Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Carmel Half Marathon {A Race Recap}

In September 2010, I ran my third half marathon – Fort4Fitness – and posted a time of 1:54:12. It's a time that I have chased ever since, running a dozen or so more half marathons in the hopes of setting a new personal best. But between having babies and not finding my speed, I never quite got there.

On Saturday, though, on the roads of Carmel, I did.

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I got off work a bit early on Friday, and Mark met me at his parents' house with the kids. I nursed Si, offered some last-minute tips on getting him to sleep and fielded the 1,500 inquiries from Miles about when we were going to leave. I guess he was as antsy as I was to get the weekend started.

After a few hugs and reassurances from my in-laws that the boys would be fine, Mark and I began the two-hour or so drive to Carmel. I was rather impressed with us – we talked the whole way down and generally enjoyed each other's company. It's amazing the things you can discuss when you're not unlocking iPads and tossing toys in the backseat.

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Mark was so nice – he made me a bottle of strawberry lemonade Nuun to drink on the drive down.

The Carmel Marathon Expo took place at the Monon Community Center and, thank goodness, was open until 9 p.m. The process of picking up my bib was ridiculously smooth, and I was able to hit up the booths within a few minutes.

The race had long-sleeve shirts specific to each distance for sale, and each participant's name was printed on the back. It was a really neat idea, and I almost bought one – twice. Once at the expo and once after the race. Alas, I got a race shirt and don't really need another long-sleeve tech tee. #wompwomp

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There were quite a few races represented, too, and I had to stop myself from registering for a slew of fall half marathons. I'm currently torn between the Indy Women's Half in September and the Urban Bourbon Half (Louisville) in October.

By 7:50 p.m., Mark and I were on our way to the hotel, which was supposed to be just a few miles away. A 10-minute drive based on the directions I had printed out from Google.

Yeah. About that. It took us 40 effing minutes.

Between Google maps, 15,000 roundabouts, insane construction and misleading addresses, our drive to the hotel was ridiculous. At one point, I had a complete meltdown, screaming that the whole race was jinxed and we might as well turn around and go home. The struggle to find it was my biggest complaint of the weekend, and I think it would behoove the city of Carmel to make things easier for people visiting.

But 5 minutes later, we found the hotel and I was back to being happy. Mark massaged my calves and I drank lemon-lime Nuun and watched HGTV.

Race morning

I woke up at 5:40 to pump and get dressed so that I could hit up the hotel breakfast when it opened at 6 a.m. Because everyone is dying to know – I had a bagel, half with cream cheese and half with peanut butter.

Given our troubles with navigation the previous day, we left by 6:30 for the 7:30 race and arrived about 6:50.

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I was trying to be happy and positive but as the time approached to line up with the 1:55 pacer, an uneasy feeling in my stomach grew. It didn't help that I had been to the bathroom a lot that morning – enough to give me pause that my GI system could be the death of my race. After getting our bearings at the start/finish village, I headed to the port-o-potty line for insurance. It was long but I managed to find a shortish offshoot and get in and out OK.

Just then, the call was made to head to the corrals so I said goodbye to Mark, brushed off his remarks that he'd see me in an hour and 49 minutes and headed off.

The race

The goal for the day was to find the 1:55 pacer, hang with her until mile 9 and then drop her to make up some 48 seconds to PR.

The pacers were easy to find, holding signs with goal times and wearing brightly colored shirts with pacer on the back. There were quite a few in my area – a 3:45 pacer for the marathon, 1:55 and 2:00 for the half and 4:00 for the marathon.

The 3:45 pacer {Troy, I think} was chatting up his group, offering tips and underscoring the importance of hydration for the race as marathon finishers would see temps in the high 60s. My gal was chatting with a friend so I found myself eavesdropping and sort of wishing I was running with him.

In a mile or so, I would, as fate would have it.

When the gun went off and we all crossed the timing mats, I made it my business to stick to the 1:55 pacer like glue. She made quick business of getting through the crowds and getting on pace, about 8:42 to 8:45.

But as we made our way down East 126th Street and I tried to find my own space, I found that I dropped her. I didn't want to waste time or energy looking back or trying to find her again so I decided that I was just going to run my race.

I was going to do it smartly, though. So as I came up on the 3:45 group, I realized that it offered me the opportunity to run with a pace group, log consistent splits, get the support I needed and if I needed to rein it in later, I would.

Our/my splits for those first few miles were 8:32, 8:20, 8:39 and 8:29. Even though they were faster than goal pace, I tried to do two things: stay positive and focus on the now.

About mile 4, the half marathoners split from the full participants and I soon found myself on my own. I didn't anticipate that it would affect me but I felt a bit lonely as I made my way up the hill after the turnaround. I didn't have Troy offering tips on everything from water stations to potty stops nor how to shake things out if the body was feeling tight. I was grateful that I was able to see runners in the 2-hour and 2:10 groups as they headed to the split. I spotted my buddy Joe who was running the half with his daughter! Screaming like a wild woman and waving was a much needed boost as we made our way on to Limberlost Drive.

I had considered trying to slow a bit, getting my pace to the 8:40 range but I had settled in closer to the 8:30 range. Rather than fret about it, I repeated in my head the words from my friends who urged me to believe in myself and to stay positive. And when a negative thought tried to worm its way in, I told myself that BRF Tami said no to them and I had to listen. Apparently, I'm very obedient when I run.

Splits for miles 5-9: 8:19, 8:29, 8:23, 8:33 and 8:31

While I was happy with my splits, I told myself that I needed to stay strong through mile 10 and then I could re-evaluate the time on my watch, how I was feeling and how I wanted to handle the final 5K.

