Scottsdale Half Marathon Race Recap (PR!!)

I gave it away in the post title–I GOT A PR!!! 1:42:45!!!

I went into this race hoping for a 1:45 (or under), my previous PR being 1:48:04. I know it’s cliche, but I really did not expect to have such a big improvement.

Leading up to this half, I had “prepared” by doing a few fast runs but I hadn’t done anything longer than 6 miles since NYC Marathon.

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My lone six miler averaging 8:00 minutes was from my 10k PR in February, lol!

On Friday, I had a few friends over for an early birthday celebration (it’s this Friday!) and I thought they were seriously trying to sabotage my PR hopes by bringing me so many yummy goodies…

Brownies are my faaaave!!

Brownies are my faaaave!!

Saturday was a busy day of breakfast with Santa in the morning and a kid’s birthday party in the afternoon.

<3

Sunday race morning, I met up with my run club around 6:15 at the tent they set up–we were registered as a team (more on that later). One of my friends was also going for 1:45 and we chatted for a bit.

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My team 🙂

Ashley and me

Ashley and me

I was there pretty early because I was taking advantage of race day packet pick-up. I love races that allow for that. Sometimes the packet-pick up places are inconvenient and picking up race day, for me, is definitely easier, especially if I can just drop off stuff in my car.

This race was a steal at $45 (early registration). Gender specific tee and beanie ftw!

This race was a steal at $45 (early registration). Gender specific tee and beanie ftw!

The Scottsdale Half Marathon & 5k is always in December and December here is absolutely beautiful, especially that day. Last year it was freezing (for us) and this year, we couldn’t have asked for more perfect weather. I’ll take a 50 degree morning any day and my shorts and short sleeve outfit was perfect.

The course is relatively flat with a few park hills near the end. It’s an easy course in that there’s not many twists and turns. You’re pretty much going north, south, east, or west for long stretches of time. It’s a race known for its PR potential, so it attracts a lot of fast runners. The winner of the half finished in 72 minutes.

There was a nice group of us who started together including a buddy of mine, Dallas, who I’d done a lot of my NYC Marathon training with. He’s a super fast runner but is currently marathon training himself so he wasn’t racing this particular race. My friend Ashley and I convinced him to be our pacer and he was more than happy to.

Miles 1-6

Our pace was right on as you can see:

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I felt great and my breathing was good. My friends know I’m not a chatterbox when I run so my silence wasn’t because I was struggling, I was just in the zone.

Feeling comfortable with the pace just below 8 minutes was awesome (mile 5 did irk me though, lol) and I hoped we could continue like that the rest of the way. My plan was to go to mile 10 at that pace and then push it for the final 5k.

Mile 7

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I took my lone Gu at this mile and we took a turn that would lead us to a super long straight stretch going south. It was here that I asked myself how I was feeling and if I could go faster. I knew that my plan was to wait until mile 10, but I also knew that this race wasn’t a “I will cry if I don’t PR” race and that I had nothing to lose by pushing myself a little harder than I was used to.

My husband always tells me that I’m faster than I think, and I thought about his words then and how much I wanted to show him that I could push hard.

So I went for it.

Miles 8-12

I didn’t say a word to Ashley, and Dallas could see I was increasing my pace so he followed suit staying ahead of me a bit to guide the way.

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Dallas was amazing, grabbing water for me at the stations and having it at hand so I wouldn’t lose my step. He always stayed just a bit in front so I was always at a distance of trying to “catch him” –which is how I prefer people to pace me.

I was passing so many people and that really helped me feel strong and confident. At this point, I had plugged myself in and allowed myself to enter the pain cave. I knew that I was almost done and that anything I felt would just be temporary.

It’s also in these miles that there were little, but still awful, steep hills and I just repeated, “Short, quick steps, Helly. Short, quick steps.”

There were runners that looked fit and strong and I couldn’t believe that I was passing them. I used to psych myself out when I would see runners who looked a certain way and tell myself I couldn’t hang with them.

