Sunday, October 20, 2019

Clors in Columbus Part III

Greg and I made our third trip to Columbus, OH this weekend for the Columbus half marathon. We first ran this race in 2014 as the full marathon, and came back in 2015 for the half marathon. Both of
these races were PRs and we loved the overall vibe of this race. Typically I run my half marathon tune-up 3-5 weeks out from my goal marathon. But I wanted to go back to Columbus, so this one was 7 weeks out.

The Day Before The Race
We flew out on Saturday morning and our quick flight arrived shortly after 9:00am. We were able to check into our hotel and change into running clothes for our shakeout run. I couldn't let the streak stop, after all! We ran for just over 3 miles, with some strides thrown in to keep the legs peppy. There was a riverside park very close to our hotel with a nice running path, so it was easy logistically. After the shakeout run, we had lunch at Jimmy John's where I got my standard turkey sandwich.

We stayed at Hotel Leveque, which far exceeded our expectations. In the past, we had stayed at the Courtyard, but it was all booked up when I made the reservation, so I branched out and was wow'ed by how amazing this hotel was. The room was beautiful, and I was pleasantly surprised by the zebra pillows! It had a huge bathtub and a huge full-length mirror and plenty of space to lay out our race clothes. The bed was super comfortable and I slept really well.

Back to our day. After lunch, we headed to the expo. It was the race's 40-year anniversary and Greg's 40th birthday, so that made it extra special. Just like in years past, when Greg picked up his bib, he received a pin that said "it's my birthday" and a second bib that said "it's my birthday", which he wore on the back of his shirt. One of the many reasons we love the race is this personal touch. Greg always feels the love on his birthday!

We walked around the expo for a short bit. Greg ended up with two new shirts. This race has a really good selection of official race gear and he's gotten extra shirts each year.

After the expo, we went to "North Market" across the street from the expo to get bagels. We knew from experience that all of the bagel places in Columbus are closed on Saturday. We had planned to get some bagels at Dulles airport, but our terminal didn't have any, despite my research ahead of time about the food options there.

North Market didn't have bagels, but we got some pretzel rolls that were close enough. We had brought our own travel sized peanut butter containers so race morning breakfast was ready to go. We then returned to our hotel room where we binge watched "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" on Netflix. I ended up falling asleep for 30 minutes, which was much needed.

Then, it was time for dinner. In previous years, we had eaten at Buca di Beppo. This year we ate at Martini Modern Italian and it was SO GOOD. I had a beet salad and chicken parmesan, minus the parmesan, which can upset my stomach. I had this exact dinner before the Rehoboth Beach marathon last year and it worked well.

When we returned to our hotel, we found two pieces of chocolate on the nightstand, and there was this cool projector that had been brought into the room, projecting stars onto the ceiling. OMG- I loved those stars. It turns out the projector was for sale and I asked Greg to get it for me for my upcoming birthday. When I was a kid, I had glow-in-the-dark stars on my bedroom ceiling. So this reminded me of that. I fell asleep easily at 8:15 and slept for a solid 8 hours, only waking up twice briefly.

Mentally, I was relaxed. I did not have any anxiety about this race and as you can tell, I was focused on enjoying our pre-race day in Columbus. I didn't waste it being worried about my upcoming performance like I used to before I had my mental breakthrough in 2013.

Race Morning- Before the Race
This went smoothly. We woke up at 5:20, ate our pretzel rolls with peanut butter and got ready. I wore the Nike Vaporfly Next%. They worked well in the 10K, although I don't think they helped me run faster at that distance, so I figured they would work well in the half marathon.

We left the hotel 45 minutes before the 7:30 start time. It was still pitch dark. We learned from previous races that you want to get into the corrals early. They get crowded. So we got into our corral about 25 minutes before the race started and it was empty enough to jog around in it for a very short warm up. Normally I would have wanted about a mile warm up, but it was 50 degrees, so I wasn't worried about my legs being stiff in the cold.

About that weather. Pretty good! 50 at the start, rising to 52 by the finish. Mostly cloudy, no wind. I was happy with this weather, even though my ideal would have been 10-15 degrees colder. It was in no way "warm"-- but when it's really cold (like 30's), my superpowers come out and I have breakthrough performances.

I drank a full serving of Generation UCAN mixed with water at the start line, and finished it 15 minutes before race start. I fully expected that I would need to use the bathroom again, but surprisingly I did not. In the past, I have run strong half marathons using Generation UCAN only, and no additional fuel. So I didn't have any additional gels with me.

