This year, I ran Bahamas Half Marathon in January and was on track for breaking my 2:04:16 PR (set at the 2013 Schaumburg Turkey Trot) until bathroom issues caught up to me. Mike suggested I look at running a new race out in St. Charles, run by the same group that organized the Fox Valley Marathon that I ran back in 2011. The PR Half Marathon was designed to be a great course of setting a personal best. The course was four loops of just over 3 miles, and they offered an “Elite Bottle Station” where you could pick up and drink your own sports drink you brought — no having to worry about gatorade versus water!
Anyway, I’ve been training for the past 16 months under Keith at Wellfit. Last year I was chipping away at my times, and this year we’ve really hammered hard and I had seen some CRAZY gains at the Shamrock Shuffle. I was curious to see what was in the bank for this half marathon, but also didn’t want to get my hopes up too much.
Race day morning came around. We stayed up in Geneva the night before so we wouldn’t have an hour+ drive before the 6:30 AM race start. It was a chilly morning, 37 degrees, and I did my warmup in full jacket and coverup pants.
Fog rising off of the Fox River, pre-race.
I dilly-dallied on getting going with my pre-race warmup, and when I finished I heard that we had two minutes left before the race start. And I still had a bathroom break before I’d be ready! I basically stripped off the jacket and pants as I ran from that final port-a-potty stop to the race start, started my watch up, and began the race!
Loop 1: The first 3.25 miles I intended to settle in, and get to my target race pace. I was targeting 9:05 since I knew that would get me a sub-2 hour finish, so this loop I’d planned to be just above that. Whoops. I was pretty much at that pace, and felt great. I chatted with different people and tried to find a pace I could settle into and hold. By the end of the loop I found it, pretty much running with/ trailing the guy in the red shirt you see below. Usually I was just behind him, having him manage the pace, and only got in front of him when he’d slow down past 9:05 pace. He didn’t like being passed, so he’d speed up and get in line again 🙂
Lap 2: This was where I wanted to intentionally target the 9:05 pace. Red shirt guy was making that pretty easy and was just around a 9:00 pace. Running is still feeling pretty easy going, and I’m enjoying myself and the beautiful river that we’re running along. When we pass the start/finish area on each loop, my personal bottles are on a table to grab, so I get a few gulps of my favorite sports drink and then throw the bottle to the side before heading on out for the next lap. I never break stride when doing this.
Lap 3: Still following behind Red Shirt guy. We’ve sped up to what I think are averaging as 8:55s or so, and again, still feeling pretty good. The kind of low-ish effort that I’m not super afraid of it as we speed up, or if a mile is even lower than 8:50 or so.
Lap 4: Final Lap! I felt good going into this lap, so I start trying to figure out when I really make my move. At mile 11, Red shirt guy slows past an 8:50 pace, so I decide to pass him. I tell him to follow me now, but I don’t think he was able to keep up. I know exactly what I’m in for on the lap, so I am thinking about what the next sight I’ll see is, and how it will be the last time. Pushing it that last mile. As we approach the finish line, I see a time I couldn’t really imagine. Is this actually happening?!!!
And it did!!! I finished with an official time of 1:56:44, breaking the 2 hour mark by 3 minutes and PR’ing by 7 minutes! I can’t believe it! But I’m not doubting my watch this time 🙂 I loved how the race had a “PR Bell” for you to ring if you set a personal record at the race 🙂
We hung out for a while to cheer people on, and for me to get stretched out. While I was running, I had felt my right ITB a little bit, and just talked to it and acknowledged it but never slowed down. So I wanted to make sure I stretched out properly after the race. And they had 3 athletic trainers/massage therapists for the 300 runners, WTF?! I waited barely 60 seconds for the stretching. They were great.
Mike and I headed afterward to a much-recommended brunch place in Geneva called Buttermilk. They had an awesome gluten-free menu, and delicious coffees and mimosas. If you’re out in Geneva, try this place out!
Looped Races: Boring or a recipe for success?