Blue and Gray Half Marathon, Dec. 4, 2016

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Welcome to my better-late-than-never recap of my eleventh (and fastest) half marathon!  I hope you’re having a great Advent season.  These last few days since school let out last Friday have been more lazy here than crazy, which is unusual to say the least.  I think my mindset has changed these last couple of years and I tend not to let myself get stressed out about the holidays.  Our cancer journey these last few months have reminded me of what’s really important in life.  (Things will get crazy here next week, though, when the relatives will be converging at our house for New Year’s.  It will be a wonderful celebration indeed.)

Going into the Blue and Gray race, I was already stoked about my 5K PR at the Turkey Trot.  If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know I usually run with the Galloway method in training and in races longer than 3-5 miles.  For half marathons I set my timer to a 1:30/30 run/walk interval (1 minute 30 seconds running, 30 seconds walking), and depending on how I’m feeling I might switch to 2:00/30.  This time I decided to start with the 2/30 interval, and it paid off!

The Blue and Gray Half Marathon starts and finishes in front of the VA Runner store in Central Park.  There is plenty of parking, and since it’s a small race I don’t think the parking lot ever fills up.  I arrived early though, so I could meet up with friends from Moms Run This Town and Life Runners before the race.

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I spent so much time socializing that I didn’t have a chance to hit the port-a-potty before the race!  When the gun went off I thought, “well, I likely won’t PR here because I’m probably going to need to stop at some point.”  I started out running with a couple of friends for the first half mile or so before we got separated.

20161204_073731-1(I spotted this BAMR in the fabulous pajamas as we made our way down Cowan Boulevard during the first mile.  Turns out she’s a member of the Woodbridge chapter of Moms Run This Town.)

The first two miles are mostly downhill as the course heads down Cowan Boulevard and Hospital Drive (aka “Hospital Hill Road.”)  Then it levels off somewhat as it winds it way through the Fredericksburg neighborhoods and around the Canal Path loop.

Mile 1:  10:31

Mile 2:  10:05

Mile 3:  10:19

Mile 4:  10:12

About halfway between the 4 and 5 mile markers, I spotted a lone portapotty.  I don’t know about you, but whenever I pass one during a race, I’ll have this internal debate in my head:  “Do I REALLY need to stop?  Is there a line?  Should I see if there’s another one later on?”  I saw that it was occupied, but no one was waiting, so I decided to stop.  It was agony watching everyone run past me as I waited for the person to come out.  I debated just saying heck with it and keep on running, but dang it I had already lost precious time, so I might as well take advantage and at least run the rest of the race with an empty bladder.  The person FINALLY came out and after doing my business I turned off my timer and for the next mile and a half I ran at a fast-for-me clip without walk breaks.  I told myself I would regret it later, maybe crash and burn, but it was a risk I was willing to take!

Mile 5:  11:49

Mile 6:  9:13

Satisfied that I had made up some of the time I had lost, I resumed my run/walk intervals. Soon I spotted my MRTT friend Katie, who had come out to cheer on the runners.  She snapped a picture of me, gave me a quick hug, and wished me good luck.

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Mile 7:  10:24

Mile 8:  10:00

Mile 9:  10:06

Mile 10:  10:24

Mile 11:  10:11

Here’s where the course heads back up the notorious Hospital Hill.  It’s the same one people dread when they run the Marine Corps Historic Half (and the one I’m going to have to contend with BIG TIME when I run that Devil Dog Double come May).

Mile 12:  10:33

Mile 13: 10:16

Mile 0.35: 8:51  (final rally to the finish)

Official Time:  2:16:46

Average pace:  10:26

PR:  1:47

When I crossed the finish line and saw the clock I could hardly believe it.  I did NOT crash and burn, and I ran this half marathon faster than I had ever run one, beating my previous PR of 2:18:33 at the 2015 Hokie Half.  Hospital Hill, potty break, and all!  I think the cold weather that day helped, and truthfully I’ve built up a pretty good base this year training for the Marine Corps Marathon.  Even though I ended up not running it, all that training paid off in the end.

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I want to ask you to pray for a friend who I’ve never met in person.  Kim has a wonderful podcast called Our Catholic Way, where she interviews people who have converted to Catholicism.  She reached out to me a few months ago and in September she interviewed me.  I had a great time chatting with her on the phone!  Before she had the chance to air it she found out she had breast cancer, and she had surgery earlier this month.  Please keep her and her family in your prayers as they go through this difficult journey!

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas!  Hopefully I’ll have a chance to post here at least once before the New Year.  As they say in Hawaii (‘cuz we went there this summer and all)…Mele Kalikimaka!

(If you haven’t seen my posts about our wonderful trip to the islands this past summer, check them out here and here. Merry Christmas!)

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