Sunday, November 6, 2016

A Monumental Day in Indianapolis

Yesterday, I ran the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon as a training run. I had originally registered for the full marathon last spring, before I came down with mono. But due to the nasty virus, I missed the entire summer of training so I was lucky to be able to run the half marathon as a training run. Greg ran the full marathon, and I cheered for him as he approached the finish line.

Amy and I post-race, cheering for marathoners
This race had been on "my list" for years and since quite a few of my friends were running it this year, I figured now would be a good time. It's just a short flight from DC, it's logistically easy with many hotels right next to the start/finish/expo, the weather is typically great for racing, and the course is flat. But before I write about my experience, I'll recap my past two weeks of training.

I've been making a smooth comeback from my 12-week training hiatus. For the past two weeks, I've been running seven days a week and feeling really good. There has been no sign of the illness returning.

Week of Oct. 24
This week was relatively boring, with easy runs every day except for Thursday, when I ran 12 x 30-second intervals with 1-minute recovery jogs. It felt really good to run fast again and most of the interval paces were between 5:55-6:30

My long run was prescribed at 80 minutes, and I surprised myself by running 9.1 miles at a pace of 8:51. The run felt wonderful. The weather was perfect and I had loads of energy. Based on this run, I knew I would be able to run the Indy Monumental half at my easy pace.  My total mileage for the week was 39.3, which is almost as high as it was right before I got sick. I think my coach's plan is to get my base mileage up before adding a significant amount of speed work. In June, my mileage was relatively low, but the speed was intense.

Week of Oct. 31
I was happy that my coach "approved" of my idea to run Indy as a training run, and I was looking
forward to it all week. I didn't have any kind of taper, though, since Indy would not be a race and my coach told me that I was supposed to take the whole thing easy- no speed whatsoever.

On Tuesday, I did the same workout that I had done the previous Thursday (30-second intervals) but this time I did 18 of them instead of 12, which yielded 3.3 miles worth of intervals. These were slightly faster than the previous week's intervals, with my last four intervals being sub-6:00 pace.

I started to get really frustrated with the monotony of the training again on Thursday. The plan called for 60-75 minutes, with 15 minutes at steady state in the middle of the run. Steady state is somewhere between your marathon and half marathon pace. I looked up my steady pace from January, and saw that I had run 8 miles at a pace of 7:26 for a steady state. Wow. I know that I am not in the same shape now that I was in January, but I figured I could pull off a pace close to that for two miles, and hope that it felt like steady state effort.

Well, as luck would have it, it was 60 degrees and very humid that morning. Usually when this happens I run by effort and dial back the pace. But because I had not run fast for more than 30 seconds at a time since June, I decided I was not going to back off the pace. I wasn't going to let the unseasonably warm and humid weather slow me down! So stubborn Elizabeth came out and over-ran the workout. The two miles averaged 7:28, but it felt like a tempo run instead of a steady state one. Usually I don't do this, but I was just super frustrated by the weather and my situation. Plus, I am running a 5K next weekend I have no baseline for what my pace might be. These 30-second intervals in no way predict what I can do for a 5K, so I used the steady state to test out what 7:28 would feel like!

Pre-race in Indianapolis
We arrived in Indy on Thursday night and went to the expo on Friday morning. I loved how logistically smooth this race was. It was a big race but with a small race feel. Our hotel was literally a 4 minute walk to the expo, and we could even use a skywalk to walk indoors.

Throughout the day, I was able to meet up with several people who had read my book. It was so
Meeting up with a Boston Bound reader
wonderful to hear them tell me about how much the book helped them. I was glowing from knowing that my book had made a difference not only in their running, but in their overall outlook.

Meanwhile, I was experiencing some ROMO: Resentment Of Missing Out. The weather outlook was perfect: low 40's and sunny with no wind. The course would be mainly flat. Many people would set PRs and qualify for Boston. I would not be. I had already resolved to come back to Indianapolis next year and run this race, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I would be getting the freakishly warm weather that Indy experienced just two days prior to this year's race. This was the year I had planned to run it, and I was a little upset that I was missing out on a perfect PR opportunity. So close- but so far away.

I was also trying to figure out how I would approach the half marathon training run. I felt like I wanted more of a purpose than just for it to be a training run. More excitement. More meaning. Of course I was going to abide by my coach's guidance and take it easy, but how could I do that and still feel excited? I thought it would be cool to pace another runner to a sub-2:00. Sub-2:00 is a huge milestone for many runners and I knew that my easy pace would get me in just under two hours.

The night before the race, I met up with two friends who I had known virtually for over eight years. We had met years ago on the Runner's World forums and kept in touch through Facebook. One of these runners, Sara, had a friend with her, Amy, who was running the half marathon. I asked Amy if she was, by any chance, trying to run sub-2:00. And she said she would love to run sub-2:00, but didn't think her training supported it. She had been dealing with a nagging injury and her training runs didn't lead her to believe that a sub-2:00 was possible right now, even though she had done it in the past.  I offered to pace her and she accepted, so we agreed to meet in the hotel lobby before the race to run together.

The next morning, Greg and I woke up, did our pre-race routine and left the hotel 30 minutes before the start of the race. I met up with Amy and we walked to the corrals together. She said that it takes her a few miles to warmup, so she wanted to start at around a 9:40 pace and then speed up from there. I was totally on board because it takes me awhile to warm up as well.

