Race Report: Country Music Half Marathon – April 26, 2014

My second half marathon is in the books!

country music half marathon finisher

My time goals were as follows:
A Goal: Run 2:30:59 or better.
B Goal: Run 2:38:59 or better.
C Goal: Run 2:45:59 or better.
D Goal: Just finish with a PR. Any PR.

If you recall, I managed to run the 13.1 distance in my 14 mile training run in 2:42:47, so I knew at least my C Goal was achievable. (My half PR from the Disney half was 3:07:43. Totally beatable.) My times based on my performance in my 15k, 5k, and 5 mile races that I’ve ran over the past few months predicted 2:33:41, 2:25:27, and 2:23:54, respectively. I’d been training for an 11:30 min/mi pace, which would put me at 2:30:39 with even splits. I’d been getting faster. The speed work had been paying off. My goal pace was starting to feel “easy”. So everything was there to say that I could achieve my A goal. I just had to put the pieces together.

The plan was to run the first 4 miles (the uphills) easy, keep a steady pace through the flatter miles, and fly on the downhills (miles 8-12), only walking at water stations and a little extra at the 4.6 mile and 9.2 mile stations to eat my gels. (I haven’t mastered running AND eating AND drinking all at the same time. I feel like elite runners must have more hands than me.)

I also wanted to keep the first few miles easy because it was impossible to warm up before starting. We had to be in our corrals at 7am, but Amanda and I were waaaay back in corral 35 (out of 40). There’s 1-2 minutes between corrals, so you do the math. Any warmup I would have done wouldn’t have done me any good after an hour of waiting. So I was starting back with the 3 hour finisher folks (plus I wanted to hang out with Amanda since we had to chill for so long) hoping that I wouldn’t go out too fast.

Race Day

My alarm went off at 4:45 am. I got ready and was out the door by 5:30. Traffic was a little slow around downtown, but not too bad, and I managed to get in a good parking space at LP Field around 6am. From there, I met up with Amanda at her office to use the restroom (I try to avoid port-a-potties if at all possible) and apply sunscreen. Then we stopped by gear check and were in our corral at 7am. And then we waited…and waited…and took some selfies…

before the country music half marathon

After an hour of waiting, we were happy to be almost to the start line!

Finally, we were at the start, just after 8am. Even though I was back with a slower crowd (the 2:30 pace group was up in corral 30), they still started off faster than I wanted to, around a 10 min/mi pace. I forced myself to slow after the first half mile or so and completed the first mile just under goal pace in 11:20.

Mile two ended on that hill on Demonbreun that I’ve run twice before, so I was ready for it. I slowed a little on it, but Jonathan and his friend Andrew (whose wife was also running the half) were waiting at the top to cheer me on. At the 5k point, my watch said it had been a little over 35 minutes: right on target.

country music half marathon

Passing by Jonathan and Andrew after the second mile

The next three miles I ran a little fast: 10:59, 10:48. and 10:36. Miles four and five were down Belmont Blvd and a bunch of people were out cheering us on. I gave so many people high fives as I ran by! I think the crowds were probably what excited me and my adrenaline rush made me go faster than planned. I ate my first gel just after mile four, and didn’t stop while I was eating it until I got to the water station to wash it down. I also appreciated the people with water hoses spraying everyone because it was starting to warm up! I hit the 10k mark a little ahead of schedule.

Mile seven was down 12 South and the entire mile was a steady incline. And it was in the sun with no shade. So back to goal pace, finishing the mile in 11:26.

The next three miles had a lot of downhills so I sped up again: mile eight in 11:09, mile nine in 10:55, and mile ten in 10:50. I passed Jonathan and Andrew again right before mile nine and then ate my second gel.

country music half marathon

Passing by Jonathan and Andrew again!

Somewhere just after I started the final 5k (just after mile ten), I realized how exhausted I was. I also knew what goes down will probably go back up. I kept going but had slowed back to goal pace, completing mile eleven in 11:30 exactly.

running the country music half marathon

My only official photo? This was around mile 10-11.

There had been a water station just at the start of the twelfth mile, which I had stopped at for a cup. I kind of wished I had gotten two, as it had heated up above 70 degrees at this point. I knew the heat was getting to me and I was feeling a little dehydrated. I ended up walking a little extra past Bicentennial Park. Then I came upon another, unexpected, water station. Yay! I grabbed another cup and downed it before finishing off the mile. It was my slowest, obviously, coming in at 12:18.

