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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2016 NYC Marathon Race Recap

I did it.

I still can’t believe it, but I did it.

3:58:40

3:58:40

I had prepared for this race for such a long time and was just so ready for it; I honestly was not nervous at all. I had never felt so calm at the start line for a race as I did at this one–the biggest marathon in the country and up to this point, the marathon with the highest expectations. The goal was to finish under four hours.

I hoped to reach the halfway point in under 2 and try and keep the halves as close as I could time wise. I knew the second half was “harder” but I was intent on giving it my best.

First half–1:57
Second half–2:01

Really, I couldn’t have asked for better. Considering the second half had the infamous Queensboro Bridge and the hills of Central Park, I am ridiculously happy with those half splits.

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Miles 1-6

I knew the first mile was going to be all uphill and I knew that it was going to be cold and windy. It was all of those things. I started off slowly and with no rush or concern for passing people. The first mile beeped right as I passed the marker at 9:49. I knew I’d be picking it up and I did as the second mile alert came in in at 8:26–except it came a ways before I reached the mile marker. I was little bummed to see that already my watch was not matching the course. But luckily, I had a 4 hour pace bracelet that at the last minute, my friend had given me before we started. So I didn’t panic and instead told myself to just use the elapsed time to keep track.

On I went. I wasn’t obsessing at my watch, only occasionally looking down to make sure I wasn’t going too fast. I took in the crowds–it was exactly as advertised. There were soooo many people on both sides screaming, cheering, dancing, laughing. You really couldn’t help but smile yourself. The best was seeing people find their runner and squeal with joy. Oh my god, I loved that so much.

I reached the 10k mark with so much happiness. I felt good, I felt strong.

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But I knew I still had a long ways to go.

Miles 6-15

I knew my friend Elle (A Fast Paced Life) would be at mile 8-9ish so I started to to look around for her when I approached the end of mile 7. The next three miles were a blur trying to find her and I was sad I didn’t, but I just pressed on.

With the exception of the first mile, miles 2-10 were all between 8:26-8:47. My watch kept beeping before the mile marks so I never really knew what the pace was exactly for each mile but I just kept glancing down at the pace bracelet and making sure I was under whatever it said for each mile.

I just concentrated on running by feel, and I truly felt great. Every now and then I’d do a body check and everything would pass. My breathing was fantastic. I was seriously in disbelief with how great things were going. I’d never felt this way at this point in a marathon, lol!

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Miles 15-20

Up to mile 15, I had been running unplugged, but I had my little I-pod in case I needed some musical inspiration. When I approached Queensboro Bridge, I decided that was the time.

There are no spectators on the bridge and I knew that this was going to be a rough incline, so I put my earphones in and put my head down. I marched on completely oblivious to my surroundings. Even though my mile split for 16 was 10:09, I passed so many people.

When I made the turn onto First Ave, I unplugged so I could relish the cheer from the crowd. I had heard so many things about the “sound boom” runners get coming out of the bridge and boy did I welcome it.

However, at around mile 19 I started to feel a little ball grow where where my ankle meets my foot. A cramp! I re-plugged and kept going. I knew that if I could just make myself keep going, it would either go away or I’d forget about it. One could hope, right?

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Miles 20-24

Oh my gosh, these miles were tough. My breathing was absolutely perfect. There was no huffing or puffing or struggling on my part. But the cramps….oh, the cramps!!! My quads, my hamstrings, my calves, my toes–everything hurt and I was dying.

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But you know what? I didn’t panic. I didn’t stress. And most importantly, I didn’t stop. I would ask myself how I felt, and I honestly felt fine–my breathing was good and my body didn’t feel tired or sluggish. It was just the cramps.

So I isolated them. I set them apart from the rest of my body and pretended they didn’t exist. I was in such a zone, so completely immersed in the moment. I was in the middle of Central Park at this point but I couldn’t see or hear a thing. I was *in* the race.

The cramps would come and go, but I kept on running.

Miles 25–Finish

I was still cramping pretty badly but at this point, I knew I had my sub 4 marathon and I was so ridiculously happy.

I kept thinking about my husband and my kids and my brother and sister and all the people who mean so much to me and all the people who donated to my charity. I don’t think I’d ever been so happy during a race in my entire life.

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I looked down at my watch to make sure I wasn’t crazy, but I’d done it!! I crossed the finish line in under 4 hours!

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I was absolutely giddy. And as soon as I stopped, the cramps dissipated and I looked and felt like I could’ve kept going.

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I wanted to jump, I wanted to scream with joy!! I wanted to hug everyone. I wanted to kiss the final race photographer and the woman who put the race sheet around me. I wanted to find my husband and tell him that I had just finished the race of my life…

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It was a long walk to the family meet-up where I knew my husband was waiting. I saw him before he saw me and my heart swelled. I was so happy that finally, finally, I was coming to him with good news.

His eyes locked mine, a nervous look as he searched for an answer…Choking back tears of joy, I whispered:

I did it.

