Race recap: Charleston Half Marathon 2016
Well, this definitely wasn't the race I was hoping for and not the recap I really wanted to write, but sometimes races don't go the way we'd hoped. This was my fourth year at this race and it's always one of my favorites. Not only is it my adopted hometown race, but I've PR'd in it twice and ran it when I was pregnant with little B, so this race is a little sentimental for me.
The course is generally fast and flat (as long as there's no wind!), and because it's close to home the logistics are relatively easy and I get to sleep in my own bed the night before.
But wow, this year was a struggle.
I woke up with a rumbly stomach, but managed to eat and chalked it up to race day jitters. And then D, B and I headed downtown. My plan was to go out slower and pick up my pace as I went and/or felt like I could. I wasn't totally on board with race mode that morning and was struggling mentally to get my wits about me.
After standing in a way too long of a line for the bathrooms (they really need to get more porta potties next year), I headed to the starting line about 10 minutes before the race started.
My main goal was to run sub-1:50 with a stretch goal of 1:45. My fitness level says I should be able to hit that 1:45, but my body has been rebelling lately and I've had enormous amounts of stress that have really affected running and kept me from doing key workouts, so I was mentally defeated on that 1:45 before I even hit the starting line I think. But still, I optimistically (stupidly?) lined up slightly behind the 1:45 group. I didn't want to get swept up in running too fast with that group and pay for it later, but I also didn't want to start too slowly either.
The first four miles were around an 8:10 pace and I was feeling really good, which actually surprised me. But around mile 5, I just started to feel weak. My stomach was still rumbling, but nothing major. But because I was feeling weak, I decided to pull back my pace for a mile or two and recover a little, then try to pick it back up.
Unfortunately, I never could get my legs back under me and my pace never picked back up. There was a bit of a headwind for most of the course, but it wasn't nearly as bad as the one I dealt with the year I ran it pregnant.
By mile 9, I was just riding the struggle bus and holding on for dear life, knowing that all time goals, a PR, and even a course PR were out the window. At this point, I just wanted to finish under 2 hours. Ugh, ugh, ugh. So incredibly disappointing.
At mile 10, I did manage to pull myself together a little bit and I picked up my pace from the slog I had been going for the past few miles and finished the last 3 miles around a 9 minute pace. Ugh, again.
I crossed the finish line in 1:56:49, which was just a few seconds under my time from the first year I ran it back in 2013, which was my second half marathon ever. That year, I was thrilled with that time - to come in at sub-two hours after only about 6 months of running was awesome to me. And I executed a much better race that year, too, with much more even splits. To see that time on the clock this year was so disappointing.
But these things happen. I didn't have a great training cycle and I'm definitely suffering from mental burnout. As my coach reminded me, you can't miss a bunch of key workouts and have all of this stress, and just magically expect things to come together on race day. I know I'm a stronger runner than I was in 2013. I know I'm a stronger runner than most of my race times lately show. I also know that stress, sickness, work craziness, and life in general have really affected me. While it's not the way I wanted to kick off 2016, I sort of look at that race as the end of my fall 2015 racing season.
One of the reasons I may have ran so poorly is because sickness was knocking at my door. I just didn't know it at the time, but it probably explains why I felt weak. I got hit with a nasty cold on Sunday evening and Monday I felt like I got run over by a freight train. And I'm sure the wind had a little bit to do with it, but I really didn't think the wind was that bad, to be honest. I heard tons of runners and friends saying that they really struggled this year for some reason, most of them citing mile 8 or 9 as the breaking point. At least I wasn't alone.
I'm happy to close the books on another disappointing training cycle and just train without a specific long race in mind. I'm running some shorter distances - 5Ks and 10Ks - this spring, but I really want to focus on getting stronger and faster while maintaining my mileage base. Hopefully, B stops bringing home all of the germs from daycare.
It's time to just run because I love running and get my speed and strength (and mental state) back to a good place.