This morning I woke up bright and early for the Semi-Marathon de La Cote. I signed up for this half a few months ago when I saw that it was on the same day that my training plan called for 13 miles. Since this was the race’s inaugural year, I didn’t know what to expect. However, the website promised gorgeous views during the point to point run from from Allaman to Nyon.Since my starting block didn’t start until 10:39, I was able to sleep until 7:30. I spent the next 45 minutes foam rolling, stretching, sipping Nuun and coffee, and making sure I had all my gear. Mary volunteered to meet me at the train station and spend the morning cheering along the course. We spent the 30 minute train ride catching up while I enjoyed my banana, oats and the last of my Whole Foods Almond Butter.
We arrived at the starting area with 30 minutes to spare (i.e. perfect timing). The weather was cool, 60 degrees and a bit overcast, which is perfect running weather in my opinion. Mary hugged me goodbye and headed back to the train so she could cheer further along the course. Luckily she made some friends on her way back to the train station.
After saying goodbye, I ended up making friends with some guys from Geneva Runners before moving into my starting block area. The organizers did a great job with the starting area making sure there were plenty of bathrooms, clear signage for the bibs, bag storage, and the starting area. Like most other Swiss races, they also had a warm-up area where participants could participate in a dynamic warm-up. Each block started three minutes apart to keep the course from becoming too congested.
I used this race as another opportunity to test my marathon race day outfit. I’ll be wearing this entire outfit, from head to toe, in two weeks for the Berlin Marathon. It has served me very well! As the group before us crossed the starting line I realized I had three minutes to figure out how I wanted to treat the race. Would it be a long run or would I use it as a confidence booster? I knew that the course included a flat to downhill start followed by gentle rolling hills for the middle miles and a gradual climb between miles 8-10.
Instead of stressing out, I decided to take a deep breath and just let my body and legs choose for me. Instead of a time goal I vowed to do two things: not walk and not allow a 7 minute or 10 minute pace to show on my Garmin. Those are two paces that were far too fast or slow for a strong training run, regardless how strong or weak I felt.
At 10:39, on the dot, our group crossed the starting line.
The views were absolutely breath taking. I turned on my playlist and just let my legs and heart do the work. My legs felt incredible and I had to hold myself back when I saw the number 7 show up on my Garmin. I told myself that it was important to hold back if I wanted to last the entire half marathon.
The splits for first 5k, the downhill portion, were fast but manageable. I felt so good that I skipped the water station at the 5k point as I’d barely sipped any of my water. For the rest of the race I took water at each of the water stations, 10k and 15k.
Mile 1: 8:39
Mile 2: 8:41
Mile 3: 8:50
As I entered the middle miles I knew that I should see Mary once or twice and could use the rolling hills to slow my pace. The miles flew by as I spent time watching the right hand side of the road for Mary and enjoying the lake views as the path took us through small villages.
I saw Mary for the first time around mile 4, just past this sign. It was so fun hearing her scream my name and wave to her with a huge smile on my face. I felt absolutely fabulous!
I told her I’d see her farther up the course, continuing on along the gravel path. I recognized parts of the course such as Rolle, from day trips we’ve taken previously. The course didn’t have many spectators but there were always people in the small towns cheering from their door steps and windows.
Mile 4: 8:52
Mile 5: 9:11
Mile 6: 9:20
Mile 7: 9:23
Mile 8: 9:12
I started watching the right side of the course just past the 9 mile marker, knowing that Mary was going to cheer around the 15k point. I actually saw her before she saw me, noticing her Cigar City Brewing Company shirt out of the corner of my eye!
I still felt great at this point though I was starting to get quite hot. The course was now in the full sun, save for a few trees here and there. I told myself that this is when I typically become weak during a race, telling myself I need to walk. While I fully respect people who can walk run a race, today was a day when I wanted to prove I could run the entire course, pushing through the tough spots. I noticed the gentle climbs in my thighs and hamstrings but felt strong, considering my pace. Once passing Mary I knew that I only had 4 miles left, less than 40 minutes. In order to make sure I didn’t get into my head, I switched my Garmin to watch mode.
Mile 10: 9:37
Mile 11: 9:30
Mile 12: 9:22
Mile 13: 9:46
As I passed the 20k point I told myself not to start sprinting as I didn’t want to risk pulling or straining anything. The energy of the crowd pushed me through as I crossed into a small park and stadium, towards the finish line. I crossed the finish mat, pushing stop on my Garmin and then continuing through the finish line in search of some much needed water, banana, and medal.
I looked into the crowd, in exhaustion, to see that Bo and my co-worker Ema were cheering at the finish line. I was hot, sweaty and exhausted but my watch said 1:59:57! After years of months of hard work, I broke 2 hours.
According to DataSport, a few minutes later, I saw that my official time is 2:01:23. Note to self, do not stop until you cross all the finish mats. Oh well, 2:01:23 is a 2 minute PR versus the Geneva Half Marathon.
While some people said that racing a half isn’t smart just 2 weeks before Berlin Marathon, I know myself better than anyone else. This race was exactly the confidence booster I needed before the marathon. I didn’t walk one time, my fueling strategy worked perfectly, my music kept me motivated and anytime my body started to ache I reminded myself that it’s a normal feeling during a race.
Today I ran the strongest half marathon ever and I owe that to the Run Less, Run Faster training program and the motivation of all of you! You’ve told me that I’m stronger than I thought for years and finally, I believe that too!
Bring it on Berlin, I’m ready and more pumped than ever before!