Long Beach Half Recap – Accepting the PR

As we discussed in the Week Eight recap, I went into this race a little bruised and broken – both literally and figuratively.

A million years ago (March), long before Eugene or Ojai or this CIM cycle, I signed up for the Long Beach Marathon. It was going to pull double duty as 1) Goal BQ Marathon and 2) Fucking Redemption on the Failed 2011 Sub4 Failure.

2011 in Long Beach was not so great for OUaL

But then the 3:37 at Huge Eug happened (2min off BQ standard), and I decided last-minute to piggyback Ojai2Ocean onto the training cycle, rationalizing that if in four weeks I showed up in the same shape but tapered I could lock in my spot for Hopkinton 2013.

Yeah, that backfired.

2012 in Ojai not so great either

So here I was, two marathons in, still no BQ, and if I was going to commit a full 16-week plan for Long Beach I’d have to jump right back into training after only a week. And that just wasn’t going to fly. I need time off – physically and mentally – before tackling a big 26.2 goal again.

So I dropped to the half at LB and pushed “Big Goal Marathon” to December (CIM), giving me plenty of time to re-charge. LB Half fit perfectly mid-cycle, an ideal spot for a tune up race, and I was excited to RACE a half marathon for the first time in…


I’ve run a lot of halves (12, to be exact) but hardly any were really trained for. 1) because I never really took running seriously and 2) I had no idea what “tempo” or “yasso” or “HMGP” were anyway so even if I wanted to I wouldn’t know how.

My PR was 1:46.24, which I resisted claiming since it was on a downhill course – “technically” I’d claim 1:47.32.

But I went through the half split faster than both of those at Eugene, so obviously I knew I was capable of more.

Half PR mid-marathon – can you count that??

The only question was, how much more?

I was feeling strong leading up to race week, and my confidence and mental game were tracking right along with the increases in my paces. I was ready to push my limits and put it all out there, and finally update my PR resume with a more indicative 13.1 time.

When the tibialis setback hit I was angry and disappointed. Angry because I SO wanted to go out, run like hell, and crush my 1:40 goal on Sunday. Disappointed because I knew I could, but wasn’t going to get the chance. And it was no one’s fault but my own.

I shelved the time goals and replaced them with “smart” goals – I’d DNS/DNF (did not start/finish) if the pain was too bad, and focus on how I felt rather than on time. I wanted a productive race, so if that meant finding victories in fueling, mental strength, or simply being smart about the future, then that’s what I’d take.

Monica DID run the full, and PR’d the crap out of it like whatever 26.2 miles NBD

Also this year Run Racing decided not to do bib transfers at the expo, despite their website saying they would. “Just keep that one (marathon bib) and run the half” Ugh.

To prevent a repeat of 2011 pre-race drama and have company on the early freaking drive up, I rode with Sheila and Kristina. We talked about race strategy periods, got all hydrated & fueled up, and were at the Portapotty Party in no time.

Bang up good job, team

Sheila & her inside info navigation skills, K chugging Nuun, caffeinated Picky Bar for 5am breakfast

The Actual Race

After the 3mi test run Saturday went alright, I gave myself the green light to at least start the race. I figured I’d still go out around 1:40 pace (7:37), would adjust accordingly, and hope to finish the last 5k strong.

True to form, I went out a little too fast. Nothing crazy, so I just went with it. “Run on feel” – isn’t that what all you hippie anti-Garmin’ers say??

Eventually I settled in and found a stride I felt comfortable maintaining. I quickly reminded myself “this isn’t about time, it’s about feeling good and racing well” and accepted the slightly slower pace.

Biggest race success? Look at those freaking almost perfectly even splits!!

seriously, isn’t it kind of creepy? I can’t even make that up.

Bri and K’s bf were right before the long stretch of beach path at mile 7 (the first half winds around the Queen Mary and Shoreline Village on service roads) which was a nice distraction.

