2018 Germantown Half Marathon
As many of you know, my first experience at the Germantown Half Marathon (recap) was really fun until about 10.3 miles into the race when I tore one of the high hamstring tendons on my left side...ouch. At the end of that race, I had absolutely no idea how much work would be required in order to return and run strong; nevertheless, I immediately began planning the path back to Germantown and, while there have been multiple stumbles and setbacks (more on my injured year next week!), I felt ready to test my fitness and regain some confidence.
My left high hamstring and glute area were cranky all week; I saw my PT on Wednesday afternoon, for dry needling and soft tissue work. While I felt some improvement after, I was still anxious about some tightness on my injured side while running and a few aches outside of activity. I don't think I imagined these sensations but I do attribute much of my reaction to mental factors, like returning to the race that triggered the injury and having preconceived expectations of how I should be feeling during race week.
After losing an hour of much needed sleep to Daylight Saving Time, Cecilia and I had our coffee, Picky Oats for me and a Picky Bar for her, and headed to the Germantown Athletic Complex where the race start/finish is located. As always, Cecilia did a great job of keeping me pumped up and encouraged for the race; we were both nervous about getting out there, but I think we did a good job of managing pre-race jitters.
The early weather forecast had been all over the place but, thankfully, settled into a great morning; race start temperature was 52F, with little to no wind, and very high (95%) humidity. I could've done without the humidity, but at 52F it doesn't affect me very much. We were so thankful the wind held off until later in the day!
As I mentioned in my race goals post, there is a lengthy incline in the first 5K of the race; it begins at about 1.3 miles and continues through about 2.4. Until that climb arrives, it's tough to reign in the pace; I started off a little more aggressively than I probably should have, but I was prepared (I thought!) to face the consequences.
Miles 1-4: 8:41, 8:37, 8:36, 8:29
The next section of the race is a relatively flat, long stretch; it's pretty boring, to be honest, and I was trying to stay motivated and not focus too much on pace. My running coach gave me some great advice - focus on form and cadence and the pace will fall in line - and I kept running that through my mind instead of glancing at my watch every two seconds.
Miles 5-8: 8:30, 8:33, 8:40, 8:39
And then those "rolling hills" return and it's time to dig in! I'm so thankful for the friends who sent me encouraging pre-race messages that, unbeknownst to them, became mini-mantras for the times when my brain got too noisy, telling me "this is too hard," and "you're going to have to slow down, you can't hold this pace." I let it get the best of me at about the 10.5 mile mark (in hindsight, this coincides with the moment I experienced that hamstring pop last year) and I stopped at an aid station to refill my water bottle and regroup. It cost me some time, but I think it was necessary.
Miles 9-12: 8:38, 9:04, 8:38, 8:43
Y'all that last mile felt like death; I will never wonder if I had anything left to give at the end of this race! Had it not been for the water stop, this would have been my slowest mile; most of it is uphill (SO CRUEL!) and there were a couple of moments when I feared my legs might just crumple up underneath my body and I would fall flat on my face. Instead, I finished in 1:54:22 - one minute, eleven seconds off my personal best half marathon.
Even though I went against my coach's plan and started out a little more aggressively than normal, I wouldn't change a single thing about my performance; I never had any trouble from my injured side and even now, a few days later, it's feeling no worse than the rest of my body. I needed this experience to force myself into uncomfortable territory, to challenge both my physical and mental strength, and remember that I can do hard things!
I'm so glad that I was able to do this in the company of such great friends and teammates; I'm looking forward to another fun-filled race next month, in Seattle, at The Tenacious Ten 10K!