My first ever half marathon. If you do not count the 4 halfs of the 2 full Twin Cities Marathons I have run previously. This is the first time I have really looked at the results from those races and analyzed my splits…. Yikes. The first year, talk about pacing issues, I knew I went out hot, but adding 40+ minutes to the second half, ouch! In 09, I ran with a pace group so pacing was much better… but I digress. My best split happened to be from the first half marathon segment I ever ran, 2:05:25.
1 – 2:05:25
2 – 2:46:39
Well I signed up for this race because a discount was offered through work, and it was supposed to be my wife’s first half marathon. Unfortunately she got a nasty virus about a month ago, which took her our, and when she tried to run again it knocked her back down. She decided that it would be best to skip the race and run one later in the year. It was the right call! We did some of our training together for this, mostly on longer runs. Our longest run prior to the race was 8 miles and at a pace that was significantly off what I would typically use for long runs. I have been doing speed work for shorter distances, running 4-8 miles on these higher intensity workouts.
One of the 8 mile runs I did, I aimed at hitting an 8 minute a mile pace and was a bit slower. Based on my previous marathon times, and my best marathon being 4:12:xx, I have grown a good amount in my run this past year, but without proper volume and training, I was not sure what my endurance pace would clock in at. My thoughts were that I improved 35 minutes from 08 to 09 to reach my 4:12 marathon, and with another year of gains, I thought a 25-30 minute range would be a possible improvement. Using the handy-dandy *McMillian* Run Calculator, I plugged in a 3:45 marathon and it spit out 1:46 for the half marathon pace. Since it was a race, I figured I could set a goal of 1:45, all while still knowing that I did not properly train for this race.
I could tell my heart was not in this race, probably due to my lack of training, and thoughts that I am so far from a runner, that I was just doing the race for myself. As I have been having a great year in my tri races, running is still not my strong suit, and there are some seriously fast runners that would wipe the floor with me. I had not planned very much, heck even the night before I did not really know what time the race started. Also since my wife and I were supposed to both do this race, I was also down a bit that she was not going to participate.
Up and at it early in the morning, hey at least this was on a Saturday! I had the typical pb and honey flatbread, snagged a bottle of Gatorade on the way out the door as well as my Marathon Bar, Shot Blocks, and Hammer Gel Packets. I ate the Marathon Bar as I got to the race site, and sipped on the Gatorade while walking and stretching out. After a visit to the port-a-potty, I went back outside and got attacked by 3 or 4 kamikaze mosquitoes. Great now I would have these bites that itch, one on each leg, and one on each arm… really?
I stretched out a bit more and went for a warm-up run to get my legs under me. I was standing around waiting for the race to start and heard someone say my name. As I turned around, I saw Mike and Tony. Mike works at the same company as I do, and is involved with the Miracle Kids Triathlons, and Tony is the race director for the tris. After talking with these guys, we figured out that Mike and I were aiming for the same 1:45 mark, so I hopped in with them for pacing.
This would be a good point to add that Tony is an extremely accomplished athlete. He ran a 2:18 marathon in ’84 for the Olympic qualifiers, has raced at Kona 4 times, professional triathlete, many race wins and awards to go along with that. He is an outstanding guy with a very sincere heart.
Well I have never paced a half marathon, so having Tony was a plus. I knew that a 1:45 was right at an 8 minute mile. We started off and I immediately felt settled in to our pace which happened to be faster than what we needed, but felt good. From someone my wife works with, who was running this race with her husband, she said that this was not a great course to PR on due to some narrow paths, trails, and just the overall layout (a lot of switch backs on roads.)
I was feeling good and just shy of mile 4 noticed that Mike had dropped back a little and had taken off his shirt. He was working harder, but we slowed at the water stop and got back together. Around mile 5 he told Tony to keep with me as I was looking strong, and he was just not feeling it that day. I popped a few Shot Blocks before a water station, washed them down, and hit the 10k point in 48:16.
Tony dropped back to check on Mike, and during that time I lost pacing a bit, partially because I was still feeling really strong. Miles 7 and 8 were both at 7:16 pace. When Tony got back up to me, I was slowing just a bit from this effort and mentally I was slipping. I got confused at mile 9 thinking I had 3 miles to go, wrong! I knew I would hit a block somewhere around 8-9 due to my long run distance. I got to mile 10 and reality struck realizing that NOW I had 3 miles to go. Somewhere around mile 9 or so the rain started, a light sprinkle, but it slowly grew as I progressed.
At this point I was a bit fuzzy but realized that mile 10 would be 80 minutes if I was on pace, well I was somewhere around 1:06, meaning I was up by about 4 minutes. Tony also computed this quickly and asked if we should shoot for 100 minutes, a 1:40. I said I will do my best, but I was slipping in form and effort had gone up. My HR was around 177, so I focused on trying to bring it down.
Here is where the
race pushed me! Mile 10, I managed to get through pretty easily. Mile 11 I was slipping, thoughts of slowing the pace significantly for a little to recover started appearing in my head. I told Tony that I had to back off the pace just a little, so we dropped to a 7:47 pace or so. I had many voices in my head wanting to stop as I was UNCOMFORTABLE!!!!! Yes Jeff, remember this feeling, this is what you need to push for in the tris. I hit mile 12 and knew I had my work cut out for me. Tony had kept pace and ended up a few yards ahead. I aimed to keep him within 5 yards, and eventually caught back up. I knew I was pushing my reserves because my HR was well into the 180s, and I kept looking at my watch ticking down the moments I had left.
Well with about ¾ a mile to go, I felt like I was going to yak. Ok Jeff, you are at that point now, this is where you just push through it, if you puke, do it and keep going. Your effort is strong, keep it up! As we neared the final stretch, Tony paired me off with a lady who we had been following for the majority of the race and told us to go get 1:40 together. He went back for Mike. We pushed it to the end, and was I ever glad to hit the finish line.
I was spent! The volunteer had to help untie my shoe and get the timing chip, because I was afraid to bend down for fear of blacking out. The rain was enough to be noticeable. I quickly grabbed some water and an orange slice and saw my wife and her aunt and my niece. After visiting and finding them some cover to get out of the rain, I walked back to meet Tony and Mike. Mike ended up finishing in 1:48 only a few minutes off his goal. The picture above on the right, I look a bit like a deer in headlights, I was probably mid-sentence when it was snapped.
After meeting back up with my wife, our niece, and her aunt, I let them go home to get out of the rain the 3 of us stood around and talked a while, got massages, and then headed home. During this time the rain significantly picked up and I started getting COLD!
I did a quick clothes change at the car, and even when I got home I was shivering. Great… what a great way to get into an ice bath. Cold water running, I emptied the ice maker bucket into the tub and prepared a couple of warm water towels to make it more manageable. I plopped down and let my legs soak a while.
After that was compression pants, and some elevation as I caught up on Shark Week for an hour. I ended up suggesting lunch at PF Changs with my wife and her mom, and shopped with them a while to help keep my legs active.
I learned so much about myself this race, and have Tony to thank. He pushed me within my limits and offered some great advise. I appreciate everything he did to help get me to the line in less than 100 minutes! My nerdy side went home and plugged my time into the McMillian Calculator and got out a 3:30 marathon estimate. Wow! That means I am 20 minutes away from my Boston Qualifying time… things are looking up. I think with run focus next year I could qualify if I really tried, but I may continue on the tri path for another year, and see where that takes me and then look to qualify in 2012.