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Runner Dimity, Version 2.0

I have no pictures of me running, so just visualize me on this course.

This morning, Ben sauntered into our bedroom around 4:50 a.m., when I had the alarm set for 5:10 to get ready for the Denver Rock 'n' Roll Half-Marathon. The day was already starting out with hard choices; do I just get up and sacrifice 20 minutes of "sleep" and let him have my warm spot, or do I try to get him back in his own bed--or worse, sandwich him in between us? (Read: I reel from the stench of his urine-soaked Pull-up while he kicks me in the back?)

I get up. Dang him.

I watch an episode of Fashion Hunters on Bravo--only thing on that isn't an infomercial--eat my banana, English muffin with almond butter, please-let-me-poop steaming latte, gather my goods, and head over to the race. My car thermometers reads:

It didn't read flatbread crackers--though I love these--but it did read 34 degrees.

Brrr. Get really worked up about wondering if I should bring my gloves with me to the starting line. No, I finally decide, I won't need them, so I check them. Walk away for about a minute, stick my hands into my capris and realize, yes, I want them. So I retrieve checked bag and gloves and recheck. Get to the starting line, and burn about 100 calories shivering. Seriously freezing.

Pre-race, I talked with Brianna, my coach about my race goals and pacing strategy. My biggest goals: race a smart race, and finish strong. Pacing-wise, she wanted me to start at the back of the 2:10 pacer so I'd go out with three 10:00 minute miles--and not fly-and-die, as per my usual M.O.--then slowly reel, via miles that were 5 seconds or so faster that the previous one, in the 2:05 pacer.

I selectively forgot this bit of advice, and lined up in my assigned corral, where the 2:00 half-marathon and 4:00 marathon pacers were also standing. The 2:05 and 2:10 pacers were quite a ways behind me. I didn't want to burrow my way back into the crowd, so told myself I'd just go out at 10 minute miles, despite the fact I was in a corral with speedsters and I had nobody, except my wishy-washy self, to hold me back.

Our corral started moving up to the starting line, and I realized I was being an idiot, repeating the same mistakes I've always made (and for paying for a coach and not taking her advice). I found a little peninsula of space between two fences, so I wouldn't trip any runners, and waited for pacing peeps to creep up. I fell in behind the 2:05 guy, because he--smart pacer he is--was running 10:00 miles. His strategy, which he announced: start slow and get faster. There's a novel idea. He also mentioned a 2:05 is about 9:32 splits. Got it.

I hung with that group for two miles, which was a practice in self-restraint. The first mile has a nice, let-'er-rip downhill, and to look at my Garmin, hovering around 9:57, felt like making chocolate chip cookies and not eating any dough: no fun.

But my running was easy and light, and I was definitely not going out too hard. Win. Then my third mile clocks in around

And I freak a little. 9:30's have been, putting it mildly, hard for me sustain during this training stretch, so I pull back and let the pacer and his little 2:05 stick bob on ahead and decide to run my own race. If pacer boy is still in sight around 8 miles, I'll make my move to rejoin him. So I put on the cruise control, telling myself I'll keep my miles between 9:35-9:45 and enjoy the race.

Briana told me to take something at every aid station; the cold doesn't let you feel dehydration, which is an issue for salt-lick sweaty me, as well as hot, humid temps do. Since I'm totally buying in, I do this even though I'm not thirsty: water at some stations, Cytomax at others, three GUs around 30 minutes, 70 minutes, and 100 minutes. I really didn't want the last one, but SBS considers the third and final GU her secret weapon, so who was I to rebel?

Around Mile 7, I take off my gloves. I liked the symbolism: I'm taking my gloves off, my race is starting. Derobing is s a trick I use when I'm doing a tough workout like speedwork: I'll wear two layers on top until I'm at least 60% through the workout, and then shed one if the temps call for it. The chilly feeling of crisp air on previously sweaty parts gives me a little mental boost.

So I'm all fresh-handed and 4:10 marathon pace group swallows me up. Cool, I think, I'll jump in with these guys: if this pacer is like the other one, they'll be running 9:40's since it's only Mile 7 of the marathon. I speed up to hang, and...

My Garmin shows a split faster than it takes to marinate something using this very useful gizmo.

Like 8:45. For at least a quarter-mile; it's not just a temporary glitch. I let them go, and feel sorry for the runners in his group. My new, improved smart-pacer self knows that's really fast to be going when you've got 19 more miles to go.

