Race Report: Hartselle Half Marathon

Race information

Goals

Goal Description Completed?
A sub-1:40 Yes
B sub-1:45 Yes
C win age group Yes
D podium place Yes
E PR (sub-1:56) Yes

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Splits

Mile Time
1 7:33
2 7:31
3 7:27
4 7:28
5 7:26
6 7:24
7 7:16
8 7:35
9 7:46
10 7:37
11 7:37
12 7:43
13 7:42
0.1 6:49

Training

I spent my summer concentrating on base building and just accumulating a bunch of easy mileage. I signed up for this race on a whim, mainly as a way to see the effects of all the base building and to evaluate my chances of BQ’ing at my (first!!) marathon in February (Mercedes Marathon in Birmingham, AL). I haphazardly spent some time online looking for a decent training plan to use (that wasn’t a Hal Higdon plan) and came upon this McMillan plan that I liked the look of. I prefer to run every day, and wanted to do something high mileage. I ended up deviating from it quite a bit, mostly missing a lot of the week 7-10 speed workouts and also typically exceeding the run lengths on the easy days (especially during Super Week!!). I was mainly concerned with really hitting the long runs and tempo workouts, and managed to do most of those. I knew I could PR from my last half in March (1:56), and I really wanted to go under 1:40 but was a little intimidated by the pace I’d have to maintain to do that.

Pre-race

Hartselle is about two hours away from where I live, so I drove up there the night before and stayed at a (slightly sketchy) hotel. Didn’t get there until about 11:30 pm due to traffic, so I only got about ~5 hours of sleep. Woke up at 5 am, got dressed, ate a stroopwafel, and headed over to the golf course where the race was. Packet pickup went smoothly and I mostly just sat around, watched the sun come up, and crossed my fingers that the cool weather would stick around once the sun really started shining. The race is fairly small, only about ~200 runners.

Race

[Mile 1-Mile 8]:

Gun goes off and we’re off. I really tried to NOT go out too fast, and I managed to do that pretty well for at least the first mile. I watched about 5 other women go out in front of me, and tried to make a mental note of my current place. I suspected a couple of them went out way too fast and would fall back by the halfway point. The first couple miles felt great, and I picked up the pace a little around mile 5, where there’s a brief out-and-back section and I was able to see that there were only 3 women ahead of me. I grabbed some powerade from an aid station at mile 6ish and spilled half of it in my mouth and half of it all over myself. Around mile 7, I noticed I was really gaining on one of the girls who I guessed went out to fast. I passed her a little while later and moved into third place. The first place woman wasn’t even in my sight anymore, but the second place woman was still in sight just up the road, running behind a man in a bright orange shirt. She seemed to be running about the pace I needed to maintain to hit my goal, so I decided to pace myself off her (and my watch) for the rest of the race and maybe try to pass her if I still felt good during the last mile.

[Mile 9-Mile 13.1]:

Here’s where things started to go a little downhill. At this point in the race, I’m basically alone except for the orange shirt man and second place woman ahead of me. There was very little crowd support at this race except for aid stations, due to the rural nature of the setting. This portion of the course was also pretty much in direct sunlight the entire time, on asphalt, on a hot Alabama morning in September. I started to dump water on my head at every aid station, but I was definitely running out of steam. At this point, I just concentrated on keeping up with the second place woman and telling myself that, yes, this hurts, but that’s okay and expected and to push through it. By mile 11, the orange shirt man slowed and fell behind the second place woman and myself. The rest of the race was just us two. A very nice old man had a sprinkler set up at around mile 12.5ish that was spraying out into the road for us to run through, and I think I could have kissed him. I wasn’t sure if I was going to make my sub-1:40 goal, as my splits for the last half of the race where slower than the average pace I needed to maintain. When I turned onto the last little stretch and could see the clock by the finish, I saw that it had just turned to 1:39:00. Up until that moment, I didn’t think I had any kick left in me, but the moment I saw the clock I started sprinting up the little hill and through the finish line to finish with an official time of 1:39:27.

Post-race

First of all, they were handing out wet towels at the finish line, which is by far the BEST IDEA I’ve ever heard of. I was walking around for awhile with it just wrapped around my head and it felt amazing. After I grabbed my medal and towel, I went and found the second place woman and chatted with her for awhile and thanking her for essentially pacing me for half of the race. Awards ceremony happened, and I found out that I won my age group as well which was fun! The first place woman is the current women’s record holder for the race, so I feel pretty good about my performance. The first place man set a state record for his age group, which was HELLA cool. Overall, I feel pretty good about my race, although I do wish I had gone a bit slower during the first half to see if that would have prevented me from crashing a bit in the last half. I start training for my marathon in early October (using Daniels 2Q! Very excited!) and I feel MUCH more confident about my ability to make it through the training and my chances of getting a decent time. I think I’ll stick to this plan much more than I did to my half plan, so I think it’ll be a good training cycle.

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