between me and the pacer. I knew that I needed to stay with him to save me from some of the wind that was side-swiping me but I was so tired and the idea of picking up my pace sounded awful. I knew that this was the moment that I had prepared for. It was the settle in or push through moment. So I dug and closed the gap, which wasn't more than 10-15 feet. When I caught him, he told me, "Make that your last surge. If you fall behind again, we'll slow up, but don't surge." I was too tired to say anything back so I just nodded.

I got through Mile 10 with them but let a gap develop on another hill. This time I didn't have a surge left in me and thought that if I could just keep my shit together for one more mile, my adrenaline would let me catch him again.

I felt completely awful. I am not exaggerating when I say that it was taking everything I had to not walk. I was by myself, being side-swiped by wind, on the longest hill of the day. I did not even look at my watch when it beeped splits because I knew no matter what it said, I wasn't going to be able to pick it up. It wasn't a mental thing, I was just physically drained. My legs felt like lead and there was no going faster.

I kept telling myself to just keep moving forward, that I only had 20 more minutes of running left. I was literally running with my eyes closed (no one around on a fricking straightaway for miles) because it was killing me watching how slow the scenery was moving.

When I hit mile 12, I expected some adrenaline to kick in (one more mile!) but nothing happened. Still the same shitty feeling, the fight to move my feet. It wasn't until the last quarter mile that I felt even remotely capable to move faster. So I pulled together anything I had and concentrated on moving my feet as fast as I could.

Finishing sucked. I didn't feel relief or exhilaration or even disappointment. Just confusion. What the hell just happened out there?

It's two days later and I'm still not exactly sure. What I do know is that my quads and calves kill (thanks, hills!), I'm exhausted (hi, Sunday afternoon nap) and hungry (yes, I just ate my body weight in enchiladas, but of course I'll have dessert!). I also have a pretty good idea of what I need to change in my training, but I'll save that for next time.

And just in case you think I was exaggerating about how quickly things went to shit, numbers never lie:

712, 718, 717, 714, 713, 711, 714, 711, 718, 715, 743, 805, 743, 637 (last .1 mile)

I did somehow manage to place second in my age group. A little hardware never hurts.
Me and my brother Andrew, who did the Take the Hill Tri in St. Peter that day.

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