USA Half Marathon Championships

Goal: sub 1:15.00, top 20
Actual: 1:15.03, 20th Results

One week ago I lined up in Duluth, MN for the 2013 USA Half Marathon Championships held in conjunction with Grandma’s Marathon. I fell a bit short of my race goal but had the most amazing trip! The hospitality of the race directors (pre and post), the new friends I made, the town of Duluth itself and obviously hanging with my buddies Meagan, Caitlin and Laurie made the weekend one to remember!

I took two days off of from work which was almost as exciting as the race itself! Caitlin, Meagan and I coordinated our flights to MSP so that we would all arrive around the same time. After arriving we drove to Fort Snelling to do a shakeout run before continuing on to Duluth (~2.5hrs from MSP). We arrived at the Canal Park Lodge located on the shores of Lake Superior to find goodie bags awaiting and race volunteers there to greet us. We spent a low key night watching USAs on Flotrack. Friday we woke up to a thunderstorm so decided to postpone our pre-race until the weather cleared up a bit. I got coffee and wandered around town a bit before returning to get ready to run.


Morning stroll through downtown Duluth

We picked up a beautiful trail right out back of our hotel that ran along Lake Superior and did an easy 5mi out and back, returning to the hotel to do drills and strides afterwards. Got an official introduction to and good luck hug from “teammate” Meb Keflezighi before heading back inside to get ready for the technical meeting! The rest of the day was consumed by the meeting, race prep, dinner and more goodie bags!


Some pre and post race goodies!

Lights went out early because the 6:15am (men)/6:25am (women) race start meant that we would have to board the buses headed for the start at 4:30am!! Fairly typical timing for me but still VERY early for a race. Forecast was for storms (we didn’t see the sun the whole time we were in Duluth) but woke up to relatively mild misty/foggy conditions with temps in the mid 40s instead. Warmed up with Meagan, Caitlin, and Esther about 45mins before the start. Felt good and not at all stiff on the warm-up, always a concern for me at that hour. Things moved quickly from there and I soon found myself on the starting line with 60 other anxious women! The gun went off at 6:25 on the dot. I had been warned about a fast first mile so tried to settle in but still came through in a 5:33. At that point I was in the second small chase pack but knew I needed to settle in a bit so soon found myself running solo. Clocked a 5:46 second mile… too slow. Sped back up to catch the second mini pack that I had fallen off of, resulting in a 5:36 third mile. Ran with the pack for the fourth mile only to find that they had slowed down (5:47). At that point I decided I needed to go on ahead solo and dropped the group. Unfortunately my fifth mile was no faster… another 5:47. I was starting to get frustrated at this point. I had never had this much trouble getting into a rhythm in a half marathon before, even in Central Park! At the five mile marker one of the girls in the second pack that I had run away from came up beside me. We briefly discussed the 1:15 time goal and implicitly acknowledged the need to pick it up. She took off and I followed suit resulting in a 5:30 sixth mile split. Albeit one of the faster miles on the course, this surge hurt a lot. I dropped back and would run solo the rest of the race. Miles 7-9 got progressively slower creeping towards 6min pace. My thoughts began to shift from my sub 1:15 time goal to damage control. ย Around the 10mi mark another woman came up beside me and I latched on to her. It was around then that I also heard a coach on the side of the course yell that we were still on 1:15 pace. This was hugely motivating because after how volatile my splits had been I really had no idea what pace I was on. I got back on track with a 5:45 11mi split and started to feel even better. I pulled away from the woman that had caught me (she would finish 23 seconds behind) and finished strong with 12 and 13mi splits of 5:39 and 5:37 respectively. As I rounded the final corner I was both happy and relieved to see the clock read 1:14.xx. Although I missed running sub 1:15, this race was a big building block for me in other ways. ย I had never struggled so much to get into a rhythm and had never run so erratically. While I never hope to run in a similar way, I now know it is still possible to run well if I do. I’ve also never come back from a mid-race mental lapse. Things got ugly in the middle there; “I can’t drop out because I came all the way to MN,” type thoughts… Usually that is the end for me. I make it but things aren’t pretty. That wasn’t the case on Saturday. For the first time ever I was able to turn things around! In the weeks leading up to the race I began to think about the other women who would be running. I knew I was prepared to run solo, but had hopes that I could tuck in with a pack. I found myself alone almost the entire race (as usual) but couldn’t put my finger on why I felt so lonely until hours after the race. At first I thought the dense fog which made for very unique racing conditions was the culprit. Instead I realized it was the fact that no one cheered for me during the race. Yes there was generic cheering but not by anyone who knew my name. This race more than any other race I’ve ever run made me realize how truly awesome my support crew is back at home!

Post-race festivities started shortly after our cool-down. Meagan, Caitlin and I caught Laurie finishing the marathon as the 9th woman in 2:41.59! ย A yummy brunch and hot tub session with Meb followed. After resting for a bit we got ready for the race after party at Duluth’s Historic Union Train Depot. We had a blast!


Race after party (Laurie, me, Caitlin, Meagan)

Snuck in one last run with Meagan Sunday morning before beginning the long drive back to Minneapolis. Parted ways with Meagan headed to LA, and Laurie and Caitlin to Charlotte at the airport. We were all sad to have the weekend come to an end.

I took full advantage of this past “down” week to see friends, catch up on errands and relax. Can’t wait to start up marathon training but will take a few more weeks before getting back into anything structured.


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