When the stars align, unexpected things can happen

After being on my bucket list for a few years, I finally had a chance to head to Manitowoc for the HFM Maritime Half Marathon (they also have a Marathon for those interested in a few more miles).  With a course that travels along the Maritime Trail in Manitowoc and Two Rivers, right on Lake Michigan, there are some amazing views of the lake.  I had always heard great things about this small race and was excited that it fit in my race schedule this year.  I went into the race with my only goal being to get out there and put in the miles and enjoy the day.

Over the last few weeks I have been doing a lot of soul searching and contemplating of what my goals are for after my big 8 race challenge in a few weeks.  Over the last few years, I have completed my first Marathon, a 50k, several 120-200 mile relays and A LOT of half marathons.  I am grateful for each and every one of these opportunities and what they have done to help me grow as a runner and a person.  As I started looking at previous race, places I’ve run, people I’ve met and finish times, I started thinking about what’s next.

I know I already have races planned for the rest of 2018 and into 2019.  But I needed more than just races. I needed to find a few new goals.   I set a goal to get back to a sub 2:30:00 half marathon by the end of the year (October to be exact).  With the half’s that I have already run this year, this would mean that I was going to have to take about 25 minutes off my average time!  Not an easy task!  I am working on a plan to get there and training for that will start in July.

Like I said, I went into this race without a time goal.  I wasn’t going to push it, not wanting to chance an injury before my big challenge coming up.  I just wanted to have a good solid race, a confidence booster as I head into the biggest challenge for me so far!


Since I didn’t have a chance to get to Packet Pick up on Friday or Saturday, I was glad to have the option to pick up my packet on site before the race.  I ran into Jennifer, another Skirt Sports Ambassador, just before she headed out on with the early start option for the marathon.  We had to laugh that we were both wearing the same skirt, just in a different print!  

After Jennifer started her marathon, I headed back to my car to grab the rest of my breakfast and get ready for my race.   I also had a chance to meet up with the ladies from the local Mom’s Run This Town chapter for a picture before the game and to chat with several of the ladies that I already knew.  I will say, that is one of the many things I love about the running community!  Over the years I have met many of my closest friends on the race course and those chance meetings have turned into great friendships!  I always feel like I have friends, no matter where I go.

As I was heading back towards the building to find a bathroom, I found Dawn (another SS Ambassador).  I knew she was running the half also, as we had been chatting about this race for a while.  We chatted about our goals for the day, easing each others nerves, laughing and grabbing a few pics.

Dawn’s goal was a bit faster than what I figured I’d end up running so I didn’t even try to keep up with her once we started.  She was looking strong and was on the go!  I fell into pace with a few others around me and started on my journey.  About a mile in, I ran into Shawn and ran with him for a while.  I met him when Lisa and I were running Mackinac Island a few years ago.  He made the trip up with Tracie and another friend of theirs and we had a “fun” wet muddy trail run that chilly October Morning.  We run into each other at various races throughout the year.  Again, I love the friends I’ve made thanks to running!  We ran together until we hit the next aid station.  We would play leapfrog for the next 6 miles.

The weather was PERFECT!  When we first started, I was afraid I was going to be too cold with just my Lioness Skirt and Take Five tank.  I also had my Buff Arm Sleeves to keep my arms warm with the cool breeze but also protect my arms (I LOVE the built in UV protection!). As it turned out, I should not have worried.  Even though there was a cool breeze, I never felt cold!

This course is an out and back, meandering through a residential area, around the canal and then north along the Mariners Trail.  With constant views of Lake Michigan, it will go down as one of the prettiest courses I have run.  And how many times have you run past a Submarine on a half marathon course!

Just past the Maritime Museum, the course turns to head north on the trail, right along the lake shore.  While it is a beautiful place to run, the morning had a nice cool breeze.  Unfortunately I were running straight into the wind!  While this course is relatively flat, there is a gradual incline as you head north from downtown along the trail and with a nice head wind, it took everything I had to keep my pace going.

The last time I was in this area, there was snow and ice everywhere, so it was really neat to see the shoreline when it was green and not so icy!  I love the little roadside parking areas along the trail so people can get out and enjoy the views and trails.

Along the trail, most of these parking areas were filled with spectators, cheering on all the runners!  It is so neat seeing a community that comes out to support runners, whether they know them or not.  Along the way, not only were there spectators encouraging runners, runners were keeping each other going.  Since this is an out and back course, I started meeting up with other runners who were already on their was back towards the Finish line.  These are runners that are moving at a much faster pace than me and almost each runner that I passed offered some sort of encouragement!

The next thing I knew, I was at the turn around!  How did that come so quick?  I looked at my watch and had to take a second look.  The numbers didn’t seem right.  Based on my time so far, this could end up being my fasted half marathon this year.  So then I started thinking… could this be a PR?  Keep in mind, “Mathing” and running do not mix well for me.  I’ve tried calculating mileage or average pace while on the run and I never can come up with the right answer.  As a result, I’ve ended up running or riding further than anticipated!  All I knew at that moment is that I had just run the first half of this race faster than I thought I would have.  At this pace, I was going to be close to a 2:30:00 half marathon.  On which side of it, I’m not sure.  LOL   I knew is that I was going to do what I could to keep up my pace for as long as my body would let me.

