Mike and I woke up around 6am to get ready for the race. We were staying about a mile away from the finish location, which was not in the same location as the start, so we planned to walk there. In the end, we decided to drive to the parking to save us a little bit of walking in the cold!
Such a cool venue!
More of the stacks
It wasn't too cold, around 40-50, but the wind made it feel even colder. We went to the bathroom in the Visitors' Center at SteelStacks (such a cool location!) and then walked over to ArtsQuest to stay warm before walking to the start. We wanted to take the shuttles, but we didn't see them!
The walk wasn't too bad, and it ended up being our warm-up for the race.
There were quite a few people at the start when we got there and we stood off to the sidelines before making our way into the self-selected pace areas. I was right in between 8:00 and 8:30. I was a little bit ahead of the 1:50 pace group. Mike lined up a little ways ahead of me in the 7:00s.
I never fully announced my goal, but I went into the race not only wanting to PR but I wanted to run a sub-1:50 half marathon. I knew that I could do it if everything turned out "perfectly" so I was pretty hopeful that I didn't need to run with the pace group in order to hit my goal.
After an AMAZING National Anthem played on a violin, it was time to start the race. We made the usual shuffle to the start line and when we crossed, I started my watch.
The first couple of miles flew by. I kept myself at an even pace that felt good, and honestly didn't even feel like work. I hit 8:09 and 8:10 for the first two miles. After crossing the Lehigh River, I knew that the next few miles of the course were going to be a bit hilly. Mike and I had driven the course the day before, and while it wasn't the worst half marathon course we've ever done (that was probably our first half marathon), it wasn't the easiest.
I took energy chews at mile 3, right around the time of the first hill. I just focused on getting up there at an even pace (and thought of my friend, Isaac, who told me to do that during the MDI Marathon, which ironically also took place yesterday). Mile 3 came in at 8:26, I wasn't worried though since I had "banked" time in the first two miles.
The one thing I liked about this race is that there were a lot of friendly volunteers and spectators out on the course. I never felt like I was all alone, because there were always runners near me and people cheering us on.
Around mile 4, I thought that I should slow down a little bit but we were running downhill. I did put the brakes on a bit, but I still came in at 7:59 pace. I felt good and I was still breathing easily.
One thing I did differently during this race was that I never "zoned out" (except maybe once, more on that soon) and I was completely in tune with how I was feeling and how my body was feeling. I would take inventory on my breathing, my legs, my posture, etc. I kept thinking of the four steps to a good running form: proud posture, arms back, bent knees and quick steps like the founder of Altra told us on Friday. For the most part, I was accomplishing all of these. I still didn't let myself go crazy with my pace because two big hills were coming up.
Goepp Street to Schoenersville Road had two pretty big hills. I knew that after mile 7.5 that the course would be relatively "downhill" so I tried to keep that in mind when my pace slowed up these hills. Mile 5 came in at 8:12 and mile 6 came in at 8:46. Mile 6 was the slowest mile because of the hills but also because I almost twisted my ankle in a pothole on the course! My ankle did "twist" but not in a way that caused any bruising or inflammation (luckily!) and I went down on my hands a bit. No one around me asked if I was alright, and for a few seconds I worried that I wasn't. My form changed and as I turned a corner I knew that I was alright and picked the pace back up a bit.
There was one spot on the course where they had timing mats, right around the 10K mark. I crossed that spot in 51:40. I had taken more energy chews right at mile 6.
The last hill was tough, I thought that I might not be able to pick up the pace again as we made our way into a little loop out and back in this cute neighborhood (that actually reminded me of a race in Rochester). I saw Beth from Shut Up and Run, but didn't say anything to her, and then I think I got a little bit ahead of her. During this part of the course you could see people making their way out while we were making our way in, and I thought I might see Mike but I didn't. Miles 7 and 8 were 7:59 and 8:33.
As I was making my way out, right after running by the Running Skirts water stop (where you could put on a skirt and keep it, I didn't stop of course) I saw people making their way in. I saw a RWB runner carrying a flag (who we had met over the weekend) and I knew his goal was right around 1:50. I never saw the 1:50 pace group, and I hoped that I could keep them behind me the rest of the race!
After leaving this neighborhood, we had some nice downhills. I tried to take advantage of them, but I was still keeping myself in check at this point. I didn't want to push it until mile 10. I kept telling myself that I wanted this and I would be disappointed if I messed it up. We ran by a cemetery at one point and this was a bit windier, but I was still making good time. Miles 9 and 10 came in at 8:04 and 7:49.
At this point in the race, I started doing math. I was pretty sure that as long as I kept it at a 9 minute pace that I would get a sub-1:50 half marathon. I thought of what my friend Kirsten said to me before the race, "hustle, darling" and I started to push it on the downhills. There were still a few uphills, but nothing major. Mile 11 came in at 8:17 pace.
As I made it down one of the final streets, there were people with cutouts of big hands. I high-fived one (Mike told me he high-fived them too) and I PUSHED it as hard as I could down the hill. We made the turn back toward the bridge over the Lehigh River (they were playing the Fresh Prince song in this area) and as I made the turn the wind was HORRIBLE. I thought to myself, "don't let this ruin this for you!" and I kept going as hard as I could. We rounded the corner for the final 1.1 miles and I grabbed water (thinking of Rinny who took water in the last mile of Kona, I didn't want to mess anything up!) Mile 12 came in at 7:40.
The final mile, I knew I had it. How much I would be under 1:50, I still wasn't sure about. My watch was a bit off from the mile markers (I ended up with 13.21 miles on my watch) and as we ran down toward the Sands Casino and made one of the final turns, I just wanted to be at/see the finish line.
We ran through a fence in the parking lot and onto the road at SteelStacks and I could see the mile 13 marker, but I still couldn't see the finish! I ran as hard as I could and then I saw it, the finish line. I could hear the announcer and then I could see Bart Yasso (who smiled at me as I made it to the finish).
I crossed the finish line and threw my arms in the air, I had done it! I was a sub-1:50 half marathoner!
I found Mike, who had a great race and basically tied his half marathon PR with a finishing time of 1:43:32. He looked at me and said, "how did you do that? You did great!" He was in shock, but also proud!
I had finished in 1:47:41, which is a 6 minute and 41 second PR (previous PR was on a flat course). I still really don't know how I did it, other than believing that I could and not settling for anything less. I know that I have more in me, of course I do, but I am SO proud of myself. I am so proud of Mike too. I know he would have liked to PR, but to come away with the same time as his PR on a challenging course is a huge accomplishment.
Bart Yasso is amazing!
After the race we walked back to our car so we could get our stuff and Mike wanted to take a #bartie with Bart Yasso.
Then we went back to the hotel and made the drive back to Rochester.
This race was amazing, I know we'll be back sometime in the future!
Disclosure: I was provided free entry into the race and lodging as part of the blogger program through Runner's World. I was not compensated in any other way and all opinions are, as always, my own.