ilanarama: me in Escalante (yatta!)
[personal profile] ilanarama
I ran my first half marathon in the spring of 2004 in a time of 2:01:30. In 2008 I began to get serious about running (you know, running more than twice a week!) and ran my first sub-4 marathon; in June 2009, hoping for a 1:50 half marathon, I ran an entirely unexpected 1:44. My PR dropped to 1:42 at The Other Half in October, then, at the Canyonlands Half in March 2010, to an astonishing (I was only aiming for sub-1:40) 1:37:01.

And there it sat. Over the next several years my times at other distances improved, but not at the half. It took me 5 more half marathons to even get under 1:40 again! Finally in 2012 I ran a 1:38:xx half, and then two more. But I was still a good 90 seconds or so above my old PR, which was seeming more and more like a weird fluke I'd never be able to repeat. And I was getting older - I turned 50 in September. Maybe that old PR would just have to stand.

But going into this year's The Other Half, I felt confident that my training was coming together for me. If I was capable of a PR, this would be my chance - despite the relatively challenging course profile:

The Other Half map and elevation

I had a plan for this race. It basically boiled down to: don't fall, don't poop, and don't go out too fast. The big question in my mind, as I drove out to Moab on a cool, sunny Saturday afternoon, was: could I execute this plan?

I picked up my packet, checked into my hotel, and then met friends at Miguel's for dinner (grilled mahi Mexican-style) and the requisite margaritas. After laying out my race-day gear, I had a nice soak in the hotel's hot tub. I crawled into bed with my book, but the margaritas and soak had done their job, and I don't think I made it past 9:20pm before turning out the lights and going to sleep.

I woke too early, but that was okay, because it gave me time to check Facebook and email. Though I'd planned not to eat anything before the run, waking at 4 instead of 5:45 meant I'd be too hungry by race time. I'd brought a Sow Your Oats cookie from Bread, a Durango bakery - a not-too-sweet oat cookie which makes a perfectly fine breakfast - and I nibbled about half of it, washing it down with some crappy motel coffee. Then I dressed in my race clothes (cap, sportsbra, singlet, arm-warmers, gloves, running skirt, compression socks, and a pair of Saucony Kinvaras) plus sweatpants and a fleece jacket, packed, put my stuff in my pickup truck, and walked down to the Moab Valley Inn to catch the bus to the start of the race.

There was a light hazy overcast, making the morning not quite as chilly as I'd expected, and for a moment I was worried, as I race best in cold weather. Also, I usually wear just a visor as I feel a hat makes my head overheat, and was worried about my choice of a cap. As it turned out, the only change I made to my clothes was to leave my 'arm-warmers' (actually knee socks with the toes cut off) in my gear bag along with my sweats, and I felt perfectly comfortable temperature-wise throughout the race.

I hit the porta-potty, said hi to friends, hit the porta-potty, got some coffee mixed with hot chocolate, hit the porta-potty, took off my sweats and dropped them in the gear truck, ran a brief warm-up (about a mile, with strides), took an Immodium, hit the bushes by the side of the road for one final leak, and pushed my way to the second row of runners just behind the start line, with my friends Marty, Kevin, Karah, and Ernie. Marty's usually top 3; Kevin (who is 55) usually wins his age group; this is Karah's PR course, though her times have been all over the map; and Ernie, at age 61, was going for sub-1:40, which would be a PR.

The gun fired, and we were off. My goals for the first seven miles were to 1) keep my pace moderate, so as to save energy for the late hills, and 2) run the tangents of the many curves, so as not to make the race any longer than it had to be. I'd turned off autolap on my Garmin, so the splits represent distance between mile markers.

The start of a race is always fast, and sure enough, my first look at my Garmin showed I had been lured into a faster pace than I'd planned. Ernie had taken off like a shot, and Karah was not far behind him; I backed off and let everyone pull away from me. I'd been hoping to use my heart rate to help me judge effort, but as usual the static electricity generated by my clothes completely swamped my actual heart rate signal. But I was running at a comfortable pace, my breathing slow and easy - it felt like I was just out for a training run - so I knew my effort was at the right level.

1 - 7:16
2 - 7:21
3 - 7:14
4 - 7:26

I skipped the first aid station at mile 2, but took a cup of water at mile 4. At 4 miles in I was about at 29:20, and I did the math - 30 minutes would be 7:30 pace, 40 seconds under was 10 sec/mile or 7:20 pace. Bingo, right on schedule.

