Race Report: Just a Short Run

I know this race was a handful of weeks ago, but The Lady and I had a pretty important event (and subsequent weeklong vacation) to attend to.

But more on that later. So, Just A Short Run!

This event has been a favorite of both The Lady’s and myself for the last four years. The event has four distinct distances, providing everyone with something they can run: a 5K, an 8.1-miler, a half marathon, and a 30K. Back in 2011, we both ran the 8.1-miler; every year since then we’ve done the half marathon (with the exception of 2013, which I missed due to the event overlapping with Easter weekend). In fact, longtime readers of my internet blathering can read my post on the 2012 JaSR, in which I set a 1:43:51 half-marathon PR that subsequently stood for two years.

Needless to say, I’ve been hankering to bust that PR. And given how promising this past March was, I was very optimistic I could do it this year.

Since this event was a mere week out from our impending nuptials, The Lady and I dressed for the occasion.

It was extra motivation to hit our goals for the race: The Lady was gunning for a 7:49 min/mi, which would make her eligible to apply for a seeded position at the Pittsburgh half-marathon in early May. I was aiming for a 7:30 pace (1:38ish) as my A-goal, sub-1:40 as my B-goal. Before anyone asks: to be eligible to apply for a seeded position at the Pittsburgh half, I would have to run one with a 6:49 min/mi average. Yeahhh. That’s still a ways off. 10K, absolutely! 😛

We arrived the morning of the race with a friend of ours, Devin (who some may recognize from our Ragnar DC team), who is also training for the Pittsburgh half.

Racers ready to go.
Racers ready to go.

Devin was “only” running the 8.1-miler, so at the starting line he stayed near the back (after we wished him good luck) while we moved to the front.

And lo and behold: a 1:40 pace group! I got pretty excited. The Lady, unfortunately, had to run her race by herself, as she was aiming for a 1:42 and none of our usual running buddies were at the race. We wished each other good luck, and soon enough, the race began.

The pace group was small; not surprising, given the race itself is only a couple thousand people, plus 1:40 is pretty quick (honestly I wasn’t expecting any pace groups under 1:50; I kind of assumed you were on your own at that point!). The group, however, was very fluid: runners would pull up, drop off, and speed away as the miles ticked off. I focused on sticking with the pacer the whole time.

7:36, 7:20, 7:34

We finished the first 5K in 23:23, which is actually a 1:38 half marathon. We were going way too fast. The pacer apologized and reined things in a bit more. This I appreciated: apparently the pacers got a stern talking-to after the Spring Thaw, which saw quite a few of them finishing way ahead of their scheduled times. We even passed Kevin Smith (race director) along the way, and he emphasized “plus or minus 10 seconds!” as we went by.

The group also asked about my shirt, and both laughed and congratulated me on the impending wedding. As the race went on, folks who had started behind and caught up to the group (re: aforementioned fluidity of the pace group) informed me they’d seen my “runaway bride” behind me. In some cases, I simply heard some people laugh out loud as I passed them and they read the bib on the back of my shirt (they were running the 30K and had been passed by both of us).

7:41, 7:38, 7:34, 7:42

I was still feeling pretty good, but there was an ache in my legs that I didn’t like. I’d had an amazing week of training, but this wasn’t a good sign. I was starting to feel some fatigue creep in at the same mileage marker as the Spring Thaw, and yet I was worried: 1) I wasn’t running quite as fast, and 2) I had an additional 3.1 miles to go on top of what I did at Spring Thaw. I focused on staying in a rhythm and shutting up my brain.

The main course of this race (or at least, the last 10 miles of the total 13.1) is the same 5-mile loop as the Spring Thaw, just in the reverse direction. The course is rolling, so if you don’t like hills at all you won’t enjoy this course. The hills aren’t impossible, but you can’t ignore them entirely.

7:36, 7:45, 7:40

Yeah, I was definitely hurting. At this point the pacer and I were pretty much the only ones left in the group, the others having taken off or dropped back. He and I chatted a little bit, and I mentioned I was aiming for my first half marathon PR in two years (and in four attempts, including this one). He told me that at this point in the race, I could do 8:30s and still beat my previous time.

In retrospect, I kinda wish he hadn’t said that. Check out my next two miles:

7:49, 8:19

I was hurting, but mentally I was hurting even more. At Spring Thaw I had people around me constantly urging me on (I channeled Mark’s presence and made sure I stuck with the tangents of the course); here, I was given a mental “out.” The hills beat me up and I let them. I tried to give my all in the last couple of miles, but my kick was pretty weak:

7:49, 7:25 (last 0.1)

Nevertheless, the pacer was absolutely right: I PR’d the shit out of this race.

Definitely still fist-pump worthy.
Definitely still fist-pump worthy.

My official chip time was 1:41:36, a PR by over two full minutes. I finally set a new half marathon PR!

The Lady came in a mere 40 seconds behind me, nailing her goal time on its head and making her eligible to apply for a seeded position.

Runaway bride and groom!
Runaway bride and groom!

One other small tidbit. This race is Elite Runners’ flagship event each year, and therefore its biggest. To say the field is deep is an understatement: we’ve only just started winning age group awards in the last couple years, and it’s always by the skin of our teeth. The running scene here in Pittsburgh is competitive, but frankly we love it because it really sets the bar high and pushes us to work harder.

And yet, The Lady won 2nd in her age group, and I won 1st! We couldn’t believe it. We didn’t even realize it until we’d left and checked the results from home. We still haven’t picked up our awards yet, but rest assured, we certainly will!

This race was awesome. Yes, I was disappointed that I missed both my A-goal and my B-goal, but I still PR’ed by over two minutes and set a PR for the first time in two years. This distance has been particularly frustrating over the last two years due to numerous setbacks: I imploded at the Pittsburgh half in 2012, was accidentally diverted onto the marathon course at Air Force later that same year, missed both the JaSR and the Pittsburgh half in 2013, and wasn’t in prime running condition for Air Force 2013. Needless to say, I was pretty excited with this; I’ll get to my sub-1:40 soon enough!

Pretty badass medal!
Pretty badass medal!