In my quest for speed, I have been running over 100 miles a month since the beginning of the year. In addition to the mileage increase, I have been focussing on speed a lot more with 2 or 3 workouts a week directly related to running faster from point A to point B while making B further from A.
That strategy has been working fairly well so far. I improved my half marathon PR by a nice margin in February at the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon and have been running even faster in training since then.
Coming into my second attempt at the Santa Cruz Half Marathon, I was feeling great and thought I could do a lot better than the 1:43 from last year. I was aiming to run under 1:32, and maybe even make my first top 50 (based on some guesstimate).
Except that the weather forecast was looking ugly with rain and high winds expected. With most of the course along the shore, the idea of running against 20 mph wind while being soaked was coming to mind and you might guess I was not that excited about it.
Still, there was no going back and thanks to my friend Susanne that let us use her place in Santa Cruz for the night, I was looking at great pre-race conditions. And indeed, I got those. I woke up a lot later than last year. I got ready slowly, without worrying about driving and parking, and left the house at only 7:40AM.
By then, it was clear that mother Nature had decided to spare me the rain and I would only have to fight the high wind. I jogged 1.5 mile to the start line, and was at the front of the pack right on time for the gun.
I had a good start setting up at 7 min/mile right away. I dropped my sweat pants and jacket when I passed by the house and decided to push the pace a bit since I was feeling good. The trail part by Wilder Ranch was the most challenging since we were completely exposed. I was still continuously passing other runners so it kept me motivated. Back on the path section, I had to slow-down a bit as we were going against a flow of slower runner that was forcing us into a single line. There are some difficult hills in that section as well so it was for the best. Once we reached the main (flat) road, with a bit more than 3 miles to go, I was really ecstatic and feeling strong, so I pushed harder and increased the pace even more. This allowed me to leave all the other runners behind and catch up with more. I ran the last 3 miles very strong increasing the pace to 6:45 min/mile while slaloming through crowds of slower 10K runners, walkers and locals, and passing some more half marathoners. I bombed through the last downhill stretch and passed another runner in the last turn to finish 43rd in 1:30:53.
A new PR (by a nice margin again) and top 50 (out of 2200)! Today was just the best run ever.
1:30 is at arm reach now and I am looking forward to my next race. It should be the San Francisco Half Marathon in late July except if I find something to run in early June. In the meantime, back to training for speed.