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************There’s so much more I have to say about this race and I’ll be doing so in the next couple of days/weeks, but first–oh my goodness guys, thank you SO much for your words of encouragement and love on here and Instagram. Many of you have been with me on this long, long journey and really, you have no idea what your support means to me. I will never forget it. ❤ , helly

 

 

Insomniac Night Trail Run Series: Sinister 27k Recap

I had mentioned this race last week and how I was excited about it–well, it lived up to it all, lol!

Phoenix is either cold (for us) or hot and there’s usually no in between. But on Saturday afternoon, clouds were coming in.

And wind.

In fact, about two hours before the race started, the wind was pretty bad and several of my friends decided to skip the race as they didn’t want to run in basically a twister. The gusts were super strong, but like one of my friends said, it’s what makes the race Sinister, right?? 😀

I got to the race early to pick up my bib and swag

Swag: Arm sleeves, visor, and finisher's cup

Swag: Arm sleeves, visor, and finisher’s cup

and my buddy and I hung out with the small crowd of runners. Amongst us, people were chatting how cold it was. I know, I know, us Phoenicians shiver at anything under 60, but it was cold for us, lol!! The wind was giving us a little chill and a sprinkle had started. I had planned accordingly with a long-sleeved and there were others with even more coverage, but I knew that once I started running, I’d warm up. Which was exactly the case.

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There was a 9k race (one loop), a 27k race (3 loops), and a 54k race (6 loops). I knew quite a few people doing the 9k, including my BRF, Foxy Jen–I call her that not only because she is a hot mama, but because she’s a fierce fundraiser for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

Foxy Jen and me at the Start :D

Foxy Jen and me at the Start 😀

I tried to convince her to upgrade to the 27k but like a smart woman, she declined.

Anyway, the 54k people went first. Then, it was my turn.

Go time!

Go time!

 

Promptly at 7:30 p.m., the race began and I was off. The sun was finishing setting and I settled in behind a guy who seemed to be running at a good pace, which pretty much meant I was running too fast.

I was flying through the rolling hills behind this guy who was essentially lighting and paving/pacing the way for me, until we reached a hill towards the end of the loop (each loop was around 5.6 miles). I saw him start to get away from me on that hill between mile 4 and 5 and as his body dimmed from my view, so did the light. Alone, I realized my light was dim! My batteries were dying!

I finished the loop, passing through the start line and the aid station thinking I could manage with the little light I had, but as soon as I passed the crowds and was back out on the desert, I could tell that it was not going to be easy.

First Loop (Mile 5.6)– 56:20

I had to run with my head down because all I could see was the ground immediately in front of me. My neck started to hurt, my body was already aching, and I knew this was going to be a long loop.

When I reached the aid station that was nicely positioned in the middle of the loop, I stopped for a break. They asked if I needed anything and I spotted a liter of Coke. I took a small cup of the amazingness and continued on. It was then that I realized I could text Foxy Jen for help! She should be finishing her 9k loop and I could just get her light! Luckily, I was in an area with phone reception because she responded that yes, she would definitely hand over her head lamp!

I was approaching the uphill at the end of loop and just told myself to get to Jen. Once I had my new light, I would be able to finish the last loop stronger. I ran carefully, only tripping a few times but never actually having a conversation with the ground.

And finally, after what seemed like forever, there she was. I handed her my light and she handed me hers, and I was back on the trail for the last loop. It was almost 10 p.m. at that point and I knew that I would be finishing, if I was lucky, around 11.

Second Loop (Mile 11.2)–2:01:16

With the new lamp, it was night and day. I was running more confidently but still slow, as fatigue had really set in. My entire body was aching. My arms from using them for balance, my ribs and core from keeping my body upright and steady, and my legs from the rolling hills and pounding.

But I forged on. I knew this was the last loop; I just had to make it to the aid station and I would be almost done.

It seemed to take forever to get there. I was by myself the entire last loop, whereas before, I would encounter other runners along the course. Not this time. When I reached the aid station, it was so nice to see people, lol! I drank a little bit more Coke, grabbed some gummy worms, and said happily, “I’m almost done!”

But I knew the end would be the hardest part with that damn hill. I could feel my calves and shins start to ball up and that worried me. I had been taking salt tablets the entire way and was frustrated I was beginning to cramp. I can’t seem to avoid it!! They never fully came thankfully, as I kept running and telling my brain to tell my legs to shut up.

Finally, I saw the tent lights. I picked up my pace as all I wanted to do at that point was finish. I got closer and closer and then… I crossed, triumphantly, before putting my hands on my knees…lol!

Third Loop–(Mile 16.8) 3:12:47

My official stats:

3:12:47
7/31 Female
27/65 overall

I’m really happy with how I ran as I went in with very little expectations. I felt strong and felt that my mental game is growing. I was using this as a training run for R2R2R in a few weeks but was worried about running 17 miles with having only a 10 mile training run under my belt. I finished though, albeit extremely achy, lol!!!

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Elevation

I’m still sore two days after and this week will consist of many foam rolling sessions and massages and very little running. To be honest, if any.

If you’re ever in Arizona, you gotta do an Aravaipa race. They are stellar, so well done, and just perfect trail races with many distance options for everyone. Not all of them are night either, lol! Can’t rave about them enough!

–How do you recover from an achy run?

–Is a trail race on your list of to-dos?