Around here my heart rate started recording properly, and it was in the 155-160 range, right where it was supposed to be, hooray. My lap average pace was reading about 7:16-7:18, just fine. Except then I hit the mile 5 marker and saw my split was 7:44! Could I have blown the tangents that badly? The mystery was solved when I hit mile marker 6. I certainly hadn't run 6:42! The mile markers were off, as I verified when I reviewed my splits and saw the recorded distances.

The road began to climb as I approached mile marker 7, and I could see the road ahead taking a sharp upward turn. This was the beginning of the big hill. I passed a lot of people in these miles, including Karah, who had slowed but was still looking strong. A course marshal told me I was the 5th woman, which surprised me - I hadn't kept track and didn't realize I was that close to the front - but only a few minutes later a woman passed me, putting me in sixth place, which is where I remained for the rest of the race. I finally caught and passed Ernie shortly before the real climb started; his strategy had been the opposite of mine, blasting the downhill in anticipation of a slow second half. (I think my strategy worked better.)

Somewhere in miles 5-6 I took my gloves off and stuck them in the pocket on the back of my singlet. I grabbed a gel at the station just before mile 6 and also stuck it in my pocket, thinking I might want it around mile 8 or so, but I never ate it. At mile 6 I took a cup of Gatorade and drank about three sips and then spilled it all over myself, oh, well.

5 - 7:44 (1.06 miles = 7:17 pace)
6 - 6:42 (0.93 miles = 7:13 pace)
7 - 7:19

The road got steep, and I just put my head down and motored. I knew my HR would rise but I carefully kept my effort steady, because if I blew out on this hill I would not be able to hammer the rest. Twice the road dipped into a short descent, and I pushed a little harder, trying to keep my pace under the 8 minute mark. I was close, hitting the lap button for mile 8 after 8:05 - slower than I'd planned but 11 seconds faster than my previous best time for this mile. And I still had plenty of energy in the bank - so I spent it judiciously, doling it out mile after mile, pushing downhill and gliding uphill, keeping the effort fairly even.

I felt awesome. The sun, filtered through the light haze, cheered me without making me too hot. I bungled taking a cup of water at the mile 8 aid station, knocking cups out of the hands of two different volunteers (oops!) but that was okay, I got some at mile 10 instead. At mile 11, approaching the top of the last hill where the Taiko drummers urged us on, I saw my watch was still on 1:20 (no seconds are displayed after an hour on this screen) which meant that if I could run 2.1 miles in 15 minutes - which sounded reasonable to me, that meant a little better than 7:15 average, and once I hit 11.5 or so it would be all downhill - I could conceivably finish in 1:35:xx!

8 - 8:05
9 - 7:07
10 - 7:28
11 - 7:10
12 - 7:24

Halfway through mile 12, I slid neatly over the top of the hill. I waved to the drummers, skipped the aid station, and put the hammer down. I still felt remarkably good. I wasn't gasping for breath, my legs weren't hurting. I ran as fast as I could down the last steep hill (thinking to myself, don't fall, don't fall), hugged the inside of the curve as I turned in toward Sorrel River Ranch, and just kept my legs turning as fast as they could. I didn't dare look at my Garmin for fear of falling. When I saw the 1:35 on the clock as I headed toward the finish line, all I could think was please, get me in before it clicks over - and I managed just in time, crossing the line with 1:35:57 on the clock and 1:35:55 as my final chip time - a PR of 1:04.

13 - 6:56(!)
13.1 - 6:33 pace(!!)

As I ran toward the clock I saw Ranna, the race director, and she applauded as I went by, calling out, "First masters woman!" Could it be? Was I not just the first woman in my 50-54 age group, but the first woman over 40? And then I heard the announcer calling out, "Our first place Masters woman, from Durango, Colorado, Ilana Stern! And she's not just forty, folks - she's fifty!"

My grin was a mile wide as I took the cup of water the finish line volunteer gave me. A PR, a new digit after the 3, and first masters woman! I got my finish medal (a nifty beer opener and fridge magnet thingy) and circled around to find Kevin (who had as usual won his age group with a 1:28:xx) and we cheered as Ernie crossed in just under 1:39, making his sub-1:40 goal and winning his age group, followed closely by Karah with her second sub-1:40 and her second best half time ever.

In addition to my masters win, my time of 1:35:55 placed me as the 6th woman out of 745, and 37th human being out of 1112. According to my Garmin I ran 13.21 miles (actually worse on the tangents than my previous four runs) which makes my real pace 7:16, as compared to my nominal race pace of 7:19. Either way, I ran fairly even splits despite the hills in the back half, which suggests to me that my strategy of a conservative start worked as intended.

