Sunday, June 26, 2016

Race Report: C&O Canal Race - HM (Team Red, White, and Blue 5k and Half)

Ran my first half marathon today!  GUARANTEED PR! (Who doesn't like that).

The race today is in DC, and starts very near the boat house in Georgetown, right off the Potomac river and is run along the C&O Canal towpath (covering miles 1 - 7.5 of the path).  I live very near mile 48 of the path, and run it often.  In most portions, it is hard packed dirt, and relatively flat, with only slight up's and down's.  In general, the path gains elevation going west from DC and loses elevation going back east toward DC (obviously).  The path is also completely covered by a canopy of trees in most places, and it a total of about 12 to 14 feet wide.

This is not a goal race, my goal race this summer is the Leesburg 20 on August 21 (my hometown), this is a small race to learn what a half feels like, and to finally actually just race a half.  I've run a number of Long Runs in the 14-16 mile range, and earlier this year I ran 13.1 in 1:33 by myself as a training run.  It wasn't an all out effort, more controlled, and in cooler weather than the race today.

(Caution:  I use these blogs to look back at my races, so there's a lot of detail here that I'm sure not everyone will find interesting.  It it might help me when I prepare for my next summer half marathon.)

Race elevation chart (an "out and back"), and sample photo of the path below (that's the Potomac river on left side of the path photo).

 Weather forecast at race start:  71F, 86% humidity. at finish: 76F, 65% humidity.  Dew point: 58F.  Almost no wind.

Race Plan:

Based on my 5k PB in March (18:41), my "calculated" (McMillan calculator) non-weather adjusted time is about 1:26 (6:36 pace), but the 5k race was in mid-40's weather.  AND, this is my first half marathon.  So, I've decided an overall pace of 6:45 or so is more appropriate.  This puts me in at about 1:28.  I can always pick it up the 3 miles if I'm feeling good.

My strategy going in is a little slower the first three miles, pick it up some until the turnaround, pick it up a little more around mile 7, when the profile starts to be more downhill, than up, then give it whatever I've got left from mile 10 mi. to the end. 

I wrote on my arm three split times; 3 mi: 20:30, turnaround: 44:30; 10 mi: 1:07:30.  You would think I could remember these numbers in my head, but I've found that in races I can't remember anything, much less do ANY math.  So, that's the plan:  "Ah, the best laid plans of mice and me....."

The race is pretty small, and low key, so I'm planning on not having anyone to run with most of the time.  Also, traffic note:  The 5k starts one hour after the half, so I suspect I will have some traffic from slower 5k runners in the last 1.5miles.  My experience from prior races tells me I will probably get a couple groups of joggers / walkers covering the whole path.  I think I'll be yelling "ON YOUR LEFT" at least a few times...hopefully it won't slow me down too much.

Morning of the race:

 Did my "usual" pre-race routine.  Set my alarm for 5:15.  Instant oatmeal, little bit of milk, and coffee.  Short jog around my neighborhood, about half a mile, to get my legs moving (and more importantly, my stomach).  Back at the house, "process" dinner from last night, and on the road around 6:00.  Drive to DC (which I usually hate) was not bad since it was 6:00 Sunday morning.  Found a parking spot, and showed up at the registration table at 7:00 to get my race number, etc.  I would have showed up later, but there was no bib pick up prior to race day, and I didn't want to be in a line for 30 minutes.  Around 7:30 I took half a Honey Stinger gel.  I don't normally do this, but I've tested my tolerance for them, and I do okay.  I was just worried about having enough calories for the full half on my light breakfast a few hours earlier.  I also had a second coffee about 7:00.  Did about a mile warm-up with a few short faster efforts to get the legs moving, and all my usual pre-run dynamic stretching and lunge matrix.