I resume my own race, but feel a little weary. I see the 2:05 group at two turn-arounds, and they're not out of range, but I'm not sure I have the juice to get to them. A 10:0o+ mile--my first of the race--from 10-11 does my spirit no good, even though it was a decent uphill. Then all of sudden, I pass my sisters-in-law who notice me before I see them. Five minutes later, I see Grant, who I didn't expect to see (cold temps + bored kids = no show). "Where are the kids?" I, always the mom, ask. "Right over there," he yells, "See you in a bit." I head into Cheeseman Park for a few miles.

Illustration A: what my kids saw in the four-miler.

A friend spots me twice in Miles 11-12.5, and I get a "wide back" directive from Pilates maven in there too. Then I see my kids, and the sound of their yelling voices is, unlike most times, so appreciated. Plus, I'm not dragging, like I was in this four-miler (Illustration A), which was the last time they saw me running. In fact, I'm feeling and looking strong; something Grant comments on post-race.

I finish feeling springy--a downhill last mile will do that to you--and cross the line in 2:05:32. (The 2:05 pacer was a little faster than he wanted to be, he told me post-race.) I think that's my slowest half-marathon ever, but I'm totally cool with that.

Why? It's my launching pad for runner Dimity 2.0. This version ofย  me can actually pace myself; can run a negative split by a minute; doesn't hurt much, save one tweak of her right glute that she's icing as she types; and runs her own race so that she doesn't burn out and need to walk, save the aid stations, which, btw, she uses liberally.

I'm sure, like any upgrade, a few major bugs will quickly let their presence be known, but she's installed and there's no looking back. Excited to see what she can do.

We're in the thick of racing weekend--Portland, Long Beach, and Chicago were also awash in runners this weekend--so if you raced there or anywhere/any distance, how was your pacing? Your race?

54 responses to “Runner Dimity, Version 2.0

  1. I want to learn to do what you did. I am not talking about the 2:05..but about the pacing work. I am better at it but it is not perfect, far from it.

    I ran Long Beach. Race #25. Half Marathon #4. It was HARD. At mile 7: chest and calf pain. Scared me a bit. I walked. I should have stopped but I didn’t. I finished. Did not feel any better after the race, ended in the ER. After a few tests I was admitted in the cardiac unit. That was not on my agenda. Cardiac enzymes were elevated and that can be a sign of heart attack. thank God it was not that. but I did spend the night hooked to heart monitor for observation and I had to do a stress test on the treadmill to be released.
    Scary stuff. I am home now and I am ok. I did not need all that drama after a race!!!

    ps I did meet my pal Keith Urban the night before the race so that is a plus!!!

    congrats on your race Dimity!
    oh and great articles this month in RW!

  2. I’m training for my first half… wanting to finish in 2:10 … I am SO nervous about pacing myself. I do not want to be obsessive over it during the run, but I know if I finisher slower I will be disappointed in myself. In my long runs I am doing around a 10 minute mile (I’m use to do around 9:25 in shorter runs) … I need 9:55 splits to get the 2:10 … Am I doing ok by training below my goal pace?

  3. So awesome- AMR radio was my company down and back from Boston for my BAA half so I feel like I was fully prepped for this post and know how much you worked for this! Just awesome. I was running well at the BAA half there until the heat got me, but I finished and beat my “B” goal by about 5 minutes. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for A/B goals!

  4. That was really helpful, particularly the part about when to have the GUs. I ran my first half in late July and realised (from your hydration and nutrition podcast) I really didn’t take on enough calories. I am based in Singapore so sweat is a huge issue (never any need to wear gloves!). I’ve got another hm coming up early December so will try your gu approach then!

    Another question – where can I find your training plans or do I have to wait for the new book?

  5. Way to go! Loved your recap. I ran my first half this weekend and finished in 2:34 ( super excited about it!) I followed the 2:30 pacer until he decided to take a walk break after 1km (Canadian over here!) I kept my own pace around 11 minute miles and then that pace group passed me at mile 9 going faster than I could ๐Ÿ™‚ I decided to run my own race and am glad I did.

  6. Great post, Demity! Congratulations! It was a good article for me to read, as I seem to struggle with pacing myself too. I ran the Portland Half yesterday, (my third Half – I’ve been running for 11 months, so still consider myself a newbie!) and finished in 2:16, my best time so far!
    I’m running another one on Sunday (Girlfriend’s Half)……!

