splits: 6:06, 6:03, 5:57, 6:01, 5:56, 5:58, 6:04, 6:05, 6:05, 6:09, 6:03, 6:09, 6:12, :42
my goal was 1:90:30 -- 6:04 pace. i wanted to get out hard from the gun. there would be no starting out at 6:10s or 6:20s and then working my way down. if i was going to split 6:10+, it was going to be at the end of the race, not the beginning. go out hard. be confident about the pace. don't overthink or second guess. don't back off because it seems too fast. don't be dramatic. in past half marathons where i felt i was in shape to break 1:20, i've messed it up by doing/not doing the above things.
today was one of those race days where everything felt right and went right. my warm up felt good. my strides felt smooth. the weather was perfect -- sunshine and mid 50s. no wind. it was also the absolute flattest course i've ever run. i never detected even the slightest up or down. just flat, wide roads.
two other ATC girls were running with me -- jill, who i ran with in jacksonville and who can pace like a metronome, and morgan, who is normally a 1:16-17 girl but is still building back up after an injury in december. based on our workouts leading up to the race, we knew we would all be pretty close together, and we wanted to work together as much as possible throughout the race.
morgan started off about 6-8 seconds faster than us for the first mile, and jill and i got out a little slower than planned, mostly due to congestion. by mile 3 we had all found our groove. i was right next to jill, and morgan was about 10 meters ahead.
there was a guy running just in front of us wearing a yellow g-string, with running shorts painted on his legs in green paint. we were the unfortunate ones who ended up right behind him, with his bare a$$ in our faces for the first seven miles. it was awful. it was especially bad when his paint started melting off and he became a green and yellow nearly naked NOLA running mess. we were all annoyed that we couldn't get away from him. he was just. always. right. there.
jill started dropping back a bit around mile 5. i caught up to morgan right at 6, and we ran together through the 10k mark, then she started dropping back as well, but she stayed close throughout the rest of the race and we ended up finishing 3-4.
i came through the 10k in 37:16, unofficially a PR for the distance (38:11). it was here that i thought i might actually be able to hang on to run in the 1:18s, and the excitement of that thought gave me little surges of energy over the next few miles. everything was working and i was feeling so good.
miles 3-6 were especially important for me, as they helped me to see that i can dip into these paces and still survive over 13.1 miles. i finally broke through a big mental barrier. i realized that i could be (fairly but not fully) reckless with the gas pedal. because it's not a marathon! i've always had a hard time separating 5k/10k from half/full in terms of racing approach. i always find myself treating the half like i'm running a marathon that gradually morphs into a 5k. today i viewed it as back-to-back 10ks, then just hang on...
things started to get shaky over the last 5k. my legs and lungs were rapidly tiring, and i started tensing up because my splits were slipping and i was cutting it close. i knew i had to squeeze every second i could out of each mile. there wasn't much wiggle room at this point. even though i banked a few seconds early on, the 6:05s+ evened things out, and i didn't want to start going in the other direction. i had to stay on pace.
it was somewhere around mile 10 that the course took a 180 degree turn around a gate and went right into a construction zone. dirt, gravel, rocks, obstacles, potholes, fencing, caution tape -- distractions. pace killers. the footing was terrible. i was kicking myself for not wearing my off-road flats and fingerless leather gloves. i was slip sliding all over as i made turns through the loose, dry dirt.
once i was back on the asphalt, i forced myself to surge and try and get back into a groove. i had definitely lost some momentum. i had made it this far and now there were glimpses of my goal vanishing right before my eyes. don't mess this up...
the last mile was painfully long, as the finish line was hidden from view. the course wound around a building (probably a famous one), then did a few squiggle turnys before the finish line finally became visible. i was so worried that i was going to turn the corner and see the finish far off in the distance, too far off to cover the ground in time. i looked down at my watch and it was just ticking past 1:19:00. i could see now that from where i was to the finish, i was going to make it.
as soon as i crossed the line, a woman came up to me and handed me an envelope. i learned i had taken third place, good for $300. this was a happy surprise, as i had been so focused on my time i wasn't even thinking about my placement in the race. this actually sort of startled me, because in the past i have always been very aware of my position, often times focusing more on that and just letting the time follow. but i think running in ATL has reprogrammed my mentality a bit. you can't really keep track of your placement when you are 18th or 39th or 152nd, so i have stopped thinking about it so much and just started competing more with myself and those immediately around me. taking third and getting back on the podium for the first time in a long time felt really good. it was the exclamation point on a race that i was very happy with. like this: yayrace!
after the race we had about five hours to kill before heading back to ATL, so we did some post-race celebrating on bourbon street. this is where the report will end.