But as we left the section of the course (miles 8-9.5ish) on the shady Hagan-Burke Trail, the heat and effort began to take its toll. There was a water stop about mile 9.75, and I used it as an opportunity to take a gel, grab two cups (one to drink, one to toss on my head) and walk up a hill.

To this point, I had been carrying my 8-ounce Nathan Handheld, filled with Lemon-Lime Nuun. I had refilled it at mile 7, too. I felt like I was doing well with hydration but my face did feel a bit salty.

At the crest of the hill, I told myself that now was not the time to give in so I tossed my handheld (sad face) and began to run. "The wheels cannot come off," I thought. "Not now." And to help with this, I started singing in my head "The Wheels on the Bus."

Like you do.

My mile 10 split came in at 9:19. I tried not to get upset with myself, knowing that I should have enough time banked (especially with an 8:19 in mile 5) that I would be OK.

But the stretch on Old Meridian was hot. And hilly (at this point in the race). And I was tired. And I soon found myself walking again. I was so disheartened. With each step, I felt like I was letting all of my hard work slip away. And when my watch beeped 9:27 for a mile 11 split, I knew it was do or die.

So I did.

I told myself that I worked too hard to let it go now. I knew it would be hard, that the margin for error was slimmer than ever, but I might have a chance. So I dug. I did speed play. I focused on catching people. I bribed myself. I did anything and everything to pick up my feet and get myself to the finish.

When mile 12 came in at 8:38, I felt a bit lighter. Not light but I knew that I just needed to work hard for 10 more minutes. Ten minutes = 9-minute mile for mile 13 and a 10-minute pace for the last tenth.

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I run with my eyes closed - it's fun!

Note: While most courses "measure" long because of tangents, passing people, etc., I finished within five hundreths of 13.1 and didn't have to account for extra time for extra distance.

There was a timing mat at 12.6 for the AmeriFirst Sprint to the Finish, and I tried to use it as an incentive to hit the accelerator but try as I might, the engine was sputtering. I was running out of gas.

But I needed to grind it out. I thought that I was going to be within seconds of 1:54:12 so I needed to push. I told myself that I could not rely on any time I had banked, that miles 10 and 11 had eaten it all.

Mile 13 came in at 8:43.

And once you hit mile 13, it's just a sprint to the finish. Sprint I did. I didn't worry about cameras or throwing up my hands. I didn't smile or think about those around me. I didn't care about race pleasantries and passing people around me. All I saw was the clock. A clock that was at 1:54.

I had to get it ... now. 

My last split was 7:29 pace.

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My official time was 1:53:20 – a 52-second PR. A time that I have worked toward for years.

Knowing that I had done it was so overwhelming that I bent over at the waist, the strength to hold myself up gone, as a volunteer handed me water. I was shedding tears when I received my medal. When I saw Mark, all I could do was collapse in his arms.

It wasn't a perfect race but it was my race and for that I'm incredibly proud.


  1. Great report, and a great race. Congratulations on rallying and finishing so strong!

  2. Congrats on the huge PR! The sun was out pretty strong for the second half of the marathon and things were getting warm. However, I broke my 5 year old PR so I guess all in all it was a good day for a race! :)

  3. Congratulations! I'm so excited for you. You pushed and it paid off! It was fun reading and being able to picture the various spots you were talking about because I've run there too! My mom's house is about 8 minutes from those building in the background. I hope you enjoyed the rest of your weekend and are still feeling the high of a hard earned new PR!

    Looking forward to seeing you (I hope!) in November for Indy Monumental. Afterwards, The Cake Bake Shop...it's happening. :-)

  4. Damn. Damn. Damn. You are my freaking hero.

  5. Is it wrong that I teared up reading this?


    It's so easy to let it go - it's so hard to rally and get it back. YOU DID IT!

  6. This is awesome! When it comes to a race this long, it's rare to not have a few potential set-backs. You handled them all with strength!! Congrats on your PR!

  7. Congratulations! You were amazing!

  8. I'm so proud of you! What a great race and how amazing you are for digging in and getting it done, not giving up. And this race report doesn't even show the countless hours didn't training, planning, working, sacrificing. You're incredible.

  9. Congrats on your PR and digging deep to get it! I am happy the hotel fiasco was not really a sign of how the weekend would go! :)

  10. Bravo Kim! Way to fight through the suck and rock a massive PR!

  11. Amazing race! It seemed like Saturday was magical for many of us despite the hills and heat. i think so much of long distance running is mental- and clearly your mental game is on point to finish so strong! Congrats on the well deserved PR!!

  12. Congratulations on your PR! You worked so hard this winter and you totally deserve it!

  13. YES!!! Such an awesome report!! Congrats on your new and shiny PR!! Very exciting!!!

  14. Congratulations!!! You are amazing and inspiring and I am so happy for you! YAY!!!!!

  15. Congratulations!! I had the exact same reaction when I recently PRd/BQd, except that I collapsed into the arms of the pace group leader and not my husband, who was standing by awkwardly while his hysterical wife full body hugged a complete stranger.

    Running with a pacer is SO hard. For me, it's hard to trust someone you don't know. I was lucky in that my pacer was incredibly personable and seemed to have a posse of local runners in his group, all who attested to his reliability. In every other race I've dropped the pacer and done my own thing, so totally understand why you did it too. And it worked! So proud of your accomplishment and dedication when the going got tough. That's the true spirit behind successful runners!

    ~Kathryn (runeatplayrva.com)

  16. huge congrats!! so happy for you. and, as usual, i loved your write up ;)