  7. Loved this post! Your comments struck a chord with me. I ran Chicago yesterday, 4th marathon (all previous marathons in Chi-town). My goal was to finish and my second goal was to beat my PR, which I have done with each marathon I’ve done. My PR is 4:23:21 I finished yesterday in 4:27:08. However, I was o.k. with this finish- I had an accident in June that prevented me from running the whole month of June and so was super proud of being able to complete the marathon with less training time than I had wanted. I too am historically a start out fast, hit the wall mid race, but kick it in at the end – love sprinting down toward the finish line and picking out what person I’m going to pass in front of me. I don’t know if I will ever be good at what you did this race- holding back in the beginning, but I think I’m o.k. with that. Congrats on your finish and to all those runners above my post who raced this past weekend.

  8. Ran the Portland Marathon 1 hour and 2 minutes faster than my last attempt two years ago. Thrilled that I was able to beat my goal (5:00) by 20 minutes and finish at 4:4o. My goal was to line up between the 4:45 and 5:00 mark and I did, inching ahead of the 4:45 red lizard sign at some point without realizing it. My only hiccup was feeling sick about miles 17-20, but for whatever reason (I’m going with my mom & husband praying for me, because it sure felt like a miracle) I recovered and retrieved my pace for the lovely last 6.2. Can’t wait for Train Like A Mother to come out so that I can run my next marathon even smarter. I’m thinking Eugene in the Spring!

  9. I struggle mightily with pacing. It inspires me to read stories that remind me that I’m not alone and can one day work to overcome my lack of internal pace clock.

    Congratulations on a great race, Dimity!

  10. Pacing a bit fast for my normal at the Portland marathon yesterday, but holding a 4:40 pace for about 12 miles. Until my shin started hurting. Dropped back, kept pace with the 4:45 for a couple miles and then lost sight of them when I had to start run/walking and stretching periodically. Didn’t get passed by the 5:00 pacers for another 6 miles or so, but then I knew my sub-5 plan was shot. Regardless, my first half was consistent just under 11:00 and my second half averaged around 15:00. Found out today I ran more than half with a stress fracture, so 5:37 for my first marathon with a broken leg ain’t too bad! (ooh, sorry, that was long!)

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  11. Dim, I totally needed this post! I had a PR a couple of weeks ago in the Omaha 1/2, but I learned a great lesson: DON”T START SO FAST!!! I kept looking at my Garmin and thought it was wrong b/c I felt so good and was doing 9 and under miles. Ya, um, by the time I finished the hills and made it to mile 12 I wanted to die. I actually yelled a couple of not so lady like 4-letter words as I started to walk. Did you read that? WALK! I was so mad at myself. Thankfully, some total stranger runner lady said, “We’re almost done!!! You CAN do this!” It was the final push that I needed to get it done (I thanked her several times at the finish, btw). I too need to revamp my “go out like a bullet” race mentality because Vegas is just 8 short weeks away. Looking forward to seeing you there, Dimity, 2.0. Sincerely, Mary 2.0! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  12. Love the entry! I only wish I have as much restraint as you did in my Richmond Marathon race. While I keep telling myself it is a look see to determine if I can BQ next year when I turn 45, the competive part of me always runs out of the gate like fire is behind me.

  13. Too funny! My brother in law invented the “9 Minute Marinator”! …a pace which I hope to maintain in my 4th half coming up in a month. Pacing is tough for me too. I go out too fast and then crash and burn. I have had lots of training runs where I start out slowly and have negative splits but the race day excitement kills me…that and thinking that since I know I crash and burn I should try and bank some extra time on the front end when I’m all fresh and stupid. So, steady as she goes for the next one. Congratulations on your race and thanks for the timely (ha) post!!

  14. I had my best race and PR in Denver yesterday. Don’t know what happened, felt like I was flying.
    But now I am wanting to run a full. Boston is on my bucket list and I really want to qualify.
    Not sure how I should train for that. Or which race I should do……..any suggestions on fast downhill races……lol….?

  15. I ran the Portland Marathon yesterday, my 2nd! I shaved off 41 minutes to set a new PR of 5:22 and something. Saturday, while trying to get that last desperate bit of sleep, I popped in my earbuds and listened to your most recent podcast of hills. Wouldn’t you know, on Sunday, I was chugg-chooing with my arms up each incline in CLUDing the hell…hill up to the St. John’s bridge. It WORKED and I felt like the studliest train out there! Thank you for the last minute coaching session via your podcast. I’m certain my success on the hills helped with my new PR.

