“On Time. On Target. No Exceptions.” – Governor’s Cup Half Marathon Race Report

I decided to run the Governor’s Cup Half Marathon kind of on a whim. It’s a popular race here in Columbia and is in it’s 41st year – pretty impressive! Despite living and running here for 5 years, I’ve never participated. After my surprising 10k PR a couple weeks ago, I decided to look into doing the half marathon as a gauge of my fitness for the upcoming Kiawah Island Marathon, where I will hypothetically attempt to break 4 hours in the marathon.

So, first things first. I needed to solicit pacers, because I don’t trust myself to maintain a tough pace. Sad, but true. I just don’t have the personal confidence. My friend Murray volunteered to come in from Myrtle Beach and pace me to my somewhat lofty goal of 1:54 – an 8:41 pace. My previous PR was 1:56:05, earned at the Divas Half Marathon back in April, but I just didn’t feel like I had had enough training time since recovering from my stress fracture. It seemed like a PR was perhaps possible, but 1:54 was a miracle scenario. All the stars would need to align. As luck would have it, my friend and pacer extraordinaire Chuck was also available to run with me. The more people to yell at me when I got lazy, the better!

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Murray and me before the Myrtle Beach Marathon 5k this year

Murray apparently was highly motivated by the pacing request, so he kept sending me facebook messages and texts about the speedwork he was doing. “Did 9 miles at 8:15 pace this morning! Going back out for 6 more tonight!” they would say. When I told him not to get too carried away because I wanted to do 1:54, he said “Oh, you’ve got 1:54, no problem. I was thinking more like 1:52.” Gulp. Meanwhile, I’m panicking because I don’t even know if I can hold 8:41 the whole time, let alone any faster. I knew he was going to be ready, but I was growing increasingly concerned about whether or not I would. Then I had that perfect run the other day, so I figured maybe it wasn’t quite so ridiculous after all.

Murray stayed at our house the night before the race, so we set off for the race start around 7 am. As we were driving down the highway, we rode past a semi truck with the slogan “On Time. On Target. No Exceptions.” painted on the side. It seemed like an omen! We agreed it would be the motto for the race. At the start area, we found Chuck and Bobbi and some other friends, and it was a very nice change from the lonely starts I’ve had at the last couple of races. I found my friend Doug, who is one of my running heroes and was pacing the 2:15 group. He is excellent at helping me calm down before and during runs, so I asked him for one of his patented “don’t panic” speeches. He simply asked me what there was to panic about. Well, when you put it like that… I guess nothing? He said that the first mile is mostly downhill, mile two is mostly uphill, and then the race is mostly downhill until mile 8, when it goes back uphill for the remainder of the course.

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Sara, Murray, Me, Chuck, Bobbi and Bobbi’s friend before the race!

This intel lead Murray, Chuck and I to decide to bank a little time until mile 8, so we would try to stick at 8:30 pace so we would have a cushion going into the later uphill miles. So we lined up what seemed like dangerously close to the front. I guess we didn’t want to have to dodge too many people, but it seemed like a bad idea. I saw Doug’s wife, Sharen, at the start line, and she said she was hoping to run around 1:51, so I figured we wouldn’t see her much, which was a shame, because it would have been fun to run together! Well, we shot out of the gate like bats out of hell. I could barely breathe…and we were going downhill. I trusted Murray and Chuck to maintain the right pace, and I really didn’t want to look down at my watch and find out we were running 9 minute miles and I’m huffing and puffing. Well, there was a clock at the one mile marker. We hit mile one in 7:58. Umm…

At that point, I told Chuck in no uncertain terms that we absolutely needed to slow down. I didn’t feel that terrible by the time we reached mile 1, but I didn’t want to screw my chances for a PR by going out too fast. Murray kept going, but Chuck and I dialed it back a little bit while always keep him in our sights, usually about 20 yards ahead of us. I told Chuck I was taking a vow of silence for the race, meaning I didn’t want to waste too much energy by talking, but he kept me entertained with the occasional story. Mostly, we just enjoyed the surprisingly excellent crowd support and I really liked running a course I was so familiar with. Much of the race followed the route of many of our Team in Training runs, so I knew exactly when each hill was coming, which was very reassuring.  We also got to pass a water stop run by Team in Training twice, which was awesome – I loved seeing all my friends out there!