Miles 1-4
The race started and excitement was in the air. It was really crowded at first, especially since I was
Amy and I at the start of the race
farther back in the pack than I typically am during races. Amy and I got into a groove. I told her that if she wanted to pass people, I would just follow her path through. A lot of passing happened, but even more would happen later in the race. I was really happy to be running with Amy because the pace felt too easy for me, and if I was on my own, I would have been sub-9:00 from the get-go, and I think I would have regretted that later on.

Mile 1: 9:42
Mile 2: 9:25
Mile 3: 9:18
Mile 4: 9:05

Miles 5-9
Amy told me she was starting to "feel it" during mile six, and I assured her that she was supposed to feel it at mile six of a half marathon. I asked her if the pace was okay or if she wanted to slow down and she said she was fine to continue at that pace. We got into a rhythm where, at each mile marker, I would tell her what the mile split was and what our average race pace was. I think she had a different display on her Garmin and she appreciated having this info.

The cool thing was watching the average race pace slowly tick down from 9:20 to 9:09 by the end of mile 9. We were chipping away at the average race by by 1-2 seconds with every mile we ran, so it was super exciting. At one point, a guy around us asked me what the pace was for sub-2:00 and I told him he should try for 9:03-9:04 on his Garmin, just to be safe, as many Garmins measure a long course.

The course was not at all hilly, but whenever we had slight ups and downs, she totally surged on the uphills and I was extremely impressed. I tend to slow down on hills but speed up on the way down. I was really impressed with her effort level and how she just powered through the miles.

Mile 5: 9:07
Mile 6: 8:53
Mile 7: 8:54
Mile 8: 8:58
Mile 9: 8:58

Miles 10-13.1
Before I asked my coach if I could run this race as a training run, he had prescribed a 90-minute easy run. This would equate to slightly more than 10 miles. Interestingly, just after mile marker 10, my legs started to tire and ache a little. I guess my coach knows his stuff!

So my legs were not all that happy about the extra distance, but the pace still felt really relaxed and easy. I guess it takes the muscles awhile to catch back up to where the cardiovascular system is.

At this point, Amy and I started to pass a bunch of people. I brought to her attention that we were passing people so that she'd get a nice confidence boost and continue to push. By mile 10, we knew that we were going to go sub-2:00, it was just a matter of by how much. The last three miles of this race are a slight downhill and we could see a long stretch of downhill so we used it to our advantage. Our average race pace dropped from 9:09 down to 9:00 flat as we pushed our way to the finish line. We were elated to cross it 1:58:41.

Mile 10: 8:54
Mile 11: 8:44
Mile 12: 8:50
Mile 13: 8:26
Last 0.19: (7:54 pace)

We executed the plan exactly as intended, and it felt amazing!

Cheering for Marathoners
Amy and I high-fived each other a bunch of times and walked back to the hotel which was only one block away. We didn't have much time to go back to the hotel, quickly change clothes, get our cell phones, and come back to cheer. But 20 minutes later, we were headed back out to the course,
Greg at mile 26
looking for our mutual friend Sara. But first, I was expecting my friend Rochelle to come in at around 2:52. And she did! Slightly under, in fact. She looked amazing and I was so happy for her to run so strong in her first marathon. I cheered loudly for her and snapped a bunch of photos.

Next came Sara, and after that, Amy went to go meet her at the finish line.

I had some other friends running, only one of whom I saw next, and then Greg. He was ahead of the 3:30 pace group and I was so excited to see that. I was thinking he would run between 3:25-3:30 and he finished in 3:28:47, which is a PR by five minutes. He ran a really smart race, and attributed it partially to the race strategy I prescribed.

It was an ideal day for racing, with many of my friends setting huge PRs. I was really glad I met Amy and that I helped her do something she didn't think she could do. It made the day so much more special to me.

I decided to take a rest day today and end my 17-day running streak.  Prior to yesterday, my longest run since June was 9.1 miles the weekend prior, so my legs really weren't happy about doing 13.1, even though I ran at my easy pace. I logged 40.1 miles for the week, which I'm pleased with.

Up Next
I'm running a 5K next weekend, which I am super excited about. My coach prescribed a progression run for Tuesday so hopefully the last two miles of that will give me some sense of how it feels to run "hard" and what my "hard" pace actually is. Then I will run a 5K Turkey Trot, followed by another 5K in early December.

My coach still hasn't given me the green light to finalize a spring marathon, but I think I will be ready to run strong by early March at the rate I am going. Thinking about my next marathon makes the ROMO of this weekend easier to cope with, so I'm looking forward to nailing it down!


  1. Congrat! I was so surprised to read that you ran the Indy half marathon! Your recovery is going really well. I have no doubt that you will be ready for a spring full. I'm running Grandmas's in June--would you consider that one? It's supposed to be flat and the weather should be good.

  2. Congratulations on a great half marathon! I know the time wasn't what you usually run, but it says a lot that you got back out there and ran a race knowing that it would be far from your best. If you ask me, this was your *comeback race* and you did a great job... negative splits all the way, seeing friends, helping others come in under 2 hours... what more can you ask for, really? Hopefully this is a sign that the mono is officially behind you, and you can train for a Spring full.

  3. I am glad to hear your recovery is going well. Congrats on your half marathon!!!

  4. You are one heck of a pacer! Indy is on my list of to do races. I have heard great things about it being a PR course and Indy is a nice city in general. I contemplated the marathon but am still on the fence what the future holds for me and marathons, I am enjoying the half distance at the moment and trying to get faster.

  5. What a great recap! So cool that you were able to pace someone to get their goal!!! AMAZING!

  6. Nice work! You're coming back strong and so sensibly as well :-) Nice to run with friends as well - makes it so much easier/more enjoyable.