When sayin' you're gonna go for it just isn't enough.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Back In the Saddle Again

After the shit show that was the Champions 10K two weeks ago, I was more than ready to race again to see where I was and am at this past Sunday. I'd be lying if I said a little doubt hadn't crept into my head. I just wasn't sure if I had gotten much faster since Chicago last October and then Boston this past April.

I've been working as hard and running my tempo runs at a faster pace, but until you actually get a chance to see some results, it's really hard to tell. And my bombing of the 10K (although some of it was out of my control) didn't leave me with a ton of confidence that I was going to smoke the Peapod Batavia Half Marathon.

I really needed to see a better time than when I ran the 1:26:57 in the Tom King Classic back in March. I thought I could run somewhere in the 1:25's. My strategy was to run in the mid 6:30's for mile 1 as there was a decent uphill right at the start. Then I'd go for low 6:30s for 2 and 3, pick up a little time in mile 4 as there was a sharp downhill stretch. Mile 5 was supposed to be in the low 6:30's. I'd give a little time back (6:40ish) in miles 6 and 7 as it was a steady climb of nearly 300 feet through mile 7.25 or so. After that, try to get as close to 6:30 as possible as I hammer the downhills and handle the rollers as best as I could. I also decided to not look at my HR monitor at all and just run. The night before, Tiffany told me she felt really good about my race and may have even mentioned a 1:24.

Michael, Jenna and I headed out west to Batavia just after 5AM and met up with my friend Charlie, who was kind enough to pick up our packets on Saturday. It was somewhere in the 40's at the start of the race, so it couldn't have been much better. I even broke out the argyle arm warmers that I wore in Boston.

LtoR: Charlie, me, Michael before the race

We headed over to the start area shortly after putting our bibs and chips on. Michael and I got in a couple very easy warm-up miles and before you knew it, it was time to start the race. He had to make a quick run to the bathroom so I didn't see him again until he finished. Charlie found me in the corral and we wished each other luck and the horn went off a few seconds after that.

Mile 1: 6:38. Felt okay. I knew the hill right off the bat would be an interesting twist. I was fine with the time as I was trying to just get into a groove and find that sweet spot in the low 6:30's.

Mile 2: 6:38. Alright, I'm having trouble working the pace down to where I want it to be. The thought of a repeat of the Tom King Classic is now going through my head as I could never get out of the 6:38-6:40 range for most of the race. I was trying to find a guy to pace off and think I have one. He's wearing a long sleeve red shirt. I follow him.

Mile 3: 6:29. Nailed it. Feeling good and didn't feel like I had to work too much harder as I was hanging about 5 yards behind the guy in the red shirt. I also realize I need to start having fun when I'm racing. I was too tight and serious and loosened up with some waves and smiles to some of the crowd.

Mile 4: 6:38. Crap. Back at 6:38. I knew the upcoming mile featured a brief downhill screamer that I could try to have carry me through the mile.

Mile 5: 6:17. Giddy up. The downhill was steeper than I thought. I used that momentum for as long as I could. The red-shirted guy has pulled away and I latched onto another guy, this guy a little older and balding.

Mile 6: 6:29. (measured .98) I chat a little bit with the guy as we start the ascent up. We run into a couple other friends of his (one guy and a girl) and we all run part of 6 and all of 7 together. Take a GU here. Originally planned to take it at 5, but there wasn't water until 6.

Mile 7: 7:00 (measured 1.05) Oh boy. I knew it was a little slower as I could definitely feel it, but was really surprised to see the 7:00. I didn't feel gassed at this point, so I stayed positive and was ready to hit a solid mile 8 knowing the uphill climb was over.

Mile 8: 6:22. Nice. The girl drops off and the three of us start spacing out a bit, with the bald guy on my hip. A gentle descent here helps.

Mile 9: 6:28. There we go. Bald guy and the other dude are right with me and we're passing a few other runners.

Mile 10: 6:36. Damn. This featured another approximate 100 foot climb, followed by a 100 foot drop. Starting to feel it just a bit. Take the second GU, as I am starting to sense the water stops are every other mile and taking it at 12 would have been too late. Only took me 10 miles to figure it out. Bald guy passes me and I stay just a few yards behind him.

Mile 11: 6:28. There we go. Starting to try to do some math to see what my time could be. Definitely working harder. Bald guy opens up a 10 yard lead or so.

Mile 12: 6:27. Starting to run out of steam. Pass some guys fishing on the river. One of them is smoking. I yell to him, "Don't smoke right there!" as I run by. Nothing feels better than inhaling some second hand smoke in the 12th mile of a half marathon. Maybe mile 25 of a full?

Mile 13: 6:30. Starting to have a hard time getting the legs to turnover and I'm breathing like a 300 pound man doing a stress test chasing a double cheeseburger on a string that's a foot out of reach. I focus on my breathing most of the mile and hold it together as best as I can.

The last .12: 0:37. See the mile 13 marker and hit the gas, legs be damned. Pass the 3rd place female in this stretch.

Final time: 1:25:44, a new PR by 1:12, and most importantly, a well-executed race on a course much tougher than I am accustomed to racing. I hadn't executed a race plan since Chicago last October, a span of 5 races. I needed to see two things - improvement and execution, and I achieved both. I lost a few too many seconds in the first 4 miles and then again on the long inclined mile 7 to go in the low 1:25's, but I'm not concerned with that. I really find the half marathon to be the most difficult of all distances, as I feel like you're trying to hold lactate threshold pace for 13+ miles. I am not saying a marathon is easy by any stretch, but I always feel like I'm on the verge of disaster in a half. When you blow up in a marathon, you blow up. It's pretty common and has probably happened to everyone that's run a few of them.

Post race

Anyway, I'm feeling good about where I'm at and should be ready to take down sub 3 on October 10th, even if McMillan says I'm not quite there, predicting a 3:00:49. I still have a few more weeks of heavy lifting before I cut back on the miles.

For those interested in HR numbers it was an average of 183 with splits from mile 1 to mile 13.1 as such:

170/174/176/176/180/182/184/185/187/189/190/194/197 and 201, peaking at 202 in the last .1

Michael finished his second half marathon in a time of 1:40:15 (a PR of 3 minutes) and Charlie sand-bagged his way to the finish line in 1:36 (nearly a 5 minute PR). Both of them did an outstanding job and look primed to run great marathons on the 10th.


  1. Thanks for the "sand-bagger" I'll west it with pride! You're bad-ass fast, had a blast!


  2. That should be wear it with pride....doh!

  3. Outstanding race! Get ready to roll on Oct. 10.

  4. Congrats on getting "back in the saddle again," though I think you were much too hard on yourself with the 10K.

    And screw McMillan's "prediction" of 3:00:49--you ran 3:05 in Chicago last year off a 1:28+ and a 3:03 in Boston after a 1:26:57 @ Tom King. Just make sure you stick around the finish area long enough for me to congratulate you for that sub 3 you'll be running on 10/10.

  5. You had me at "shit show". Love this report, congratulations on the stellar PR! I love seeing your HR info because I know how low it is on your easys and recoveries that to see you bust 200 is cool. Sub 3, baby...it's got your name on it.

  6. Way to go, buddy! I hope you nail Chicago.