The Strawberry Plains Half Marathon is the 2ndpart (of 3 races) in the Knoxville Track Club high mileage series. I never intended this race to be anything but a part of my training building up to the Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon. 
To say I’m not very good at starting slow would be kind. I suck at it. I decided SP would be a “training race” – more than just a run, but not an all-out effort. Not knowing where to start, but knowing for sure I’d have to purpose to be slow, I decided I would start at a 10:30 pace. 
Then I played around with some calculators. I knew I was capable of a 2:10 race – I blew up at Secret City, had a horrible race, walked a lot, and still finished in 2:11. All things considered, by the time I made it to the start line, I’d decided upon a 10:15 pace for the early miles.
Amy, Sharon, & I all had the same strategy so we met up at the start line and stuck together. We positioned ourselves too far back in the line, and had to fight around the crowd. We’d hoped this would keep down our pace, but we over compensated. Along the way, we caught up with Johnny, who had mentioned running with us early in the week. Between passing and slowing down, the first mile wasn’t consistent.
Mile 1 – 10:01
We knew this mile was too fast, so we tried to slow things down a bit. Then we got lost in conversation and noticed our pace getting faster. Between the 4 of us, it seemed like we kept catching ourselves going too quickly.
Mile 2 – 10:02
I’d describe the early miles as rolling. Sharon is a good fit for our group because she naturally runs up hills quickly. I naturally run down quickly. Working as a team, we kept each other in check, although still a bit fast.
Mile 3 – 9:55
Mile 4 – 10:15
Not sure what happened in mile 4 to hit our goal dead on, but it was the only mile we did so. Thankfully, one of the reasons we were having difficulty was because it was too conservative. Truth be told, I should have started around 9:45-10:00. Lesson learned, which was the point of this race.
Mile 5 – 10:03 
I had done some homework, reading race reports from previous years. Also, our KTC Socialites team page had some discussion of the course. Everything pointed to miles 6-8 being the make or break stretch of this course.
Mile 6 – 10:04
I’m not sure I noticed a real difference at first, but we committed to staying strong through this portion. I can’t say enough how awesome it was to be able to talk through the race with them. I hope we are all at a similar enough paces to do this through at least a portion of the marathon.
Mile 7 – 9:56 
I would have sworn the hill of mile 8 was huge and lasted the entire mile. My Garmin reports it was 0.41, and climbed 96 feet. It was tough. Then again, we surged up it, so maybe it was just our pace. Either way, looking back I’m very impressed with the pace for this mile.
Mile 8 – 9:53 
I’m good at downhill running, and I told the group of my plan to pick up some time blazing down it. At this point, we were running our own races. Johnny took a walk break for some fuel. Amy’s IT band issues make her a more conservative downhill runner.
Mile 9 – 9:09
Sharon & I stuck together until we reached the rolling return portion of this course. Her strength on the up hills allowed her to pull away. On one of the ups, I introduced myself to Abbi and chatted with her the next mile or so. I very much enjoyed the distraction.
Mile 10 – 9:35
Amy caught up to me and helped me to keep pushing. She’s typically quiet in late miles, however, so I had a bit of a battle in my head. Its race, its okay to be uncomfortable. Keep pushing. Let’s see just how much you’ve got.
Mile 11- 9:19
Mile 12 – 9:16
I’m not sure at what point it happened, but near the end of the race I got stuck behind a car. For an open course, I saw very few along the way. We’d been instructed to run with traffic, and this gal was stalled ahead of me due to runners ahead of her. After a bit of sucking exhausted, I decided to cross the double yellow line and pass her. It very much seemed that she sped up when she noticed me beside her. Maybe this challenge helped get my legs moving faster and ready for a surge?
Mile 13- 9:07
I’m very proud my last mile was my fastest. Sure the mile included a downhill, but so did mile 9. By this point, I was pushing hard. I had gas left in the tank and I wanted to finish strong. Passing the 13 mile marker, I dug deep and kicked it in high gear. 
Some of my teammates cheered me in as I made one final pass then grunted my way across the finish line.
Last 0.18 – {7:42}

Final 2:07:51

 

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