When I had my first sit down meeting with my coach I mentioned to him that I thought I needed to race more. I often find that racing can make us so much stronger. We learn a lot through each race, and executing a race correctly can often be tricky. Our finances don’t always agree with racing a lot, but I knew it was something that I wanted to slowly start focusing on.

As I’ve already discussed Friday, the Ocean Isle Beach Run for Food Half Marathon was set to be a tune up race before I started training for Boston on January 18th.

I went into this race with some simple goals, but most importantly wanted to work on my mental and physical toughness throughout the race. This was one of my downfalls during the Chicago Marathon in October, so I wanted to use this race to focus on being mentally and physically TOUGH.

 

We left Danville around 2:00 PM on Friday to head down to Ocean Isle Beach, NC. It’s about a 4 hour drive and we were hoping to make it in time to get our race packets the day before. We could have picked them up on the morning of the race, but it’s nice to have it done and out of the way.

We knew we wouldn’t have a lot of time so we packed some food to eat in the car. Instead of our normal pasta, we actually opted for Kodiak Cakes. They were super easy to prep ahead of time and take along!

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It might not be what we’d normally do, but it did the trick and worked perfectly for the time constraint we were under. We ended up getting into Ocean Isle about 6:45 which gave us enough time to stop by and grab our packets before checking into the hotel for the night.

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Once we checked in we grabbed some ice cream (because what better thing can you eat the night before a race!?), a few other snacks for the evening, and focused on relaxing and getting ready for the following morning. Thankfully the race didn’t start until 9:00 AM so it didn’t require a super early wake up call. However, my body still woke up a little before six so I had plenty of time to relax, watch TV, eat breakfast, and take my time getting ready.

Once it got to around 7:30 AM we got dressed, I snapped a quick bathroom picture, and then we walked out the hotel to head to the start. My husband (without knowing it) picked the perfect hotel which was only about .3 miles to the start. My coach assigned me a warm up similar to what I do before most workouts, so I made sure to leave enough time and finish it about 10 minutes before the gun went off.

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The warm up: 1 mile easy, 2 x 100 meter strides, 1:30 minute tempo, and 1 x 100 meter stride. In between each one there was 1:00-2:00 minutes or more of walking. Afterwards I left some of my layers in the car and headed to the start line.

A smaller race is nice because I can line up closer to the front and don’t have to worry about dodging people quite as much. It is nice after having the opposite experience in Chicago.

 

Right at 9:00 AM, the gun went off. I always start fast for the first quarter mile or so from the adrenaline but then usually settle myself down. The first 2 miles consisted of running over a pretty steep bridge twice. I knew I needed to control myself or I could quickly get out of control.

Once I was over the bridge both times, I began to try and settle into my pace. My pace was holding steady and I found a small group of people and tried to settle in with them. I worked really hard not to stare at my watch obsessively and get into the groove. The first 5-6 miles were pretty uneventful but felt really long. The only downside to running in Ocean Isle is that it is flat and consists of a lot of long stretches. The scenery was beautiful, but some of those miles felt like they’d never end.

Around mile 6 I started to pay more attention to my pace. I was going slightly faster than the original plan, but nothing crazy. I remembered my coach said at mile 8 if I was feeling good I could begin to pick it up. So, as I hit mile 8 I started to increase slightly. My legs wanted to go faster but I still held back a bit. I just had this feeling going too fast on these long roads could end badly.

When I hit mile 10 I started to enter the “pain phase” as I like to call it. My legs started to hurt, I was going down a long stretch, and a head wind kicked in and stayed there for the rest of the race. I remember seeing my husband turn off up ahead and knew he was near the finish of his race. That helped take my mind off the pain a bit.

At mile 11 I focused on something my coach said: “pick someone, lock on them, and chase them down.” I did this about 2-3 times and then I really started to feel like I couldn’t go any faster. I wanted so badly to get my legs moving faster but they just didn’t have it in them. At mile 12, I just kept repeating one more mile, one more mile.

Just before 13 I saw my husband running down to find me, he gave me some encouragement, and I focused everything I had on running as fast as I could towards the finish line. I secretly was hoping to see 1:36 on my watch, but coming up that last stretch I saw that go out the window. My next focus became 1:37 and as I ran down the last 0.1 miles I knew I had it.

13.1 miles in 1:37:33 was my official time. That got me 22nd overall and 2nd female. I actually didn’t realize I was the 2nd female until they did the awards. You know it’s a small race when my time got me 2nd overall female, but I’ll take it!

My splits for the race: 7:25, 7:25, 7:23, 7:23, 7:19, 7:18, 7:20, 7:21, 7:20, 7:24, 7:23, 7:34, and 7:26.

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Overall, I am extremely happy with the race. Sure I would have liked a minute or so faster but a 2 minute PR is awesome considering I really didn’t train but a few weeks for this race. It is a great starting point leading into Boston. I also stayed mentally strong throughout all 13 miles. Even when the pain started in I kept focused on the finish line.

My husband won the race in 1:10:55 which is also a 2 minute PR for him! He also won a free weekend stay down in Ocean Isle, so I’d say we left feeling pretty good! I look forward to going back down there and enjoying a weekend away later in the year.

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I’ve got a recovery week this week, including 2 rest days, and less miles. It is a complete focus on getting my body recovered for Monday. Now the focus becomes for Boston. Something I’ve dreamed about for years that is finally coming a reality!

If you’ve hung in with me this far, thank you! I can get pretty wordy when it comes to running and racing. Thank you for all your well wishes during my race! 2016 is off to a great start.

 

When is your first race in 2016?

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