The masters win got me not just a trophy (bigger and fancier than the age-group ones, too!), but a Gregory hydration pack embroidered with the race logo and 'Women - 1st Master - 2013', with a race logo cap and pair of socks inside. Not to mention bragging rights; after all, how many 50-year-olds can beat all the 40-somethings?

exuberation other half trophies

Okay, part of it is just who shows up. My time is not even close to that of the top masters runners in the state - though it's just one second slower than the 5th fastest time by a Colorado 50-54 woman, and hers was in a downhill race :-) My age-graded time puts me at 77.74%, nicely in 'regional class'. So I'm feeling pretty smug about it!

(no subject)

Date: 2013-10-22 04:45 pm (UTC)
zulu: Karen Gillam from Dr. Who, wearing a saucy top hat (Default)
From: [personal profile] zulu
Congratulations, that's awesome! And you told the story really well, too--I was on the edge of my seat. :D

(no subject)

Date: 2013-10-22 05:10 pm (UTC)
luzula: a Luzula pilosa, or hairy wood-rush (Default)
From: [personal profile] luzula
Oh hey, congratulations! \o/ That's awesome.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-10-22 05:13 pm (UTC)
libitina: snake across an open book (Default)
From: [personal profile] libitina
You're amazing!

You put so much work in and the other races weren't what you hoped they would be, but this one was everything you wanted!

Rock on!

Totally proper to be smug right now.


(no subject)

Date: 2013-10-22 05:21 pm (UTC)
sobelle: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sobelle
Holy Moly! I was breathless by the time you hit the finish line! That was awesome and as close to my experiencing any sort of marathon... or even running down the street for that matter. Congratulations! \o/

(no subject)

Date: 2013-10-22 06:29 pm (UTC)
traveller42: (Default)
From: [personal profile] traveller42
Great race!

I think your strategy was the right one. It certainly worked this time.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-10-22 07:19 pm (UTC)
blnchflr: Running (running)
From: [personal profile] blnchflr
Yaaaay, *applauds excitedly*. That is so well done.

Great skirt (and legs!), I want a running skirt, too.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-10-27 07:25 pm (UTC)
blnchflr: Running (running)
From: [personal profile] blnchflr
Stupid question: what do compression shorts compress, and why is it good? I understand compression socks, but not compression-other-clothes?
Edited Date: 2013-10-27 07:26 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-10-29 06:08 am (UTC)
blnchflr: Captain America Civil War (Default)
From: [personal profile] blnchflr
Ah! Thanks.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-10-22 07:44 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] trickofthedark
YAY!!!!! Congratulations! And it's really cool to hear the story of the tech and strategy you used, too.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-10-22 09:31 pm (UTC)
lolaraincoat: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lolaraincoat
So exciting! Hurrah for you!

(no subject)

Date: 2013-10-22 10:01 pm (UTC)
ell: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ell
Congratulations! Sounds like it was a great race - i love reading your race reports!

(no subject)

Date: 2013-10-23 12:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
So well deserved - all your planning and training paid off when it counted!

(no subject)

Date: 2013-10-23 12:48 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Congratulations! You are such an inspiration!!!! :)

Great story, too. Kept myself from peeking even though I really wanted to know your time!

(no subject)

Date: 2013-10-23 12:49 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
From April :)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-10-23 02:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Loved the race report and the pictures. Great to read about and see you so happy with your performance - very well deserved. Now on to 26.2!

(no subject)

Date: 2013-10-23 05:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Sounds like a good target to me :)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-10-23 10:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Congrats on your spectacular new PR! That beats your goal in a BIG way.. :)
Love the pics too! That is a might cute Brooks skirt :)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-10-23 10:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
*MightY not *might

Elimination race?

Date: 2013-10-23 12:04 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
How much time does the average competitor "waste" by not following the second part of your plan?


(no subject)

Date: 2013-10-24 08:00 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Excellent and inspiring race report. Thank you. As a newly minted 50 year old, I need the inspiration. Also as a fairly new marathoner, it's good to know that progress can happen even after slow periods.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-10-26 04:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]


ilanarama: me, The Other Half, Moab UT 2009 (Default)

August 2017

131415 16171819
20212223 242526

My running PRs:

5K: 21:03 (downhill) 21:43 (loop)
10K: 43:06 (downhill)
10M: 1:12:59
13.1M: 1:35:55
26.2M: 3:23:31

You can reach me by email at heyheyilana @


Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags