I chose this race as a chance to improve on my current HM PR, from June this year (1:29:27). In that race it was pretty hot - mid-70's and really humid. This weekend worked well on my "race calendar". I ran a 5k and 10k in back to back weekends 6 weeks ago. I was able to get in 4 solid long runs with some HM pace work in each. So, I'm coming into the race with some confidence and a good idea of what pace I can hold.
The only unknown for me is how the hills will affect me - the course is quite hilly. Not epic hills, but continuous rolling hills, and one long 2 mile uphill followed by about 3 miles down hill. My strategy going in is to maintain "HM effort" and let the pace adjust based on the road profile.
I took yesterday (Friday) off work, so I could lounge around and have a relaxing day the day before the race. This made it really nice actually, and made it seem like a Sunday race. I was able to get some extra rest and ensure I got plenty of sleep "the night before the night before the race". Had a nice pasta and vegetables dinner, plus a snack of cereal and milk, and off to bed early.
Morning of the race:
Set the alarm for 5:15. Immediately had coffee, some instant oat meal, and small glass of milk. Then, out for a very short run around the block to get everything moving, use the restroom, and out of the house at 6:00 for a drive of about an hour. My wife was nice enough to get up early and go with me - always like having her company!
Arrived at the race, and parked about 7:10. I had some angst about getting my bib the morning of the race - but no worries. Lines were short. We got a long sleeve tech shirt as advertised, plus a baseball style running hat that I'll actually wear, and a pair of gloves. Sweet.
This is an interesting race, because it includes a regular HM race, and two versions of "relay races". There are teams of 4 that break up the distance in a little more than 5k each; or two person teams, where each runs half the distance. Since there are only about 400 runners for the full half marathon, I was hoping the "exchange" of the relay teams would provide some distraction and it might provide more company while I'm running. I figure there are a lot of folks who can run 10k pace or 5k pace faster than I can run HM, so that will be people to run with or chase down.
There were also some "Elites" in the race - look like from Kenya or thereabouts. It was fun to watch them warm up, like gazelles - effortless. The winner finished in 1:04, and got $1,000.
Good weather this morning. About 40 degrees at the 8:00 start ("feels like" 38), with NO wind. Perfect. This is the "transition" temp for me, where I want a little more warmth than just a singlet and shorts. I decided on my normal race singlet with arm warmers, thin gloves, and a light weight knit hat. Around mile 6 I ended up tossing the hat, tucking my gloves into the back of my shorts, and rolling down my arm warmers.
7:20 or so, I took some UCAN Super Starch in about 12 oz of water, as I have the last four weeks before my long runs. Right after that I started walking around the start line and began a short jog to warmed up a little bit. Did my 5 minute pre-race routine (dynamic stretches / leg swings / lunge matrix). I was interviewed by the Winchester Star newspaper (my first - maybe I'll make tomorrow's paper - and be famous!). Did about a mile to get loosened up with a few strides. My left Achilles felt about how it has all week - a little sore, but not enough to change my stride, and like in all my runs lately - after about 2 miles it gets better and stays a "little stiff" but hurts less.
8:00 was race start. As I mentioned, only 400 or so in the half marathon, but many more at the start line doing one of the two relay options. I lined up in the "6:00-7:00" pace area, listened to a real guy sing the National Anthem live, and we were off with a REAL cannon shot.
I decided to break up the course into 3 mile sections. It's easier for me mentally to focus on 3 miles at a time, evaluate, and take on the next 3 miles. This happens to work nicely with the course profile, which I've shown below - with my notes added. There's a long uphill from mile marker 4 - 6, then a long down hill to mile marker 9.
My goal is to cover each 3 mile section in about 20:00 (6:40 pace), and finish in less than 1:28 . Less than 1:27 would be great. Mile 6 and 10 are uphill, so I'll need to be less than 6:40 the other miles to make up the difference
Going into the race I hoped to finish in less than 1:28. Less than 1:27 would be great.
Summary by each 3 mile section below:
Miles 1-3: 19:26 total time (6:29 pace overall. miles were 6:29/6:29/6:28). Of course, I started off faster than plan, and after about 3/4 of a mile I realized it and started to pull back. Pretty soon two guys came by and one said "Jump in". I asked goal time, he said "1:28". Perfect. I latched on, and they proceeded to go about 6:30 pace. If I wasn't running with these guys I would have slowed down, no one was behind us...so I stuck with them to see how long I could hold on.
Miles 4-6: 39:03 total time (still about 6:30 pace overall. miles were 6:15/6:28/6:55). I knew mile 6 would be slow, but made up at least part of it by picking up the pace on the downhill section at mile 4. I gotta hand it to the two guys I was running with - I was just following along and they did a much better job than I could do with pacing!
Miles 7-9: 58:13 total time. A lot of this section was downhill, which helped the pace.(6:16/6:19/6:29). I was still feeling surprisingly good (well pretty good) thru 9 miles. At this point I'm beginning to believe I can hold this pace to the end- and I have two guys pulling me along, so all I have to do is get on their shoulder and run.
Miles 10 - 12: 1:18:32 total time. Around the end of mile 9 we made a left turn and headed up hill. At this point the two guys I've been running with slowed down considerably. I waved them on, and hesitated for a second, but ended up forging ahead alone. About a half mile later I spotted a woman running by herself...I was slowing closing in....so that became my next goal. I caught her around the end of mile 10. I ran with her for about half a mile, but then she faded. So, again - I moved forward on my own. The 11th mile was the hardest for me. I started to really struggle and had to focus on keeping my pace - I had to play games to keep motivated and chugging forward. Mile splits were 6:51 (uphill), 6:36/6:43.
Last 1.1: At the end of mile 12 we turned off the paved road and ran down a dirt trail / farm road, kind of path. Slightly downhill, which helped my motivation - and the downhill was a nice relief. With about 600 meters left I was back on pavement and doing my best to hold form and finish strong. It wasn't easy. Mile 13 was 6:26, and my pace for the last bit was 6:12.
Overall Time: 1:25:41. A 4 minute PR, and good for 1st place in 45-49 age group.
Pic below of my 3 seconds of glory:
Really happy with the effort. Good way to end the season. My legs are a little beat up and I have some minor aches and pains - so it's a good time.
Taking next week off, then I'll start rebuilding for a my first marathon in March.