Charlotte Half Marathon – Charlotte, NC (2016)

 The was the first year for this race as the Charlotte Marathon (and half, relay, 5k and mile). Last year it was the Thunder Road Marathon, which was my redemption race for Savannah Rock ‘n’ Roll getting black flagged. Over the summer, Beth and I had finally committed to running Rock ‘n’ Roll Vegas with our free entry from Savannah and I had thrown out that it would be cool to run Charlotte the day before since we could then do the last Thunder Road and the first Charlotte race. We didn’t act on it right away, but I had planted the seed, we made sure the flight options would work, and she shared the idea with some of her fellow Run Far runners. In no time it went from one crazy idea to 5 of us committed to do it!*

Fast forward a few months and as Beth and I were running the Marine Corps Marathon we realized that we would have to cover that distance again in two weeks, plus fly across the country in the middle. Those 12 days in between were all about rest for me. I took my dogs for a few walks, including a 7.5 mile hike, and got a sports massage to help me fully recover from the marathon.

Friday I met up with the Run Far group to pick up our packets and this year instead of printing names on the bibs, they let you “personalize” them. At first, I would have preferred something printed on mine, but then we came up with the idea of putting “CLT to Vegas” on all of ours and then adding some hashtags. #ringleader

Race morning, Helen and her boyfriend (our lifesaver!) picked all of us up so that we wouldn’t have to leave cars in uptown Charlotte over the weekend and we would have a quicker escape to the airport after the race. The rest of the group decided that they were going to start the race early because they were concerned about our cutoff time (2:20 in order to get to the airport for our 11:30 flight). I wanted to run the race for an official time, so I just started out near the front of the corral to avoid having to weave through people at the beginning of the race. I’ve done this race a few times, so I knew the course and knew there would be some good downhill sections to take advantage of and, of course, some long climbs that would slow me down.

I had a 2:15 pace band left over from another race and figured that would keep me in line for the time I needed to run. Having just run Rocktoberfest a month ago in 2:13, I was pretty confident in my ability to stay under 2:15, especially since it was much cooler to start this race and I love running in the colder weather.

After a brief downhill, we hit our first hill of the morning and that’s when I realized I forgot to put my buff on – my lungs were not happy with me in those first few (speedy) miles. I always struggle to breathe deeply when it’s cold out – it was mid-40’s for the race start, so I was definitely feeling that in my lungs.

I had my watch set to 5:1, but I ran the first few miles straight before we hit our first real hills in mile 3 and I walked as I ate my first GU. I like keeping the run / walk timer on even if I don’t plan to fully use it because when I do decide to walk, I will sometimes force myself to wait until it’s actually a walk break and then stick to the 1:00 buzzing to keep me on track. I’ve gotten a lot better at sticking to short walk breaks, but depending on how the day is going (my last two marathons, for instance), I’ve needed something to push me to start running again. Plus, with the 5:00 run, if I am struggling, I will split that up into 2:30 running, 1:00 walking, 1:30 running and then hit the actual 1:00 walk break.

I ran my first few miles fast and came close to my fastest 10k time, coming in at around 58 minutes, which was almost 4 minutes ahead of my expected pace and by mile 7, I was about 6 minutes ahead of my 2:15 pace band. In my head, this race had a really tough hill around mile 7, and even when we got to mile 8, I was still waiting to hit that hill. I’m pretty sure I was actually thinking of the hill in the RaceFest half marathon which I haven’t done since 2014. Either way, I was pleasantly surprised to realize that there wasn’t an extra monster hill waiting for me. There is a beast of a hill on Morehead Street in mile 9 and the remainder of that hill near the end of mile 10 (you cut away in the middle of the hill and then return to the same road after a residential detour), but again, I knew that it was coming, so I planned my walk breaks for the worst of the hill.

After that, I hit mile 11 and was still almost 6 minutes ahead of my pace when I hit a mini wall – I was out of water in my bottles and was taking another GU and my body was not too happy about that idea. I walked a few extra minutes and waited for it to settle down before I started shuffling, then running again. I only had 3 miles slower than my goal pace of 10:18 – mile 5 (10:19), mile 10 (10:51) and mile 12 (10:28) and most were well under it. I ended up finishing in 2:08:16 which is my second fastest half marathon, only slower than The Scream which is about 90% downhill, so I was really excited about my time.

When I finished, I immediately got into the gear check line which did. not. move… finally after 15 minutes of waiting, I just went up to the front of the line and asked someone if I could jump in because I needed to go catch a flight and even after they had my bib number it took them almost 10 minutes to find my bag. After that debacle, I ran to find the rest of the crew and my lack of uptown shortcuts meant I added an extra half mile to my walk (which was really a run because I was late), but I made it to the group and wasn’t the last one (yay!) so I had enough time to snap a quick picture of my medal with the tops of the uptown buildings behind the trees and the Carolina Panthers on the practice field in the background.

Now onto Vegas for race #2 of the weekend!

*Beth found out at packet pickup on Friday night that she never actually registered for the Charlotte half, so she decided not to pay the race day fees to join us Saturday morning, so only 4 of us did the back-to-back races.

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