  16. I ran Chicago and like you I wanted to stay with the Nike 4.15 Pacing team but I realized with the heat and lack of shade and my bathroom issues that I could not keep that pace for 26.2 miles! So I fell into the 4:30 Pacing Team, and when I reached the Nike Cheering Zone with the 4:30 Pacing Group Jerry and when the MC shouted out to Jerry leader of pacing team – Jerry you and your team are finishing the CHICAGO Marathon, I almost lost it as there was still 2.2 miles to go so despite the tears and me almost face planting on the road, thanks total stranger for helping me up, I finished and I didn’t care about my time or my last NYC Marathon time cos to me all I wanted to do was finish and that I did – am a proud 6th Marathoner finish and when my kids asked me did I see Hope Solo and the Women’s USA Soccer Team I proudly said yes, but they only ran 2 miles as I had a grin on my face as their mom is a proud MOTHER RUNNER!!

    1. WTG, G! Very cool. Love it when the flood of emotions totally takes over…but no more tripping please. ๐Ÿ™‚ You are a proud MOTHER RUNNER indeed!

  17. I blame allergy meds and sleep deprivation (okay, and maybe ADD, ADHD, and any other acronym ending in “D” you want to throw in there) but I swear I read almost the entire post thinking you were running a full marathon…

    That said, your finish time for half that distance is still impressive! It may have been your slowest ever, but to 12:00-ish paced runners like me 2:05:32 is FAST. Extra props for running smart! I really hope I can do the same in December.

    1. AJ, you didn’t know I average 4:45 splits? ๐Ÿ™‚ Pacing is huge, no matter what speed you are. It’s having the confidence and self-restraint to control yourself in the beginning and then pushing it towards the end. Doesn’t matter what your speed is: a smart race is a smart race. You can do it in December.

  18. Great race report! You had a lot of what one might term “non-timed victories” with this outing. Plus you have minimal discomfort. WINNING! Very motivational for me to read as I head into my first half this Saturday. Great job!

  19. Great race, Dimity! Nice job on pacing yourself! I wish I could figure this out, too. I seem to be afflicted with going out too fast and dying like a champ towards the end. Seems like you tapped into something really amazing!

    1. Honestly, Jenny, I felt like the beginning was SO slow and easy. It reminded me of the NYC marathon I ran WAY back in the day (1997) when the first hour felt effortless, thanks to training. I think that’s the goal: to feel like you’re just cruising for the first half of the race. I realize it may not be the fastest time ever, but first you learn the process, then you pump it up.

  20. Congrats, Dimity! That’s awesome!

    I ran Long Beach. Had a decent split at 10k, but it was all downhill from there. I have never had a “great” race, after doing five halves and two fulls. If I run any slower I’ll be walking! It’s a little depressing..

    1. Hey Cheryl…ugh. Sorry to hear that. One thing you might want to consider: the run/walk method from Jeff Galloway. People have had *great* success with it and have set PR’s. The small walk breaks give your body a chance to recover and restock…just a thought. Still, you’ve run 5 halfs and two fulls…that, alone, is a huge accomplishment.

  21. Nice job Dimity!! Pacing has been one of the themes in our household this year. Those darn pacers — I like how you let them go. I found in two of my recent races (1:54 half and 4 hr full – I’ll post my pic — did it wearing my BAMR shirt!) that the pacers for times after I expect to come through have passed me by and that can be so discouraging! I pull out the, “I’m running my own race,” mantra and that works for me.

    Now if we could just figure out my husband’s pacing issues all would be good.

    1. Can’t wait to see the pic, Robin! Pacers are definitely hit or miss, and I think you have to trust your gut (and your Garmin). Sounds like you’ve had some excellent races this year: nice!

  22. i started right behind the 2:00 pacer as well. Wasn’t planning to keep up with it the whole time, but made the goal of trying to until at least mile 8. I think at some point around mile 4 he started to drift a little ahead and by 7 was out of sight. BUT, i maintained a far better pace than i had in training runs and was able to keep it around 10 for most of the run. Being my first half ever, i really just had the goal of finishing. good to know the cold keeps you from recognizing hydration issues, because i do think i really hurt myself in not taking in the hydration i needed. by mile 11 i REALLY felt it and it caused me to slow down.

    Congrats to you on taking the time to really work on your method! sometimes accomplishments are more than just a time on the clock!

    1. Ha! Me too. My 5K pace is the same as my 1/2 pace—about 10 min/mile. My friend says that I should run a marathon and see if it stays the same for that distance.

  23. Congrats on a great race! I ran a half Saturday with a time of 2:01:32, a p.r. for me. Still searching for that elusive sub 2:00.