Our friend Bobbi was not too far ahead of us, which was really screwing with me psychologically. Bobbi is really fast and qualified for Boston. She was using the race as a training run and was running much slower than she has the capacity to, but the fact that she was only a few steps in front of me was messing with my mind! If I’m that close to her, I must be running fast. I told Chuck and Murray that we could not pass her or my head would probably spontaneously combust.

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Bobbi is like a mythical figure in my mind. Being that close to her in a race, no matter how slow she was intentionally going, is enough to give me a panic attack.

I didn’t check my watch except at the 10k mark, and it was just so I could find out if I (unofficially) PRed. I did, sure enough – I want to say I was just slightly over 50 minutes at the 10k.  Other than that, I didn’t really want to know how fast we were running. Every once in awhile, Chuck would look down at his watch as it hit the mile marker and say “Oh, shit!” so I knew we were ahead of pace, but I didn’t know how much. What I did know was that running 8:30 miles would yield a 1:52 finish. So, at mile 8, which is right before the course started to go back uphill, I checked my watch to see where we were in relation to that pace. We were about 1.5 minutes ahead of where we needed to be, which shocked the hell out of me, but I figured we surely would lose that time on the uphill portions. I started playing my favorite race game – mental math! So from mile 8 on, I calculated where we needed to be in terms of time at each mile marker, and it helped me break down the race into manageable segments.

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Some of the great course support during the race!

The big hill at mile 8 is one we run all the time during Team in Training runs, so I wasn’t worried about it too much. I knew what to expect and exactly how long it was. We covered that hill at perfect 8:30 pace, and Chuck was duly impressed. “On Time. On Target. No Exceptions,” I said. After that, I just took it one mile at a time. Amazingly, I really wasn’t out of breath or feeling bad. If I started to get a side stitch, I would do the breathing technique Doug taught me and remind myself to panic. I would literally say to myself “Doug says don’t panic,” because I’m that crazy.

At mile 11, Chuck asked me how I was doing. We were still about 1.5 minutes ahead of finishing in 1:52, but I knew the worst hill was coming in the last mile. I was starting to feel tired, but I told him that I was ok with that because being tired at mile 11 of a PR attempt half marathon seems reasonable. I was reassuring myself, and it worked. We hit mile 12 at the same pace and started climbing up Blossom Street, which is the toughest and longest hill on the course. It felt like we were crawling. If I could have caught my breath, I probably would have wailed to Chuck that we must be running 12 minute pace, but he kept saying “you’re doing great. You’re killing it.” I could hear him breathing kind of hard, which gave me some type of strange validation that maybe I was doing something right, because he’s faster than me.

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The elevation profile

 

Murray was still a bit ahead of us and running strong. I knew that after we turned off Blossom, it would be a steep uphill to the finish. I thought that we would turn the corner and immediately see the finish line at the top of the hill, but we didn’t. I had no idea where it was and I felt so defeated. I told Chuck I needed to walk for a second and I kissed my idea of a 1:52 finish goodbye. In reality, I walked for maybe 10 or 15 seconds, but it seemed like forever. Nonetheless, I figured we might as well keep going, so I started running up the hill again. A guy yelled “Go T-Rex!” and I smiled, thinking he was reading my shirt. As we came to the top of the hill, we made another turn, and although the finish line wasn’t in view yet, the road got flat and I picked up the pace. I knew the finish couldn’t be far away, so I tried mightily to kick it into my last gear and “sprint” into the finish. I couldn’t believe it when I saw the clock at the finish line and realized that not only was I going to crush my “A” goal of 1:54, I was also going to beat 1:52…and actually, we were going to come in under 1:51. Sure enough, we crossed the finish line in 1:50:33, a PR of 5 minutes and 32 seconds! Our pace was 8:25, which is just insane.

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Proof that this actually happened. I guess you could check the race results too, but this is more colorful.

Murray ended up finishing 8 seconds ahead of us, landing a major PR for himself – something like 7 minutes! I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy in a finish area. The whole thing seemed like a dream. Then, I saw someone who looked oddly familiar – a woman with dark hair who had a lot of tattoos. She was standing by herself, and I realized it was the mystery runner who runs through my neighborhood and who I not-so-secretly want to be best friends with. So, I put my awkwardness aside and introduced myself, and it turns out she lives less than a mile away and runs ultras! She’s faster than me, but not crazily so, and we made plans to run together in the future! Then, the man who had cheered for me on the hill introduced himself to me as Brian and mentioned that he reads this blog! It’s always cool to meet a reader, and he and his friend were so helpful and told me about all sorts of running groups in the area. What a day. So many successes – including my friend Kristen, who also PRed with a 2:04:43! I cheered her in to the finish line, which was more fun than it probably should have been.

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The mysterious tattooed runner has a name! Picture taken by The State newspaper right after we found out we’re neighbors.

I think the best part of the whole day wasn’t the PR or the perfect weather or any of that. I mean, don’t get me wrong – the PR didn’t hurt. The best part was the overwhelming amount of support I felt from my friends as I worked towards my goal. Murray, who never doubted that I could get 1:54 and set the bar higher right from the beginning. Chuck, who quietly reassured me the whole race with the occasional “You’re killing it!” or “Awesome, Danielle.” and didn’t let the pace get too crazy. Doug, who saw me after the race and, when I told him how I did, gave me a big smile and said “I knew you had it in you. See? Nothing to panic about.” And I think he’s told me about 18 times since then that I did a good job. And you know what? I did do a good job. I stayed focused, avoided panicking, ran strong, and made adjustments as needed. But all that would seem very empty without the support of my friends and the awesome running community I’m a part of, and that’s why I do this.

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Proof that Team T-Rex shirts REALLY DO bring PRs! As if we didn’t already have enough examples.

So now, for my next trick, barring some type of international incident and/or an injury or illness, I’m going for that sub-4 marathon at Kiawah. Sharen and I decided we’re going to kill it!

 

 

67 thoughts on ““On Time. On Target. No Exceptions.” – Governor’s Cup Half Marathon Race Report

    1. I won’t be running the full, because it will mess up having the Flying Pig Marathon as my 50th marathon. I’ll do the half, though!

  1. Maybe what I’m doing wrong is that I wear my T-Rex shirt on training runs but not in races. Duh: (slapping forehead as if in a V-8 commercial) “Could’ve had a PR.”

    1. Well, I’d definitely like to run under 4:30. I figured I would see what you and Jen are doing and go from there! What is your plan?

      1. I’d definitely like to do under 4:30. I was thinking of 10 minute miles, so 4:22. It would be our last long training run for Kiawah!

  2. Wowee! You killed it out there!!!!! I knew you had this in you. Your new PR isn’t that much slower than mine and you did this on a much tougher course. I’m mightily impressed and so happy for you.

    1. It’s so rare that everything comes together perfectly, so it’s a relief when it happens on race day! Now I just need to keep my fingers crossed that the stars align for Kiawah.

    1. My coach is Justin Gillette! He is a GREAT coach and so easy to work with. It doesn’t hurt that he has won like 70 marathons…literally. Let me know if you want his contact info!

        1. Unfortunately, he doesn’t. His email is gilletterunning(at)gmail.com or you can talk to him on twitter at @gilletterunning! Super friendly guy – tell him I sent you! If you want, I could send him an email and copy you to get the convo started.