I knew at this point there was only a mile left, but all I could see was the long incline ahead of me. So I walked a little briefly at the start of the thirteenth mile as well. With a half mile to go, I took off. I was feeling sluggish, but I knew there wasn’t much left. I passed all the crowds lining path to the finish line. Once the finish was in sight, my body found all sorts of untapped energy and I SURGED to finish. I don’t think I’ve ever ran that fast in my life. My data says I hit a 6:05 min/mi pace at one point for 10 seconds! In fact, my whole last half mile was the fastest I did the entire race, averaging 9:38 min/mi. While it was fun to finish that strong, it made me think that I probably could have finished the race without the extra walking and maybe finished faster.

country music half marathon finisher

This was taken within 5-10 minutes after I finished. So happy to be done!

Not that I can complain. My official time was 2:27:43. Yes, I achieved my A Goal by over three minutes! And it was exactly a 40 minute PR. Down to the second. I shaved 40 minutes off my half marathon time in only three months (okay, 6 of those minutes don’t really count because I was taking photos with Disney characters, but still)! That’s what actual good training will do.

After I crossed the finish line, I got my medal, some water, and some chocolate milk. Jonathan and Andrew found me and we waited for Amanda to finish. She crossed the finish line in a little over three hours and officially became a half marathoner!

after the country music half marathon

Amanda and I proudly displaying our medals!

Race Review

Big races like this can be kind of hit or miss. I didn’t have any issues with anything, other than the $5 charge for runner tracking, which seems a bit nickel-and-dime to me for an already pricey race.

I seem to only have one official photo, which is weird. I saw several photographers out on the course and Amanda has a ton of photos, but I don’t even have one at the finish line. I guess I was running too fast for their photographers to catch me? (Haha!)

Otherwise, it was a well-organized race. We quickly got through the expo without any hiccups. The corrals were clearly marked and went out fairly quickly. Water stations seemed well-stocked and were plentiful. The volunteers were all fantastic. And I love the medals!

medal from the country music half marathon

Fleet Feet in Green Hills did free engraving the day after the race, so I took mine in to have it engraved. Nice bonus!

engraved medal from the country music half marathon

Race Analysis

Here’s my official time with my 5k, 10k, and 10 mile splits:
country music half marathon finish time

Everyone complains about how hilly this course is, but I had no problems on the hills. Maybe it’s because I trained on worse ones, and I ran that Demonbreun hill twice in training? They didn’t phase me at all; I honestly don’t even remember thinking about them. I just kept running. Here’s a breakdown of my average pace on inclines, flats, and descents:
average pace by elevation

I wore my footpod and my cadence hovered right at 90 (180 for both feet) the entire race. Perfection! You can see that the only times it went below 90 are water stations and my two brief walk breaks towards the end. Look at it shoot up for my finish!

cadence for country music half

My outfit was perfect. I bought a warm sweatshirt from Goodwill the day before which I stripped off right before the start of the race and threw in a donation pile. My Brooks mesh shirt kept me super cool in the sun and dried fast, even after I ran through sprinklers and water hoses. I chose to run in my Pearl Izumi N2s, which are the shoes I do all my long runs in (and also the ones I ran in at Disney). I got one blister on my left foot, but I don’t think any of my other shoes would have faired better. I’ve determined I need to size up a half size in all my running shoes this year.

My watch read that I ran 13.15 miles, so I did well on my tangents and weaving! Even though I still felt that I did quite a bit of weaving since there were a lot of walkers on the course. By mile 10 or 11, it was rare to see anyone running.

Overall, I am pretty happy with my performance. Except for that one slow mile. I wish I would have sucked it up a little more and kept going. In more optimal weather, I probably would have. But I can’t be disappointed with my time at all!

So will I do another half? Probably. But not this year. I’m eyeing a few different ones in 2015, including the Tom King Half early next March. We will see how my 5k/10k training goes this summer, and then I will probably start making decisions on when I want to start training for distance again.

Shoes: Pearl Izumi Road N2
Pre-race food: 4-5 watermelon Gu Chomps
Mid-race food: 2 strawberry Huma gels

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5 thoughts on “Race Report: Country Music Half Marathon – April 26, 2014

  1. Congrats! That is such an awesome PR!!

  2. Pingback: Progressive Runner | All 2014 Goals Completed!

  3. Pingback: Progressive Runner | 2014: Year Two in Review!

  4. Pingback: Progressive Runner | I received this in the mail yesterday…

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