3 weeks. That’s how long it took me to get back to the start line after the end of “tri season”. Part of me always has a desire to convince myself that I am capable of running fast when I don’t do a hard swim and bike beforehand. Another part just absolutely loves the colder temperatures that the off-season brings and the faster paces I’m capable of because of it. Either way, after messaging with Race Director Jesse Harmon, I decided that I would compete in the Lexington Run Hard Half Marathon for the 2nd year in a row.
In 2016 this race was my first official half marathon. I was a bit nieve entering the race about how to pace an open running race of this distance and decided to go out hard and fast with local running legend Eric Ashton. After only a few miles I got spit out the back as Eric went on to take the win while I came in second after a super hard effort. This year I vowed to race smarter and hopefully have something left in the tank after the finish. After seeing Eric at the start line this year I knew that in order to take the W, I would have to RUN HARD!
With a prime parking spot next to the start line I was able to strip my jacket just minutes before the start. I enjoyed the cooler temps but probably looked ridiculous as pretty much everyone was in full winter gear. Jesse Harmon started the race soon enough and we were off! I started at what felt like a fairly conservative effort but of course it was much quicker than it felt. I settled into 2nd place with 14-year old Zander heading up the road to take an early lead. I noticed Eric settling in right behind me and figured that was fair enough, as I had used him to pace for a couple miles the year before. Things stayed like this for quite awhile as I hovered around a 5:45-6 min/mile pace. Around mile 4.5 or so it was apparent that Zander was starting to fade and we eventually made the pass to make Eric and me running 1 and 2.
Numerous times I would yo-yo the pace a bit hoping that Eric would either take the lead for a bit or fall off the pace. I frequently felt like I was slacking off as I didn’t feel a reason to run fast yet with Eric tucked in behind me out of the wind. Around mile 8.5 as we came around a turn off of Highway 1, I made my move. As he took the faster tangent to the left, I shot over to the right and turned on the gas. As we made the next turn onto Highway 378 I had a gap of a few seconds and I kept the pace high to make sure he wouldn’t reconnect. My pace dropped to about 5:30 min/mile and I held it right there for the next few miles. As the last couple miles came up I could tell I had a good gap but I still felt really good and wanted to keep it up. In the last mile stretch, we rejoined the runners from the other distance races and I enjoyed picking it up while getting a ton of encouragement from the racers and spectators! This last mile ended up being 5:14 and I still felt like I had energy to spare.
I made the final turn onto the outfield of the Blowfish Baseball Stadium that the finish is located at and saw the clock hit 1:14:50. I put in one last surge to make sure I stayed under 1:15 and got to finish grabbing the banner! This was amazing as I have never had a finish line banner and have always wanted the opportunity to cross the line “breaking the tape”. I was very pleased with a PR over last year by nearly 2 minutes due to a number of factors. Better pre-race nutrition, a good pacing plan, and overall improved fitness made sure I was capable of having a good run and was probably the difference between 1st and 3rd place for me.
Directly after the race, I got to speak with my dad who came to the race and old friend Jonathan Kunze who is working with Orange Theory Fitness now. One of my favorite things about this race is that it is very well supported by the local running community and I always have a ton of friends racing and volunteering. Huge congrats to Derek Hutton, Shawanna White, Drew Williams, Michael Nance, Brad Marlow, Alex McDonald (his Blue Shoe blog here), Jen Kryzanowski, Anthony Hernandez, MC Cox, Robert Taylor, Kristin Cattieu, Greg Fowler, Mario Alvarez, Wendy Hart, Gavin Cochran, Jennifer (and Wilson) Lybrand, Barbara Brandenburg, Julia Norcia, Stefanie Cain, Jennifer Hill, Bob McKee, Luke Emery, Michael Lambert, Eric and Sarah Allers, Dave Hale, and I know there are more! Also huge thanks to those who came out in the cold to support including Ilia Owens, Grady Hart, Gary and Angie Blight, Trey McCain, Matt Page, and a ton more. And shout out to Larry Jourdain too for pacing even if he got a little off course!
I also think it is important to mention that the 10k race looked to be very special as it was dedicated to celebrating the life of John Flanagan (aka Cheech). John was an active member of the F3 community and their support and honoring of his memory was inspiring. Although I have only been to one F3 workout and got my monicker #Flatline, I am amazed by their community and what they have built. If you are interested in a group of people who share common goals of fitness, fellowship, and faith then I would highly recommend checking out either F3 or FiA.
Next up is my quest to break 2 hours at the Hairy Bison 30k next weekend. I’ve even picked up mountain biking to get to know the trails even better. I still have a lot to learn in the mountain biking world! But anything is possible with a teacher like Neil Ostenfeld. Stay tuned!