This year, I decided to up the ante a bit, and register for a race taking place during tax season. It worked! I've actually averaged over 18 miles per week since January, peaking at 29 miles in a week before tapering for the race. This is not only more running than I've ever done during tax season before, it's actually a lot more running - weekly and long runs - than I typically do for a half marathon at all. So I was crossing my fingers that my pretty ambitious goals might just pan out. I really want to get under 2:30 this summer; I wasn't sure if my specific plan for this race would quite get me there, but I knew it shouldn't be too far off.
The Hop Hop race also included a 5k, which oddly started before the half did. Which was great, in that the half marathon start time was later than I thought it was, so I got to sleep in a little - but I was also heading to work after so this is a case I wouldn't have minded starting as early as possible. I arrived about a half hour before the 5k; over an hour before the half started. Parking was well-organized, but I think if I'd arrived too much later I would have been parking at a lot a block down the street, rather than the main lot closer to the start line. I had Abe pick up my packet at one of the options earlier in the week, but there didn't appear to much of a line to pick up morning of.
First I found the porta potties, which were plentiful with no real line. I then looked for Karey, and hung out and chatted with her and some of her friends (some already known, and she always makes new friends everywhere - I met her by chatting at a race a few years ago!). We headed to the start line maybe 10 minutes or so ahead of time.
My plan was to go out really conservatively, around/just under 12:00, for the first 5 miles; step it up to actual goal pace, 11:30, for the next 5 miles; and then whatever I could do for the last 5k. I definitely wanted to avoid going out to fast and then crash and burn, but even sticking with the initial 12:00 pace would give a big PR.
The route started with a mile south on 33rd, then back past the start line, heading towards the river and turning east on a path. That was a little odd, but it was also kind of cool to see the eventual winners run by an extra time. It's all relatively flat, and really pretty, especially on the way out with some fog left from the early morning. After a couple miles, I realized I was leap frogging with one of Karey's new friends who was doing run/walk intervals (I can't remember her name, so henceforth referred to as "Gold Spark Skirt" or GSS). I was feeling pretty strong with my pace right where I wanted it, so I decided to try to pick it up as planned for the next 5 miles.
Miles 1 - 5: 11:51, 12:00, 11:52, 11:56, 11:50
Literally just after the mile 5 marker, GSS caught up to me and said "looks like we're going to be good friends by the end of this"! Which then made me feel bad that I was literally about to (try to) peal away at a pace 30 seconds per mile than we'd be averaging.
But I surged ahead, and kept up a good pace for a few miles, but was definitely starting to feel a bit tired. Somewhere in here I passed someone who was heading back on the out-and-back who was knitting while running. The skein of yarn appeared to be in a camelbak she was wearing, and the scarf she was creating hung down in front of her. Another woman was passing me and happened to basically right next to me as the knitter went by, and we both looked at each other, "did we really just see that?".
There was kind of a y-shaped out and back around mile 7 - out to a turnaround point, back in about a quarter mile, than back out, then in to head back towards the start/finish line. As we approached mile 10, I was starting to slow down a bit. Around here, GSS caught up and passed me, and we started leap-frogging again - though slower than I wanted I maintained a steady running pass, and she continued run/walk intervals.
By around mile 11 I was starting to feel really tried, my feet were aching from the pounding, and I had a weird pain in my left hip flexor. Walking didn't make things hurt less, though, so I continued running with only a few very brief walking breaks to take fuel and drink. Compared to previous half marathons, this kind of pain/aching/fatigue hit much latter - I'm used to this kicking in closer to 8 or 9, making for quite a bit of time left to be miserable; in this case it was less than 3 miles left, so that made it easier to power through it.
With a mile or mile and a half to go, I realized that 2:30 was definitely not actually within reach that day, but my calculations seemed like 2:35 probably was. I was also thinking about my PR, which I knew was 2:48:something, but I wasn't sure what how many seconds over 2:48 it was. I kicked it up at the end, though GSS nonetheless finished just before me.
Miles 11 - 13.1: 11:43, 11:28, 12:07, 9:40
Official time: 2:34:42 (11:48 pace), which happens to be exactly 14 minutes faster than my previous PR! (I'm only slightly disappointed that I didn't PR by 13:06.) I'm definitely going to gun for sub-2:30 at the Foot Traffic Flat in July. I'm going to pass on doing another half before then; though obviously doable this was absolutely a hard pace to maintain, so I don't think I have it in me to improve by more than a minute or so total without another couple months of work.
Over all I really like the course - very flat overall, and minimal impact from traffic. There was a point (twice) where you had to cross Marine Drive, a fairly busy street, but they had police officers stopping traffic, and they did a great job timing when they let people through in between clumps of runners. After the race, you get a free goblet and mimosa; there was also lots of food but I didn't really check it out, as I just wanted to get home and showered so I could head to work, and thus leave work sooner.
Definitely a race I'd recommend for any non-tax-preparers; I'm glad I did it at least and it was great motivation to keep running through the busy months this year, but I'm not sure I want the pressure of a race through the pressure of tax season again.