  3. This is awesome! Great work and congrats on the PR! I was just diagnosed with a femoral stress fracture (on the shaft, not the neck) and I’ll be out of running for 8 weeks and I’m super concerned! I’m so glad to see you had such a speedy recovery from your fibular stress fracture! What was it like to not run for 6 weeks? Do you have any advice for maintaining fitness/how I can make a speedy return to running once I am allowed to again?

    1. To be honest, not running for 6 weeks wasn’t that hard for me because I was a little bit burnt out when my stress fracture happened. The hardest part was not having as much energy as I’m used to and not sleeping as well. My advice for maintaining fitness would be to do the opposite of what I did, which was basically nothing. If you can swim or like swimming, that would be a really good option. I absolutely hate swimming, so I refused, but it’s a great cardio workout. On the rare occasions that I did feel like working out, I got on my bike. I think the best workout for cardio endurance on the bike is speed intervals, so that’s what I would recommend. You could accomplish that in a spin class. When you start running again, don’t be frustrated if it doesn’t immediately click back into place. I would say it was at least 2 weeks before I felt like I wasn’t going to die during every run, but remember, I didn’t work out much when I was hurt. Obviously, after that I bounced back pretty quickly. The break (pun intended) probably did me some good!

  4. Congrats on a strong performance! Seems that home is where the PR is… in which case Kiawah should also be no exception. Best of luck crushing your 4-hour goal next month!

    1. That does seem to be the case, except for my marathon PR (currently in Vermont). AJ is actually coming to watch me run at Kiawah and I’ll have tons of friends and pacers there so I’m hoping my luck will hold!

  5. Great race report! I am so glad you listened to your body and were able to earn a fantastic PR. Get ready for Kiawah it is coming fast 🙂

    1. Definitely! I always know people in the races pretty much, but it’s really fun to know the spectators and volunteers too.

  6. I hate you for being so fast yet awesome, but love you for pushing yourself to your limits. A Sub-4 marathon is insanely do able for you! CONGRATS!

  7. Congrats!! I just wanted to tell u that I saw a pink t- rex shirt and a maniac shirt running together during the Marshall marathon yesterday! I got so excited! I yelled t- rex fan. I think they r friends with u:) fyi- my goal is sub 4, but pr on a winding day with a 4:09:) love ur blog!! Fan in wv!!

    1. Thanks, Carol! If it was a pink T-Rex shirt, then that can only be one person – my friend Mary! We’ve run together several times and she is a Maniac also. There was at least one more Team T-Rex shirt out there as well – my friend Meghan ran and got a PR!

  8. Badass. I love it when expectations are met, broken and later obliterated, sometimes unexpectedly. It goes to show you that sometimes you are faster than you think you are, which is a heartening thought. And now, of course, since you’re so dastardly close, your next half target is to cross the 1:50 threshold.

    I miss half marathons.

    1. Is it sad that I feel so triumphant whenever I run “fast” because I feel like you’ll be proud of me for not just loping along and taking a million pictures? Apparently, my next half marathon goal is actually 1:45, which is ludicrous, but I do what my coach says. If I had known how good I was going to feel the whole race, I could have broken 1:50 yesterday – I just never expected to come anywhere close!

  9. Congrats on an awesome race! It always feels so good to smash goals and PR by minutes. I’m running my 2nd marathon this coming weekend…yikes. I’m a half marathoner…not entirely sure what possessed me to sign up for a marathon. And, I missed my last long training run because of back problems, so it should be interesting.

    1. If it makes you feel better, I’m STILL not entirely sure what possesses me to run marathons 🙂 Good luck in your race! Which one are you doing?

        1. On the plus side, I’ve heard that is a GREAT race. It’s one I definitely want to go back and do when I finish up the states!

  10. This spring I broke 4 hours in a marathon and then ran a 1:50 half marathon PR a few weeks later. It sounds like you’re on track to do the exact same thing (just switch the order of the races). Good luck in Kiawah!

