Saturday, November 5, 2016

Battlefield (Winchester) HM Race Report

Today I ran the Battlefield HM in Winchester, Virginia - about an hour's drive from my house, about 90 miles west of DC.

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 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 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.

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