Not this time.

Mile 13

We turned the corner for the last mile and I whispered to Dallas, “I want to die in this mile.”

“We’re almost done. You got this!” he said.

“No, I want to die. I want to go fast until I die!”

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Dallas and me

Dallas and me

I did really want to go as fast as I could. I wanted to see how fast I could run at that point and finish leaving nothing on the pavement. I tried my hardest to pick up my pace and when we reached a corner I saw the best thing I could’ve ever seen: my husband.

He had a huge smile because he knew I was on my way to killing my PR. He yelled words of encouragement and because he and the friend he was with knew I was approaching the last turn and finish line, yelled, “Turn and burn!!”

So I dug deep and ran….fast.

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final minute

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I wanted so badly to stay in the 1:42s that I gave zero fucks and ran like my life depended on it.

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nailed it!

And I finished absolutely elated!!! Absolutely, incredibly proud that I had decided to push myself, to allow myself to see what I could do if I just went for it.

The second medal is b/c I came in third for my group and as a team, we placed second :D

The second medal is b/c I came in third for my group and as a team, we placed second 😀

My husband, in previous half marathons, had gone from 1:48 to 1:42 in his half marathon time and I had told him earlier in the week how cool it would be if I could match his progression. I NEVER thought it would could actually happen. (Of course then he went from 1:42 to 1:36 and then on Sunday’s race finished 2nd in his Age Group with a 1:32–so now there’s no way I can continue this trend, lol!!!)

Me and my winner <3

Me and my winner ❤

It was such an amazing day. Honestly, I never, never thought I could run the way I’m running. That is the honest truth. I don’t really know how to explain beyond what I wrote here, what has happened or why I’m all of a sudden running paces I’ve never seen. Clearly, something in me has changed. I’m still processing it and figuring out what it means, but I’m definitely hoping that this newfound confidence doesn’t go away. I hope that I always give myself a shot, that I believe in myself enough to try hard things and that even if I “fail,” I continue to learn from each experience.

As always, thank you all so much for your encouragement. I love having this little space to document my growth and share it with you ❤

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It Really Comes Down to This: How Bad Do You Want It? (Book Review)

I’ve been asked quite a bit how I was able to take such a big chunk off my time in New York and it really is because of two things: building up my mental strength and following a good training plan.

I’ll talk about the training plan I used, Hanson’s Marathon Method, in a separate post; but, I do want to spend some time talking about something I knew I had to do if I wanted to break 4 hours in a marathon.

The latter part of 2015 left me injured and out for 6 weeks. During that time, I reflected on what had gone wrong in my marathons up to that point and especially the Chicago Marathon, a race where I thought I could certainly PR and get the sub 4:30 goal I wanted. But, I didn’t even come close finishing in 4:45.

The anger I had post Chicago fueled me to work hard during my non-running injury time. I biked, I swam, I even did my first triathlon (a sprint-tri). I worked on my core strength and did some other body strength training exercises. And I also read this book:

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…because I knew the biggest muscle I needed to work on was my brain. I wouldn’t say that I lacked mental strength as I consider myself a strong, disciplined person; but, I knew that what I thought was committed training could be taken a step further. I knew there would be more I would have to do if I really wanted to run a good marathon (and PR). It would just depend one how bad I really wanted it.

Well, I wanted it pretty bad.

The book isn’t a step-by-step “how to” book. The way it’s organized is by a collection of personal stories of struggle and triumphs from different athletes. As the author, Matt Fitzgerald, recounts each narrative, he explains several types of strategies the reader can use to overcome their own similar struggles.

I especially liked how the author incorporated different types athletes–there are triathletes, swimmers, bikers, runners, Ironmen, Olympians–and while they are professional athletes, the author makes sure to tell the reader that while at first glance we might not think we’re relatable to them, by sharing their stories of struggles we can see that we’re more alike than we think.

