This was the 6th Half Marathon event I have ran, and it was my fastest yet. I've been chasing a PR in this distance for almost 2 years since running 1:44:54 (8:00 pace) at a half in San Francisco in February 2006. I've trained for and ran a half marathon both summers since but never even got close. This last July when I ran 1:46:33 I was especially disappointed since I really thought I had it in me. This time I wasn't nearly as focused on the half as a "goal race" - I just incorporated it into my Pfitzinger marathon training program for my December marathon. I've been running really strong and maybe the lack of pressure was just what I needed.
I ran an 11 miler on Thursday before the race at an 8:00 average pace, and it wasn't that hard, so I knew I was in shape to PR. But I definitely know anything can happen so I was prepared to make it a marathon-pace run if I didn't have the speed I'd need. I ran a short 4 miles Friday and rested Saturday. Sunday morning Zach dropped me off at the race staging area in dowtown Danville for my 7:30 start (he was going to the finish area and running the 5k- check out his race report). I warmed up with a half mile or so and waited. It was perfectly cool - 50's- and the field was small but friendly and fast.
The gun went off (literally, yikes!) right on time and we were off. I felt very good and went through mile 1 in 7:55- perfect. We were running through the pretty tree-lined neighborhood streets in Danville for the first several miles, looping around through parks and up long but gentle hills. The rest of my splits kept coming in right on pace: 8:04, 8:07, 7:56, 7:54, 7:59, 7:54, 7:57. I was running strong, but was starting to feel a little tired and was breathing kinda hard. But I was in my range of comfort and never needed to walk or anything. I knew I could keep going. Finally we turned onto the Iron Horse trail, where I do nearly all my training. I got a cup of water at a water stop and walked a few steps- the only walking I did for the whole race. Mile 9 and 10 were 16:10- 8:05 average (missed a marker). I went through mile 10 marker at exactly 1:20:00 (8:00 pace).
That's when I broke out of my comfort level and went for it. We join up on the streets on San Ramon with the 5k (walkers at this point) for the final miles. It was kinda nice to be passing the hordes of strollers and families walking because it was distracting me from my heavy breathing and heavy legs. Seemed like there were only a few half marathoners on the outside lane with me, and I was passing them all. I saw Zach with a mile or so to go and he jumped in and ran with me, which was awesome. My final three miles were 7:46, 7:41, and 8:13 for the final 1.1 (7:24 pace). The final 5k split was 23:40 (7:37 pace).
Finish time 1:43:40 (7:55 pace).
3rd place in 19-29 Age Group out of 20.
21st female overall out of 195.
100th finisher overall out of 418.
I got my finisher medal and then Zach pointed out that I won a special tech shirt for being among the top 25 women! It was actually two shirts- a long sleeve and a short sleeve, and really nice Brooks running shirts. We stood around talking about our races- Zach had a huge breakthrough in the 5k - then they posted the results. Zach got 3rd in his AG! As we waited for him to get his medal, I saw my results and couldn't believe I got 3rd in my AG also! We both proudly received our medals and got a picture.
What an awesome day. I really feel like I earned this PR, and it feels great to finally get it. I have 6 weeks of training left until the Cal International Marathon in Sacramento, where I plan to set another PR. I have a lot of work to do but this mid-training confidence boost is definitely going to get me through. :)