Trailblazer Nicole: Training Update

Icebreaker Indoor Half Marathon Race Recap!

Hello, Everyone!

If some of you already know, I am now six months in from my foot surgery in July. If you recall, I managed to qualify for the 2017 Boston Marathon, despite all the barriers I had while healing for three months. This year, I am running the Cellcom Half Marathon a month after running my first Boston Marathon. The race that I ran in the past weekend was an indoor half marathon in the Milwaukee area. The event itself was very unique in many ways, more than just being indoors and safe from the elements.

One of the best benchmarks I set for myself while training for longer distance races, is yes, running races. Typically, the first few months of the year are focused on large double digit miles for spring marathons. Due to my unique training cycle for the first five months of 2017, I decided to throw in a half marathon to see where my first three months back from running would take me.

I guess a brief summary before you read on how the race went down for myself. If you know how long a typical track is, yes, 400m or a quarter of a mile, then you got that part down. Now, converting that over to how many laps that is for a half marathon, it would be 47.5 laps. In order for accurate timing and distance, each one of your laps are displayed on a screen after crossing a mat on the track. If you are competitive, it is nice to see how many laps ahead or behind another runner is from you. Since it is an indoor race, my Garmin watch could not get an accurate reading, so I had to convert my lap splits into a pace for a given time at the race. Now that we have that down, we can get down to business!

Like I have mentioned before, it was my first half marathon back. I walked a half in September and did a run/walk method at another one a month later, so this event this past weekend was going to be a good benchmark and goal setting race to take in some ideas for my spring training.

The race started at seven in the morning, since I sort of live in the Green Bay area, I had to get up at approximately four to make the race. I had some rough idea of how the race would go. Since it was my first indoor race since high school, I knew it was going to be tough. (By tough I mean, dry air, and a dry month, constantly dying from thirst!) If running the 3200m was tough indoors in high school, then running another 11.1 miles was probably going to be the death of me.

As I approached the starting line at the 200m at the track, I was regretting signing up for the race, a typically feeling I get before every race. All I could do at that point was to hope for the best and try not to kill myself in the first half of the race. Despite all those nerves, I recalled the strategy of how I ran my half marathon PR at the time, a SLOW START, and a STRONG FINISH.

The gun went off for the race, and we were off. I was very tempted to go out extremely fast, but I had to hold back. I almost always run shorter distances, but long distance running is different. I kept my half marathon racing etiquette in line and hoped to pass people later in the race.

I let two miles pass until I started looking for competition. It was still early in the race to pick up the pace, but I knew who was in front of me. You easily could pick out the top five men in the race, so I was not worried about catching them. Instead, I decided to focus on the women. I knew the top women, who ended up winning the title was out of question to catch, but I could see the second and third just 25 meters away from me. They were going a steady pace, so I wanted to keep them in sight. I was not too concerned about place going into the race, but more with time. My goal for the half was to run a sub 1:40. I knew I could do it, but I had to be smart about pacing early on in the race.

Within the first few miles, I worked from my starting position of 20th place down to 15th and stayed at that point for a long time. I was quite worried about my splits from the first two miles, which were not that bad, but were a lot faster than my anticipated goal time of 1:40. I told myself to let the competition come to me and then I can start racing. I just had to focus. Around mile five or so, the women who was in second fell back, and so did the third. I quickly caught up to both of them, past the second-place women, now fourth, and stayed with the newly second place female. I went from fourth female to third female. I gave the second-place women at least two laps, and I passed her. I was now the second female. I now had a race. If you recall from my summary from the beginning, there were displays on what lap each individual was, so using that to keep the third-place female behind me was a goal.

After a few miles, I went from position 15, to 12, and then 11. I kept looking back at the screen just to estimate how far back she was from me. For the longest time, she had to be at least 50 meters away from me. As the race progressed, the fourth-place female fell back, my lap splits were getting faster and more consistent, and the third-place female was falling behind little by little. Water consumption increased a lot between miles 6 and 9.

Four miles left in the race, place remained the same, fatigue was settling in, and my pace still stabilized. If you wanted to ask me what songs were being played over the speakers at that point of the race, I seriously could not tell you, I was that into the race. I was at least one lap ahead of the 3rd place female and a few more behind the next women. I was now focused on keeping that lead for the rest of the race.

Once I got to three miles left, the announcer was pretty pumped for the runners getting closer to finish. Ideally, I was motivated to stay at the spot and pace that I was running at. The first-place woman was a little bit over 3 laps ahead of me. The women behind me now was two laps back from me. I had to focus.

Eight laps to go, hey, that’s a 3200m! I was pretty pumped for that. The top men’s finishers started to come in, and the track traffic got a little bit lighter and less stressful for passing other racers on the track. The announcer, again, was talking through the intercom on how many laps that the top finishers had left. A mile later, four laps to go, another announcement. Three laps to go, the top women’s finisher clocked in, and the announcer was going wild for the top three women. Two laps to go, I lapped the third-place women. “Nicole, you are on your final lap!” I think that was the most comforting words I heard the whole race! Onto the final stretch, I sprinted in, and finished 11th overall and 2nd female. I clocked in at 1:30:16, average pace of 6:53/mile, a new personal record for myself, beating my time of 1:35:02 from 2015. It felt so good to be back!

As I am writing this, my legs still ache a lot! Working Monday morning will be very rough for me, but I still will give my 100% work ethic at the farm. Coming out of this race, I could not be more than proud of what I achieved over the weekend. Not only did this race have an incredible time, but I now have much more confidence going into my last three months before Boston and reconsidering my time goal for the Cellcom Half in May. The best take-home message that you can grab from this is to consider doing some benchmark races going into your training. Sure, you can do a 5K or a 10K at any point of the year, but timing out the races accordingly can help you test your fitness.

Wishing you the best!!

Nicole

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