Sunday, October 10, 2010

Run for Life half report

After I was freed from dependence on Lithium, I put in the best 4 weeks of training of my life, averaging 63 miles/wk with virtually all of it under 8:00 pace in an effort to get into 3:10 marathon shape by December. Unfortunately, it proved to be too much at this time. Again, I'm not at all disappointed about not qualifying. I expected to fall a bit short this year. What is upsetting is that my body quit on me abruptly after such a great start to the cycle. I began feeling the effects of over training and tweaked an old groin injury. There are no prolotherapy appointment for 4 weeks so I would have no choice but to go into the race at less than 100%. My confidence was pretty low up until a strong Trak Shak run on Wednesday in which I ran 4 miles at 6:45 pace then a 5th mile in 6:08 for an overall time of 33:11. I had not topped 30 miles in 3 weeks but before that I was in the midst of my best training ever so I would indeed go for at least a baby PR (1:32:57), set last December at Baton Rouge.

Fairly smooth ride. I stopped in Bessemer on the way to renew my car tag and driver's license. That will save me from taking time off work. Lunch was a Pizza Hut buffet just across the MS border and dinner was a 16 oz. Ribeye at Logan's. The race would be located in the suburbs of Jackson, "Miss'sippy", Madison to be exact and I found the area to be much more congested than I expected. After a quick packet pickup, it took quite a while to drive 4 miles down the road to my cheap motel (Red Roof Inn- just $50). This would be my first MS race experience. I have no desire to race in all 50 states but for the record, I have now done at least a 5K in the following states: PA,WV,SC,GA,FL,AL,MS,LA,TN,IL,OR,ND. That's 12 down and there will be more to come. I could see racing in 25 before it's over. Race morning went without a hitch as I arrived in plenty of time and parked at a Wal-Mart just across the street from the starting line.

Course and race:
The RD said that it's a new course that is "flat and fast with a few moderate hills." Okay. Which is it? Flat and fast or moderately hilly? I did not drive the course because I wanted some relaxation time but the nearby area seemed to be gently rolling. That's fine with me. A few small rollers allow you to use different muscles and may allow for times to be just as fast or even slightly faster than a pancake flat course. It turned out that each of the first 6 miles had at least one fairly significant hill. They weren't too serious, maybe about a 1/4 mile long each and not terribly steep with enough downhill to recover. Still, as to be expected, the RD's definition of flat and fast is not the same as mine. I was out well with a comfortable and measured effort. I would not say that it felt easy but I was only working moderately hard in the early-middle miles. One area of concern was that the mile markers appeared to be consistently long by .01 or .02. Unless there were some shorter miles later on, my Garmin would measure the course to be about a tenth of mile too long. Now, I know the Garmin can be a little off in an urban setting because the tall buildings can affect the reception but in a rural area, it should be accurate and always has been close in the past. Anyway, the plan was to run an even pace around 7-7:05 all the way. I executed the plan quite well. Here are the splits with the Garmin pace in parenthesis:

1- 7:05 (7:01) downhill start, uphill end
2- 6:58 (6:54) more down than up
3- 7:05 (6:58) feel strong, running with a group of 3
4- 6:57 (6:57) finally an accurate mile
5- 7:13 (6:55) this one was 1.04 miles. Something is not right.
6- 7:04 (6:59). Almost halfway there. Even with a long course, I'm still on target for a low-mid 1:32 and feel like I can hold on.

I was worried about running in no-mans land for this race but that didn't happen here. We left one behind but picked up another, the eventual winner of the Master's division. I would trade places with him several times and we said a few words of encouragement. We turned out of a residential development around mile 6 and headed onto a highway. Fortunately, traffic was light early in the morning and the runners had a full lane to ourselves. Here, the terrain was a bit flatter. Instead of rolling hills, it was a mild incline that although noticeable at times, did not significantly slow the pace. We turned around just after the 8 Mile marker. Less than 5 miles to go now. I still feel good and am still on track for a small PR. In Mile 9 and 10, my pace did slow just a tad but I still felt relatively comfortable and resolved not to push it until I had 5K to go.

7-7:00 (7:00). Perfect.
8-9-14:18 (7:05). Missed a mile marker. Slowing a tad.
10- 7:11 (7:11). 70:52 at the 10 mile marker. I need a 22:05 last 5K for a PR. Just hold this pace for 3 more miles then kick home and you'll make it just barely.

The weather was in the upper 50s at the start but by the end, it was pushing 70. With bright sunshine, that can feel a little warm 13 miles into a race. I stopped twice for water and Gatorade. On a cold day, that's enough but today, I should have taken a little more. As planned, I started pushing with 5K to go and gained a few yards on the Master's leader but could not overtake him. Most of the 11th mile was slightly downhill so I needed a fast split here and was disappointed when I didn't get it. Whatever small hope for a PR still remained died when we turned off the highway to see a mile long hill. For those of you familiar with Birmingham, it was about on par with the hill by the Highland Park golf course and got steeper as we neared the top. To put that hill in the 12th mile is downright mean. One mile to go now and with my PR hopes dashed, I punted. My groin was feeling weak and probably altered my stride, my knees were aching and I decided that it was better to finish maybe 15 seconds slower than push too hard and end up in the medical tent. To add insult to injury, after a brief downhill, there was another nasty climb for about a half mile, which was even steeper than the previous one. C'mon man! I wanted to quit but I kept jogging and my instant pace was around 8:30. By the time we went downhill towards the finish, I was shot and was just going through the motions. To my credit, I did manage to finish pretty strong to secure a sub-1:35 finish.

11-7:15 (7:15) downhill, not good.
12-7:53 (7:48) this broke my will.
13-8:06 (7:53) don't care anymore.
.11- 41 (5:58 pace)pretty good finish.

Overall result: Official time: 1:34:47 (7:14 pace for 13.11)/ Garmin result: 7:09 pace for 13.27
Best time of the year and 2nd best all time. 12th overall, 3rd out of 31 in age group.

Final thoughts:
Not what I had hoped for but overall, not too bad. I've run many "pretty good" races in 2010 but am still waiting for the breakthrough. Everybody said that the course was long. Nobody measured the course shorter than 13.26 and the readings were consistent between 13.26-13.30. Since it was a new course this year, I choose to believe that it really was long. If the Garmin was accurate my pace was only 4 seconds slower than Baton Rouge. I only needed 7:35s for the last 2 miles to match my 7:05. Given level ground, I probably could have managed that. My grade is a B. As for the overall experience, I don't regret my choice to run this event but it is not among my favorite half marathons.

I clearly was not 100% and thus should feel even better about my performance. I should be sore but this is extreme and abnormal. I am even more sore than after my last full marathon. It feels very much like a mineral deficiency. I really do not want to go back on any pill but have reason to believe that a fairly simple adjustment to my diet will solve this issue. Let's hope that I am right. A sedentary person won't even notice a 5% energy loss but for an athlete, it's huge and likely made the difference between a 1:30 and a 1:34:xx.

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