In the past 4 months of training for the Covenant Health Knoxville {half} Marathon, I’ve considered plenty of different race strategies. Ranging from “just have fun” to a detailed race plan completed with mile-by-mile splits.  I finally settled on the lowest maintenance way of shooting for a sub 2 hour half marathon I knew of – setting my Garmin on over all time and trying not to obsess.

Jay tagged along with us to the race and was there to cheer me on at the start.  It was nice having him to tote around my jacket and extra stuff I shed before the race, but somewhere in the mix I accidentally gave him my inhaler.  Since it makes me jittery, I had held off taking it.  By the time I remembered, he was lost in the crowd.  I prayed a quick prayer putting my lungs in God’s hands and tried to not worry about it.

high school buddies I ran into at the start line
 

Unlike our last half marathon, Kelly & I lined up in our corral together.  We each had our own race plan, but stuck together for as long as it made sense. Either we guessed our finishing time wrong (likely, given our November registration) or else people didn’t stick to their corrals.  (Also likely – less than a quarter mile into the race we passed a power walker.) The first mile or two, we stuck together best we could as we fought our way through the crowd. 

Mile 1 – 9:09

This mile definitely would have been faster if not for the crowd.  We saw one of our fitness instructors as well as a girl who works out at our gym regularly.  One of the most fun parts about this race is seeing people I know all along the course!

Mile 2 – 8:07

This is one of the best flat/downhill sections of the course, so Kelly and I really picked it up in an attempt to bank some speedy miles to compensate for the hills that would slow us down later.  We passed quite a few people in this mile, but I was surprised when Daily Mile Joe passed us…turns out he’d be placed in a slow corral due to his late registration.

Mile 3 – 8:44

Another flat mile, we decided to settle in to a fast/comfortable pace.

 

Mile 4 – 9:26

A buddy of mine from high school caught up with us, and I chatted with him a bit as Kelly went ahead up the hill going from Neyland onto Kingston Pike.  I wasn’t too concerned with my pace because this is one of the gradual but constant hill sections I’d accounted for in my race planning.

 Mile 5 – 9:03

Entering Sequoia Hills, I felt great.  Sure there are some climbs, but the downhills definitely make up for the work on the ups.  Plus there were some cute signs along the way to distract me.  “Naked cheerleaders in ½ mile” followed by “Naked cheerleaders in ¼ mile” followed by “Naked cheerleaders on break” with bras in the trees.

Mile 6 – 8:41

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel on these hills, and while the 9:10 m/m pacer started to leave my line-of-sight, I felt good about the solid paces I was hitting.

Mile 7 – 9:11
Mile 8 – 9:48

Noelton was in this mile.  Its the steepest part of the course, but only covers about a half mile.  Pre-race I had decided to allow myself walk breaks if my pace slowed enough.  I’d rather brisk walk up than drain my legs with a slow jog.  A run/walk on each of the 2 sections kept me averaging a 9 m/m pace, so I was happy with my effort.  The slight (but longish) downhill for the remainder of the mile helped bring my pace up.

Mile 9 – 8:49Mile 10 – 9:15Mile 11 – 9:09

This was the green way section of the race.  In hindsight, I probably should have pushed a bit more on this part because its a nice rolling section.  However I was getting tired (not sure if it was mental or just had used a lot of energy by this point) and was still holding an overall 9 m/m pace.

Mile 12 – 10:03

I really started to slow when I turned off of the green way and onto the strip.  Unlike Noelton, the hills in the Fort Sanders/Children’s Hospital area are relentless.  Hill, turn.  Hill turn, Hill turn.  I walked a bit here as well, but while Noelton probably helped my overall time, I feel like I should have slogged on this section.  It was too long to allow for walking and still holding a decent pace. 

Mile 13 – 9:03

My average pace had slowed, so I really tried to pick it up this mile.  It starts flattish with a steep downhill which I felt like I flew down.  Its actually quite painful to go quickly down a hill after having ran 12 hard miles.

Going into the stadium is an uphill and I was struggling to push.  I heard a siren and got worried someone was injured/ill in the stadium.  Sure enough it was coming my direction, so I slowed a bit and got to the right of the road so the emergency personnel could pass. 

Only it was a cop on a motorcycle.

Is the Kenyan about to pass me to win the full marathon??

Only it was a hand cyclist.
Not a Kenyan, but those dudes are impressive in their own right.

Final 0.2 kick – 8:59

Heading into the stadium I felt like I picked it up a notch, but I was exhausted.  Unfortunately, my average pace included an extra 0.1 (probably from all the passing I did early in the race).  While a 9:09 m/m average pace is good enough for a sub 2 hour marathon…its not when you add in the extra.

Official Chip Time: 2:00:22

 

A 2 minute PR is hard to be upset with, but that measly 23 seconds hit me below the belt.  In my mind I’ve thought about a million different things I could have done differently to make up the difference.  Bottom line is I far exceeded my original goal of a beating last year’s 2:07 PR, and I even bested last month’s race by 2 minutes (on a harder course). 

Place:
Age group – 48/217
Female – 231/1344
Overall – 680/2433

 
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