As I sit here trying to write this post I'm starting to tear up. If you follow my Instagram and/or my blog you know that I have been trying to PR the half since I set my PR of 1:44.49 in 2016. But year after year and race after race I failed to take down that PR. Each race something went wrong. I'd get injured before the race or on the course and my confidence was shot. Meanwhile, my full marathon PR from May of 2016 was also still standing and the same issues were happening in each full I attempted. But this past Sunday I finally put that all to rest when I finished the Rock n' Roll New Orleans half marathon in 1:41.21, with a nearly 3 minute 30 second PR, no injuries, and the confidence I need heading into Cleveland Marathon training (if you want to join me, use code HK2019 for 10% off).
Back in November, after my hamstring injury in NYC, I decided to sign up for the half in Nola in the hopes of running a half PR enroute to a full PR in Cleveland this May. After taking time off to recovery from the injury and slowly getting back into it, I basically had about 6-7 weeks to get ready for this half.
So what did I do differently this time around? As I've been hinting in past training updates, I've finally found the key to getting faster: Training slower. Yes it seems counterintuitive but it works. By slowing down my easy and recovery run paces, I'm actually recovering from my harder training runs so that I am fresh when I tackle my workouts. On top of that I've been running appropriate paces for the times I need to hit so that I'm not killing myself. I feel good all the time and I nail every workout. All of that led me to a big PR in Nola--something I was unable to do in the past three years of training despite trying all kinds of different workouts and training programs.
On race morning, I woke up and did a light jog to the start line with the 2 girls I came to Nola with. We hopped into the corrals shortly after getting there and I focused on my music, reviewed my race strategy, and prepared myself for the distance. I was in the back of the first corral so after the national anthem and the elites took off, so did we.
My miles were supposed to go as follows: 7:55, 7:50, 7:50, 7:45, 7:40, 7:35, 7:30, 7:30, 7:30, 7:30, 7:25, 7:25, 7:20. I tried to stay as close to the paces as possible in the early miles, although I ended up running each of the first 3-4 a few seconds faster to make sure I was going through the actual mile markers at the time (as my watch was registering the miles early).
Mile 1-3 felt amazing. I stayed controlled and let everyone else go out too fast. I got into my head a little before I had to drop into the 7:40s for mile 4 but I told myself it was just a hair faster and I relaxed into it. I also saw my friend/coach Lindsey on the other side of the out and back around mile 4 and I rode that high for a while.
As I approached mile 6, I started to get into my own head knowing I was about to drop into my goal half pace. The miles suddenly felt hard and I could feel the doubts creeping in. I reminded myself of all of the times I hit those paces on tired legs and that it was just 5 seconds faster. With that, I dropped to 7:30 and pushed on. Unfortunately, at that point, the beautiful overhanging tree blocked the satellites and my watch couldn't register the paces. I tried to run on feel and keep with runners around me who seemed to be staying consistent.
The lack of the watch messed with my head and I spent most of miles 6-9 fighting my doubts and hoping my paces were close to correct. I still felt pretty good and with each mile, a little more confidence crept in. Around mile 10 I felt myself slipping a bit into that hyponatremic state I've felt at races before, but I was able to do the math and I knew that even if I had to slow down, I'd end up with a PR.
At 11 I could tell I definitely was hyponatremic and backed off just a bit more. While my legs felt that they could have pushed to the goal paces, at this point I knew I had a big PR and didn't want to blow up or collapse and lose it. I went through 11 at a 7:57. For 12 and 13 I knew I could push it to the finish so I picked the pace back up and around 12.7, I could see where the finish was. I had a bit of tunnel vision from the hyponatremia but I knew I had enought to get to the end. I pushed it down the finishing stretch to where I could see Lindsey and my other friend Kati waiting just across the line. I crossed the finish with my arm up and tears in my eyes. The 2016 half PR had finally fallen.
After the race I had a quick trip the medical tent for some broth to get my electrolytes back up but I bounced back quickly. After the panic from that wore off and the PR set in, I felt myself tearing up again. It simply didn't feel real that I finally PR-ed the half. I felt great after the race and found myself quickly feeling anxious to race another half and try to get my sub 1:40 (with proper hydration this time). I celebrated during the rest of the trip with Lindsey and Kati and we ate a lot of good food :).
I'm already back to training for the Cleveland Marathon as the half marathon was really like a big workout in the middle of marathon training and my legs are feeling amazing post- half PR. After seeing what this new training can do in a half on 6-7 weeks of training, I cannot wait to see what several months of training will do for me in the Cleveland full. In the meantime, I will continue to work on my pacing--likely in some half marathons at goal marathon pace--to really lock in my pacing strategies before May, and of course I will be figuring out how to prevent getting hyponatremic again. But for the immediate future, I will continue to ride that PR high!