Sunday, October 6, 2019

Indy Women's Half: All the feels plus a PR!

The Short:

I decided that running the Indy Women's Half for the third year in a row would be a beneficial fitness check and practice trip to Indianapolis six weeks prior to my goal race there, the Indy Monumental Marathon.  Since the race morning weather left a lot to be desired (a humid 74 degrees), my goals for the race were to complete the best I could in the field and hopefully hit marathon goal pace.  I am not sure anyone was more shocked than I was when I finished 3rd overall in a new half PR of 1:20:29.  Although I'm still dying to add a sub-80 to my resume, I was pumped to PR on a day I was sure I wouldn't!

My official results are here, the race leaderboard is here, and my Strava activity is here.

The Long:

My race in Indy last year did not go as planned; I started it slightly injured and finished it very injured, then was very unhappy about taking 10 weeks off running.  On the other hand, my 2017 race there went well and was where I ran my previous half PR of 1:20:50.   The event is well-done, the course is flat and fast, in 2017 and 2018 the temperature was around 50 degrees, and I was excited to return in 2019...until I wasn't.  During the week leading up to the race, I became fearful about getting injured, only because I had at that point in my training last year.  Everything felt fine, but I couldn't shake it.  I was never worried about my race performance because I was just worried I would get hurt, which was odd because I am not superstitious or anything of that nature!  I kept reminding myself that I'd started Indy already hurt last year, and this year I was going in feeling strong.

Summer has really been hanging on this year, and although we got a couple of cool mornings during the week leading up to the race, the race morning forecast kept getting warmer as race day grew closer.  When it was a couple of days out and looking like it would be 69 degrees with 100% humidity, my coach and I discussed a pace plan.  She said she thought my training indicated I was in shape to run a 1:18 (6:00ish pace), but that the weather would slow me down by 15-20 seconds/mile.  We decided that anything under goal marathon pace (6:17) would be a win.  While I was disappointed that Mother Nature wasn't cooperating, this really took the pressure to hit any certain splits off.  I didn't really taper for the race; although my weekly mileage was lighter than usual at 75, it was because I had Wednesday completely off.  One week before I did a significant 20 mile workout, followed by days of 12, 9, 15, 0, 10, and 7 leading up to race day.

My dad and I drove to Indy from my home in Missouri, leaving early Friday morning.  We went to the race expo, explored the area a bit, and found our Bed and Breakfast by about 5:30 p.m.  For awhile I thought I'd be going to the race by myself, so I wanted accommodations that I could easily run to the starting area from, but my thriftiness couldn't handle a $300 downtown hotel, and the BnB was only 1.1 miles from the start, in almost a straight shot (i.e., it would be very difficult to get lost!).  We had several rooms, space to sleep 4, and free parking, and were pleased with the BnB (except they were very strict on breakfast times).
Expo fun
I was honored to be featured as one of the "Five Women to Watch" for the third year.  When I picked up my race booklet and read about the other four women, I didn't feel like I belonged in the feature though.  I thought it was unlikely I'd be able to beat any of the other 4, and there are always a few fast women who are not featured, so I predicted I'd be racing for 5-8th place.  Related note: I've gotten to know Sarah Bishop a bit through social media and she is an amazing athlete!  It was fun to chat with her before and after this race.
Look at those 4 ladies' credentials!
When I woke up race morning and checked my weather app, it was even worse than I'd expected:  74 degrees.  I was mentally ready for a warm one, and during my 3 mile warm up I decided I wasn't going to look at my watch during the race.  I'd had a sub-par long run workout the Saturday before in similar weather, and that day I couldn't get my pace down to 6:15 for the life of me, so I just didn't want to see splits in the 6:20s and get upset.  I'd made peace with no chance of a 1:18, and I also felt that as long as I started and finished healthy I was in a great spot (what a difference a year makes!)!

As the race started and everyone settled into pace, I found myself in a pack of about 10 women.  There were two women out in front of us, although I suspected one of them was in the 5K (she was, and the other was Pasca Myers, a top contender).  The other 3 women to watch were in the pack, in additional to several other women I recognized from previous years races.  There is a lot of power in running in a pack, so I thought it was an ideal situation!

The pace felt right effort-wise, and as the miles clipped away the pack dwindled.  I settled in right behind two women in blue tanks, one of whom I recognized as Sarah Pease, a pro runner for Oiselle who I thought would win the race.  By mile 6 all of the others had fallen off the pack and it was us three.  The woman who wasn't Sarah (I'll call her the girl in the hat) was pushing the pace.  I felt strong but not ready to pick it up, so I let her pull away and then it was me and Sarah.  Since she is from Indy, many people were cheering for her so I just lied to myself that all the "Go Sara(h)"s were for me, haha!  I also kept thinking, "How is this happening?!" in regards to running with her; she has quite the impressive resume and just competed in the U.S. Champs 10,000 m.  I follow her on Instagram and she is a runner I really admire.
Trailing the second female (Sarah Pease is behind her)
I felt strong, but from the hair pin turn just after mile 6 I knew there were a whole slew of women not far behind, so it wasn't just Sarah I was competing with.  I also had the second place woman in the hat in my sights, so I was pushing towards her.  When we went up an incline between miles 9 and 10, I pulled slightly ahead of Sarah and thought, "Well, this is it!", although I still felt like I was in some alternative universe running with/ahead of her.  The second place woman had a good lead on me, but I had over a 5K to cut into it the best I could, and I wanted to try, so that really kept me pushing.

The race felt hard but also controlled the whole way.  I felt like I could maintain my effort through the end, and the closer I got to the finish line the more confident I was about a third place finish (by around mile 12 I knew it was unlikely I was going to catch second).  I smiled through the final mile and kicked it in, seeing the finishing clock in the 1:20s and knowing I'd somehow managed a PR, and hearing the announcer call my name and my dad cheering his heart out!  My dad's video of my finish is here and is heartwarming.
PR in sights
I had to stop my watch at the line to capture the PR -
I also had no plans to buy the photos!
Drenched in sweat & happiness
Since this month I had two performances I was happy with in humid 70+ degrees, I suppose I have to stop saying that I never run anything worthwhile in this weather; although I do believe I would have run significantly faster in cool weather, I held my own in this one.  I have come to the conclusion that my performance in warm humid weather is less predictable.  Some days it bothers me more than others, and I'm not sure what the difference is.
Top 3
And although I sure still want to add a sub-80 half to my running resume, the confidence-boost I got from this race was just as good as if I'd have run a 1:18-1:19 in cool temperatures.  Four weeks prior to running 2:47:14 at CIM, I ran a half marathon in 1:23:53 in temps in the 70s, so I was mentally prepared to be completely calm with a 1:22 half.  Really, as long as I walked away from this race uninjured I was counting it as a huge success after last year, no matter what my time was.  Now I just have to hope that fall arrives before the Indy Monumental Marathon on November 9!  Either way, I'll be there fighting...

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." - 2 Timothy 4:7

Awards ceremony
Top 10
Top 20
Oh the irony that they gave us scarves!


  1. So blessed to be there cheering for my daughter
    and see her run so strong. I had said a special prayer for her
    right before the start for a good race and God
    Answered my prayers by giving her a GREAT RACE.

    1. He certainly answers prayers! Being healthy this year is the biggest blessing.

  2. Wow, so amazing! So impressive running a PR in those conditions and the times of a couple of the "women to watch" compared to their PRs shows how difficult the conditions were. You are inspiring!

    1. It was definitely a nice surprise! Although I know the conditions hurt my time, they most likely helped my place since I was at least used to training in crap weather like that. I think some of the fast women weren't used to humidity and suffered more than me because of that.