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Monday, January 11, 2016

Jacksonville Half Marathon

Jacksonville Florida has a half and full marathon every year, either in late December or early January.  This year on January 3rd runners would take over highway 13 and chase down times they had dreamed of, share miles with friends, overcome things they didn't know they were strong enough to, and finish in spite of pouring rain, and chilly temperatures.  This year did have something different to add to the excitement however.   Richard Clark Fannin, the elite coordinator of the USA 15k Championships, held at the Gate River Run in March did something remarkable.  In October he realized there were a lot of men and women on the cusp of attaining the 2016 Olympic Trials Standard, and he wanted to give them a pancake flat course, fast ladies and gents to help pull the pace, and a chance. Nearly 100 elite/sub elites answered the bell, and flocked to Jacksonville 6 weeks prior to the Olympic Trials Marathon to take a shot at meeting the standard of 1:15 or faster for women, and 1:05 or faster for men. Many of the athletes already had the standard, but saw this as an opportunity to help others, run fast, and be a part of something bigger than ourselves.  

I originally signed up to be one of the athletes chasing down the sub 1:15 standard, and three Cleveland Elite Development ladies were coming to help me the best that they could.  With the new amendment to the standard (see details here) I obtained the qualifier, and wanted to do something to help others this weekend in Jacksonville.   

It felt strange to not have the nerves of needing to hit the qualifier looming over me.  My only real nerves of the weekend came from the lack of nerves I was feeling! haha!  The other 3 Cleveland Elite Development ladies, Beth, Ellie, Jess, and I shared a room, and talked about hoping to be able to help someone out there and end up running a fast time because of it. I wasn't sure what that would look like, and knew I would have to play it by ear, and see what I could do.  I was excited to spend some time with Heidi Greenwood, and Nicole Camp as well.  It was nice to catch up with so many friends that live too far to train with these days. 

Race morning came, and the bus was late. We did a quick warm up, changed our shoes, and jogged to the start line.  It was still dark as the gun went off on this drizzly, chilly 7:00am morning.   
Everything was pretty compact for a minute or two.  I found Jess, and then the lead pack.  After about 600 meters, Jess and I caught up with them and tucked in.  We were slow through the first mile in 5:52, and the pack made a big move.  I knew I couldn't respond, and handle that pace so Jess and I fell back a bit, 5:39 saw us through the second mile, and I knew I was in over my head.  I backed off a bit letting go of the dream of running with the lead pack and cheering ladies along as they punched their ticket the the trials.   Instead I would be encouraging if anyone came back, remind them to give their best, and stay tough. 

Beth and I around 5k

Beth caught up to me during the 3rd mile, and we laughed at my thought that 5:40 was in my wheelhouse right now.  18:04 through 5k was solid, but I was not feeling very good. 
I had to make a decision here.  I told myself I would be tough, and run with passion knowing how lucky I am to be in the position I was in. The next 3 miles flew by and I hardly remember them, 5:49, 5:47, 5:49.  I caught up to Rosie Edwards about 10k in and smiled at the clock when it read 36:1x knowing that was my fastest 10k since having the kids. Then something very strange happened.  Usually in a race there is a point where I have to fight off a total crisis of confidence, and today it was the opposite. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt I could run 5:45-5:55 for the upcoming miles. I just knew I would do it. I was having a blast. 

Catching up to Caroline White and trying to pull her along. 

Mile 7 was 5:57, and I Rosie and I both sped up, we caught up to another Ohio lady, Molly Watcke, and encouraged her to come with us.  The next few miles passed so quickly again 5:51, 5:52, 5:52, 5:54.
I told myself it was 12 minutes of hard work to the finish line.  My stomach started to hurt, and I panicked for a split second.  I realized it was not my stomach threatening to ruin things, but that I was shivering so much my back was aching! This rain was chilly. Just 12 minutes I reminded myself. 6:00 for the 12th mile was the slowest on the day, and it was time to push to the finish. 
As we turned onto grass I saw Nate Jenkins cheering, and shivering under a mylar blanket and asked how Melissa (his wife) had run. Unfortunately he informed me it was not her day.  

Asking questions mid race lead to this series of awkward race photos. HAHA!

Moments later I would click 5:48 on my watch of the 13th mile and kick as hard as I could to the finish line. 1:16:46. My second fastest half marathon, and the fastest since 2009.  


I smiled and quickly asked how the ladies in front of me did. 14 women had punched their ticket to Los Angeles that morning! 14!  I was so excited for those ladies.  My fellow CED'ers raced well too, Beth ran a PR of 1:15:22, Jess ran a solid 1:16:10, and Ellie a new PR of 1:17:28, of which she had dreamed of the exact time the night prior!! I learned that Erin Osment, a fellow Oiselle lady had run 1:14:18, and at 22 years old she too would be in LA!  What an incredible weekend.  Thank you Richard for giving us all a unique opportunity to come together as athletes to help and support one another in such an inspiring way! In 20 years of competitive running I have not seen anything like this. I feel very luck to have been a part of the weekend that was the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials Project.

I am feeling a lot more confident after this race. Feeling rough at the beginning, and getting into a good groove, and letting the fitness come through. I can not wait to get to Los Angeles, where I have big goals!  I am not sure on a time or place goal just yet.  I know I want to be under 2:43, but I believe I can run well under that. I want to run the best race I have in me on that day!  

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