[ insert husband-commissioned pic he tried to take with his phone screen locked. I told him I’m hiring a race day boyfriend for the next one. He seemed relieved to be exempt from spectating duties? Rude. ]

The perfectly flat beach path and sun straight in our eyes (seriously, wear sunglasses) got monotonous though and I could feel fatigue setting in. My legs were tired of the repetition and I was paying WAY TOO MUCH attention to my shin, just waiting for the pain to hit.

Sorry that’s impossible to read. Rushed editting

I choked down a Gu (turns out? really difficult when you’re actually running hard) and told myself

“YOU’RE IN CONTROL. Keep it up. Just run these next few steady and easy, then we turn it on for the final 5k!”

As soon as I put mile 10 as the “that’s when shit’s gonna get tough” mark, the miles flew. Crap! Plan backfire! Slow down the pain train, I’m not ready for it yet! I clung to those last “easy” miles and did what I could to get pumped for a hard finish.

Unfortunately, that’s when the wheels came off. My tibialis seized and I had to shorten my stride to keep it in check.

Sheila caught me, and I was the worst company in the history of running. I wasn’t thinking about anything but keeping every millimeter of my body in “just right” alignment to keep the pain at bay – 25 minutes of focusing on every footfall, stride, and pebble on the street. SUCKED. STUPID.

Also, sorry Heather and Julie – they set up a non-sanctioned fuel station and I was too blinded to even see them, despite Sheila yelling their names right next to me. Such a bitch.

Heather’s pic

At the Half/Full split, just like we knew it would, the director guy yelled and pointed me out, trying to get me and my yellow marathon bib on the other side of the cones.


Sheila took off for her finish kick, and I dug and dug and tried to find mine, but didn’t have it. That gradual hill at 11 – the kind where your lungs and legs feel it but you can’t really see it – sucked any last energy I had.

After the longest 2 miles of life the finish came into sight. Gah! Finally! I’d been literally counting the steps. I put my head down, made the turn, yelled a surprise hi to Brian and his functioning but slow-shuttered camera, and crossed the finish.

(last .2 – no perfect tangents here – 6:58 pace)

Long Beach Half, 10.7.12 – 1:41.43  (* new PR)

* * * * *

Again, I let my mind dictate the end of this race – the mental toughness is still not there and   I know that will be the make/break factor in future races. I need to be ok with that “pain place”, trust that there’s more left in my body than my brain thinks, and just freaking do it.

The good news is, there will be another race. And there’s a lot of room for more PR’ing.

AND and, in the newest test of race success/failure, Sheila and I got our post-race beers out of the first keg. If anything has ever made me feel fast, it’s that.

postscript : Sheila came super close to a PR despite going in thinking it’d be a “training run”, Kristina ran a freaking 1:34.xx on only a few hours of sleep, and Monica PR’d the marathon in her final long training run for NYC. My friends kick ass.

Oh and my new Oiselle teammate Allison WON the half. Like won the whole thing. Fast bird.

Rogas breaking tape!

Sarah OUaL

51 thoughts on “Long Beach Half Recap – Accepting the PR

  1. Accept that PR? You’ nailed it. To shave 5 or 6 minutes off your PR is no small feat. You chug that PR like the 1st keg beer, just stay away from the yogurt in celebrating. Your focus the last few miles was awesome. Celebrate this one a little :)


  2. i’m sorry, but are you upset about a PR? that seems, well, spoiled. you are WILLING and ABLE to run. you have nothing to be ashamed of or whine about.


    • I think Sarah is happy about her PR but feels that on a good day she is capable of more. No shame in wanting to not just to best your last race, but also to run to your full potential.


    • I agree – I’m grateful I’m able and am happy to shave a big chunk off my time, just disappointed that under better circumstances I know I had a better (physically and mentally) race in me. But I guess that’s life and why we get to race more than once. Thanks for your honesty.


