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Monday, October 30, 2017

Jazz Half Marathon: a PR!

I am quite excited to report that I did, indeed, PR in Saturday's race! I ran 1:29:18, which is both a PR and my first sub-1:30 half. I was also third female, and a podium finish (theoretically; no one here uses podiums at road races) was icing on the cake!

As I mentioned before, I registered for this race late, and we already had plans, including a work party that started at 9 pm Friday night. I managed to make it out of there and home by 11:00, and got to sleep around midnight, so not much later than usual. I woke up at 5 am to torrential rains, but by the time I was dressed and heading out the door by 5:50, the rain had stopped. It was 56 degrees, but windy. As usual, I didn't have breakfast, but I had a cup of coffee on the way to packet pick-up (I really appreciate the morning-of packet pick-up option for this race). It was held in a hotel lobby near the start, which means I also got to make a bathroom stop. I did a two-mile warm-up, and after trying them out, decided to wear my New Balance 1400s. I was worried about them slipping around on the damp ground, but it didn't seem to be a big problem: the roads were starting to dry. I did one more port-a-potty stop before heading to the start corral, but I think that was a mistake. I didn't really have to go, but the line was incredibly slow, and I just got less and less warmed-up. So by the time I got to the start, I was feeling stiff. I'd stay that way the whole race.

Hanging in the front corral.

A group of us were self-seeded in the front corral, including my super-fast teammate Michelle, who I expected to win easily, and my teammate Morgan. Morgan is much faster than me at short distances, so I wasn't sure what kind of half marathon she'd run. There were some other women I didn't know, and I realized after we started that I should have checked their bibs to see if they were running the half or the 5k. There aren't any usable out and backs to check your position after the first mile or so, which meant that I spent most of the race unsure of my position.

The first few miles were actually pretty tough. I felt very strange: my legs felt stiff, my quads were almost immediately sore, and I was running with a weird gait, like I couldn't get any leg swing at all. I attribute that to a poor warm-up - I should have gone longer, and shouldn't have stopped so far before the start. And I need to do strides or something faster, so I don't start fast on stiff legs and get sore right away! But the real reason it was tough was the wind. The first miles were really, really windy. Luckily, when we turned onto St. Charles avenue, it turned more gusty, so we got some relief, although it still wasn't pretty. By then, we were starting to sort our overall positions out. But how? I knew Michelle was the fastest girl out there, and was too far ahead for me to even see (she went on to win in 1:23 on a windy day). I could see Morgan in front of me, and she had a bicycle pacer. Hmmm...she must be third? Meanwhile, I could sense another woman nearby but behind me. I could tell by her breathing and footfalls that she was a woman, so that was nerve-wracking.

And then...disaster! My Garmin was kind of useless already, since it usually reads downtown really wacky thanks to the tall buildings, but I wanted to use it for mile splits, since there were mile markers on the course, but no clocks. However, at mile 3 it beeped "low battery" and...then I couldn't get the "low battery" message off the screen. It froze. Meanwhile, the watch kept working for miles, all the way to mile ten I think, with mile splits beeping, but frustratingly hidden under the frozen message on the screen! So, I was on my own. No problem: I'd go by feel. I plugged awkwardly down St. Charles and into the park, my favorite part: home turf! I run here all the time! And I saw my friends Melissa, Christine, and Caroline here. They cheered for me and Melissa told me, "You can catch her!", pointing to Morgan. And sure enough, the gap between us was shrinking. We were at nine miles shortly after leaving the park, but I realized that rather than passing Morgan, I was about to get passed myself! Girl Behind Me and her male pacer were hot on my heels! Sure enough, by ten, they whizzed by me, and then Morgan, who was only a few yards ahead of me by then. In a minute, I was past Morgan, too, offering encouragement. We followed that pattern for a mile and a half, but then behind me I heard a guy talking to Morgan. A friend had jumped in with her and, invigorated, she sped up - and passed me back! By now my Garmin was long-dead and I had no clue my pace or position. But whatever position I was in, I didn't want to give it up to Morgan. I also felt like I was slowing down, and needed to speed up, hoping to at least snag a post-surgery record, since I thought PR was out of the question. I held back momentarily, but at mile twelve, I made another move and pulled even with Morgan. We neared the windy final mile almost even.

I love how the Jazz half course ends: you turn off Saint Charles Avenue onto Lee's Circle, take the first exit, then turn right for a straight shot to the finish at about 12.8 miles. Your last turn gives you ample time to see the finish line and gain some speed (I hate courses that turn at like mile 13.0 and give you no time for a hard finish). As we headed into those final turns, I cut the tangents sharply, laid on the gas, and left Morgan behind. Soon I could see the finish, and could hear the announcer call the second female. Second! So I would be third! That is - IF I could hold off Morgan's finishing sprint! Well aware of my slow kick, I started sprinting at once. I looked up and saw the clock was still at 1:29 as I approached and I was shocked: I thought I was closer to 1:32. It's tough to judge pace in the wind. I was elated to finish in 1:29:18, having made all three of my race goals: PR, break 1:30, and place in the race. Morgan was right behind me in 1:29:25!
Second and third female - yes, I tried to recruit her to our running group
I'm very happy with this result, since I am mid-marathon training and my "taper" was taking Friday off after running every day this week, including 12 miles with seven hard on Tuesday and an eight mile tempo on Thursday. At some point, I'd like to actually train specifically for a half, and at that point I'd want to get low 1:28, high 1:27. But for now, I'm just glad to have the 90-minutes monkey off my back!

(Meanwhile, in Garmin-ville, I did figure out how to reboot this screen, which is what came up when I plugged it in:

But my race record is just gone. It won't file transfer, but it also doesn't even show up in my activity history on the watch. Luckily, the race has some timing mats, and I think they give an accurate picture of my race pacing...

I think maybe I race BETTER without a watch?!)


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  2. Congratulations from a lurker & fellow New Orleanian!!! (They still call it Lee Circle, even after the statue removal? I don't live there anymore so I don't know, but I've been wondering about that!)

    1. Honestly, we're all confused and no one knows WHAT to call it. But there has been no official name change yet. Thanks for the congratulations!

  3. What an exciting race report! Nice racing - probably better without a watch when you're going for place rather than plain old time. Beat a teammate? That's just business :) was it her first half marathon?

    1. No, but she's new to our group (and so am I!) so, while she beat me soundly at the 2-mile, I wasn't sure what her half marathon was like.

  4. Wow - congratulations! What an amazing feeling to do that in the midst of marathon training!

    Excited to see what you do in Houston!

  5. I was so excited when I saw this on Instagram. I think that the lack of pressure (last-minute race, not much taper) helped you perform at your best. Bummer about not having the data, though!

  6. Wow, way to go! That's awesome that you PR'd! just think what you could do when the weather is optimal! The Garmin thing would have really bothered me! It's good that you had some other female leads to pass/keep up with to help you stay on pace!

  7. Woot! Congrats! Sometimes a useless watch can be good. I remember getting a massive 5k PR with a hidden watch.