After the Jacksonville Bank Marathon last year, I set three goals for 2011. Those were to do a sub 1:50 half marathon, complete a half ironman, and complete an ironman. I finished a half ironman in Muncie, Indiana in July, then did ironman Louisville in August. That just left the sub 1:50 half marathon, and although I was confident, I was unsure I could obtain this goal for 2011. Last year, at this same race, I set a PR of 1:51:19. I attempted the sub 1:50 goal in February when I did the Tybee Island half marathon, but feel dramatically short when the race took place during a torrential downpour, and I was suffering from ITBS and ran the whole race with debilitating knee pain. After that race I put the sub 1:50 half marathon goal on hold for awhile in order to focus on triathlon and the ironman.
After ironman and after my last sprint tri of the year, I decided to just do cycling and swimming maintenance and focus on running in order to achieve this sub 1:50 half marathon goal. Me and Joel did the Jacksonville Marine Corps Half Marathon on October 1st for our 6 year anniversary, but I knew I wouldn't PR here not only because that course has hills, but also because it was only 4 weeks after ironman, so I wasn't fully recovered yet. Shortly after that race I finally felt fully recovered, and really started ramping up my run training in order to achieve my time goal. 4-5 runs a week-2 speed works, 1-2 moderate distance runs , and 1 long run. In training I felt like I was making real progress, and felt like this time goal might just happen for me, but I knew it would be rough, and would take everything I had in me physically and mentally.
Jacksonville is a 2 and a half hour drive for us, the race started at 7am, and we still had to pick up our race packets, so me and Joel woke up at 2 am after a few hour's sleep, and left Hinesville at 3 am. Arrived around 5:45 am and picked up our race packets and hung around, visited the porta potties twice, and waited for the race to start. This is a flat, shaded course, great for a PR. Unfortunately, Joel wouldn't be able to run to his potential today because they have been literally running him ragged at work. They have been running high mileage at a fast pace at PT all week, probably because they were trying to break everyone down for the long Thanksgiving weekend. Joel is the only person in his platoon who competes in races, so he is the extreme minority. Had he been running on fresh legs he probably could have ran a few minutes faster.
Roughly 2000 runners in the half marathon, so when the gun went off it took about 2 miles of weaving in and our of people to find holes to run my race. Joel was right behind me in the beginning, but he knew my goal, and knew my determination, so right before the mile 2 mile marker he let me go and I didn't see him again until after the finish.
I knew that in order to even have a chance at sub 1:50, I had to be well into mile 7 at the one hour mark. There was a timing mat at the 10k point. My time for the from 10k was 50:34, which is a 10k PR for me (so now I have to find a 10k to do after the marathon next month to see if I can go sub 50 in a 10k). I reached the 7-mile point in 57 minutes and so change, and at this point I knew sub 1:50 was possible, but still not definite. Mile 8 things started to hurt, I had been maintaining a 7:58-8:20 pace the whole race thus far, and it was starting to wear on me, my quads were aching from me pushing them to work so hard. Mile 9 I took my second gel (first one was at mile 5) and still maintaining this pace was menacing, I told my body to hold on just a little while longer, we'll stop soon. Mile 10 my Garmin said 1:21 and some change and I was starting to get worried and a little upset. I had been pushing so hard up to this point, and my pace had fallen a little, at this point I had a 50/50 shot a achieving my goal.
Mile 11 I was hurting, quads, calves, just revolting at me for forcing them to push so hard for this amount of time. All I could do was stare at the ground and keep moving, and not give in to my body's desire to slow down. Right after mile 12 my Garmin revealed 1:42 and some change and the panic started setting in, I was in so much pain from pushing I didn't think my body would be able to get to the finish line before the clock would strike 1:50. I was in agony, this time not from an injury, but from pushing myself to a run pace I have never sustained for this long a period of time before. Once again I stared at the ground and told myself I am stronger than this, and no matter how much it hurts I can handle any pace for 1 mile. My Gramin was .10 of a mile ahead of how the course was marked, so I had to account for that as well.
Got to mile 13 on my Garmin, but with the way the course was mark, I still had .20 to get to the timing mat at the finish line, which is what matters. It doesn't matter what my Garmin says, what matters is what my time is on the official results. At at mile 13 I was at 1:47 and some change, and I knew I would make it, but I was in agony getting there because all I wanted to do was stop, but had to run just a little longer in order to do so. Finally, the final turn to the finisher's chute came to view and all of a sudden the girl directly behind me wanted to sprint to the finish. Since I had red-linned and maxed myself out the entire race I had no sprint left in me, I felt as if I had practically sprinted the whole race as it was. I let her go, and crossed the finish line in 1:48:27. I did it! I felt horrible, my legs were shaking. I ran to the porta pottie. When I got out I found Joel right away, he already assumed I was in the porta pottie LOL. I still felt horrible, I felt the stress of my body from maxing it out. Joel was proud of me, I was still giving it time to sink in.
Put compression sleeves on and drove 2 and a half hours home. When we got home and were able to relax a bit and I started to feel better, I realized what had just happened. I achieved all my goals for 2011. My pace per mile for the race according to the official race results was 8:17. Ironman hurt, this hurt, but I can't say which one hurt more, they are two very different types of pain. Ironman is the pain of a long day of constant moving, 1:48:27 half marathon is the pain of red-linning for almost 2 hours.
Achieving this goal gives me great confidence for the run portion of my half ironman races next year. Being able to do a 1:48 stand-alone half marathon makes me feel that a sub 2 hour run split in a half ironman is possible for me. The Jacksonville Bank Marathon is next month on December 18th, and that's it for run focused, after that it back to 100% triathlon training, with some 5k and 10k races at the beginning of 2012 for some speed testing.
Here are mine and Joel's official results:
Chip Time 1:48:27
Pace Per Mile 8:17
21/164 (women 25-29)
126/1011 (all women)
Chip Time 1:53:01
Pace Per Mile 8:38
52/103 (men 25-29)
455/1047 (all men)