Wednesday, October 16, 2013

No Goal Time, But I Got A PR

For months I trained for the Iron Horse Half Marathon with the goal in mind of hitting a sub-2. On the surface, it seemed doable. I mean, what's a measly 5 minutes 14 seconds, right?

But we're talking about shaving 24 seconds off per mile.

I am happy to report I gave it my all. I'm confident in knowing I did my best.

Unfortunately, my best on this day did not result in a sub-2. However, my time of 2:04:20 did give me a course PR and a half marathon PR, and I'll gladly take that any day of the week.

When I ran the Iron Horse in 2011, I posted a then-PR of 2:09:42 - meaning I bested my course PR for this race by 5:22! My half marathon PR was set on Feb. 11, 2012, at the Strawberry Plains Half, another hilly course, and I beat my time of 2:05:13 by 53 seconds.

Definitely one of the best medals
I've ever gotten.
I'm not sure what all happened to prevent me from getting the sub-2. I feel there are a number of possible factors, and I'll save all that for another blog post. But honestly, I feel a big chunk of it was I psyched myself out of it. Nervous and anxious does not begin to explain how I was feeling leading up to this race. Physically, I firmly believe I was ready to post a sub-2.

Mentally, not so much.

After seeing my splits on this race, I know a sub-2 is in my reach.

Despite not hitting my goal of a sub-2, I had a great weekend, a great race and a great experience. And this was in large part to the people I had with me and got to hang out with. My entire crew went as did my local running buddy Chris and his family. We pretty much spent the weekend together, going to a pumpkin patch, going to dinner together, staying at the same hotel ... you get the idea. In fact, Chris and I let our families sleep in on race day as we drove to the start/finish line together and allowed our crews to catch a few more Z's, eat breakfast and show
Brooke, me and Kelly before the race.
up in plenty of time at the finish line.

Also, I get to meet two of my favorite Twitter running buddies, Brooke and Kelly as well as their friend Christal who was running her first half. They live in east Tennessee and I'm still trying to figure out how we haven't met before since I run a ton of races down there. Anywho, it was great meeting them for a pre-race dinner on Saturday and lining up at the start line with them.

Chris and I got to the race a little before 7 a.m. for the 8 a.m. start. Not too long after we arrived, we ran into Brooke, Kelly and Christal and began waiting for the start. Race-day jitters must've been setting in because I jumped at the chance to do a warm-up run when Kelly suggested it. I was ready to run and wanted the race to start.

We ran roughly a mile. Not totally sure since the four of us who went didn't bother to start our Garmins. Then, not long after we get back to the start line around and are staying among the masses, we here this air horn and the race started.

As much as I love and enjoy the Iron Horse Half, it has one big drawback: narrow roads. The entire race is
Racing toward the finish line.
on 2-land roads, which is a problem especially at the start and during the first mile or so. With 1,555 runners jammed on a 2-lane road, it makes some slow going as you weave your way through.

I was planning to take it easy and go it a little slower than the average pace I needed for a sub-2, but a half mile in, my pace was around 10:30. I was able to pick it up a bit and finished mile 1 in 9:53.

The next four miles went well as I turned in splits of 9:13, 9:10, 9:01 and 9:13. Not going to lie, I was pleased with these splits, but I knew I needed to refuel so I slowed down to get a GU gel in me during mile 6. Didn't realize I slowed down as much as I did because my split was 9:53. But I bounced back on miles 7 and 8 with splits of 9:04 and 9:06

The first 8-plus miles were not bad in regards to hills. They were nice and rolling. It really wasn't that bad. But the last 5 miles? A whole different story.

Even though I had a GU gel after the 5-mile mark, I was feeling the need for another so I took one around the 8.5-mile mark. There were only really 3 hills during the last 5 miles (and that's with it being an out-and-
Kelly, Christal, Brooke and I after
the race.
back route), BUT the inclines were long and seemingly unrelenting.

I don't know if I went too hard during the first half or what, but I struggled to keep up the pace during the last few miles. Mile 9 was my worst split at 10:36, but miles 10 and 11 were better at 9:19 and 9:47. At this point, I knew the sub-2 was not going to happen. Actually, I knew that was the case when I hit the 1:30:00 and was only at 9.5 miles into the race.

Mile 12 was the last, long incline to climb. It was a little slow but got it
Chris and I after the race.
I think we were both spent
done in 10:01. I was determined to finish strong so I picked up the pace. Aided by the long downhill stretch, I cranked out an 8:58 split on mile 13 and doing the final the .10 I held a 7:47 pace to finish 2:04:20.

And I knew I had done all I could because when I got to the water table at the end of the finishers' chute, I was toast. I was done. I was spent. I had nothing left to give.

Was I disappointed I didn't post a sub-2? Sure. But I got a PR. Never had I ran that fast at this distance, so nothing was going to take that joy away from me.

This was one of the many beautiful views we runners
got to enjoy during the race.
All in all, I had a great time at the Iron Horse Half. It's a beautiful course through the rolling hills of central Kentucky in the heart of horse country. Especially through the first half of the race, we ran right by the farms and horses came running right up to the fences. There was even a herd of 15-20 horses racing around like they wanted to join us.

Not sure if I'll run this race again next year, but I will be back.

There's a ton more I'd love to add about the race and the whole weekend experience, but I'll save that for another post (along with a post about where I think I went wrong in missing the sub-2).

Another thing I'm most stoked about was finishing in the top THIRD of the field. There were 1,555 participants, and I was 517th overall!!! Always wanted to be in the top half but never thought about making the top third.


  1. Great job, Jay! Your pacing looks okay to me. Based on what I know about this race, I think it was just a tough course for sub-2, PR looks pretty impressive from here! I have no doubt you could go under 2 on a flatter course, such as the Secret City Half in December.

    1. Thanks! Appreciate the comment and the encouragement

  2. congrats on a great race and PRs!!
    thanks for letting us crash the family weekend to meet up for pre race italian!

    1. Thanks, Brooke! And it was great finally meeting you IRL!

  3. Congrats on the PR! Sub 2 is so yours.

  4. Congrats on a great PR, and awesome time! Sub-2 is definitely within reach and I think sooner than later! Keep up the hard work!

    1. Appreciate the comment and encouragement, Laura!