My “training” this winter has been lackluster at best. Yes I always stuck with my running, but I haven’t done much speed work or many hill repeats. I am proud of myself that I mostly got 30 miles a week in, and lately I’ve been feeling very JEALOUS of my husband as he trains for a 50 miler. It is important to note that I don’t actually WANT to run a 50 miler. I just think it is amazing that he ran as many miles yesterday as I did this entire week.
The weather couldn’t make up its mind for the day. First it was 40% chance of thunderstorms, then the chance of rain went away. One thing stayed though; 43-44 degrees for the race. For me that meant a light long sleeved shirt, capris and gloves. I packed a pair of throwaway gloves. Then, at the very last second I threw in my regular gloves and an ear band just in case.
Good Sleep Two Nights Before the Race
They say that this is the key! You don’t actually need good sleep the night before the race. Unfortunately I had bad sleep 2 nights before the race. We had friends over and we were up much later than we normally stay up. Added to that, I had to be up and baking by 5 the next morning SO I think I got about 4 hours of sleep on Friday.
Saturday night I practically passed out at 7 p.m. I could hear the kids arguing and Scott mediating but I didn’t even fully process what was happening. I crashed hard and happily woke up at 4:30 a.m. fully rested!! I did feel ready for the Flower City Half!
Heading to the Race
Elizabeth, Scott and I hopped in the car at 5:30. Xander was supposed to be running this with us, but he injured his knee. It was sad leaving him at home but we all knew he couldn’t finish the distance safely. We left him a bunch of post-it notes and told him we’d call him to make sure he got up!!
Our ride was lovely! We listened to Il Divo and chatted about our race goals. I made sure to eat my egg sandwich an hour and a half before the race, had some water and a bit of coffee and felt ready!
Scott needed to run 1.9 miles before the race started to get his 15 in for the day. He would be pacing Elizabeth for this race and I would run solo. We parked a few blocks away and Elizabeth and I ran to the War Memorial to go to the bathroom and get ready. We hopped in a rather short bathroom line and there was Elizabeth’s pediatrician from when she was a baby. We used to live in Fairport when she was born and Dr. Meyer was her very first doctor. We run into Donna at all the races and her son also ski races with Elizabeth. Such a small world!! Of course we nabbed a picture of the two of them after the Flower City Half was complete.
The nerves before a race that you plan to push hard on vs running with friends are so different. As Elizabeth and I bagged our phones in case of rain, got our playlists queued and readied ourselves to go outside I noticed how nervous I felt. Elizabeth said, “I wish I brought a throwaway hat.” I had caved and put my ear band on but I knew I’d end up having to toss it. In my mind it was a throwaway one but Elizabeth asked me to keep it if possible. She wears it a lot. I said, “Here take this. Then I won’t have to toss it.” I had already given her my throwaway gloves because she hadn’t brought any. Now she’d be ready for the weather! Before we went out we grabbed a quick selfie of the two of us. We wouldn’t be running together, but still wanted to have the memory of our time before the race.
I got in line between the 1:45 and 1:50 pacers. I don’t like to actually run with a pacer, but my goal was to hit somewhere between those two so it seemed logical. Within minutes it was National Anthem time and moments after we were running!
The First Miles
I got started and made an on the spot decision. I would NOT look at my average pace for this year’s Flower City Half. I usually have my watch set at average pace. However, whenever it slows down I start to beat myself up and compensate by running too fast. This race is nice and even until mile 6.5 when the uphill starts. In prior years I’ve spent all the uphill miles thinking I am terrible because I just watch that pace drop. This year I’d run by feel, taking a minute to glance at my current pace at the end of each song.
The beginning of the course is my favorite of the entire race. There are tangents to cut, stores to look at and you are surrounded by people. I love running down East Ave and going by my favorite store from when we used to live in the area, Parkleigh. I had a nice zippy start, though consciously slowed a few times when I saw my pace getting too quick. The last thing I needed was to hit the hills already exhausted!
As we neared Rochester on our way to the race, Scott said, “do we have plastic bags for our phones?” “It isn’t supposed to rain, right?” I said. Scott replied, “the forecast changed again. It is a 20% chance during the race.” That didn’t actually seem too threatening to me, but I searched the car and found a bag for for Elizabeth and for me. Scott had one already. So, when the skies opened up at mile 4 my phone was protected!!
At first I thought it would just sprinkle but it was pretty quick to turn to full on rain. My mood changed at the start of the rain. Suddenly I worried about freezing, getting my shoes and socks sopping went in a puddle and just got a bit bummed. I had been excited about no rain, having convinced myself that because my phone was protected it wouldn’t end up raining.
However, I started playing a puddle dodging game with myself and stayed entertained. As we made the turn off Park Ave, I knew it wasn’t long before the hill started. The were lots of puddles, so I picked a “lane” right near the center stripe and just kept pushing onward.
Bang My Head
The hills start at mile 6.5. There’s a great Cheer Zone there that always kicks everything off well. They reminded us we had a hill coming up by shouting and writing it on the road!! I focused my gaze 5 feet ahead and plowed up, keeping my sister’s words of “equal effort” in my head. The song I was listening to was a remix of Bang My Head with David Guetta featuring Sia. It was quite appropriate for how I was feeling and had a great beat!
