Beautiful Pain: Maryland Half Marathon Report

My first race in Maryland is complete. Done. Over. And boy, are my legs feeling it.

MD half

After we moved, I had my sights set on completing a half marathon. 13.1 miles is actually not my go-to distance. I ran a marathon before I ever ran a half. The distance of 13.1 is deceiving, at least to me. With okay training I can work up to, say, an 8-miler. And 8 miles starts to feel good. But it’s the dark place between 8 and double digits that’s not my favorite.

fulton md

Early this morning we drove down to Fulton, MD, which between Baltimore and Washington, DC. I don’t mind I-95 at all in the early hours of the weekend. Weather was good – it was cool and sunny. This spring has been quite cold and rainy, so the sun was a welcome sight.

Mile 1: 11:32 | Mile 2: 11:33 | Mile 3: 11:38

I felt good starting out, but I knew that I went out too fast. I knew this race was hilly, and I was ready for the challenge. Despite missing some runs in March because of life events, I had done almost all long runs on the hilly country roads around my town. So I felt pretty confident.

Mile 4: 12:27 | Mile 5: 11:39 | Mile 6: 12:24

The hills persisted, and so did I. I skipped the first water stop, but walked the rest of the stops. I could really begin to feel the effects of the warmer weather and the sun. There wasn’t much shade on this course, and I could tell I was sweating more than normal. My body was working hard to keep me cool.

MD half course elev

Mile 7: 12:36 | Mile 8: 12:19

I don’t remember much of these miles except for the hills. Every time we came around a bend in the road, I looked forward to see what was coming next. If there was a downhill, it didn’t last long. But the reprieve was welcome just the same.

Mile 9: 13:38 | Mile 10: 13:01

These miles were a dark, dark mental place for this resurfacing long distance runner. I had taken two gels and drank Nuun consistently but still was feeling fatigued. It was at this point about 20 degrees warmer than I’d trained in. I had told Aaron that it’d take me ‘about 2 hours and 30 minutes’ for this race, and I knew at this point that that was not going to happen. I texted him and told him that ‘I hit the wall hard’. A wall in a half marathon? It happens. I even had the thought, ‘Well, if I just walk the rest of the way, I can still finish in 3 hours.’

My sister Leah suggested some songs for my playlist, and one of the songs was “Beautiful Pain” by Eminem. I have to be honest: I’ve always been a closet fan. I don’t know his songs by heart but I appreciate the honesty about life that always comes through in his music. So this song came on right as I started down a huge downhill and into a clearing of trees that melted into farmland.

I can feel the heat rising
Everything is on fire
Today is a painful reminder of why
We can only get brighter
The further you put it behind ya
But right now I’m on the inside
Lookin out, cause
I’m standing in the flames
It’s a beautiful kind of pain
Setting fire to yesterday
Find the light, find the light, find the light…
...Cause they hurt you so bad, it’s like they murdered your ass
And threw dirt on your casket, but you returned from the ashes
And that hurt that you have, you just converted to gasoline…
…So familiarize with what having to swallow this pill is like
It happens all the time, they take your heart and steal your life
And it’s as though you feel you’ve died because you’ve been killed inside
But yet you’re still alive which means you must survive…
Running has always been an emotional experience for me, and this song and downhill were there when I needed them. I felt vindicated of whatever emotional pain, grief, or struggling I’d either been a victim of or put myself through recently.

Mile 11: 12:13 | Mile 12: 14:05 | Mile 13: 13:43

These miles were tough, but the dark cloud of hopelessness that I could get through this race was gone. I switched up my strategy (as if I had one to begin with…) to alternating running and walking.

Chip time: 2:45:39 | Garmin time: 2:44:35  | Garmin pace: 12:30/mi

I hit my Plan C. Plan A was 2:30. Plan B was 2:40. Plan C was to hit my time from the Flying Horse Half in October (the worst race I’ve run…. ever). I would say this race was even tougher mentally than Transmountain, just because that race had one giant hill mountain whereas this one had hill after hill after hill.

Now to rest and get ready for Marine Corps Marathon training that begins the last week of June. I’m working on losing more weight before training starts because carrying around extra weight makes you slower. Who knew? 😉 I’m currently reading up on the Hansons Marathon Method and gearing up for putting much more mileage than I did for my first marathon (Illinois).

Biggest take away from today: Must. Train. On. More. Hills. Thankfully, even the hills have mercy in every mile.

2016-05-14 18.39.19

Foundation = Built

I’m less than two weeks away from racing the Maryland Half Marathon. I haven’t officially trained (well) for a race since the Transmountain Challenge Half Marathon in October 2013. For the past two years, I took it easy with running and exercising, and depression and busyness prevented me from keeping up well with working out and eating to nourish my body.

When we moved to Maryland four months ago, I thought it was a good opportunity to start over… in a lot of ways. So I found a spring half marathon, wrote up my training plan, and got to work.

Total miles since January: 203.54 miles

  • January: 12.7 miles/pace unknown. Slow!
  • February: 56.98 miles / 12:12 average pace
  • March: 51.17 miles / 11:49 average pace
  • April: 82.69 miles / 12:32 average pace

In general, my plan calls for three runs per week: a speed workout, regular run, and long run. For the past few weeks, my long runs have been alternating between increasing mileage (9, 10, 11, 12) and an 8-miler on the alternating weeks. I followed a similar plan in 2013 and saw great success.

Over the past few months, I’ve missed quite a few mid-week runs, but I’ve never missed a long run. Most of my running has been on hills. It doesn’t matter which direction I head when I leave my house to run, or even if I drive somewhere to run – it’s hilly.

elevation snip
Elevation Profile from my 12-miler on Saturday

Two weeks ago I did an 11-miler where the average pace was 12:16, and Saturday I did the same route and added a mile and my average pace was 11:40, and I didn’t walk any of the hills. The half has a total elevation gain/loss of 1029 ft, so I’d say I’m ready for that. Today at the gym I did a speed workout, and I shaved five minutes off my time since I did the same workout in March. Pretty darn proud of that.

It seems that I’ve built up a good base, and just in time for the half. At the end of June, I’ll be starting training for the Marine Corps Marathon on October 30. I’m so excited about this race as it’s been on my running bucket list for awhile. I spent some time this weekend writing out the plan. I’ll be using Hal Higdon’s Novice 2 plan, which calls for 4 runs per week, one day of cross training, and 2 days of rest. I think after building this base and staying ‘half marathon ready’ until the end of June, I’ll be ready to tackle the higher mileage.