Rock n Roll USA Half Marathon 2014

My goals for the Rock n Roll USA half marathon this Saturday were the following ~

  • Break 1:28. 
  • Run the hills SMART, not hard.
  • TRUST myself.
  • BE BOLD.

I was pretty nervous about the time goal for a few reasons.  A 6:40-6:45 average pace over 13.1 miles intimidated me – that’s not much slower than my tempo pace and the most consecutive tempo miles I’ve done in a training run this cycle has been 6.  Also, I was not planning to taper for this race at all (I ran 81 miles last week, including the race, and was in the high 70s the week before), so I knew I wouldn’t be heading into it with “fresh” legs.  I didn’t really want to set a “limit” on what I was capable of, yet I also wanted to have something to reach for.

With all that said though, I was still going to GO for it and give it the best I had in me, because the other goals I had for the race were ultimately a ton more important to me than the time on the clock.

Race morning came and my plan was to run the first mile or two easy, which I was thinking would be right around a 6:50ish pace.  By Mile 3 I wanted to be holding my goal race pace, locked in at 6:40-6:45 through Mile 10, with the understanding that Mile 7 would be slower because I was aware of the long monster hill in that mile and I wanted to maintain an even effort up it so I wasn’t winded at the top.  Then from Mile 11 on I would push myself and put it all out on the line, running as fast as I could to the finish.  I figured if I could execute the race like that I would be in pretty great shape to accomplish all of my goals.

Sometimes we surprise ourselves though.

As soon as the race started I knew things were going to go differently than I had planned.  I just had no idea how differently.  I was running with ease and strength and felt so present in the moment, so in my element, so in love with this sport and with the energy of race day.  I looked at my watch early on and saw that the pace was faster than I expected, but it didn’t shake me at all.  I was trusting myself, trusting my body.  This was where I was meant to be.

I took the hills in stride and maintained an even, constant effort up them as well as down them, including the huge one at the start of Mile 7 (last year that hill had me nearly throwing up when I reached the top, this year I dominated it – THAT was a good feeling!).

Around Mile 6 I felt my tummy cramp a little bit but this is not a feeling that is new to me.  I told myself it would pass and thankfully it did.  I was planning to eat the gel I brought with me right around Mile 6 or 7, but because of my tummy I decided it would be a bad idea and I really didn’t feel like I needed the extra energy anyway.  My tummy talked to me again at some point during miles 8 and 10, but both times the feeling went away and I was glad I didn’t stop for a false alarm.  I kept running strong.

Miles 1-10:
6:31, 6:30, 6:29, 6:14, 6:22, 6:25, 6:57 (hill), 6:23, 6:25, 6:20

When I came through Mile 10 it was time to be BOLD – time to pick up my pace and race the last 3.1 miles to the finish.  I knew I had it in me and I felt this amazing sense of energy – I was so ready to rock it.

Mile 11: 6:13

Mile 12 was more of the same.  There was one woman left in front of me that I could see.  I passed her with ease early on in Mile 12 and was running with a pack of guys at that point.  It was a really cool feeling.

I looked at my watch as I approached the 12 mile marker and saw that I was clocking a 6:08 pace and it felt amazing.  I was so excited and determined!  I only had a little more than a mile to go and I was going to race it all out.

I was being BOLD.

And then, all of a sudden, I felt my tummy talk to me again.  I told myself it would go away just like it had earlier on in the race…but I was wrong.  I was in trouble and came to a screeching halt on a neighborhood street of Capitol Hill and was all of a sudden walking, trying to calm my GI system down.  It wasn’t working.  I literally was looking around for places to pull over – checking out parked cars to see if maybe I could hide behind one (ridiculous thought), alleyway streets – looking for any place I could go to the bathroom.  There were no porta-potties and there wouldn’t be until the Finish which was still over a mile away.  I crossed the 12th mile in 6:30, so I really hadn’t lost much time at that point.

I quickly considered my options, nervously walking as fast as I could because any time I tried to run I was pretty sure I would go to the bathroom in my pants and THAT was most definitely NOT an option I would consider.  I hate writing this by the way.  It is hugely embarrassing but it’s really real so I am just telling it like it was — awful!  I decided my choices were as follows:

(1) Just walk, and hope my system would calm down.  Be happy with how I raced up until this point.  It was still a great race after all!

(2) Find a place to go to the bathroom – take care of it – and run hard!  Don’t let it stop me.

I really wasn’t okay with option 1, as long as I could find a place for option 2.  There were cops and spectators lining the streets because we were in a neighborhood and the turnoff split for half/full marathoners was coming up.  I saw an alleyway blocked by three cones.  I am sure what I did was completely horrible and illegal and disgusting … but I ran down the alley and ducked in by the side of a brick building and went to the bathroom.  And now I am telling the world about it!  Oh my gosh.  Go me.  Such a lady.  Ugh.

