USA Half Marathon Championships

Goal #1: < 1:14.30; top 20
Goal #2:  PR (< 1:15.03); top 30
Goal #3: < 1:16*
Actual: 1:14.06, 15th place (34th seed)
Last weekend I traveled to Houston, TX for the 2014 USA Half-Marathon Championships held in conjunction with the Chevron Houston Marathon!  I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect going into the race after a couple of unconventional weeks of training (Polar Vortex) followed by some flu-like symptoms.* Physical condition and fitness aside, I’d been looking forward to the trip for weeks and was SUPER excited to arrive at the Hilton Americas in downtown Houston late Friday night.
On Saturday morning, my roommate and fellow NYAC teammate Esther Erb and I met Allison Morgan, her former ZAP teammate, for a shorts & t-shirt shakeout around the city. The rest of the day was relatively uneventful consisting of the usual pre-race activities: technical meeting, relaxing in the elite hospitality suite, and getting everything in order for the morning!
I woke up at 3:50am on Sunday morning after a restless night. The first thing on the agenda was a cup of coffee from the Starbucks in the hotel lobby. Afterwards I returned to my room and puttered around until 5:30am when I went back down to the lobby to board the bus headed for the start. By the time we arrived at the elite tent a few blocks away, it was warm-up time! Warm-up might be a generous term to describe what happens when over 200 runners are restricted to running back and forth on a ~300m stretch of road in the dark. It was an interesting experience to say the least! After a quick bathroom trip, drills and strides, a shoe change and strip down it was FINALLY time to head to the start!Image
At the gun the men swiftly pulled away and the women settled into orderly packs. I found myself near some current and former Hansons-Brooks ladies which was surprising but also reassuring as the group is know for consistency and pacing. It seemed like a promising start but I wasn’t holding my breath given past pack running fails. As the sun began to rise our pack held, coming through the first mile in 5:40. From there we picked it up a touch to merge with a smaller pack and a few stragglers just ahead. The next handful of miles were a blur. The pack continued to chug along, methodically clicking off 5:40s +/- a couple seconds. We came through the 10k in 35:11 and it was right around that point that our pack started to thin out. I found myself back with the original group of Hansons-Brooks ladies plus Allison Morgan (Brooks ID) who I’d pre-raced with the day before! From the 10k I focused on getting to the 8mi mark. I’ve struggled at that point during most of the half-marathons I’ve run. When I passed the 8mi mark in Houston feeling like never before, I knew it was going to be a good day. Next checkpoint was 10mi where I was hoping to get some indication of the pace. I knew we were in sub 1:15 territory but didn’t have much clarity beyond that. Coming through the 10mi mark with our pack reduced to just three (Allison Morgan & Melissa Johnson-White) in a ~30 second PR of 56:26 was a HUGE boost. From there the focus turned to moving up and staying on pace. From 10-12mi we encountered some stretches of blinding sun and the only “hill” in the race, but we were able to pass a handful of people helping to keep our momentum going! In the final LONG mile Alli and I exchanged “leads” a couple of times before she pulled away with 400m to go. Melissa had fallen off a bit but caught back up in the final stretches and nearly nipped me at the line! Crossing the line, I was a bit bummed to fall just short of breaking the 1:14 barrier but thrilled with the 57 second PR. I’d never run a race with a pack of women before and it was better than I could have imagined! Such a positive experience!Image
 USA Running Circuit races never disappoint. The hospitality is always top notch and the runners are the cream of the crop! Houston was no different. I had the most amazing weekend and am so motivated to get back to training! I’m very excited for what is next, whatever that might be! 

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