I decided to carry a hand held water bottle.  The one I have is from Ultimate Direction, has a strap thing that I can cinch around my hand, and small zippered pocket on the outside that is perfect to hold a gel.  I hate carrying the bottle, but I also can't drink from a paper cup and run.  I planned to take a gel (Honey Stinger) around mile 7-8, and that requires a bit of water to get down.  Plus, with the humidity, I want to drink whenever I feel like it.

It was hot and I debated not wearing a shirt.  But, I didn't want to be "that" guy, and the race was in the shade, and it doesn't feel quite right to have my race number on my shorts, so I ended up wearing a singlet and not getting any "side-looks" from my fellow runners (side note: I don't wear a shirt on my my training runs if the temps are above 70F, and I always feel more comfortable - or is it all psychological? - dunno).

So, how did the race go?

There were about 60 people total lined up for the half.  About 5 minutes before the start we were given a few instructions, told where the water stops are, the 5k runners (who start an hour later) will be instructed to "stay right", "Okay any questions?  No?  Good".  Ready?  Go!  Now, THAT'S the way a race start should always be!

First three miles:  As I had guessed, there were about 5 guys that would be competitive.  One guy went out pretty good, and I, like I "always" do in races - went with him.  About 1/4 mile in I looked at my pace of 6:25 and said "sayonara", too fast for me!  I still went through mile 1 about 15 sec. too fast.  I never got close to him again, and no one was running with me, so I had basically 12 miles on my own.  But, I suspected this would happen.  I pulled back some on mile 2 and 3, so I went through my 3 mile split only about 15 sec ahead of plan.  Not bad.  An oh yeah, NO shade!  Fuck.  But, I'm not feeling bad.

At the turnaround:  Mile 4-6 were a little more uphill, but really only slightly.  My watch was having some GPS problems, and my pace was fluctuating wildly on the screen.   I just went by feel, and when I checked my time at the turnaround it read 44:15.  Damn.  Almost EXACTLY on plan.   That NEVER happens for me.  But, I am starting to feel it.  It's getting HOT.  REALLY HOT.  AND  HUMID.

Mile 10:  I lost some concentration from the turnaround to mile 10.  I took part of the gel I was carrying, but only about half.  It was all I could get down.  I was sipping on my water bottle, but I starting to really feel the effort.  I went thru 10 miles in 1:07:53.  About half a minute slower than my plan.

Last 3.1:  My plan that this point was to speed up some, and avg. 6:35 pace on the way in.  Well, right about here the heat overtook me (or something overtook me!), and just plain wilted like a delicate flower in the noon sun.  My pace from here in went down to about 6:55 / mi.  Mile 11 was really bad, at 7:10.  I also ran into traffic from TWO 5k races at this point, on the same path.  Honestly, I was fried by then, so I don't think it slowed me down any.  I was doing some weaving, but it also distracted me from how shitty I felt.  So, maybe that helped.

Overall Time:  Finished in 1:29:27.  About 1:30 slower than I had hoped, most of it lost in the last 3 miles.  But, I put in a good effort.  And I might have been a little ambitious considering the weather.  Did I say it was HOT?  I finished 2nd overall.  The guy I let go in mile 1 ended up in 1:25:xx, and 3rd place was 1:35xx.  So, I really was all on my own the whole time.

Takeaways:  So, now I know it is true, the half marathon really starts at mile 10.  I now know what it half effort feels like and how to dig when I really just want to quit.  I'm proud I didn't quit. It would have been really easy to settle in with the slower 5k runners I was passing the last couple of miles.  I still finished under 1:30 in mid-70's weather and high humidity on a gravel trail.

Detail of mile splits below (Some of the miles may not be exact, my watch was acting a little funky.  3 mi split / turnaround / 10 mi split / overall time highlighted)

If you got this far, thanks for reading!  I'd like to hear how much time others adjust for weather.  I'm guessing I would be about 2 min. faster in 45F temps.....

I also did a 2 mile jog / walk "cool down".  I ran / walked to the end of the C&O towpath and back.  So, I can check that off my goal of running the whole towpath (separate posts on that).

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