  11. Congrats on the PR! You are so amazing and I am just in awe of you and everything you have accomplished…

    I wore your Team T-Rex shirt during my race yesterday (5K and 10K back to back) and got so many compliments on it. I have decided to wear it for each of my races next year (13 races in 13 months Dec 2013-Dec 2014). It is such a motivator for me.

    1. Aww, thanks so much, Tracy! That is such a nice thing to say. I love that you are going to wear your Team T-Rex shirt for 13 races in a row! That is a huge goal and so exciting! I can’t wait to read your posts about it.

  12. Nice! It was so fun reading about Governor’s Cup, as that was the first half I ever did (2005). Huge congrats to you for smashing your PR!

  13. OK, since my initial comment got lost somewhere in the tubes (I blame my work’s new filtering protocol + IE8) … here is the quickie version …

    Whenever I read a race report I fear that I am going to hear that you re-injured yourself. You have come so far and built a wonderful community here that is marginally related to running (I can’t tell you how many blogs I have found directly and indirectly due to your insane cat-juggling here) … that I would hate for a re-injure and possibly something more serious. I was clear that I think it is important that you don’t ever feel pressure to define yourself by running just because of the blog … but heck, I want to see you hit your goals!

    So imagine my happy joy when you not only survived this race, but also got an awesome PR! Super cool, and with loads of great stories as well. So proud and thrilled!

    OK, enough party time … now get back out there and run farther … and faster. 🙂

  14. Congrats on the PR! I ran a 5K the same day, and shattered my PR! I was aiming for a sub-24:00, in order to get a better seed for the big 15K here in the spring. Finished the first mile in a shade over 7:00, and was feeling pretty good. Same for mile two. Eased up a bit on the third mile, and finished in 22:50… a PR by 1:40, and 2nd place in my age group! (The 5K is part of an event that includes a 10K, and most people do that, making it easier to place in the 5K… runner trick!) Only problem with this is that my coach now knows he can push me harder! We haven’t actually discussed a goal time for my first full (next month)… I have a feeling it will involve a sub-4:00 time…

    1. Wow, that is AWESOME!! Congratulations on the huge PR! I know exactly what you mean – as soon as I told my coach my time, he revised my marathon goals. I’m ignoring him. Good luck in your first full! Which one is it?

      1. Jax Bank, December 29th! He already tweaked my goal pace for my tempo run (had one tonight)… last time, it was 8:20-8:40, tonight it was 7:40-7:55! Hit that on the first mile, was a bit off on the other miles (still using Nike+, so it’s hard to be 100% accurate)… but I was still pushing hard!

        1. Eric, get thyself a Garmin for Christmas! Your training will thank you. Jax Bank was my PR for quite a long time! Great race and hopefully you’ll have perfect weather. The course can’t get any flatter, so you’ve got that going for you 🙂

          1. This is gonna sound nuts, but I’m a little unsure about getting a Garmin because I don’t want to lose the stats I’ve built up with Nike+ (although I think there may be a way to import them into Garmin Connect). Also, that would require choosing a Garmin from all of the options! (That might lead to “feature creep”, where I go one model up for an option, then another model up for another option… and higher and higher…)

          2. Eric – I had a Nike+ watch, and found that I was very dependent on the footpod. I got a Garmin FR-10 two days before my first marathon in 2012, did a shake-out run to check that it worked, and have worn it ever since. You won’t regret it … it is the gold standard for a reason. The FR-10 is bottom line, you might be better with a 110 or 210, but they are all solid. And at every half and full marathon since I have heard mixed results on every other watch, and a near simultaneous ‘Garmin chime’ at every mile marker.

          3. That does sound a little nuts 🙂 If it makes you feel better, I’m one of those people who loves having the newest and best technology and tends to do the feature creep thing, especially with cell phones, but I never have with a Garmin. That’s primarily because there are already so many options on the lower models that unless you’re competing in tris and doing a lot of open water swims, you truly wouldn’t need some of the others. Plus, with Garmin, the more expensive models aren’t always better – but that’s a different conversation for a different day.

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