They started singing the Star Spangled Banner, and fireworks erupted at "The bombs bursting in air". It was still dark, so the fireworks were vibrant in the sky. Yet another reason we love this race. When the race started officially, even more fireworks went off and it was so cool! It put me in a great mood and that set the stage for a positive mindset.

Miles 1-4
My plan was to run the first two miles about 15 seconds per mile slower than goal pace. I would typically start a half marathon 5-10 seconds slower than goal pace, but given that these miles were uphill and it would be crowded, I decided to be conservative.

Greg and I started out together and ran together for the first mile. Then he started to pull ahead and I let him go. We like to run our own separate races. At some point in mile 3, I noticed it was getting really crowded around me. And this was a downhill mile, and I wanted to speed up. But I couldn't because people were packed around me. It was the 3:10/1:35 pace group. Clearly going out way too fast, and it was impossible to break through them. Ultimately, I had to slow down, pull off all the way to the side of the course to go around them. It was frustrating, but there was no other way to pull ahead of the group.

Once I had my own space to run in I felt much better and I could still see Greg about 5-10 seconds ahead of me. During these miles I drank from my handheld, disposable water bottle, with the plan of ditching the bottle during the 5th mile.

Mile 1: 7:11
Mile 2: 7:05
Mile 3: 6:51
Mile 4: 6:57

Miles 5-8
These were the glory miles, and they always are during a half marathon. I felt awesome, I stopped looking at my watch and I ran by feel. Once I ditched my water bottle it was easier to run and I was in full-on race mode. Clearly, I was not looking at my watch because I clocked in at 6:42 for mile 6!

I knew that mile 7 would be one big long hill and I expected to slow down. But I didn't slow down that much at all. In fact, it was here that I caught up with Greg and we were running side by side. Usually he kills me on the hills, but this time, I was able to catch him on the hill. And once we were at the top, I knew we were through the hardest hill of the race.

Mile 5: 6:50
Mile 6: 6:42
Mile 7: 7:01
Mile 8: 6:56

Miles 9-12
At mile marker 8, Greg began to pull ahead. I thought I might be able to keep up with him the rest of the way or even pass him, but he clearly found a new gear and took off. The race was starting to get hard for me, but I was able to maintain my effort level and stay mentally positive.

Mile 11 had some good downhill but the pavement was really beat up. This meant I couldn't "fly" down the hill as fast as I wanted because I was dodging all the potholes and ridges in the pavement. I think the Nike Vaporfly was a disadvantage here. There was so much "shoe" between my foot and the ground, and I was worried that I would trip and fall if I stepped on uneven ground. I am much less worried about this if I can feel the ground beneath my feet. I don't feel like I have as much control in the Vaporfly as I do in a shoe that's closer to the ground. It was during this mile that I lost sight of Greg.

Unfortunately, I also ended up gaining extra mileage here. My total Garmin mileage ended up being 13.24, and I am sure it was due to all the pavement dodging in mile 11 and having to pull off to the side of the course to get out of the 3:10/1:35 pace group earlier in the race.

With two miles to go, I was dead. I knew I was on track to PR and I just had to hold it together for two more miles. I would do everything in my power to PR, but I didn't know if it would be physically possible given how tired I was. I probably could have done with some extra fuel at around mile 9, but I hadn't planned for that. My limiting factor was not my legs, but overall fatigue and lack of energy.

There was another long hill in mile 12. I knew to expect it, but I didn't remember it being this bad. I felt like I was crawling up the hill, despite my best efforts to push and run fast. I used all the mental tricks I had "Get your ass up that hill, Elizabeth!!!" and I made it, but I slowed down substantially.

Mile 9: 6:53
Mile 10: 6:54
Mile 11: 7:00
Mile 12: 7:15

Mile 13- Finish
After that abysmal 12th mile, I knew I had to rally if I was going to PR. Thankfully, the last mile had a long downhill, and I knew this, and the pavement would be nice and even. Time to fly. I decided to ignore the pain and run with everything I had. This was it! Whether or not I would beat my PR from January 2018 all came down to this moment, to this final mile. I had to be strong.

Mile 13: 6:44
Last 0.24: 6:22 pace

And... that final 0.24 was not all downhill either! I sprinted like a madwoman when I saw the time on the clock tick past 1:32. I wanted a sub-1:32 chip time and I had no idea if I would make it!

