When I chose the Columbia, SC “Famously Hot” half marathon, I wasn’t interested in the terrain, time of year, or even the promised bling. Instead, it was because a friend of mine lives nearby and the race would give me a good excuse to visit.

Having said that, I very much enjoyed the race.  In only its 2nd year, the event was well organized and left little to be desired.  My friends/pit crew for the weekend went to packet pick up with me and agreed to drive the course the day before the race.  We found rolling hills and a couple of decent climbs along the way.

Race morning we arrived early, got parked, and walked to the starting line with time to spare.  I was very thankful to have them along – they took pictures, provided moral support, and insured I didn’t get lost on the way to the race!

Prior to the race, I had made a note card with my goal splits.  I wanted to achieve my first ever sub 2 hour half, and needed to hit my paces in order to do so.  I tend to ignore the “don’t go out too fast” advice, because that’s never been a problem for me.  Typically I start slow then do too good of a job keeping the pace. 

I decided instead of obsessing about splits, I would just stick with the 9:10 pace crew.  I met them before the race and they seemed like a lot of fun.  Instead of looking at my watch the first 2 miles, I stayed in step with them.

Mile 1 – 8:57
(goal – 9:10)

Mile 2 – 9:04
(goal – 9:20)

First hill came along in mile 2 and reminded me of Cherokee Blvd. Decent climb, but nothing intimidating.   (Reviewing the course elevation map, it appears to be no tougher than the hill at the end.  Except the hill at the end is…well…at the end.)

Steep hills don’t seem to be a strength of mine, and I struggled to keep up with the pacers.  By the top, I had lost them and wasn’t able to catch up.  Those first couple miles were well below goal pace. 

Mile 3 – 8:49
(goal – 9:00)
Mile 4 – 9:14
(goal – 8:50)
Mile 5 – 8:54
(goal – 8:50)
Mile 6 – 9:06

(goal – 9:00)

These miles were flat to rolling and I tried to maximize the down hills when possible. Pace reflects the terrain.   While I missed goal pace for each of these miles, the average had me on track for a sub 2 finish.

Mile 7: 9:16
(goal – 9:00)
Mile 8: 9:13
(goal – 9:10)

I was starting to slow down and starting to realize how much work the finish of this race would be.  I had turn into a serious, stuff runner.  I just wasn’t enjoying myself.  (Probably didn’t help that I realized I was starting to get too far off pace.)

Mile 9: 9:48
(goal – 9:20)

At this point I hit the wall AND simultaneously started the long gradual climb. In the ride the day before I hadn’t noticed it as much but at this point in the race it really took a toll.  I had saved my music for when I needed it, but probably didn’t start it soon enough.  It helped me pick up the pace a big (the paces I saw along this mile were slower, so the music helped me pull it up.)

Mile 10: 10:05
(goal – 8:50)

I started my shot bloks taking 2 at mile 4, then tried to hit them every 2.  I missed them by 5 minutes or so here and there.   At this point I took my last blok, wondering where I had lost the blok for mile 12 along the way.

I trotted through the water stops but when I saw another ahead, I told myself I’d stop and hydrate because I was struggling. Turns out it was a beer stop. I knew I was slowing and didn’t have the mental umph I needed to finish the race and hit my goal. Also, not one to turn down a free beer, I stopped and drank my 4 oz portion before going on my way.

Mile 11: 9:17
(goal – 9:10)

See – the beer helped!

Mile 12: 10:16
(goal – 8:50)

Saw Holly & Todd once last time (they had been at 2 previous intersections) to cheer me on. I stopped to hit my inhaler (I’d made the call at race start to forego it up to that point), then headed up the last climb. This one was a 2 part dozy and involved some walking. I promised myself if I just made it to the top I’d be able to pour it on for a strong finish.

Mile 13: 9:33
(goal – 9:00)

At this point I knew something major would have to happen to keep me from getting a PR, so I kept pushing to not leave anything on the course.  I chicked a really tall dude who had passed me earlier in the race.  He’d made the hills look easy, and I had commented as such.  This time as I passed I said “come on now! this is the easy part.”  He grunted something in reply. 

We turned down main street to a slight downhill finish.  I picked it up a notch in an effort to finish strong.

0.15 mile: 0:51{8:36}
(goal – 0:54, 9 m/m pace)

Official chip time: 2:02:19

I finished 20/71 in my age group and 118/418 overall among females.  I remember the day when I longed to be a mid-packer.  I’ve blown right by that goal and finished this race in the top 3rd of both categories!

However, I am slightly disappointed I didn’t reach my goal of a sub 2 hour time.  I know I did the best I could do on this “B” race, and PRed by 5 minutes!  I also learned a lot, and will change up some things come Knoxville.  After all, isn’t that the point of a “B” Race, to gather knowledge for my “A” race?

 

 
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