Sunday, March 21, 2010

ING GA Half report

(Check back in a few days for pics)
-2010 debut that was supposed to happen 2 months ago. As my readers know, I was pretty much laid up for 5 weeks with an Achilles tendon injury and had just started back with training 3 weeks ago after a successful prolotherapy treatment. I had done no interval work, no runs longer than 13 miles and no more than 40 miles in a week since January. I had done a few quality tempo runs and based on those results, I figured that I was in shape to run about a 1:35-1:36 on a level course. An Atlanta course would be 2-3 minutes slower because of the hills so anything under 1:40 would have been acceptable but on one level I was pleased just to be able to participate. In my case, training is indeed somewhat overrated. As long as I am relatively healthy, I am talented enough to turn in a decent time in races 13.1 or shorter even if I am a little out of shape. On the other hand, if I am far out of balance and my adrenal symptoms flare up, there's no way I could finish even if I had a 60 MPW base.

Fairly smooth trip. I arrived around lunchtime Saturday. I would be staying with my best friend Nick from Clemson. We had done two local 5Ks together but never a big time race so I was excited. We did some carb loading at Mellow Mushroom then headed down to the expo at the Georgia Dome. I would buy some Sport Beans and a Christian Runners singlet then we had dinner at Longhorn's Steakhouse (18 oz. Ribeye). The next morning, we got off to a bit of a late start and opted for MARTA rather than chance it with parking and potential traffic congestion. We did not arrive until about 15 minutes before the start so after a hasty warm up, we said our "good luck" and headed to the starting line with it still dark outside at 7 AM.

This was the toughest course of my 6 half marathons. I would describe it as relentlessly rolling. There were some short and fairly steep hills and some long gradual ones. Flat stretches were few and far between. Fortunately, we usually had some nice downhill after the climbs but you can only expect to gain back about half the lost time on the downhills as you lose on the uphill. Difficulty rating was 7 out of 10 and yes, I have raced harder courses at shorter distances. With about 16,000 participating, it was sure to be a bit crowded at the start. Fortunately, I was able to find some open space fairly quickly and actually overcompensated for my slow start. The first mile was mostly downhill so it is not surprising that it was my fastest of the race. In a good race, the first 3-4 miles feel easy then it's comfortably hard until about Mile 10 followed by survival mode the last 5K. I was a tad stiff early but overall, I felt pretty good and can usually tell very early whether it will be a great race, a decent race or an awful race. Today was no worse than "decent." The only problem was mild stomach discomfort but I was confident that it would not get any worse. The plan was to keep the effort even and try to remain fairly comfortable for as long as possible for I knew that the last few miles would be tough. After a mostly downhill first mile, the next 2 had ups and downs and I kept the pace sensible but Mile 4 would be about 75% uphill. My pace slipped a bit but I still felt pretty good.
Early splits: Garmin measured 2-4 at 1.02
6:57 (6:57)
7:14 (14:11)
7:19 (21:30)
7:30 (29:00)
A 7:15 pace through the first 4 and I was pleased. I knew my PR of 1:32:57 would not happen today but I was on pace for a 1:35, which would be halfway to a BQ.

Finally, the course leveled off briefly then went downhill for a short time. We would hit a nasty uphill at the end of the 7th mile (after a nice downhill) at which time, the marathoners and halfers would split up. By this point, even if my pace slipped to 8:00, I would still finish under 1:40. I was roughly 47:20 at the halfway point. After the "summit," the next 2-2.5 would be mostly a gradual steady decline and my pace remained fairly even and the effort was still fairly comfortable. All of these miles were measured at 1.00
7:21 (36:21)
7:18 (43:39)
7:24 (51:03)
7:17 (58:20)
7:23 (65:43)
Survival mode:
We turned into Piedmont Park shortly after 9 miles and I suddenly felt my legs go dead. It is unusual that I lose so much energy so suddenly and it sure didn't help that there was a nasty hill just before the end of Mile 10. I was afraid that I was cooked. I took a couple of Sport beans, which seemed to put a little spring back in my step. The course went back downhill in Mile 11 so with 2 miles to go, it started looking better. I took a couple more beans and that proved to be a bad call. Maybe extra chromium may have been a better choice. As it was, my upset stomach got much worse and it got so bad that I actually had to stop for about 20-25 seconds. Thankfully, most of the discomfort passed and I continued uphill toward the finish line. With one mile to go, my legs were dead and I could not dig deep because I literally was afraid of what would come up if I dug too deep. I had zero finishing kick and my last mile would be my slowest. I jogged across the line dead tired in an official chip time of 1:38:18 (7:30 pace overall). My moving time, not including the pit stop was around 1:37:55 and could have been a little better if I was able to dig at the end. AG: 60/676=91st percentile
7:54 (73:37)
7:42 (81:19) downhill
7:40 (88:59) short 0.97, excludes pit stop.
8:56 (1:37:55) final 1.13 (7:56 pace)
Final thought:
I got just about what I expected out of myself today. My grade is a solid B. Figure that if you throw out the pit stop, I was 5 minutes away from a PR on a course that is about 2 minutes slower. That's not bad at all. I should do better next month in Nashville.
A bit of an adventure here. Nick didn't quite PR but still ran a good race. We could not find each other in the big crowd. The temp was dropping and the wind was picking up. Rain was on the way so I went back to MARTA and fortunately, I remembered where we parked and when Nick showed up 20 minutes later, he was quite relieved to see me. After lunch, I headed back to the 'Ham in the pouring rain. I arrived safely at home and signed up for the Peachtree 10K just before it sold out.

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