March has been a down month for me because I went down with a nasty respiratory infection. Within 3 days, I had enough energy to run but it was probably ill-advised to come back that soon. The past 3 weeks of training have been sub-par but I had been showing some improvement recently. Still, I feel that the antibiotics messed with my fragile body chemistry. My weight had dipped as low as 142, my lowest since 2002. I look and feel my best in the low-mid 150s. I regained about half of the weight but still had some traces of soreness in my legs, some coughing and my breathing became labored a little sooner than normal. I feel like I am operating at 95% and that's about how I performed today.
Pre-Race: Whenever I race out of town, it is usually an adventure (see Chicago half RR) and this one was no exception. First, my parents came in for the race. It was great to see them and it really meant a lot that they made the trip. I awoke around 3 AM to severe storms and tornado alerts. I got up for good just after 6 and followed my normal routine of a Powerbar and Powerade. I was not loose and limber but I expected a decent performance between a mid 42 and a 44. I had a PR of 42:43 on a moderately difficult Vulcan course last fall and this one was much flatter. I had a streak of 6 straight races in which I either set an all-time PR or a post-adrenal fatigue PR but I knew this was probably the end of the line. A PR would be tough since I was not 100% but I was conceding nothing. The plan was to go out around 7-flat or slightly under then if I felt good after 5K, I would let it rip. Well, I was informed that the race would be delayed by an hour and a half due to flooding so I went to the starting line anyway and socialized with a few others. I felt pretty well warming up and was ready to go. Then the worst thing happened; the South Alabama sun came out and began to dry out the flooded streets. Of course, the humidity would be tough and I would have to stop for water more often than usual.
The gun went off and I was out quickly. In 5Ks and 10Ks, I tend to go out too fast but go out too slow in half marathons. I was on pace for a 6:30 mile so I wisely backed off a tad. I was feeling well after Mile 1 and decided that the PR attempt was on. I picked up the pace and began moving up several positions. Mile 2 was slightly downhill and it would be my fastest mile of the race. By the third mile, I was losing my battle with lactic acid buildup and the course turned slightly uphill here. I passed 5K around 21:20, which was still on pace for a PR but I would need an even split to do it and I knew that it was not going to happen. My pace slowed another 10 seconds on my next mile and with a PR out of reach, part of me felt like punting. No, I didn't quit and continued running the best I could. The skies were now clear and I was drenched in sweat due to the humidity. Man, I'm glad this was only a 10K. I expected my 5th and 6th miles to be really ugly but I managed to hold on to the pace. I passed 5 miles right around 35-flat so I knew that I would probably come in under 44 and come away with my third best time ever. In the last mile, I chatted a bit with a female with whom I had seen several times on the course. At last, I rounded the final corner and began driving toward the finish line. As is often the case, nobody passed me in the last 200 and I was able to pick off a few runners before I hit the line despite it not being one of my faster finishing kicks.
Final Stats: Gun time: 43:49, Chip time: 43:42- #3 all time, :59 away from PR (7:02 pace per mile).
Age group: 23rd out of 181- 87th percentile.
6:42/13:38(slightly downhill, PR pace)
7:01/20:39 (beaten and worn out)
7:13/27:52 (really struggling here, this could get ugly)
7:11/35:03 (slight downhill, pleasantly surprised that I'm holding on)
7:08/42:11 (ditto despite slight uphill)
1:31/43:42 (6:18 pace for last .23) heard cheer from parents.
I was hurting at the finish but I had felt worse in previous races. I could have done a little better with overcast conditions and a more conservative early pace but overall, this was not too bad at all. I came within 10 seconds per mile of a PR, which is within normal variability of performance so I am not disappointed. Even a low-44 would have been acceptable but if I was much over 45, that would indicate that something was obviously wrong. I'm due for another medical report soon and I'm curious to see what effect the infection had. My next race is the Fargo marathon in North Dakota. My current PR for that distance is fairly soft so I expect to beat it.
Yes, I know I'm in obvious pain here but the guy behind me doesn't look any better. This should tell you something about the humidity.