Fly without Limits

After contemplating running another ultra in Kansas on October 27, 2018, I decided to instead enter the Good Life Halfsy in Lincoln, Nebraska, happening the following day, mainly because I hesitated committing to a minimum of twelve-hour drive out and back for the former. This event that welcomes over 6,500 participants bears the nickname “Nebraska’s funnest half marathon,” and I longed to test myself and see how fast I could run on this net-downhill course I heard so much about for years from local races. Seeing and chatting with champion ultrarunner Kaci Lickteig and her pacer again, in addition to taking part in various entertaining activities, at the Expo the day before the race unsurprisingly pumped me up and excited me for the next morning.

My impression of a “downhill course” made me visualize most of the course leading downhill, which proved inaccurate when I ran upward as frequently as I ran downward. With this initial thought, I started ambitiously fast, beginning at a low 7:00/mile pace and maintaining an 8:04/mile pace for the first few miles. I had a rough idea of the pace I needed to keep in order to destroy my personal record (PR) from slightly over a month ago, which about eight miles in I figured to be inevitable unless something drastic, like an injury, occurred. I noticed my passing many runners going up and down but occasionally being passed going flat, and I was reminded of why I missed the Georgia hills so dearly when I first moved to Kearney, Nebraska, that seemed 99% flat, in September 2015.

Nearing the finish line following a prolonged uphill on a bridge, I gathered all the energy I had left for a final sprint to the end, flying past numerous runners. I aimed to complete the run close to 1:50:00 while quietly fantasizing even more quickly on this fast course but knew I had set quite a greedy goal, making the official time of 1:47:35.7, beating my previous PR by well over five minutes, drop my jaw even lower.

I remember texting my best friend following achieving my first-ever official sub-2:00:00 13.1 miles of 1:56:55 in the summer of 2017 that I do not know if I could again replicate that performance, yet my last three half marathons, all on much tougher courses, casually smashed that seemingly amazing accomplishment at the time. I can feel my body rapidly becoming stronger and speedier, but how much more room do I have to improve? I guess I will find out soon enough. Thank You, Jesus!

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What Matters

Beginning race day being detoured four or five times driving in the dark due to major road construction and uncertain if I could make it to the event location on time, I felt overly anxious and nervous on my way to a half marathon at the Fall Double Half Mary +5 in Valparaiso, roughly 27 miles northwest of Lincoln, Nebraska, on October 13, 2018. This event does not utilize chip timing, which implied if I arrived late, however late I arrived would be added to my finish time. Canceling the race even briefly crossed my mind, and I probably would have if I could not start with the rest of the participants. When I came to the event place with short time to spare, I felt so grateful I no longer obsessed with the pressure of performing to the best of my abilities.

I lined up at the very front for the start and kept the lead for the first mile, which felt awkward because I had never led this far in any of my previous 36 races; when the few runners who finished before I passed me, I strangely felt relieved and comfortable, almost as if thinking my level should not be winning any race. The course started off relatively flat for the first two to three miles and then carried straight uphill to the halfway turnaround. I could observe how much my endurance has improved, as I did not feel any fatigue and maintained a consistent pace to the top; yes, I do acknowledge the 36-degree temperature helped. On my way up, I became excited thinking about all the downhill I would be running on the way back.

Unsurprisingly, I secured a significant negative split the second half, crossing the finish line in 1:55:23, my second-fastest half marathon ever and which coincidentally hilariously matches my bib number of 155. Considering this event took place 100% on a trail (and mud) and 0% on the road, maybe this performance could be as impressive as my 1:53:05 personal record from the road-trail race several weeks ago. I realize performing strong and running fast should not always be my priority in races and need to remind myself of what matters, but I also cannot help but feel joyful seeing how far I have come since I picked up running just over six-and-a-half years ago. Until recently, I had only hoped for a sub-two-hour 13.1 miles; now, not achieving this on a nontechnical course disappoints me. As always, thank You, Jesus!