I've thought about a a realistic pace for this race. I know that the 8:24 pace I would need to get into a starting corral at Chicago is probably not happening. I'm okay with that. I want to beat my PR, not by a minute and 16 seconds like my last race, but by a definitive amount. I decide that a pace of 8:45 is respectfully tough enough for me, but not too much that I'll not enjoy the race.
Shane is not running this one. After the Canyonlands run, he has decided to take a month off at least to see if he can get his plantar fasciitis under control. He's going to be on the course around mile nine working as a course marshall. It is a bummer not having him here at the starting line with me. I feel pretty alone without anyone to start the race with. Last year, several of our friends were running. Today, no one.
As the national anthem plays, I'm getting psyched up. I'm not nervous at all. I've got the home field advantage. The day is glorious, sunny and just cool enough to be comfortable in shorts and a short-sleeved tech shirt. The anthem is over, and the Civil War era gun shots ring out to start the race. The large speakers start pump out Van Halen's "Right Now". This song was what the race started with last year as well. It's a good one for a start up mood. The crowd surges forward and we are off.
Again this year, I leave my iPod turned off for a while to take in the atmosphere. I don't overhear as many great conversations this year, but I'm still taking in the great atmosphere around me. I'm hopping around on the pace, and I try to settle in to something comfortable. We run through the usual Lincoln sites starting at Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, then on to the Old State Capitol, Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices, and Lincoln's home--all in the first half mile of the race.
Shane is waiting in the first mile to take some pictures before he heads off to be a course marshall. He gets a few of me just as I'm running by Lincoln's home.
Mile 1 - 8:39 pace. Not bad, slightly faster than goal pace, but to be expected for me in the first mile.
Mile 2 - 8:42 pace. This is a good pace. I didn't have to try very hard to hold it.
Mile 3 - 8:52 pace. Oops, just a bit slow.
As I'm lost in my thoughts, a woman trips on the uneven brick streets we are running on and hits the ground hard. She immediately yells that she's alright because a bunch of people are stopping to help her. She tells them to go on. She seems okay, so I move on toward the park.
As we cross over MacArthur Boulevard into Washington Park, I hear a phone ringing. The guy right in front of me pulls out his cell phone and starts talking! He chats for a minute and asks the person if he can call them later. That's a first for me. I've never seen anyone accept a phone call in the middle of a race before. Too funny.
Right about this time, I latch on to a group of guys who are chatting away. He's talking about remodeling his house, vacations, his weight, and whatever. Pretty much non-stop talking for more than a mile. Some of it's interesting and occupies my mind, other parts I tune out. He must not be running very hard as much as he's talking.
Mile 4 - 8:42 pace. Seems to be the average for the day so far. I've hit this exact pace already once.
Mile 5 - 8:43 pace. Missed the "usual" by one second!
Mile 6 - 8:36 pace. There was a long downhill in the park. Helped me pick up this pace. We cross a 6.2 mile timing mat in park. I look at my watch, my overall time is 54:30. That's slower than my 10K PR by about a minute. Not bad though.
We turn and head out of Washington Park. As I am getting bored with my eavesdropping and starting to head up the first significant hill, I decide to go ahead and break out the iPod. I'm not sure what is going on with me, but I need some motivation to move fast. Atmosphere alone is not doing it today. I brought along my Gatorade, and I'm drinking it throughout the run and skipping water stops. I thought that would help me along the way.
Mile 7 - 8:40 pace. We head down the long downhill on Lincoln, and two "chatty" guys are gaining a little distance on me. I push ahead a little to keep behind them. My idea is to stay behind them, but maybe pick up the pace near the end to pass them. The one guy is still chatting away, not seeming too tired of it at all. I've got to be able to beat him, right?
Mile 8 - 8:40 pace. Barely even trying, keeping this pace. I know it's a good pace, but the guys are still pulling away from me. They must be picking it up. I search around the iPod for some more inspirational music to push me along.
Mile 9 - 8:43 pace.
Mile 10 - 8:49 pace.
I had a feeling that would end up a little on the slow side. I feel like I'm running out of steam a little bit. Good thing there's only three more miles to go. It's a 5k. I can do it! However, first I must tackle the Black Avenue hill.
We turn the corner onto Black Avenue and go down, down, down. Turn the corner and head up, up, up. People are stopping to walk. I wish they would make sure they moved to the side or check behind them before they stop running. It's like dodging moving targets. I push through to the top. Entering Lincoln Park now. I feel like this is the home stretch!
Mile 11 - 8:47 pace. Eh, not great, but not too bad considering that hill.
We are running through Lincoln Park and I remember the place that John blew by me last year. It reminds me of how I was able to pick up the pace at the end to finish ahead of him. I don't have the same challenge this year, so I start finding runners ahead of me and work on passing them. Not the same, but what can you do?
We approach the final hill of the course heading out the park. I'm ready for it. I put my head down and start my "kill the hill" mantra. People slow down to a walk and I pass a few. Each person I pass, I'm heading up in the rankings. This speaks to my competitive spirit, and in no time I'm at the top looking at the final flat mile to the finish line!
Mile 12 - 8:56 pace.
Even though I was picking people to pass, I truly felt uninspired in that last mile and it showed in my pace. I'm actually kind of surprised that I let it drop off that much. I'm not going to slack this mile. There's only one full mile left, so I should make the best of it. I am more intentional about picking people to pass. I relax and allow my stride to lengthen. I'm going for it.
Mile 13 - 8:21. Sweet.
I'm getting so close to the finish. I'm overly anxious and still passing some people. I pass a guy walking. Walking?! This close to the finish? He MUST have hit a wall. There's no way I could walk this close. The crowd thickens closer to the finish. I see the beginning of finish line corral just down the street. So close. I turn the corner and see the familiar blue finish mats. I'm practically alone on the course, so I don't really have anyone to race to the finish. Still, I do the best sprint I can through the finish line. Done.
I'm really wiped out! I'm handed my finisher's medal and head over to get my chip cut off my shoe. Just then, I remember I didn't stop my watch. I hit stop and I see my final time of 1:54:39. Wow! I don't know how long I let it run before I stopped it, but this is a PR for sure. I can't wait to see the official time.
The last 0.16 miles shows that I paced at 7:35. Awesome. I like that. What I don't like is that there's no one here. No one at the finish line to support me. No one to tell me good job. That bums me out a little, but I decide to make the most of my time waiting for Shane to be let free of his course marshall duties. Since he's in mile nine, it will be a little while before they close off the course there.
I finish up some food and head inside to see if they've posted official results yet. I find the list on the wall and look up my name.
Official overall time and new PR: 1:54:27.
Wow, I'm thrilled! I'm so happy about taking more than five minutes off of my Moab time just three weeks ago. I text Shane to let him know, and he tells me that I beat his PR by a few seconds! I laugh to myself knowing had he ran today in the perfect conditions, he would have definitely set a new PR for himself as well.
I'm so happy that I decided to do this race at the last minute. Being sandwiched in between two other half marathons is not necessarily the best conditions for racing, but somehow it worked for me, and I couldn't be happier about my finish.
Today is just the boost I needed. Two half marathons in two states down. Next stop--the FLYING PIG HALF IN CINCINNATI!!! Woo-hoo!! Bring on the hills!