  24. Congrats on your SmartRace ๐Ÿ™‚ Awesome job setting very good goals and having the discipline to stick with them! Enjoy your post-race glow for a day or two ๐Ÿ˜‰

  25. You express your pacing challenges better than I could have put mine into words. I am known to start a race ‘balls out’ and pay for it less than half way through. I’m getting better about it, though. It sounds like you had a great race. I’ll have to reread this before my first half on the 29th!

    1. I am one of those balls-out racers; this race is truly the first one where I practiced self-restraint. I’m predicting Hot Mama 2.0 appears on the 29th: just putting it out there!

  26. This is a great post – I think I’m going to need to make a note to reread it before my half in two weeks. My goal time is similar to yours, aside from the fact that 2:05 will be a big fat PR for me instead of my slowest half, and I’ll need to remind myself to go out conservatively and pick it up as I go. I may try to go out with a pace group, though my issue with pace groups is that I run/walk and so my run is faster than the pace group would be and the walk leaves me on my own. Anyway – good stuff!

    1. Thanks, Sarah. First half: think am I going slow enough? Second half: can I go a little faster? Easier said than done, but if you use that as your strategy, you’ve got the right mentality.

    1. Nicely done, Amy: always great to have those races where you realize the training pays off and you’re capable of more than you thought!

  27. Have a funny girl story to share, so here goes…Saturday was an annual Fall trail challenge, full of trail (single and double track), water crossings, log jumping and even some climbing – such fun. I did the 4.5 version b/c had a half marathon the weekend before (night run w/ a gal pal at Disney – so fun!).

    Anyhoo. I wanted to medal in my age group, and knew that was going to require starting the race at the front of the pack so I didn’t get trapped on a single track. So where was I as the starting gun went off? In the porta john. Yep. Thought I had to go potty, but apparently my body thought otherwise and I was stuck in ‘how fast can I wipe and get out of here’ mode as I heard the National Anthem end and the gun go off.

    I got out of there, and ran to catch up to the back of the pack, determined just not to get left behind (that’s a great way to get lost on a trail race!) Ran a great race, had a blast, sure I hadn’t done anything more than just catch up and that was just fine. But somehow the race gods were smiling on me. Placed 3d in my age group, 6th women overall and 37th out of 360+ in the race. Guess taking the time to shed that little bit of extra mass was worth it. (But it’s not a race plan I intend to replicate EVER again.) ๐Ÿ˜›

  28. Great job on your half and sticking to the plan. It is hard sometimes to not let our hearts and ego win the battle with our brains. I did the Chicago Marathon (my first). Had a great first half. Paced myself exactly where I wanted to be but the heat and lack of shade in the second half killed my groove. The heat really caught up with me but I was smart and realized it and scaled back so I could finish it running and still enjoy it. Even had a little pep left to pick it up for the 0.2 and cross the finish line. Finished 4:58:08-I had 3 goals for the marathon (listed in acsending order of how proud and elated I would be) 1-finish 2-finish in under 5 hours 3-finish in 4:45- so I hit #2 and I am beaming!

  29. Woooohooooo! Dim, that sounds like a super smart race! Great work maintaining your smarts with all of the temptations to alter from The Plan. Congrats. Two-point-oh sounds like an excellent version on you!

    (Oh, and no race for me this weekend. Looking at a small, local 5K next weekend and hoping two sweep the Second Trimester division… which I’m certain doesn’t exist….)

  30. Great job pacing yourself!! It sounds like you had fun, and that weather was AWESOME. What a confidence booster.

    Big shout-out for my friend, Kathy, who ran her first marathon in Portland and had a *great* race.

    I was not racing–just getting into my training for the Houston Marathon with a nine-miler on Saturday–so all the great race tales have been feeding my inspiration. Off to spin class now! Hope you ladies have a great week!

  31. Ran Chicago in the heat. Bad race. Finished slower than last year. Needed a trip to the medical tent at 20 because my cf muscles seized up. I have never had muscle cramps EVER. It was as painful as it was scary. A salt packet, a banana, a massage of my calves and finished the race. Not at all the race I wanted but I finished. There is something to be said for that. How do you all get past that crappy feeling of a bad race?

    1. I ran the race yesterday also, and there was a sign that one of the spectators was wearing along the way that pushed me to the end.

      It read – you didnt have courage to start but you have HEART to finish!! I too struggled with the heat and it was crowded but we finished and thats all that mattered!!


    2. Hey BDM: you get past a crappy race by realizing that you did everything you could, the weather gods were not smiling on you and you went 26.2 miles. Let that sink in, give your body a chance to recover–at least 4 weeks of easy runs or XT–and sign up for a shorter race this winter. Well done. Seriously.

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