Man oh man friends.
This weekend was beyond epic. First, in case you haven’t seen it yet, I’m famous. I mean, I’m not, but my mom thinks so, so, that’s the same.
Second…Saturday I ran my 7th half marathon.
Over a year ago I decided that a sub 2 hour half marathon was within reach. My fastest half was a 2:04 in that hilly beast Central Park, so I knew I with the right training I had it in me. My last half was in Brooklyn last year with Nate. It was his first, neither of us had trained SUPER well, and he has one kidney, so bathroom stops were inevitable. We finished in 2:13, which was fine – I was really proud of him for running a half, but after that race I wanted a sub-2 even more.
Despite the fact that I ran multiple sub 2 halfs during marathon training runs, none of them were actual races, so they didn’t count. I need a chip and a timer, thank you very much. I was scheduled to run the Bronx half in August, and then we had a little hurricane.
Way back in the fall when Ashley, Theodora and Beth started chatting about the DC half, I decided I wanted to join them. I remember hearing/reading about the National Half last year, I had never been to DC and thought this would be a perfect excuse to spend the weekend with friends in a new city…and it was time for this PR.
In January, I enlisted my trusty run coaches and enrolled them in my goal. I took my training seriously, stepped up my cross-training game. I did speedwork. I ran Harlem Hill repeats. I did a lot of things right. I also missed a few speedwork sessions. I cut 2 long runs short in the last month. I definitely didn’t slack, but I didn’t follow my training plan 100%. I’d say I followed it about 85%. But I still felt pretty good going into Saturday.
(thanks for the photo Ash!)
I knew from the beginning that it wouldn’t be about the physical battle. Yes it would be physically hard, but I’ve gotten used to pushing myself really hard. Racing has become so much more of a mental battle for me. I doubt my abilities, wonder if my training will be enough, doubt whether I have what it takes. Wonder if I’m fast enough, strong enough, la la la.
Thursday I met with Jessica (my run coach) and we decided my two goals were to have fun and to finish under 2 hours. We came up with a plan – 8:45-8:50 miles for miles 1-6ish, when the hills start. 9:10-9:15 miles for miles 6-9ish, the hilliest miles of the course. Miles 9-13.1 were going to be whatever I had left. I felt good, but nervous.
Saturday morning as I started running I decided two things. First, I was going to push myself to my limit. I didn’t want to finish this race feeling like I could have gone harder, could have given more. I wanted to feel completely spent. Second, I decided I was going to push all negativity out of my head.
So I headed out. Throughout the race I periodically checked my Garmin to make sure I was somewhere around an 8:50 pace, but mostly I tried to clear my mind. I imagined this was just going to be a long training run. I tried to relax and enjoy it.
The first 2-3 miles were mentally tough. I wasn’t used to going out at a sub 9 pace at the start of a long run. I immediately started to question whether I would be able to maintain this for 13 miles. But then I remembered my no negativity rule, so I told myself, “Caitlin, you got this. You are going to do this” and kept going.
Around mile 2.5 a song came on my playlist that reminded me of Nate. I thought about Chicago, when he jumped in and ran with me, and how unbelievably supportive he is of me. (*And that’s when this little story gets cheeseballs, so feel free to stop reading at any time. But this is when I pictured him running with me. And this is also when I decided to employ a tactic I’ve heard of many times but never actually tried – I decided to imagine a different person running with me every mile to help pass the time. I pictured Nate, I pictured my run coaches, I pictured my running buddies, my favorite spin instructors– all people who motivate and inspire me, who see something in me when I can’t see it in myself, who make me believe that I can do anything. And you know what? It flipping worked. It not only helped the miles tick by, but I really felt like I had the support of these people the whole way. *end of cheeseball rant. You can keep reading now. )
As for the run? It was great. I got to run by lots of cool DC spots, although some of the hills SUCKED big time. I felt really well prepared. I ate lots of delicious carbs the night before. I drank tons of water and no alcohol. I drank an entire bottle of water Saturday morning. I stopped at every other water station, and took 3 Honey Stingers at miles 4,7 and then 2 more at mile 10.
By the time I got to mile 9-10, I realized that not only was I likely going to go sub 2, but I could hit 1:55. So I kept pushing. I kept making myself as uncomfortable as I thought I could sustain. Miles 11 and 12 were really uncomfortable. Weird things were going on with my right hip/hip flexor, and I started to get nervous that something was going to go really wrong. 13-13.1 was just mean. I knew I was so close but yet couldn’t see the finish, so I kept pushing as hard as I could and had no concept of how close I was to the finish. Finally it came into view and as I stopped my watch and caught my breath, I couldn’t believe it. Not only had I run a sub 2, I’d run a sub 1:55. I finished in 1:53:25.
And then we celebrated. Rooftop beers and green margaritas.
And while yes it feels amazing to have this amazing PR that I’ve been after for over a year and that 4-5 years ago I would never have imagined was possible, there’s something so much bigger for me in this race. This is what happens when you go for a goal with everything that you have. This is what happens when you put literally everything you have on the line for something that you really, truly want. Whatever your goal – running or fitness goals, weight loss, even career or personal goals - if you go after it with everything you have and don’t let negativity anywhere near you, anything is possible.