How Bad Do You Want It? makes sure to emphasize that the work is on you. When you encounter something that is “hard,” how much more can you push yourself? And when you do push further, you’ll see that you only lengthen that barometer of “hard” and it just grows and grows (which is a good thing!).

Here are a few excerpts from the book:

–side note: I really love how the author uses both male and female pronouns to describe an athlete.

“An athlete can have either a good or bad attitude about any given level of discomfort. If she has a good attitude, she will be less bothered by the feeling and will likely push harder.”

“The more discomfort an athlete expects, the more she can tolerate, and the more discomfort she can tolerate, the faster she can go.”

When I got my half marathon PR in Phoenix this past February, I employed some of what I read. I remember when I got to mile 10, I was still feeling comfortable so I pushed myself to make it hurt. I had never done that before. I also had at that point, never ran so fast for so long, and to push myself to run even faster was unbelievable to me. But I think because I accepted the discomfort, and expected it, it allowed me to actually do it. The last 3 miles of the race were my fastest.

A section of the book I particularly like, and what made me shoot for a sub 4 in New York instead the sub 4:30 I tried for in Chicago, was this:

“Setting time-based goals that stretch you just beyond past limits is like setting a flag next to a bed of hot coals to mark the furthest point you reached in your best fire walk. That flag says to you, “This is possible, and you know it. So why wouldn’t it be possible for you to make it just one step farther the next time?'”

I knew I could do a 4:30. I hadn’t done it, but I knew it was possible. A sub 4 scared the shit out of me. A 4:30 didn’t. The book noted that often times, an athlete will hold themselves back by trying to achieve time goals close to their previous best because the amount of effort and discomfort the athlete will experience is doable–they know what the pain feels like of their current best time. So when I decided to run New York, I told myself to test my limits. Go farther.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while now, you’d know that I talked a lot about wanting a marathon PR and sub 4:30. Fitzgerald writes that “the more time people spend fantasizing about desired outcomes–the less effort they put into pursuing them and the less likely they are to achieve them.” I thought I was training hard, but was I really? Could I really say that when I toed each start line I had done all I could to prepare? That I was really ready for a sub 4:30?

I could certainly say I was ready for the New York City Marathon. In fact, it was the first race in which I had had zero negative thoughts going in and during the entire race. It was preparation that made me feel that way. “Real confidence comes from real results and real training,” says Siri Lindley, an athlete whose story is told in the book.

Anyway, I could go on and on, but this book was really instrumental in helping me work my mental running game. I’ve achieved a PR in every distance this year, and I know that a big contributor to my success was showing myself I could embrace discomfort, that pain was okay. You can find so many quotes and sayings that tell you “Embrace the suck!” but you have to practice, you have to train. And as cheesy as it sounds, it really does come down to how bad you really want it.

–When was the last time you raced and tested your mental strength?

–Have you read this book or other running related books? What are some of your faves?

–I was not paid or compensated in any way to write this review. The book was purchased by me and all thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

Hellooooo December!!! #birthdaymonth

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December 16th–save the date! 😀

There are so many things I want to write about–like my review/thoughts on Hanson’s Marathon Method and how I’ve been really working on my running/racing mental game–but right now, all I can think about is how it’s already freaking December! How in the hell did that happen!!!

It’s my birthday month and I don’t know about the rest of you December birthday people, but growing up I got a lot of the “Here’s your birthday AND Christmas present.” Ugggghhhhhh….. seriously the worst thing a 10 year-old can hear. Aaaand, trying to have a birthday party during the holidays (and during school break)–fugghedaboutit….

#stillbitter

But on the bright side, like someone on my Instagram noted about their spouse, my husband has been making up for the lack of presents I received growing up 😀 Love ya, babe!!

Anyway, I leave you with this:

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and welcome to December!!!

I’ll get back to writing running stuff soon, lol!

–Do you or anyone you know have a December birthday and complain about the one gift for both holidays like I do?

–How do you feel about December? Do you get nostalgic over the year or excited about the upcoming year?

–Do you celebrate your birthday all month like I do?