As you know, yesterday Bo and I ran the Geneva Half Marathon. While the weather was completely miserable, the race itself was pretty wonderful. I learned a great deal and I was able to run the race faster than last year.
Going into yesterday’s half marathon, neither Bo nor I had a time goal. Instead, the race was all about being smart and following the plan Jess prescribed. Having a coach is cost I choose to incur each month because I know that she is an expert who can help me become a smarter, stronger runner. However, the partnership isn’t worth it if I choose not to listen to the coach.
Old habits do not die easily.
If you’ve been a reader for more than a hot second, you know that my race day mantra has been “run hard and hold on for dear life” for years. Even when coaches and friends would suggest starting slow, I’d laugh and secure a new PR by running as fast as possible before completely tanking. Sometimes that resulted in dehydration, completely bonking or just being sore and miserable for the last few miles.
Yesterday’s race was the first race where I finished the race smiling because I followed the plan written on my wrist perfect for as long as possible. Sticking to the plan, though it wasn’t easy to start out conservative, allowed me to run my second fastest half marathon.
On paper, yesterday’s race plan was pretty simple:
- Miles 1-5: 8:50 – 9:10
- Miles 6-10: 8:40 – 9:00 (not too fast on the downhill portion)
- Miles 11-13: 8:45 – 8:55
While the route seemed a bit different than last year, it was overall a very similar course. The first six miles are rolling hills, then around mile 6.75 a steep decline begins as we head down towards the lake. Jess warned me not to burn out my legs by running too fast on the downhill. Once we reach the lake, it’s a final five miles of relatively flat running along the lake and through Geneva’s city center.
We left our house around 7:15 in order to meet Mary, one of our friends who was also running the half. As it was already pouring, we took shelter in the corporate sponsor area where we were able to stay dry while stretching and waiting for the start. Each of us was nervous about the conditions, but instead of stressing out we reminded each other that there was nothing we could do to control the weather. The only thing we could do was trust the training, watch out for big puddles and smile!
Due to the rain, I went with trusted gear that I knew would be comfortable even in the rain. My outfit was perfect as I didn’t chafe or over heat. I sported New Balance Fresh Foam Boracay shoes, Balega socks, Lululemon Run Inspire Mesh crops, New Balance Shapely Shaper Bra, and Athleta Running Hat (similar). I tied my hair back in a braid to reduce knots, and skipped makeup and lotion. The last thing I wanted was to be annoyed with running makeup or lotion during the race due to the rain.
At 8:20 we braved the weather and exited the warmth in order to take our place in the corrals before the 8:30 start. It was clear that we would be running 13.1 miles in torrential rains instead of the predicted drizzle. Even the local jazz band, which frequents the start of many Geneva races, was hiding from the elements at a nearby gas station.
Even though it was pouring, the starting line energy was wonderful. They released us in waves, starting exactly at 8:30. Within five minutes, our wave was crossing the starting line.
Since Bo knew that I have failed at all prior attempts to stick with a race plan, he used the Garmin and kept track of our pace. My only job was to run next to him and take in the scenery. I don’t have many pictures due to the pouring rain, so instead I’ll give you a rundown of each chunk of the race, comparing my paces with the prescribed pace.
PLAN: Miles 1-5: 8:50 – 9:10
Due to the puddle jumping, crowded course and narrow first two miles the first few miles felt far tougher than the pace reflects. We know that weaving wastes energy but there were people in front and around us who were walking and jogging at slow paces. We took the risk and weaved for the first mile before settling in, on the left side of the course. Every few minutes I’d ask Bo about our pace, to which he’d respond that we were on pace. As the pace felt tough, I kept secretly hoping he’d tell me that we were going faster than plan. I focused on finding a groove, and once I did, the miles clicked by pretty quickly as we ran through the area where we completed each of our three long runs. The route was a bit different than our weekend route, but overall the scenery was similar. We each took three Margarita Shot Blocks at mile 5, in addition to the swig of water we took each mile.
PLAN: Miles 6-10: 8:40 – 9:00
Mile 6: 9:07
Mile 7: 9:11
Mile 8: 8:43
Mile 9: 9:16
Mile 10: 9:43
Mile six,was our most difficult mile as it was on a dirt path that, due to the weather and number of runners, was now nothing but mud and deep puddles. The mud was so deep that people were slipping and falling as well as running into each other to avoid the deep spots. It felt like running through a mix of rocks and quicksand. Even though we ran a 9:07 this mile felt more like an 8:06 from an exertion standpoint. Miles seven and eight were a welcome relief, back on asphalt. I was hoping that we could make up time on the downhill portion to offset our two miles which were above 9:00. However, as we started striding, Bo and I both decided to be smart and not burn our quads out on the downhill, following Jess’ instructions. As we hit the lakefront at mile nine, I started to lose energy, just like last year. My legs were tired, and my breathing was completely erratic. Bo kept telling me to just focus on long, deep breaths. I refilled my water bottle and ate three more Shot Blocks at the mile nine water station, hoping the extra hydration and fuel would help. Unlike many races, I didn’t let myself walk. Instead, I told Bo that while my pace may slow, I would keep moving forward. I wanted to do my best to hit Jess’ prescribed paces, but it was frustrating to know I was slower than the recommended pace. He kept reminding me to breathe through any negative thoughts and push forward. Right about this same time we saw our friend Amy cheering loudly for us from under her umbrella! This gave me a short burst of energy. A few minutes later, right around mile 9.75 Bo’s left quad completely seized up. He told me to continue along, and he’d try to catch up after stretching.
Plan: Mile 11-13 8:45 – 8:55
Mile 11: 9:48
Mile 12: 9:28
Mile 13: 9:35
These final miles were a mix of success and defeat. In prior races, I would have used Bo’s quad as an excuse to walk and take a break. Instead, I pushed on, slowly but surely. I couldn’t see or hear my Nike + as it tracked the miles. I just focused on moving forward as fast as possible. Filled with water and covered in mud, my shoes felt like lead weights at the end of my legs. To make matters worse, these miles weave through the Geneva city center, around multiple turns and corners, across cobblestones, and right past the finish line. The course cruelly looped us down the lake for another mile, before we headed back towards the finish. It’s pure evil to see the finish line so close yet so far away. I wanted to headphones, but I was worried that my wet hands and the heavy rain would mess up my iPhone if I tried to open the Ziplock bag. Instead, I did my best to remember lyrics and sing random songs to myself such as Sweet Home Alabama, Ironic, My Girl, and Call Me Maybe. (In case you didn’t know, I barely know the lyrics to songs.) This tactic didn’t exactly work in boosting my paces, as you can see from the above. As we turned towards the finish line, my legs were so tired that I didn’t even have energy for a final sprint. As I heard our friend Lauren screaming, I mustered a wave and ran by, ready to be finished.
We did it! Finishing just a minute apart, we finished the Geneva Half Marathon! It was Bo’s first half marathon in 2.5 years, after multiple knee injuries! While the final three miles didn’t go as I hoped, it was a great experience! I followed the plan for as long as possible, and ran my 2nd fastest half. I have a lot of room for improvement, but yesterday helped me understand the value of sticking with a plan.
The key things I want to build into future training are longer training runs. Our longest training run was ten miles, and this coincides with where the pace started to fall apart yesterday. I think as my legs get accustomed to longer distances, it will help on race day. Otherwise, the only other things that would have helped yesterday are better weather and a waterproof iPhone case. But, since we can’t manage the weather, I’ll start doing research on the former!