Official time: 1:31:55
This is a PR by 29 seconds.

After the Race
Immediately after crossing the finish line I stopped dead in my tracks and felt like I had to vomit. I walked a short way, saw Greg, and I told him I needed to vomit. So I went over to a trash can and threw up. I did this after Columbus 2015 too, but I attributed that to taking two gels. This time I attributed it to too much UCAN. And maybe running a sub 6:30 pace for the last quarter mile.

After vomiting, Greg started telling me all about his race. He ran 1:30:50, which is about a minute slower than his PR. But, his second fastest half marathon so he was happy with that.

We walked through the finish line chute together and I saw a PR gong. I walked toward it and Greg had no idea what I was doing. Based on how I looked at the finish, he assumed I had not PR'ed. And then I banged the PR gong! It felt awesome. I had never noticed this gong before, so it was my first-ever gong. And then Greg asked me if I PR'ed. I told him yes!!!

We continued our walk and passed the results tent. This is where I learned that I placed 3rd in my age group. Wow- this is such a huge race to win an age group award. They told me they would mail it to me.

I placed 3rd in my age group (40-44) out of 681.
I was the 46th overall female out of 5,332.

We made it back to our wonderful hotel, where I took a long bath in the huge tub. Tonight it will be PR Birthday cake. Two layers: the bottom layer for Greg's birthday and the top layer for my PR.

Final Thoughts and Takeaways
I'm happy with my PR and my execution, but I was about a minute off of my time goal. Although I wasn't expecting to do so much weaving, so pace-wise maybe I was more like 30 seconds off of my time goal. I ran an average 6:57 according to my Garmin (7:01 official) and my goal was to be at 6:54 on my Garmin (6:57 official). I always expect my Garmin pace to be faster than the official race pace, so I take my actual goal, and then subtract a few seconds for the purpose of pacing it.

I learned from this race that I need more fuel than Generation UCAN before the race. It's served me well in past half marathons, but I could have really used some extra carbs at mile 9. Greg took his gel at around that point and got a burst of energy. I, on the other hand, started to fade from lack of energy, even though my legs were peppy. This is evidenced by my heart rate getting a little lower in miles 11-12 race instead of higher. I didn't have the energy to maintain the high effort, even though the fitness may have been there. I'm going to continue with my UCAN before the race, but take a smaller portion, and then experiment with the Maurten gel or the Huma gel at mile 9. I might still vomit, but at least I'll have more energy!

When I ran the Richmond Half marathon last November, four weeks out from Rehoboth, I was not happy with my performance (1:34:29), but then I crushed the marathon. And I've had tune-up half marathons go really well, but then I've run crappy marathons shortly after. They are two different races. It's encouraging to know that my fitness is in a great spot, but there are so many other factors that go into a marathon other than fitness.

Most runners see their tune-up race as just that: a tune up. I prefer to view this a half marathon race in its own right, because viewing it as a tune up puts it in the context of something bigger and more important. Who knows how the marathon will go? I am celebrating this PR today!

PR Cake (top layer) + Birthday Cake (bottom layer)


  1. Congrats on the new PR! I read your book recently and it was very inspirational. I ran Boston as a bandit back in 2007, but I'm trying to actually qualify. I'm still a long way off, but I hope to BQ within a couple years. I just got back into running this summer but have been pretty disciplined with it this time around. I'm in the NoVA area as well and have a blog (, but it's mostly personal finance related. I like your blog btw!

  2. Totally celebrate that PR! Your descriptions make me want to run this race - it sounds like it's well-organized and a fun event. I can see myself making a trip for a half marathon one of these days...

  3. Just catching up. Congrats on the PR! I also found mile 12 to be a bit challenging - just a tough time for that overpass to be there.

  4. Hi Elizabeth! I first found your blog because I'm dealing with PTT now but noticed you ran this race last year and we finished within a minute of each other! I wonder if we ran any of the race together? Anyways, I just wanted to say hello, love the blog and wish you the best with running. I followed you on Strava for motivation, hopefully I can get back to running healthy and some PRs in 2021.

    1. Hi Cory! That is cool that we might have been running close to each other at this race. It was such a great day. . . oh how I miss experiences like these. Wishing you the best with your PTT. Mine cleared up within about 6 weeks and has been completely silent ever since.

  5. I really enjoyed reading this.