“My first time ‘racing’ a half marathon” OR“That time I PR’ed by almost 10 minutes!”
In case those spoilers aren’t enough, I’ll just come right out and say it: this weekend was awesome. I had been looking forward to this race for months. Wineglass has been on my running bucket list for some time due to it’s fantastic reputation. A
downhill flat race course in rural NY and cool fall weather? Sign me up! And so I did, along with a bunch of my runner lady friends, making it a girls running weekend!
Beth, Abby, Allison, Nicole, Ashley and I departed NYC Friday night and after a very long car ride arrived in Corning, NY. We slept in a bit on Saturday and went out for a 3 mile shakeout run before heading to the expo and Wegman’s for pre-race essentials. Kara and Silvia each drove up later in the day to meet us. The expo was really easy to get to and we were able to grab our bibs and race swag (bag, tech shirt, wineglass and champagne split!) with no issues. Wineglass does not mess around with race swag!
Saturday night we attended the pasta dinner at our hotel, with special guest speaker Bart Yasso (Chief Running Officer of Runner’s World and all-around running badass). The dinner itself was not impressive…the pasta was dry and the shrimp (which was my pescetarian plan for protein) looked like meal worms. But the dessert (apple crisp!) was delicious and the speaker was, of course, fantastic. Bart’s story is so incredible and he is such an inspiration. I love how much he focuses on the people he has met and experiences he has had through running, rather than bragging about his paces or finish times. After all, that’s what running is all about! And as luck would have it, Silvia and I ran into Bart in the hotel courtyard later and he happily took a photo with us!
After our encounter with Bart, it was off to bed for our 5:45am wake-up call. As predicted, race morning was warm (64*) and humid (94%!!!!) with a chance of rain. Not exactly the perfect fall racing weather we were hoping for! We walked right from our hotel to the finish line, where we were shuttled to the start area. Everything was very organized and there were plenty of port-a-potties. A few of us did one warm up mile and then headed toward the start line, which turned out to be pretty backwards. We had to walk down the street we would be starting on and PAST all the people already lined up, which was a little tough on a narrow country road lined by corn fields.
Coach Abby had given me a race plan, which I told her was absolutely crazy because it would mean I’d knock 10+ minutes off my current PR of 2:10:46. But I have been incorporating speedwork in my marathon training, so no matter what happened I had a feeling I could PR. On race day, I wasn’t sure I would still be able to “race”, with the combination of less than ideal weather conditions and my achy hip/ITB situation. I decided to start as planned and just see how I felt as the race went on. I was also going to run with Silvia for her first half marathon. She is really speedy, but isn’t great at sticking to a training plan and doesn’t know how to pace herself, so although I KNEW she would go sub-2, I told her to stick with me to slow herself down in the early miles.
There were no waves for the start, but we lined up near the 2:10 pacer and crossed the start line shortly after the gun went off. I immediately regretted starting behind a pacer, because a large group of people surrounded her and it was tough to pass them on the narrow roadway in the first 1/2 mile.
The plan was to find a 9:30ish pace for the first 5 miles, which ended up being more like 9:20 pace. I kept repeating that we should slow down, but it felt comfortable and Silvia and I were having a good time just running and chatting so we kept it up. The one and only hill came in just past the 1st mile marker but it wasn’t so bad. The scenery was awesome…lots of streams, fall foliage and corn fields. And some cows. Which means some cow smells. Not fun when you’re already struggling to breathe through the humidity, but kind of awesome at the same time. In NYC, we’re more used to dodging taxicabs and CitiBikes than running through corn fields and farms. Sil and I moo’ed at the ladies, soaked up the crowd support and thanked all the volunteers! I was having a blast.
Since 9:20ish was feeling just fine for the first 5 miles, I figured we could pick it up to around 9:10-9:15 for the next 5 miles. These miles were on busier roads and even part of the highway, so I ended up running on that slanted part of the shoulder a lot. Which is when I started feeling a blister on my right big toe. This has never happened to me in a race and it was just adding to my discomfort with the humidity and tight ITB. My hip/ITB was noticeable, but wasn’t changing my stride and definitely not worsening as the miles went on so I decided to push through. The only time it hurt more was when I stopped to walk at water stations and then had to start back up again. Even so, I think I held myself back in these miles for fear of injuring myself. I took the downhill parts very slow and was nervous around some of the turns. Around mile 10, I could see Silvia was feeling strong and able to push harder so I told her to go!
Silvia stuck with me for a bit, but eventually took off. I kept her in my sights, but I knew there was no way I would catch her. These miles were the best and worst at the same time. I LOVED the crowd support in town and how we were running on these little paved paths for some of it. There were kids and puppies and lots of awesome signs to distract me. As I’ve mentioned before, I like running when it’s comfortable and fun, so pushing my pace and racing was really out of my comfort zone. I was stuck around the 8:45-8:50 pace for the last 3 miles, giving it everything I had and could not get myself to go faster. I was passing a lot of people, which felt awesome but I also started feeling a little crazy. I guess that’s what racing feels like? I was totally uncomfortable and couldn’t wait for this race to be over! Checking my watch, I still wasn’t sure if I’d be able to come in under 2 hours, but I knew it would be close. And I already knew I’d have an incredible PR. Since we ran the last 1.5 miles of the course on Saturday, I totally knew what to expect and where to really push it. I hit the little bridge before Market Street and knew there was just 1/4 mile left, although that was the longest 1/4 mile EVER. Just before the finish line, I saw Beth, Abby and Ashley and heard them cheering like crazy for me, but I could barely get myself to wave at them! I was DONE.
I crossed the finish line, had the giant, beautiful glass medal placed around my neck and was handed a bottle of water. There was an unbelievable amount of post-race treats (powerade, bananas, bagels, pizza, etc), but I went right for my favorite post-race fuel: chocolate milk!!! I chugged that and grabbed a powerade and banana to go. I high-fived Silvia for crushing her first half-marathon and we found our friends to cheer on the rest of the girls, many of whom also ran incredible races and PR’ed!
Overall, I highly recommend running the Wineglass Half and would glady run it again in the future. It was an absolutely beautiful course, was very well organized and completely lived up to the hype!
On a more personal level, I’m super happy with how my race went. This was the first time I’ve followed a race strategy, other than just sticking to a steady pace goal. Looking back at my splits, I was able to stick to the plan for the most part and really push it at the end. I finished strong, albeit tired, and completed my 5th half marathon in an official time of 2:00:50.
Which is a HUGE PR for me! As in a 9 minute and 56 second PR. INSANE. It’s also very freakin close to the coveted sub-2 half. I think I’m still in shock about it a little bit. And yeah…it’s ridiculous, but I can’t help but be a little bummed that I was less than a minute shy of sub-2 AND I can’t even say I PR’ed by 10 whole minutes! Stupid 4 seconds. 😉 Do I think I could have gone sub-2 if the weather was cooler and my hip was feeling 100%? Absolutely. But I won’t make excuses. I ran the very best I could given the conditions and I couldn’t be happier with the end result! I’m still incredibly proud of myself and thankful for the support everyone has given me along the way! Yes, I’m the one doing the work, but I can’t thank Coach Abby enough for pushing me and believing in me!!! Finishing the Philadelphia Marathon is the next big goal, but you better believe I’m still coming for that sub-2 half!