Well, Plan A, B, C, and every letter up through about Q went out the window, but there are some things you just can’t account for.
It was a beautiful morning, nice and cool with a light breeze – the kind of weather you dream of when you have a time goal. Mine was to run one more sub-2 hour half-marathon, and my training suggested I could do it if nothing went wrong. The race started on time and off I went.
Mile 1 – 9:42
Mile 2 – 9:20
Mile 3 – 8:58
My plan was to hit Mile 3 at 28:21 and I actually hit it at 28 flat. I wasn’t worried that I had gone out too fast because I knew there were some hills and turns ahead.
Mile 4 – 9:08
Mile 5 – 9:10
Mile 6 – 9:00
Gave some of it back, as expected, and got myself to target pace. The plan was to hit Mile 6 at 55:21, and I actually hit it at 55:16. Things were going great. The pace was comfortably hard, and my only worry at this point was whether hills or heat might throw me off pace.
Mile 7 – 9:13
I reached the halfway point at 1:00:20 and Mile 7 only 7 seconds off pace. It wasn’t going to be easy as I knew I had to pick up the pace, but if I could just hold 9:06-9:08 the rest of the way I’d get it done.
About one-third of the way into the next mile was a 90-degree left turn. As I planted my right foot I felt a sudden pain in my arch, as if I had stepped on a large stone. I stopped for a second but I couldn’t see anything, so I continued on.
Unfortunately each push off with the right foot felt really bad. I pulled over to the side, removed my shoe and checked for a fracture, but I wasn’t thinking right. It wasn’t THAT kind of pain. In any event, nothing was broken. It just felt very sore. I put my shoe back on and started up again.
But I couldn’t get anywhere near target speed.
Mile 8 – 11:31
I wrote on Saturday that I couldn’t afford even one really bad mile, and now I had one. I was two-and-a-half minutes behind, with a sore right foot and five miles still to go. What to do?
Mile 9 – 11:21
If I could have kept running consistently, I might have had a shot at last year’s 2:04:03, but I ended up alternating a 3/4 mile run with a 1/4 mile limp. It’s best to say as little as possible about this part of the race.
Mile 10 – 11:39
Mile 11 – 11:16
Mile 12 – 11:54
We crossed the Tower Bridge and set up for the final stretch around Raley Field, into the stadium, and around the warning track to the finish along the third-base line. I just wanted to get it over with, so I clenched my teeth (literally) and ran as hard as I could for the last mile and a quarter.
Mile 13 – 9:39
Finish – 2:13:37
At an average 10:07 pace, I ended up almost exactly one minute per mile above my target. Nowhere near my worst performance, but disappointing because this was my final effort.
I’ll run half-marathons again. In fact, I already have one in mind for next year, but this was my last attempt for time. It would have been nice to reach my goal, but I believe the training I did to put sub-2 within reach contributed to my injury.
From now on, the rare half-marathon will be in the 2.5-3 hour range and only for fun. Racing (and training) will be 10 miles or fewer. That should extend my running life, keep me relatively injury-free and still allow me to compete at shorter distances.
1,426th of 3,438 finishers. 45th of 84 in 55-59 age group.
Tomorrow I run the Shamrock’n Half-Marathon with a sub-2 goal. I’m capable of doing it, but frankly don’t have much margin for error.
Realistically the fastest mile I’ll be able to run during a half-marathon is around 8:45. Since my average pace will have to be 9:09, I can’t afford even one really bad mile. While going out too fast is always a concern, I also have to worry about going out too slow and leaving myself with too much of a gap to make up. So I have a pretty simple strategy.
First three miles – 9:48, 9:24 and 9:09
9 minute miles the rest of the way.
That gets me in at about 1:59:16, leaving 43 seconds to account for unexpected events.
So that’s the idea. If I can’t hold up, my secondary goal is to beat last year’s time of 2:04:03, which should be in the bag barring some horrible disaster.
The weather will be beautiful tomorrow, although about 10 degrees hotter than my preference.
Wish me luck. I’ll tweet my official time tomorrow as soon as I have it, and will post a full race report here on Monday.
This race was more about what I didn’t do than what I did. I didn’t return home before the race started.
The Shamrock’n Half-Marathon goes off in four waves separated by 15 minutes, beginning at 7:45 a.m. I was in wave 2. But the race begins and ends at Raley Field, where the parking and access limitations pretty much require getting there about an hour early.
Sitting in my car before sunrise, watching the rain come down in buckets along with a howling wind, I wondered why the hell I was there. I was this close to chucking it.
I wouldn’t have been alone. The organizers announced about 7,000 people had registered for the race, and only 4,731 ended up running it.
What the hell. If you’re going to flog yourself, you might as well get it over with as fast as possible. The heavy rain meant no line at the porta-potties, and then I joined my wave for the start.
Mile 1 – 9:41
Mile 2 – 9:38
Mile 3 – 9:47
Crossing the Tower Bridge in a strong crosswind meant sideways rain. I was already regretting my decision.
Mile 4 – 9:35
Mile 5 – 9:39
Mile 6 – 9:15
Aha! The rain let up as we made our way around the Capitol building. Now my only worry was that I had gone out too fast.
