With my running background, one would think that I would have raced an open half marathon by now, but until Sunday November 6, my half marathon PR was run at the end of a half-iron distance triathlon. I had run in the Philadelphia half-marathon in 2013 to help pace my friend to a sub 1:40 half (way to go Pete). I also signed-up to run a half marathon in Cambridge, MD in April 2014, but I got stuck in the hospital until after 7 o’clock on a Friday night (yes, even third year med students get stuck in the hospital) and was not able to make the drive down to race the next day. So that is how I have made it over four years in the endurance sports world without running an open half marathon.
The Princeton Half seemed like the perfect choice as a hometown race to keep things simple, especially in the midst of residency interview season. I had the added bonus of being able to raise money for a great organization, HiTops. HiTops is an organization that promotes adolescent health, and it is near and dear to me as I participated in their programs as a teenager, and my sister served as a Peer Educator while in high school. I was great to be able to give back and be a part of something bigger in my preparation for the race.
My decision to cap off my season with this as an A race arose from a number of sleepless nights as I was preparing my application for residency and grappling with whether or not to pour the mental and physical energy into another triathlon in 2016. Ultimately, I resolved that I did not have it in me to do another big race, even though I had finally had a breakthrough race in Maine. I felt absolutely at peace with this decision, so I knew it was the right one.
A few weeks into training, I was finally starting to see glimpses of my old self. I had not felt the same in training and racing since the accident almost a year ago, and struggled more in training than I ever had before. Bad workouts had been a rarity in previous years, but had become a fixture in my training log in July and August. After all of the frustration and fatigue, I was overjoyed to finally be seeing progress. My running improved, and I was seeing gains in the pool as well. My lane mates were commenting that I was getting fast, I had to remind them that I used to be faster. But whatever, something was clicking and I was thrilled!
I think cutting back on training by about 10-12 hours a week was paramount to the progress I was making. After trying to train 20-25 hours a week, 10-15 felt manageable and obviously not as taxing on my body that was still trying to recover from a serious injury. My workouts were going well and I was running my highest mileage weeks ever, running 10 miles more per week than I ever ran in college. Based on my workouts, I wasn’t sure if going under 1 hour 20 minutes was going to be possible, but I knew I would be close.
Honestly, I lined up without any real expectations. My goal was to run as hard as I could for 13.1 miles. I did not feel great race morning, but with all of the excitement an adrenaline I got out a little faster than I planned with a 5:53 first mile. I reeled it in a bit from there, but continued to average under 6:10/mile while feeling relaxed and under control. There was a decent hill right before the 10k, but after reaching the top I was greeted by the cheering crowds to keep me going strong. I got a lot of love along the race course for being the first woman. It was awesome!
At mile 8 I was still feeling great, but the biggest climb of the course greeted me just before mile 10 and continued through the mile 11 marker. What a rough place to have a hill on a half marathon course! My pace slowed significantly, and a sub 1:20 half fell out of reach, but that did not bring me down. I was happy that it had even been in reach for a good portion of the race. And boy was I ready for those final downhill miles!
The final miles were quad burners. I tried to catch a few of the competitors ahead of me, but my legs were done. I managed a strong finish with a personal best and new course record by about two minutes. It was so great to have my family and friends greeting me at the finish line for high fives and hugs. I loved being able to wave and give some thumbs up along the course whenever I saw them, which certainly kept my spirits high.
More than anything, this race was a huge confidence booster as I move into the 2017 season. After experiencing a great deal of heartbreak and disappointment in 2016, it was wonderful to end it on a high note with a PR!
I am so grateful to have had so many people supporting me this past year, keeping my spirits up and encouraging me not to keep going. My family experienced the brunt of my unhappiness, but stood by me and always cheered for me at the finish line. Through all of my meltdowns, and my episodes of self-pity and self-doubt, Brian never gave up on me and always kept a glimmer of hope alive. I also have to thank Ray and Eve and everyone on TMB Racing for your generous support in inviting me to be apart of the team, I loved having fellow TMBers lining up next to me at races. Thank you all for the love and support, I would not have made it without you.
With the half marathon in the books, I am now taking a little break from training. I would like to say it has been nice and restful, but I have been busy traveling all over to interview for residency programs. I am applying for a residency in Family Medicine, following in the footsteps of my grandfather and mother in primary care medicine. It has been a fun and exciting process, but also incredibly exhausting. I have completed 6 interviews in the past 3 weeks, and have several more to go. I have enjoyed the interview trail, and daydreaming about where my future might take me. Though I had reservations at first, I am very much looking forward to returning to medicine. Match Day is on March 17, St. Patty’s Day! That is when I’ll find out where I will spend the next three years for residency!
I hope y’all continue to follow me on this journey. There is more to come!
Onward and upward.