The past weekend I ran the Rock N Roll Raleigh Half Marathon. I treated this like no other race I’ve run but the ultimate goal was to just have FUN!
It’s hard to believe I am writing two race recaps in the span of 3 weeks. That hasn’t happened in quite a while for me, but I’m excited! If you missed it you can find my recap of the PTI Run on the Runway here.
I have had the Rock N Roll Raleigh Half Marathon on my schedule for the last 6 weeks. I was graciously given an entry from my partnership with Brooks Running to a Rock N Roll event this year, and since this is the only one that is decently close to me it just made the most sense. Originally the plan was to have a time goal and to race it, but life had other plans.
About 3-4 weeks ago as you all know I started to experience some burn out from over training. I took the necessary precautions when I saw the warning signs, slowed down and used heart rate training for my easy days, and was able to get myself back to feeling better. There were a couple weeks in there I wasn’t sure this race was even going to happen.
The weeks leading up to the race I never was able to do any half marathon specific work, but tried to fit in a few workouts to help work on leg turnover. Of course, the 10k also helped as a good workout 2 weeks before. Overall, even though I had some workouts before my step back, I was only able to get in about 3 workouts in the weeks leading up to the race.
Now, before we get into the specifics of the race I want to talk about my goals:
- Go out and have FUN
- Don’t look at my watch – run off effort
- Stay in each mile
As you can see, there was absolutely no time goal going to the start line. For the first time in a long time I was nervous but also excited. I had no expectations and just wanted to go out there and get in a good hard effort and enjoy! I won’t lie and say that I didn’t secretly want a PR – I did and I knew if I hadn’t lost too much fitness I should be able to but the goal wasn’t a PR that day and for that reason I didn’t feel pressure.
I should also mention that based on the marathon goal I was training for in December (3:15) then my “race equivalent” for what they are worth was a 1:33-1:34 for the half marathon and a 42:18 for the 10k. I had achieved the 10k but I honestly expected going into this race that I’d come in somewhere right under my PR of 1:37.
Let’s talk about RACE DAY shall we?!
Wes and I got about 4:00 AM because we read online that you needed to be downtown and parked by 5:30 AM. We were staying at my in-laws which is about a 30-45 minute drive depending on traffic. I got up, at a piece of toast, drank maybe 1/4 a cup of coffee, and then got all the layers on because it was supposed to be COLD at the start.
If you are familiar with what happened to me during my marathon DNF in December then you’ll know I had to drop out due to a severely tight hamstring. The cold is one of the worst things for a tight hamstring, and the entire time I was looking at the weather ahead of time this was all I could think about. I tried to settle myself down and just focused on warming up the best I could.
My father-in-law came with us to watch Easton and also because he worked in downtown Raleigh. This worked out so nicely because we were able to sit inside his warm office building which was right in front of the start line and allowed my hamstring to stay warm. I haven’t had any hamstring issues in a while, but you never know what could happen on race day!
We got parked, got inside, and spent most of the next hour just resting, chasing Easton around, and warming up. About 30 minutes before the race was set to start (7:00 am), Wes and I went outside to do a little warm up. He ran for 20 minutes but I didn’t want to put too much on my legs ahead of time so ended up stopping at 10:00 minutes which was just over 1 mile. I took it super easy.
I got inside, ate about half of a Honey Stinger waffle, drank some powerade, and then lost a few layers to head out to the start. I went back and forth on if I wanted to race in shorts or tights the entire time. I have never raced in tights and even though it was 34 at the start and not expected to get above 36 by the finish I just felt more comfortable in shorts, so I braved the cold.
The gun went off right at 7:00 am and we were off! Like I promised myself I put my Garmin to only show the time and didn’t look at it. I hit start when I started and the next time I wanted to mess with it was when I crossed the finish line.
I wish I remembered a lot of details about the course but there are only a few things I remember:
- I went way too fast on the first mile based on the clock they had running at each mile marker so I tried to slow my body down
- The first half of the race seemed hilly, the middle evened out, and then the end was the worst
- They put a huge hill right at the end of mile 13 – WHY!?
- I got to run through the college I met my husband at (North Carolina State) and that was special
I felt like I was able to maintain “comfortably hard” for most of the race. I remember seeing the clock at mile 11 and trying to calculate in my head roughly where I was at. I realized that there was a chance I could get somewhere between a 1:32-1:34 and at that point I just ran as hard as my legs could go. I had turned the auto-lap feature off on my Garmin because I didn’t even want to be tempted to look at it when the mile splits popped up, but this is what Strava said my splits were:
I was honestly surprised by those few sub-7:00 miles at the end because I didn’t think my legs would have that in them. It goes to show you that sometimes your body has more in it that you think and when you take pace out of the equation, you have nothing to judge it on but effort!
At the end of mile 13 you round a corner and I immediately see the finish line. I saw the clock read roughly 1:33 and some change and I ran as fast as I could up the hill trying so hard to beat the 1:34 mark (something I truly hadn’t expected going into the race). I pushed and when I crossed the finish line I stopped my watch and it said 1:34:04. I wasn’t sure exactly when I had started it (if I was correct at when I crossed the line), but I knew it was close. I figured I’d just missed it but was still so happy with a 1:34! That was a 3 minute PR!
I could tell I was really pushing that last bit because I almost threw up at the end. Ha! Thankfully there are no pictures of that beautiful sight 🙂
I made my way back to towards my father-in-law’s office and saw Wes running back to try to find me. Wes always believed I would outperform what I thought I could do, but didn’t say it much because he really wanted me to enjoy the race. He believed in me even when I didn’t – which is so wonderful!
Wes came in 3rd overall in 1:10:30 and had run over 100 miles for the week! He didn’t want to taper for the race, but instead use it as part of his training. I was so proud of him as well!
We got back to the office and I quickly put back on my layers (so cold once you stop running) and hugged my little man! He was such a good sport and was so tired from getting up early and running around all morning! I checked the Rock N Roll official website and was shocked to see that my chip time was 1:33:58!! I had done it! Only by 2 seconds – but you better believe I was so happy! A 4 minute half marathon PR and the first longer distance PR since having Easton! It was also good enough for 7th female and 1st in my age group (the top 3 winners were in my age group – haha!)
I did a lot of thinking after the race and wondered if I had treated this as a goal race would I have run the same? I honestly don’t know. I know that by not looking at my watch, by not having a goal, and going out there with zero expectations that I was able to ENJOY the race. I worked hard, I fought for those miles especially the last few, but I never felt pressure. I didn’t worry if my last mile was faster than my current mile because I didn’t know what my paces were. I just ran what felt comfortably hard for my body, tried to stay steady on the uphills, and ride the downhills.
Also, for those that are interested in the elevation of this course this is what Strava showed. Definitely not flat, but I was thankful that I train on hills pretty often!
Not all races go our way, thankfully this day even on a hilly course it did for me! I loved every second of this race and if it wasn’t the last year for Rock N Roll Raleigh Half Marathon I certainly would run it again!
Thank you all for you support, comments, texts, and love! This race was exactly what I needed to find the fun again and realize that I’m still capable of doing hard things and getting stronger and better!