Mile 7 – 9:29
Mile 8 – 9:29
Mile 9 – 9:26
The biggest crowd of spectators was in front of the Blue Diamond Almonds building. They sponsored the race and must have had the entire morning shift out front. I hit the halfway mat at 1:03:26 and figured I had a good chance of beating my Star Wars time of 2:05:53.
Mile 10 – 8:53
Mile 11 – 9:08
Mile 12 – 9:30
I was screaming along until I reached about 10.75 miles, where we made a big turn directly into the wind for the next 1.5 miles. It was raining again, and uphill, and I just wanted to get it over with.
Mile 13 – 9:31
I like a nice long straightaway to the finish, but this one had a sharp left turn into the stadium and boom! the finish about 25 yards away.
Finish – 2:04:03
1,329th of 4,731 and 32nd of 90 in the 55-59 age group. Almost a three-minute negative split.
With my 22nd half-marathon in the books, I got loaded down with more snacks than I had seen in the last three races I had done, and quickly gulped down my free beer. It was too rainy and cold to hang out, so I headed back to the car and cranked up the heat.
It will be a while before my next half-marathon, but here’s a hint to one I’m seriously considering…
Chip time – 1:56:56
1071st out of 3603 finishers (29.7 percentile)
60th out of 130 in age group (46.2 percentile)
Blue Diamond was a sponsor of the race, so I’ve got six packs of different-flavored almonds to munch on for the rest of the week.
It’s funny how your expectations change. I remember the first time I broke two hours in a half-marathon – it was the America’s Finest City Half-Marathon in San Diego in 2005. I ran a 1:57:12 and I was so happy I told everybody. Three and a half years later, I’ve beaten that time despite a late-race meltdown and all I can think about is what I did wrong.
I’ve never had a race quite like this one before, even though today’s Shamrock’n Half-Marathon was my 11th half-marathon. It was wonderful and awful, greatly encouraging and terribly disappointing, well-executed and gone horribly astray, all in the same race.
I made myself a huge bowl of gemelli bolognese last night, and went to bed early. The race didn’t start until 8 a.m. at Raley Field, the home of our minor league baseball team, but they were expecting more than 4,000 runners and there are only two roads that lead to the stadium. I got up at 5 a.m., went through my usual routine, had coffee plus a bagel with peanut butter, and off I went.
I got there around 6:30, and snoozed in the car until 7:30. I ate a small box of raisins, and I was carrying a 24 ounce bottle of diluted Gatorade and a single Power Gel for the race. I thought I was pretty well fueled, but those who have been reading me for a while will notice I didn’t have any “bad” sugars. Looked like I had plenty of carbs in the tank, though.
The race started on time and though the sky was overcast and threatening, the temperature was perfect and it did not rain. The organizers provided pacers for every 10 minutes from 1:30 to 2:30. I went out slow and steady, and had the 1:50 guy in my sights. I figured anything between 1:49 and 1:52 was right about where I should be at this stage.
The course was mostly flat, and despite all the turns, there were only a couple that were problematic. A hairpin turn with a large field can be pretty dangerous if you’re not careful. I nearly got bowled over by a guy in a kilt.
To make a long story a little shorter, I hit mile 9 at 1:15:43 – a pace of 8:24. That pace was better than any of the long training runs I did for the race. Through the entire distance, I felt good, with no problems at all. It looked like I had a sub-1:50 in the bag.
“Hitting the wall” means you have depleted your energy, and of course I’ve hit the wall before, but I always got that “low fuel” light first, where my pace deteriorates over a couple of miles before falling apart. No warning this time. I went from feeling fine to losing all desire to run in the space of a half-mile.
I had been sipping my Gatorade every mile, and took my Power Gel at mile 7, but today it didn’t make a bit of difference. I slowed considerably, and despite the help from a training partner trying to urge me on, I started walking. For the last four miles, I would walk for two minutes, run until I couldn’t stand it anymore, then repeat the cycle.
It helped that Raley Field came into view about 3/4-mile from the end, so I sucked it up and kept running. My coach spotted me about 1/4 mile from the end and asked, “How are you feeling?” I shouted, “Awful!” and laughed. The final stretch of the race brings you into the stadium through an opening in the center field fence, and you run around the warning track down the third base side, while they show you on the Jumbotron. It’s pretty cool.
No official time yet, but I stopped my watch at 1:57:01 – an average 8:55 pace, which isn’t awful, but it means it took me 41:18 to cover that last 4.1 miles – a 10:04 pace. How’s that for positive splits?
I was more bummed running the last few miles than I was afterwards. The ammonia stink made it obvious I was in ketosis, despite all the food, gel and Gatorade. I felt a lot better once I had a couple of Fig Newtons in me. It was pretty easy to put it in perspective. Clearly, I wasn’t prepared to run a half-marathon, and I’m still wrestling with whether I should eat what actually works, or what’s supposed to work, and how much. Fueling is a big problem for me.
At the same time, I ran a perfectly fine nine miles, and if the race had ended there, or even at 10 miles, I would have been thrilled with how it turned out.
I’ve got another half-marathon scheduled in six weeks, but maybe I should concentrate on shorter distances until I can comfortably run my target pace. Next up is the Nutrition Fuels Fitness 10k in two weeks. How timely.