Monday, February 16, 2009

Mercedes half marathon race report

Preparation: No regrets at all about my training. I averaged 48 miles per week in January with very few runs at slower than 8:30 pace per mile. So far however, February has been up and down. In 2 of my last 3 workouts before race day, I was awful (calves felt like lead) but after a relatively minor adjustment to my supplement formula, I was terrific when it mattered.

Course: It was my first time running in this race and the course had been changed from years past. I have no complaints. Supposedly, it was not as scenic as in years past but I am usually so focused on my race that I often barely even notice the scenery. On the positive side, it had fewer hills and made a PR more likely. The first and last 5K were relatively flat through the downtown area but the middle section was largely residential and had some pretty significant inclines and declines (miles 6-8 were the hardest). Nothing was terribly steep but some were quite long. Overall, I would rate the course as moderately difficult, maybe a 4 or 5 on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being most difficult. The plan was to go out around 7:30, run an even effort on the hills and hope for a strong finish. My PR was 1:42, set in a steady rain 5 months earlier in Chicago. If this was a good day, I expected to be below 1:40 and a more ambitious goal was a sub-1:38 or 7:30 pace. I felt good warming up and was anxious to get started.

The Race: I was caught in the crowd early and perhaps lined up a bit too far back. I just ran with the pack in which I found myself but my pace was a hair on the slow side (3:50 1st half mile) so I picked it up a bit. That pretty much told the tale of the first 2 miles. I made several adjustments to my pace to hit the mile markers on target. Finally by Mile 3, I was in rhythm but a little worried that I was too fast. Ditto for mile 4.
7:30 (15:03)
7:18 (22:21)
7:22 (29:43)
I stopped at an aid station for water early in Mile 5 then drank my 3 oz. of Gatorade/Red Bull mix, which I carried in a small vile (I know of a world class marathoner who drinks that mix). I intentionally backed off the pace a bit but my GPS showed that I overdid it. This would be my 2nd slowest mile of the race (my slowest was almost all uphill). Finally, I settled back into a comfortably hard pace for the next several miles. I've always been a good hill runner and passed several runners on the uphill section and even more going downhill and sometimes said a few words of encouragement to those who appeared to be struggling. Once I hit the highest elevation point early in Mile 9, I would start pushing hard and try to maintain it to the finish. By this point, I knew sub-1:40 was in the bag and a sub-1:38 was likely also.
7:42 (37:25)
7:20 (44:45)
7:49 (52:34)-uphill
7:35 (1:00:09)- mostly uphill
Finally, we hit some nice long downhill and I let it loose and saw a few looks of admiration. I passed at least 10 runners in the next mile. I kept pushing hard and increasing my pace and by the final 5K, I was running at top speed. I held my postion give or take a few places in the last 2 miles despite the fact that they were my fastest miles of the race. Others had the same strategy as I. When I hit mile 12, I thought that I had a shot at going under 1:36 and kept pushing hard. When my GPS registered 13.00 miles, it looked like I would do it but it measured the course at 13.18 instead of 13.11. My finishing kick was good but not as fast as some of my previous races. My official chip time was 1:36:16. A PR by more than 6 minutes. I was thrilled.
7:06 (1:07:15) downhill
7:02 (1:14:17) downhill
7:10 (1:21:27) flat
6:59 (1:28:26)
6:47 (1:35:13)
1:03 (1:36:16)-unofficially 5:50 pace for .18
Pace per mile: 7:21 Age group: 20th out of 167- 88th percentile.
My half marathon race record:
3/07- 1:59:37
12/07- 1:48:17
9/08- 1:42:50
2/09- 1:36:16
*23 minute improvement in 23 months. I doubt that my body chemistry is fully balanced. The setback during my taper suggests that it is not. Almost halfway to a Boston qualifier.


L.A. Runner said...

I love Mercedes! You had an awesome race! A 23 minute PR is really spectacular. Keep training strong!

Morrissey said...

congratulations on your half marathon. never say never about the BQ. just put in those quality tempo miles. I ran my 3:07 after a 1:30 (and i never subbed 1:30 till the fall of 2009) in the half so you are pretty darn close.

Preston said...

Great improvement! I really enjoyed that course compared to the 2006-2008 course.