9th female (what?!?!) (also was 10th until they finalized results)
This race was one of those great ideas I had about ten minutes after tearing my MCL. I am blessed to have three incredible girlfriends that I met in Chapel Hill and we have worked tirelessly to maintain our friendship over the past decade. I ran my first marathon because of these women and have done countless half and full marathons since then with them. So with half a knee, I convinced KC to register for the half with me. Emily and Lindsey were, as always, up to spectate and come play in Savannah for the weekend.
The last month before this race was really fantastic. My knee started to feel almost 100%, my stride felt normal for me again and I finally experienced a glimpse of past fitness. Despite this, I was nervous about any kind of race because I’d done only early season workouts and my longest long run was 10 miles. Going in, my goal was to be under 1:35 and to run a smart, smooth race.
Travel to Savannah was a breeze. Lindsey flew into Asheville on Thursday night and then we started our journey to Savannah on Friday morning after a Trader Joes stop. The drive flew by as we solved all the world’s problems AND listened to Dirty John. We grabbed KC at the airport, picked up the keys to our rental house and unpacked all our groceries and clothes. KC and I had initially planned to run to the expo but it was raining HARD so we drove instead and did our shakeout run after. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that my legs felt amazing. Forgot about the sea level effect!
As luck would have it, our house was a quick jog from the start line so we got up at 6, ate breakfast and had some caffeine then jogged over a little before 7. The weather was PERFECT. I wore a throwaway jacket and gloves and jogged around the corrals until about 7:10. This was the first place I noticed that Competitor has done a LOT to improve their starts. If you remember my Las Vegas experience where I couldn’t warm up OR get to my corral without crying to an official, this was the complete opposite. The start was a BREEZE and next year, I would leave our house even later.
The first mile of the race was mentally hard. People went out fast and I felt like half the field passed me. I was resolute to not go out too fast and just kept backing off. Even with a bridge and fairly significant climb, my first mile was a 7:24. Despite this, it felt like a jog so I didn’t fight it. Once we were over the bridge, I just tried to settle in until mile 6. The course was mostly flat but I did try to pay attention to not pressing too hard over the back of hills or getting caught up in racing.
At about mile 6, we got back into town and the crowds picked up. I started to use some tactics here as there were some windy stretches and I didn’t want to just work alone on this. There were also people coming back to me here so I started picking off people ahead of me one by one. I took my first gel a little before 8 and despite some awkwardness at the water stop, got the gel down without too much of a mess.
After 8, we wound our way out of the historic district towards a neighborhood to the east. With 5 miles to go, I wanted to pick it up and see how fast I could close but this is exactly where my knee started to smart. I don’t know if it was just the time on my feet or trying to push my pace, but it definitely didn’t seem worth it to get injured for 10 seconds a mile in a non-goal race. I was frustrated but focused on just holding on to my pace for the last few miles.
I actually found the last mile the hardest of all of them from a topographic perspective. The previous 12 miles had been reasonably flat but the last mile had some legitimate rollers back to the turn towards the fitness and it was hard to keep momentum. I did pass a woman during this mile, which apparently took me from 10th to 9th. We rounded the corner towards the finish and I saw the clock at about 1:32 and pushed enough to get in under 1:33 by a hair.
Overall, I couldn’t ask for more from this race. The organization and course was incredible, the weather was optimal and I had an even and solid performance as my first race back from my MCL. In comparison to other Rock N Roll events, this one was a very reasonable size and was easy to navigate as a runner and as a spectator. I had such a good experience that I already registered for 2019! I registered for the full marathon because I think the course is that fast, but we’ll see what the next few months bring.