I neared the end of the first hill, enjoyed the little flat respite and then headed into the cemetery! Every year the cemetery tests me. I often wonder if I should start out the race slower so that I bring more to this point in the run but I haven’t tried it yet. Things went reasonably well for the first bit. Things go up for awhile, then down, and back up. When I reached mile 8 a woman shouted, “highest point of the race” at us. What I thought that meant was, “it’s all downhill from here.” That was NOT what that meant. I could have been happier if she had not shouted these “encouraging” words at us. Yes, it was technically true that it was the highest point in the race, but we had some downhill followed by more uphill to get out of the cemetery.
Emergency Gu and Still in Cemetery
When I first started running I was the type of runner to stash water for a long run, make plans for perfect routes, and to pay attention to appropriate clothing for the weather. I also had something with me for a long run for energy. In short, a planner. I’m not like that anymore. I don’t really know what happened, but I wing it a lot more. So, on the way when I realized I was actually trying to get a good time (for me) on this race I also realized I didn’t have anything for energy just in case. I shared this with Scott and Elizabeth and Scott said, “You can have my emergency Gu. I am running with Tailwind.” God bless him!! Elizabeth passed it up and said, “I hope you like Salted Caramel.” Sure thing that will work!
Well, in that cemetery I decided to break it out. My stomach was growling like crazy. I am almost positive that this is a nervous thing more than actual hunger but not completely. It did happen in the Skunk Half that I wasn’t running all out for and wasn’t a bit nervous about. So, maybe I actually am hungry when it happens. Regardless of the reason, I was happy to have the Gu. My hands were freezing but I managed to get it open. I ran with it for miles, taking little nibbles every now and then.
The final miles of a half marathon are just not that far when you look at the race through the marathon lens. As I turned to run along the river for the final few miles, I remembered how grateful I had been to reach this point in the Rochester Marathon several years ago. Surprisingly after not nearly as many miles, I felt almost as bad as I did back then (this was about mile 22 of the marathon course). Really, I exaggerate though. It wasn’t that bad, it was just cold and there was a headwind. I was ready to be done running.
Having made a conscious decision to run by feel, I didn’t want to change the plan now. Sure, I hadn’t banned myself from looking at my current pace on my watch, but I made a promise not to change it to average pace. Why? I really have no idea. Maybe I wanted to just see if I could push myself harder if I didn’t know what I was shooting for. Maybe I was afraid to see what it said. Either way I kept my promise to myself. I plugged along on the path again thanking Scott for reminding Elizabeth and me to protect our phones.
Where’s My Pacer?
I ran with my friend Christina for the Skunk Cabbage Half a few weeks ago. While I wasn’t actually pacing her, I was helpful to her at the end of the race encouraging her and keeping her moving faster than she would have without me as an unofficial pacer.
When I hit mile 11 was when I realized I could really benefit from someone acting in the role I had served for Christina. I tried to talk to myself like I was a friend, “Come on. We can pass people. Keep it going. You got this.” The trouble was that I didn’t really believe what I was saying. I tried though, and I do think it perked me up a bit. By this point in the race it was raining again and the wind was just annoying.
As I rounded the corner and realized I was already into mile 12 then I did glance at my watch for total time. I saw that it was 1:42 and change. No PR would happen, but I was consistent. This time would be close to the race I ran last year on the same course. I tried to find the spring in my step for the final tenths and mostly succeeded. I sprinted by a few people as I came into the chute, grabbed my medal and dashed inside before it really started storming.
My Beloved Topos
I must take a moment in this post to thank my Topos. This is the first race they’ve run!! I bought a pair as a replacement shoe when my Pure Connect was discontinued. My friend Brenda had settled into them after the Connect was done and she actually seemed to love them. I was still mourning the loss of the Connect, so I was baffled that she could have moved on so quickly! However, we wear the same size so I jumped when she offered to let me take them for a spin. I quickly bought a pair and 375 miles later they entered retirement. They are zero drop, have plenty of room for toes to spread comfortably and weigh almost nothing!
I went to Finger Lakes Running and Triathlon Company and tried on the updated version of my shoe. They were out of stock in my size but Ian placed an order for me. However, it was also near my birthday so when my parents asked for a little wish list I put Topos on that too. Much to my surprise it was one of the things they chose!! Their present arrived before the half so I wore them. They are so pretty – a lovely blue. The only downside was that there was a bunch of red mud in the cemetery. I spent a lot of time dodging mud to save my beautiful new shoes!! Thankfully, I ended the race with only a little speck of red mud on them. When the pair Ian ordered for me arrives, I plan to use my gift card that my husband’s parents gave me for Christmas. I feel pretty lucky to have almost 800 miles full of presents from my family!!
1:49:08, 10/141 Age Group; Official Results
This race was fun! It is a great community race with a great race 1/4 zip. This is new this year!! After the race all 3 of us wore our shirts for the rest of the day. We went out to dinner to celebrate and walked in with our matching 1/4 zips. It was a lot of fun to run the race as a family. We missed Xander!!
Having run this by feel this year without any speed training I feel pretty good about my time. The cemetery didn’t beat me up too much!! I also didn’t get too stuck in my head. It does help me not to look at the average pace. I find that as it slows down I worry that I’m going to slow and then if it speeds up I worry that it is going too fast. It was nice to be free from those concerns. However, I think the next time I race this distance, I’ll set my Tom Tom screen to show average pace and current pace, so I can have the best of both worlds.