Saturday, December 5, 2009

Baton Rouge Beach Half RR

I bounced back from a rough early Fall with a very strong November. I averaged 52 miles/wk on my non-race weeks with many quality sessions. This was one of the few training cycles in which I felt like I did everything right and almost all of my training went according to plan. After a fast and controlled track session on Tuesday, I began to feel a bit "wired/tired" then woke up on Wednesday morning feeling flat out awful. Fortunately, I knew what was wrong. All I needed was some more taurine and I felt better within hours. Would I be in PR shape on race day? I was uncertain.

Pre-race adventures:
Let's just say it's usually interesting when I race out of town. I decided to go halfway on Thusday evening and take a mix of interstate and country roads and take in some scenery in "Miss'Sippy" and "Loosiana." I was surprised by the hills even in south MS. The terrain was rolling most of the way with lots of pine trees. Hattiesburg looks to be a nice college town (Southern Miss) and Natchez was a pretty cool small town overlooking the river. Outside of that, there was not a whole lot to see. When I got to south Louisiana, the terrain flattened so I expected the course to be level as advertised. Baton Rouge seemed to have a pretty nice downtown area but I would not be racing there. I did stop at the State Capitol, where I ordered a "Shrimp Po Boy" sandwich. Cajun country proved to be a bit of culture shock. In a couple of cases, I could barely understand the speech. That said, if I travelled even about 1-2 hours north, I would have felt right at home. I went a few miles west on I-10 and it looked to be mostly swamp land but still interesting nontheless. It had been raining since early afternoon and now some sleet was beginning to mix in. Okay, let's get to hotel now and forget about going out to dinner in that mess. I had to settle for an overpriced burger and fries at the hotel lounge. Baton Rouge sees measurably snow about once a decade and as luck would have it, it came the day before the race. We got little more than a dusting and it had cleared by the morning.

Race morning:
I woke up without an alarm at 4:30 and took the shuttle from the hotel to the starting line where I had a nice conversation with a young man from north Louisiana. The weather turned out to be clear with little wind and temps in the low-mid 30s. Some people prefer this type of weather for long races but I like it about 15-20 degrees warmer. I figured that it could be worse. I opted for pants and a long sleeve tech shirt and I was fine was the sun came out and I got loosened up.

Let's say that there were a few curious events. Because of the weather issues, some of the roads were closed, causing some of the runners to miss the start so rather than delay it a half hour, the RD called for 2 separate starts, one at 7 AM and another at 7:30. They didn't even fire a gun or give us any warning, The call was simply "Go." There were timing mats at the finish but not at the start. That cost me a few precious seconds. Johnny had told me to go out at 7:00 pace and hang on so that's exactly what I would do. In the second mile, my Garmin, which had been fully charged, inexplicably cut off. I was pretty much in the groove by then so it did not hurt me too much. I turned it back on a few minutes later and it cut off again but the third time was the charm. From mile 4 to the end, it worked. There was only one clock on the course at the mid point so I was never sure how fast I was going. That would hurt me in the end. It was a nice course, partly around a lake, the LSU campus and some upscale residential areas. It was not pancake flat but significantly easier than Mercedes (I say 3 out of 10 in terms of difficulty). There were really only 2 significant hills (one in the 4th mile and one in the 9th). The rest of the hills were barely noticeable. My pace was in the mid 6s early and it felt easy but I knew that I could not hold it so I wisely dialed it back and hit the mile on target. I estimate that the next few miles were all 7:00-7:10. My only complaint was that by the 3rd mile, a group of runners were pulling away from me. Not knowing the pace, I ran by feel and decided to let the pack go ahead of me. It was probably the right call but it left me in "no mans land" for another 2+ miles. Fortunately, the course was well marked with volunteers at the turns. However, a marathon would be awfully lonely in the 2nd loop with a chance to get lost without the volunteers so I would not recommend the full for this race. Running a low-7 pace, I felt good in the early stages. Finally, a runner from the lead pack came back to me in Mile 6 and I would pass him on the next small hill. These flat landers were obviously not used to hills and I made up a lot of ground on every climb. I saw a guy in red about 15 seconds in front. At Mercedes, I made my move with about 5 miles to go and I decided to do the same here so I got out my harpoon and started to reel in a couple of slowing runners. By Mile 10, I had pulled even with the runner that I had been targeting most of the race. I heard that the split time at Mile 10 was between 70 and 71 minutes so a PR was mine. Unfortunately, I made my move too soon and the lead pack pulled away from me again. My legs had gone dead around Mile 11 so I tried some energy chews, which had little effect. I was back in no mans land and for those last 2 miles, I just had to buckle down and shift into survival mode. Uncharacteristically, a younger runner blew by me with a quarter mile to go and by the time I started my all out kick, I was too far behind. Again, I didn't know my exact time heading into to the home stretch because of the Garmin malfunctions. Too bad. I knew that I was under 1:34 but I didn't know how fast I was. It looked like I fell just short of breaking 1:33. Oh well. It's still a 3+ minute PR and an "A" performance. Update: According to the official results, my time was 1:32:57, good for 3rd in my age group and 16th overall. Make it an A+ on the day.

9:29 (7:01 pace for 1.35)
11:45 (7:09 pace for 1.65)
2:17 (7:07 pace for .32)
7:34 (slightly long)
:34 (5:26 pace for .10)

Garmin time: 1:28:30 for 12.45


It was too cold so I opted to get back on the bus and head back to the hotel quickly. I took a hot bath and checked out. The trip home was smooth.


Puerto Rican Kenyan said...

Congratulations on a sweet PR!! I'm glad to see the payoffs from your training.

jaysummer4 said...

Whoa! You are setting the stage for a huge PR marathon.
Good race, and good luck.