In a pandemic year, it is close to impossible to find a competitive race with a sizeable field. When I first heard wind of the Indy Women’s Half Marathon, it sounded too good to be true. This all women’s race offered a flat and fast course, all the swag, and prize money to the top TWENTY! I registered and crossed my fingers it would happen.
The afternoon before the race, I headed over to my friend Shannon’s and we packed into her Volvo wagon with the fancy rims. Indianapolis was only a three hour drive from Lexington, and we made good time. I brought the snacks (rice crisps and Swedish fish), and then proceeded to demolish them all. So much for sharing…
We pulled up to our hotel, a nice, little Marriott in a group of about three hotels on the western edge of downtown. It was also almost directly across from Military Park, a pretty, little venue where the race would start and finish. The weather Gods had blessed us, and we noticed the first chill of fall weather while making the five minute walk to packet pickup. After a really toasty summer of training (and almost heat stroking on our last mile repeats the week before) the crisp, fall air was very welcomed.
Packet pickup was quick and easy, and the swag was great. Shannon and I then headed to Yard House for a bite. I had eaten there the night before the Monumental Half Marathon, where I had PR’d with a 1:29 low in November. I knew the Gardein orange chick’n and rice bowl worked for me, so why change? We were the only people in the entire restaurant, so didn’t have to wait long!
On the way back to the hotel, we ran into my friend/ client Caroline. She and her fantastically weird and wonderful boyfriend Matthew were walking down the sidewalk, so we chatted with them for a few minutes. Caroline was around the same current pace as Shannon and I, so we all planned to work together the following morning.
Shannon and I got to bed early, and fell asleep to some really stupid comedy of my choosing. I often sleep better on race nights, as I force myself to turn the lights off earlier, and this was no exception. I woke up early, had my Picky Bar Can’t Beet Chocolate oatmeal three hours out, and did the Myrtl Routine (a hip mobility sequence.)
It was dark and chilly on our way to the start line- perfect! We ran into Caroline, as well as Jess and Heather (and Heather’s husband Scott.) Jess and Heather are two friends/ athletes who I coach, and it made me so happy to see they were both sporting their Rocksport singlets. The girls in green would be representing! Jess was doing the 5k, and Heather was doing her first half. We chatted for a few minutes, and then it was time to warm up.
Caroline, Shannon and I did a ten minute jog with a bathroom-I-mean-bush break peppered into it. We did a few strides, and a few drills. I was happy to note that my strained calf was quiet and not very noticeable for the moment. By the time we got back, I had to line up for the final Port o Potty stop. The line was long, and after that I had to make a mad dash to the start. The three of us got into the first corral, with the elite runners and faster amateurs. I took a Huma gel, and opened the other one that I would nip on throughout the race. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” was playing, and there was just this great energy in the corral. So many of these speedy women had come in from all over the country, and we were all elated to be out competing again.
I noticed a ton of women in PBR singlets. PBR is a huge racing team based in Indy, and they seemed to have a ton of camaraderie and fans. I would see their jerseys often in the next hour and a half.
Shannon, Caroline and I took our marks and before we knew it, the gun went off. We took off at a speedy clip, speedier than I had ever gone in a half. Everyone else took off quickly too, and there was a lot of excitement that first quarter mile. Finally, we settled into a low 6:30’s pace. The three of us were elbow to elbow, and there was plenty of competition around us too. I had planned to go out in the 6:40s, but my training going into this race was sharp. When I saw 6:36 on my watch for the first split, I decided to go with it. It felt comfortable. My calf was not a problem. Shannon and I were working together, while Caroline decided to back off a hair. She was newer to this distance and wanted to finish with plenty in the tank. Shannon and I continued to work together, and as the pack thinned I could hear another woman on our heels, pacing off of us. All the spectators seemed to know her, and there was a lot of cheering. This helped motivate me too. The next two miles were a few seconds faster, and I remember thinking if it was a 5K I could have run a big PR, as the pace was not that far off my 5K PR, a distance I have always loathed and struggled with.
Mile 1: 6:36 Mile 2: 6:33 Mile 3: 6:33
Around mile 4, my left leg became “locked up.” This is a sensation I deal with sometimes, and it is very frustrating because it hinders my gait. It isn’t painful, but it feels like I have no coordination/ control on my left side. It almost always happens on the treadmill, and rarely outside. But if the course is super flat it can appear. It happened in my marathon earlier this year, and I knew if I was patient it would go away. It annoyed me for about two miles, but then as expected it dissipated and I found a comfortable rhythm again by the end of mile 5. Around that point, Shannon started to retreat just a little, and I found myself solo.
Mile 4: 6:33 Mile 5: 6:36 Mile 6: 6:42 (this was an odd mile that wound down a narrow path along the river with a ton of twists. It was hard to keep momentum going, and with this two loop course it would also be the final mile)
Coming out of the twisty section and back through the start marked halfway. The announcer called us by name as we came through, and there were plenty of spectators so it was a great boost. Also, around this time Caroline joined me again! It was fun to catch up with her again, and she looked great. She would run with me for a while, drop back and repeat throughout the next few miles. There were also two PBR women about 100 yards ahead of me, and they were the only girls in sight. With my history of getting lost during races, I HAD to keep them in sight. So I picked up the pace a little. We also repeated an out and back section we had done earlier in the race, which I loved. I got to see some of the pro runners and leaders, and how many girls were in front of me. There were about 14, so I had a big chance of getting some of the cash prizes!.. I also saw Caroline and Shannon after the turn around, and they both looked strong. Lexington is home to some very talented and capable women athletes, and the talent of my small training group always amazes me.
Mile 7:6:29 Mile 8: 6:29 Mile 9: 6:33
I was starting to make up some ground on the PBR runners, especially one of them. I made the pass around mile 9, and now was about 20 yards off the other. She was a tall gazelle of a runner, and her graceful run was motivating. I was finally starting to feel it at this point, but I should have. I had run a 10K PR, and was shocked I was still holding that pace. And I was slowly gaining ground on Lori. I drew alongside her around the 12 mile mark, but I knew I would not be able to finish the last mile very strong. I was just trying to hang on at this point, and even told her so!
Mile 10: 6:34Mile 11: 6:33Mile 12: 6:30Mile 13: 6:42The last .15: 6:02 pace
1:26:19 chip time. First half: 43:19, Last half 42:58 13th overall
Coming up and out of the last, twisty mile Lori pulled away a little, and would beat me to the line by 4 seconds. I was all smiles though, coming to the finish in a huge PR. I could literally not believe the time on my watch, and never thought I would achieve that pace. At the finish line, I was definitely tired but not bad. I caught my breath for a minute and then cheered in Caroline, who came in at 1:27 with a huge PR. Shannon was right behind her as well. Jess and Heather both had good days too, and it was fun seeing Heather come in just over 2 hours for her first ever half! I also talked to Lori after the race, and she ended up connecting me with her friend Ashley, who had just moved to my area. We now run together often! I am always amazed at how small the running community really is.
With the three of us women all finishing in the top twenty, we got to take part in the most fun award ceremony ever! They took all of us on stage (in our masks,) and took a bunch of photos while they presented us with some nice glasses, beautiful winter scarves and of course the $$$. Then, they opened a bottle of champagne and sprayed it on the group. It was awesome!
This race was definitely a milestone, but it was also a huge confidence booster to learn that I am capable of more than I thought. I am excited about the next racing season, and focusing more on running races for 2021 vs triathlon. Now for more races to open back up!