  3. Let’s here it for the beer. And although our paces are vastly different (hare, meet turtle) it sounds like we share some of the same mental issues. I have been practicing and conditioning myself to stay in the pain cave for longer periods of time. But don’t think I am nearly ready to do it for a full 13.1 miles. GREAT job!

    The Kidless Kronicles


  4. I am just going to share the thoughts a wise friend of mine once shared with me that I don’t necessarily always remember myself: You have to relish PRs, especially large PRs. As you get faster they get harder and harder to come by. Also no one likes to hear someone whine about a large PR (paraphrased).


  5. Looks like you and I had a very similar weekend…check out my recap…my wheels started shakin bug time!
    I know the injury sucks…but a PR is a PR and it’s still super cool!!!!


  6. YAY!!! That’s a great PR!! TAKE IT! At some point we’ll reach the place where our PRs come in fighting tooth and nail for a few seconds, or a minute, not a chunk of minutes. That’s awesome. My “secret” speculation on Twitter that you would beat my PR came true! :-) Can’t wait to see how CIM goes. And if you figure out the mentally tough thing, let me know. Right now my only idea is to steal my pregnant sister’s race-brain. She’s not using it, and she’s pretty good with the mentally tough thing. Apparently I didn’t quite get that genetic feature.


  7. It makes me sad when people run such a fast race (and PR the hell out of it) and then are unhappy. All of my PR’s have been seconds (NOT minutes, unless you count my first PR). I know you have “accepted” your PR, but even if you didn’t feel your best or meet your “A” goal, look at how far (and fast) you have become. Jealous :D

    Also, LOTS AND LOTS of races to come. Besides, that course looks really boring. You should totally get that sub 1:40/(or BQ) on a prettier one.


    • I think it just didn’t feel as “worthy” because I felt my times before weren’t really valid, like I’m a much different runner than I am now? I’m also just kind of a jerk altogether so that has a lot to do with it. And I agree – a prettier course has a new, bigger PR written all over it :)


    • If I wasn’t such a hippie garminless racer I’d want to kick your ass for not celebrating the amazing PR you just set! Alas the pacifist in me will not allow such violence. I raise my bottle of Nuun to you, cheers friend. You have even bigger things in store for you. Just believe, step back and revel in this victory.


  8. While I understand the “tough love” comments, it’s frustrating to run anything less than your best. Yeah, a 4-minute PR is awesome, but you KNOW you can do better. I felt like this two weeks ago — I PR’ed at the 10k but failed to run under 50 minutes, which is my goal before the end of the year. It was hard not to make it, and that took away from celebrating my PR and AG place!


  9. The good news about a small PR is that there’s ANOTHER PR not too far away!!! So enjoy this one and get excited about the next one. I hope you mend quickly as well. I’m going for a PR this Sunday – hoping to get my first sub-two half marathon. This will be my tenth half but the first one I’ve ‘raced’. I’m nervous already!!!


  10. My last PR was very, very small. And I was frustrated. But I just keep telling myself that it’s a step in the right direction, and I am out there getting better. Congrats on the PR- it may not have been the one you wanted, but you took several minutes off your PR while running with pain. That’s not easy. You’ll get that sub 1:40! Keep it up- seeing how much you have improved is a real inspiration.


  11. First of all – congrats! PR-ing feels good, no matter what and you earned it for sure! I totally agree with your comments and others on here as well. It IS REALLY frustrating when you know you could have run a better, faster, etc. race. No matter what. Even if you PR. This happened to me this year at Boston – I was in the best running shape of my life, totally ready to PR, and then the weather turned freakishly hot and I had no chance of meeting my goal. So frustrating, but I made the best of it and had so much fun at the race. Now I am more determined than ever to get back in that same condition and PR. It is frustrating when there are setbacks, but you have so much time left to get faster and faster, and I’m sure you will!