Anyway, I took care of it and ran back down the alley out onto the course and raced my heart out from there. I distinctly heard a man yell to me “YOU GO GIRL!” as I race passed people.  I laughed to myself as I thought “thanks, I just did, and I feel SO much better!”  I figured no sense in dwelling, let’s just move on and finish what I started.

Mile 13 was a 6:56 including my stop.  I over-ran the course by more than a quarter mile, thanks in large part to my detour, and my last .38 was at an average pace of 5:51.  I crossed the Finish with a time of 1:26:25.  According to my watch, with the extra mileage, my average pace was a 6:28.  This was 7 minutes faster than I ran this same race last year, and a PR in the half marathon distance by a little more than 3 minutes.

I found out later that I was 1st in my age group and the 11th overall female out of more than 10,000 women running the half that day.  All of this really did, and still does, astound me.

I was really happy with how I raced this, and with how I handled and overcame my issues towards the end … even if I am horribly embarrassed by what I had to do to deal with it.  I accomplished every one of my goals for this race, and surprised myself a lot.  GI issues are no fun and I have dealt with them a ton – not just in my running but in my daily life – and I am still working to improve on this.  Figuring out my food allergies and making changes to when and what I eat before running and especially racing has helped me a lot, but I obviously have not gotten it all figured out yet and that’s okay.  I will keep trying and I won’t give up.  I am certain now that I should avoid dairy completely the week before my races, and probably just avoid it altogether even though I’m not allergic to it.  It messes with me!

Boston is exactly 5 weeks from today and I’m feeling strong and hopeful about the journey ahead.  I am finding myself dreaming bigger and feeling bolder lately.

In my heart, I know that anything is possible.

20 thoughts on “Rock n Roll USA Half Marathon 2014

  1. WOW! I love it! Congratulations and I am impressed by your strength to push through GI issues, do what you had to do, and STILL run so damn fast! I know sharing the shitty parts isn't fun, but truthfully…it is helpful to read! Knowing how you handled the situation and what your thoughts are make mine and other people's very similar experiences a lot less frightening. I greatly admire you, your boldness, and your honesty!

  2. You are amazing! Way to go!!! I love this new course and had a great race on it.

    I admittedly nearly spit out my drink at your mental comment “thanks, I just did”. Glad you found a place 'cause the lines for the porta potties at the end were pretty long.

  3. Wow, Jess!! So incredibly inspiring! You've been putting in the miles and the work and I love how it all came together for you (minus the GI issues, of course). I've had that scenario a handful of times on training runs but thankfully never in a race. Such an awful feeling! Enjoy this success as you continue on toward Boston!

  4. Huge congrats!!! I love your “Be Bold” mantra!

    And don't worry, even if we all haven't followed through, we have all thought about a quickie alley bathroom break at one point or another!

  5. Ok, so remember our little Instagram convo about how we had matching race numbers and matching lux layers, and there must be a 3rd thing because these things always happen in threes? Well, THIS IS THE 3RD THING!!! I once ran an 11 minute marathon PR which included, um, a situation… very similar to the one you described. To this day I continue to pray that my mother never finds out about this for fear she might put me up for adoption for doing something so un-lady-like!

    But seriously, HOW AMAZING does it feel to know that you PRed your face off by a huge margin in the face of adversity, and then took being bold to a whole new level by blogging about it?!? I can't wait to high-five you for this in person when I see you in Boston!

    In the meantime, celebrate your awesome new half marathon PR! Congratulations!

  6. Love the honesty of this hilarious post. You ran so well and so incredibly fast. You've put in some hard miles. It's fun to watch your times drop. See you in Boston.

  7. Love the honesty of this hilarious post. You ran so well and so incredibly fast. You've put in some hard miles. It's fun to watch your times drop. See you in Boston.

  8. WOW! To beat your goal time by so much on a week you didn't taper is amazing. Great job on running a smart race and not letting your GI issues get the best of you. Congrats on 11th female and winning your age group too! Looking forward to seeing what you do at Boston 🙂

  9. This is so awesome! Your hard training paid off in this race (and will pay off at Boston for sure!)! I love how even your splits are. I'm really excited about your new PR (even with the emergency break–we all have those!) on such a tough course! I'll be rooting for you on Patriots' Day!

  10. Congrats on an INCREDIBLE race. What an amazing time, even with your challenges at the end. Way to persevere and not let that get you mentally worked up. I also love your goals about trusting yourself and being bold. I may have to steal those for my next race. For my last marathon, two of mine were to believe in myself and to surprise myself 🙂 Congrats again!!!

  11. Enjoyed the reading! Such posts are real motivation for beginners like me. I am also searching through internet for other interesting blogs for athletes, and one of my favourite ones is http://bit.ly/Qh9G8S. They write a lot about proper nutrition, workouts and exercising. They also share various researches in this sphere, which could be interesting and useful for all athletes

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