Looking at the race and training calendar a few weeks back, we realized that the Marine Corp 1/2 fell at a great time, a few weeks out from the 70.3, to get a sense of running fitness, and to have a good, hard training day.
I went into this race with zero expectations (my only goal was to finish under 2.5 hours). I had never done this course before, I knew there were a couple bridges in it that tend to aggravate my shin splints, and I never actually looked at the course map. I just had a vague sense of the neighborhoods it went through.
So, needless to say, this wasn't something I was freaking out about. Race morning I got up, ate a bowl of cereal (I'm currently addicted to Post's new Honey, Oats & Seeds cereal), took a few hits off my morning Red Bull, and we were off. We were running a few minutes late, but arrived and found parking in plenty of time.
I took a powerbar gel right before, tuned my iPod to my old fallback "workout playlist" (it was too early to listen to my normal NPR) and I was ready to go.
This race, in a word, ROCKED.
In many instances, I don't think enough about my race before hand. Or more accurately, I don't think about it strategically enough. This race, that all changed. I started out, realized that I felt really good, and decided to have a great race.
I was moving pretty comfortably for the first 6.5-7 miles at around a 10:30 pace. I felt good there, so decided that I would maintain somewhere in that neighborhood for the first half, then increase my speed for the return route (it was an out and back). There were two bridges on the way out, and I speedwalked those, so I knew I needed to make up that speed somewhere. The route back was along the river, rather than over the bridges, so there was only a big ramp over the Riverwalk. I knew I would need to speedwalk that too (stupid shins) so again, I would need to pick up that time I was losing somewhere.
After the turn around, I picked up the pace and maintained 8:30-9 pace up until about mile 12. I couldn't even believe it was me running. I'm never that fast, and that fast comfortably no less! I was working, but I was able to maintain that pace without blowing up. I took a gel around every 45 minutes or so, took a quick swig of water at each break.
The last mile, I definitely lost some time. We rounded the corner off the Riverwalk that would take us along a stretch of road before the finish line in a local waterfront park. Longest. Stretch. Ever. Seriously - you could see almost all of the runners trying to figure out where the turn was, and that realization of "oh my god, that's sooooo far away." So, this probably would have been a PR, minus the horrible, terrible last mile or so.
I finished in 2:17, and I'm really happy with that. It's the hardest I've worked, the most strategic I have been in my race plan and my best 1/2 that wasn't flat and fast. I was pretty destroyed when I finished, but man, it was so worth it.