  12. Wow…and I’m hoping to just finish in anything faster than last year’s 2:35:00 on a hilly course. Actually, secretly I’m hoping to shave like 15 to 20 min. off but now am reconsidering.


  13. Yes, congrats on your PR! Be proud! It’s a PR! You will run faster! You will get stronger mentally and physically! You will be healthy! Maybe I will even be there to witness your next PR!
    Also, I’m a perv because I totally noticed your 69th and 369…


  14. Congrats on your PR. I don’t think you sounded un-happy or not proud of your accomplishment as others stated, you just know where you need to improve. Nothing wrong with that. It is obvious your body can rock out the fast pace for many miles, get your mind to come to the party and you will kill it. I don’t know what that trick is, it’s hard. I can honestly say I have mentally fallen apart in every race I have ever ran – good or bad results at the end it always happens at some point.


  15. whoop there it is! Nice, NICE PR, and I want to steal your paragraph about being ok with the pain place. By brain fritzes from miles 8-12 and just cannot handle the pain. With a 1:41, you’ve got your BQ and then some at CIM. or “the CIM” whateverrrrrrr


  16. I get it.
    I don’t get why people get to decide for you if you have to be happy with this PR or That PR or whatever time you get. Yes of course having a PR is great. it is. I did not get one..would I prefer that I did…well yes…of course…it is like asking do you prefer making $10/hr or $15/hr…but why is it not ok to want to make $25 per hour if that is what you are worth?! I think it is OK. I dont know how to be ok with pain pace mysellf…I reached that point at mile 7 and my head checked out. and I am mad at myself for letting that happen. CIM is yours….believe it.


  17. CONGRATS on the PR. and i understand why you are frustrated. When you know you have more, and want more, it is hard. Not sure I agree with some of the above comments, but that’s why we are all allowed to have our own, right? my race this weekend was very much mental, one of my slowest races ever, but i felt like I mentally had it. Soak up the accomplishments that you do have-a shiny new PR. and know you will beat it soon. :)


  18. I’ve been reading your blog for a while but never commented (that sounds way more creepy than its supposed to lol) anyway I totally get the pr disappointment when your expectations are high and you know you can do it then you don’t get totally there it’s a total bust. I’ve been in the same boat many times. I read this book mind gym an it actually helped a lot. It’s geared towards athletes but it really helps me stay out of my head when racing… Not completely but more than before. Anyway your blog is awesome, I like your style and you should read the book it’s pretty short and it helps. Good Luck at CIM!


  19. Nice work, lady! My former Half Marathon PR was during the Surf City Marathon. Clearly, I was never pushing myself hard enough if I PRed in a freaking full marathon. 1:41!! Those are some gorgeous numbers!!

    So… Santa Barbara… is the half an option for you??? maybbbbeeeee? Nice CIM training??


  20. Congrats on the PR! I really struggled from 7-9. I was wondering when the hell we were ever going to make it to the turn around. Thanks for the mention. I was wondering why so many people were looking at our blog! I’ll be at CIM too! Hope to meet you there!


  21. Pingback: Post-(big)PR Reflections | Once Upon a (L)ime

  22. Woohoo! 369 and 69th place!! Sorry to be full on creeper mode!!

    You still rocked the half, I know what it feels like to feel like you could’ve done more when you’re done, but during the run your brain is not functioning where you want it too! Running is soo much mental and trust in that you can do it!


  23. You were semi-injured – you should be happy with that big PR!! If your leg hadn’t been an asshole, you would have had an excellent chance to break 1:40. The pain plus the injury getting into your head was not a recipe for a fast finish. There will be other races. There is plenty of time to kill another half.


  24. Pingback: CIM Week Nine–Committing to Recovery | Once Upon a (L)ime

  25. Pingback: My Baltimore Running Festival Half Marathon: October 13, 2012 « Mollytics!

  26. Pingback: Weekend Plans–the Long Beach Marathon (volunteer style) | Once Upon a (L)ime


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