Yesterday was my fifth half marathon, and the first one for which I exceeded race distance in my long runs - actually, the first that I even got to double digits in my long runs! But as part of marathon training, I've already gotten to 14 miles a couple weeks ago (before last week being a combination cut-back week for marathon training and tapering for this race). So basically, now that I was using this race as more of a long training run than a goal race, I finally trained appropriately for the distance.
I did this same race last year, about six weeks after my first half marathon - three of my friends were running it and talked me into signing up at the last minute. I was also transitioning to barefoot shoes for longer distances, and the main thing I remember was my feet hurting so much by the last few miles (and for a few weeks afterward) I thought I might have done some permanent damage.
For overall time, my A goal was 2:45, my B goal was 2:50, and my C goal was to at least set a new PR (previously 2:52, set last December at the Holiday Half).
Any of those total time goals required an average mile pace around or under 13:00, so I was also trying to keep every single mile split under 13:00.
I printed a pace wristband for 2:50 from marathonguide.com (though I didn't tape it on as a wristband - I have strange enough tan lines already from my Garmin and Road ID - I just stuck in it in a pocket on my hydration vest), though for the first several miles it was easy enough to keep track in my head where I should be with 13:00 minutes miles, and stay under that.
The conditions were absolutely ideal - it was 55 degrees at the start, and maybe pushing 70 by the time I finished, but plenty of shade on the course, especially in the later miles, and a slight breeze. I wore my hydration vest, carrying 2 liters of water, so I didn't have to slow down through the water stops (I actually drank about 2/3s of the water during the race).
By mile 5 I had built up a 2 minutes cushion below a 13:00 average, so I stopped to use a portapotty (I had needed to pee since about a half mile into the race). By the halfway point, I was just under 1:24 - so although 2:45 still seemed like a stretch, I figured the 2:50 goal was doable.
I think I only walked when taking a shot blok (7 or 8 times), and only for 0.05 mile at a time. After a couple miles that went just over 13:00, I decided to pick it up at the end. I knew I had to be conservative at the beginning (in the past my lack of long training runs always resulted in 12:30 - 13:00 being too fast too maintain for so long and a lot of walking at the end of half marathons), so I was excited that I still had energy to not just maintain my pace but actually speed up (and my feet didn't hurt either!). I even got mile 13 under a 12:00 pace!
Last year's Flat was the first race I did with my Garmin, and since the course was the same I thought it'd be fun to compare my splits.
The first thing I noticed was that my Garmin measured the distance to be 13.21 both years - I know I do a fair amount of weaving and don't run tangents very efficiently, so I always expect to measure about a tenth of a mile or so above the race distance, but it seemed odd that it actually measured exactly the same to the hundredth of a mile.
I was surprised by the consistency, just a touch faster overall this year (until the last few miles when I walked a lot last year). Mile 6 is where I used the portapotty both years, hence the spike. Mile 5 is interesting because it includes a half mile out-and-back that is uphill on the way out. But it's not too steep, and early enough that I can maintain my pace going out, and pick up a little on the downhill on the way back.
Besides gradually improving my time at races, I also know I recovery a lot faster! Last night I was even up for walking a mile and a half to get Coldstone, and I have 10 miles on the schedule for tomorrow. My ankles haven't been acting up or feeling overly tight lately, although there is something funky going on with the outside of my left thigh (is that my IT band?) when I get to about mile 9 or 10 in a long run. I'm stretching and foam rolling to try to keep any actual injury at bay.