I set my focus on getting back to town and kept pushing on.  That head wind that I was dealing before was now a tailwind and I was heading on a slight downhill route back to the finish line.

I know that I went into this race with the goal to just enjoy the miles, with no pressure for time or pace.  But that all changed.  I was feeling good, the weather was perfect and my legs were taking on a life of their own.  It was about the time that I was approaching the 8 mile marker, I was feeling so good that I decided to try and push the next mile.  Did I have enough it my after 8 miles to pull off an 11 minute mile?  Time to test it!

I picked up the pace and focused on this next short goal.  “Run the mile you are in”  A saying I have heard and used many times.  Now it was time to live it!  I pushed that mile… 11:01.

Ok, still feeling good.  Let’s try that again!  I kept pushing on.  I fought for each step. 11:04.

Short again.  But I just pulled off 2 miles and barely over an 11 minute pace in the back half of a half marathon!  I don’t remember when I last was able to do that!  It felt good to pull off that pace.  I settled back into a comfortable pace and kept pushing on.  By this time I was rounding the corner on the trail and heading back past the museum.  As I came along the trail on the north side of the canal, I saw Dawn on the other side!  She was less than 3/4 of a mile ahead of me!

I will be honest, the last 3 miles of any half marathon are always the toughest for me.  Today was no different.  The biggest thing here was that the 3 hills that I got to run down at the beginning of the race, were now standing in front of me and the finish line!  It was time to run up some hills!

I was not going to let those hills get the best of me!  I approached that first one and instead of slowing down and walking up it, I powered through and pushed up that hill like my life depended on it!  It hurt, but I did it.  I took a break to walk and catch my breath, turned the corner and started heading towards the next on.  I caught my breath, let my heart rate recover a bit and kept pushing on.  This one was not as big of a hill, so I was past that one before.  With 1 mile to go, it was time to hit the last one hill.  Based on my watch, I had about 10 1/2 minutes left to hit that 2:30 finish.  It was going to be close but I powered on.  I hit that last hill with everything I had left.  When I hit the top of the hill, I saw the same flags that I remembered seeing at the beginning of the race.  I was 1 turn away from the finish line!  I kept pushing.  I didn’t realize how much I really wanted that 2:30 finish until those last hills.

As I rounded the corner, I saw the finish line party!  All that was left was a short run up the block and a turn into the parking lot on campus!  As I turned the corner, I saw the official race clock… 2:30:42.  I know that this time was based on gun time so my finish time was faster than that.  I emptied the tank and sprinted to the finish.  I heard Dawn yelling for me as I hit that finish line… at least I’m assuming it was her since I didn’t take the time to look!

I did it.

I finished.

Fastest than any race so far this year!

I collected my medal, grabbed a water and found Dawn.  She had finished about 7 minutes before me and ran her 2nd fasted half ever.  We took a few pics at the finish line before heading to find food.

I will say that I normally don’t eat anything right after a race, but today, I was hungry!  All race participants were able to receive a burger or brat, ice cream and then a soda or beer.  I grabbed a burger (and of course loaded it up with pickles), ice cream and a soda.  The only time I every crave a soda is after a long run.  Although my preference is root beer, that was not an option today, so I grabbed a whatever was there. 

I hung around the finish line for a bit and then decided to head into town to get some pictures down by the lake.  On the way, I HAD to make a pit stop at Cedar Crest to get a photo with the cow!  Funny thing, shortly after I pulled in to take my selfie, another car pulled in… and then another! Apparently this was the place to stop post race!

Next stop… to stop and say thank you to THE BEST Volunteer on the course!  The young man that was stationed as a volunteer at the end of the bridge downtown was amazing! Each time I ran past him, he enthusiasm was contagious!  I talked to several other runners that commented on how awesome it was to have him where it was.  He helped us refocus and get through those last 3 miles!

After that stop at the bridge, I had one last stop to make… I wanted a photo with my medal and the lighthouse in the background.  So, I headed to the museum parking lot and walked back down the trail to the waters edge.  Just as I came to the corner of the trail that I had not long ago run down, I looked up and saw Jennifer!  She was on the last leg of her marathon!  When she saw me she let out an excited yell – she was heading to a marathon PR!

What an amazing morning!!  I had the chance to run with, and hang out with my Skirt Sport Sisters, I ran one of my best half marathons in the last 2 years and got to enjoy the beauty of Lake Michigan!  I am still a little anxious about my upcoming challenge, but feel a little more confident about that, as well as my PR goal for October.

Oh yeah… official finish time: 2:30:31.  Yes, I would have loved to hit that 2:30 goal, but considering I just knocked about 20 minutes of the average time from my races so far this year!  I call that a HUGE success and it gives me the confidence boost I need to head into summer and my push for a PR in October!

Half Marathon #36 (already ran WI, so didn’t add to the state count)
Half #7 for the year
Quest for Venus #6 of 13

Next stop:  Mainly Marathon New England Series in 2 weeks!  

 *****I am a Brand Ambassador for Skirt Sports.  This post may also contain affiliate links.  I do earn a small commission for any shopping that is done using one of my Skirt Sport links.  As a Captain Ambassador, I do get a shopping allowance, discount and a few other perks, but the love and admiration for this company is all mine.  If you want to check out their gear for yourself, click here and feel free to use discount code 699PENO to save on all regular priced items!  I wore Skirt Sports even before they invited me to represent them!*****

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