Saturday, February 26, 2011

Scenic City Half Marathon RR

Coming off the strong effort at Mercedes, I put in a 50 mile week (all at sub-8 pace) but followed it with a steep taper. I felt plenty fresh on race morning. One piece of bad news is that the chromium deficiency has reappeared. I will not alter my formula until the next medical report but this could halt my progress if I do not make some changes.
I left work at lunch time Friday and completed the smooth ride up I-59 to Chattanooga in about 2.5 hours. I checked into to the Days Inn and took the short walk to the Chattanooga Choo Choo to pick up my packet. This is one of my favorite cities and if I could not live in Birmingham, this would probably be my next choice. Dinner was a rather mediocre sirloin at a diner that was connected to the hotel. Oh well. It was probably worth it to avoid getting in the car again. The night before race morning was not very pleasant. I was awakened a few times by drunken idiots in the parking lot and dreamed that I missed the start of the race.
Chattanooga has a pretty flat downtown but there are massive hills nearby including Lookout Mountain where the view at the summit provides the opportunity to view 7 states. This course was basically out and back starting and finishing outside Finley Stadium, home of the UTC Mocks football team. Since much of the route was along the Tennessee River, I expected it to be mostly flat as advertised. I did see a course map and elevation chart and it looked pretty manageable. It appeared to have a long gradual climb in Mile 9 and a couple of shorter ones. The course covered very little of the flat downtown area. I suppose that's understandable since it's a relatively small event with a little over 1,000 runners. You can't shut down traffic for 3 hours for something like that. There were 4 tough sections spread throughout the course:
Mile 3: steep climb for about a 1/2 mile
Mile 9: double hill with no downhill recovery in between
If you can survive Mile 9 feeling okay, you're in pretty good shape but there were 2 more moderate hills about 1/4 mile long in Mile 11 and Mile 12. I rate this one as a notch tougher than Mercedes and another man agreed. Difficulty rating: 5/10.
Once the pills kicked in, I felt strong and ready to roll. The weather was sunny with temps around 35-40 at the start and near 45 at the finish. No real complaints there. I planned to be more aggressive in the early stages today (7-7:05 pace) and hope to hang on for a baby PR. I executed the plan to near perfection. The first 2 miles were gently rolling with a decent downhill near the end of Mile 2. I was not looking forward to running up that same hill in Mile 12. Then we hit the 1/2 mile hill in Mile 3. I was working hard here but fortunately, the last half mile went back down. We were now on a major highway with a lane closed for runners. I was beginning to lose contact with the lead pack but resolved to run my own race and a few of them would come back to me in the later stage. The Garmin was pretty accurate today so all recorded splits are Garmin pace:
6:57 (6:57) A little quick but nothing to worry about
7:01 (13:58) On pace for 1:31:xx
7:03 (21:01) up and down
Miles 4 through 8 were largely flat and fast and just after the Mile 6 marker, we turned onto a bike trail that included some bridges and beautiful views. I was working hard here but still remained fairly comfortable just like a long tempo. I would gain a few places in this stretch.
7:01 (28:02) good, stay close to 7 and you've got time in the bank
7:08(35:10) a little too slow, pick it up here.
6:56 (42:06) back on track
7:00 (49:06) smooth sailing on the flats
7:05 (56:11) I know what's upcoming.
According to the Garmin, I had passed 6.55 at almost exactly 46 flat but it looked as if this course would be measured around 13.2 so figure I was around 46:20 at the halfway point. Can I PR? It's going to be close and it could come down to a final sprint. The moment that I had been dreading had arrived. We turned off the trail and hit the uphill. At first, it did not seem so bad. Maybe it was 3/8 of a mile and fairly steep but manageable. I trudged past a fading runner and waited for the downhill but it did not come. It merely leveled off then there would be another climb that would not end until the end of the Mile. I thought my hopes for a PR were gone but I was pleasantly surprised by the respectable split. Can I make up the lost time of the downhill. I did not let it fly on the steep downhill. I merely used it to recover for there would be another bridge to negotiate. At Mile 10, I was just a few ticks behind my pace at Baton Rouge but I remembered that I struggled a bit in that last 5K down there. It was still possible to squeeze out that baby PR.
7:20 (63:31) uphill
6:55 (70:26) downhill
7:01 (77:27)
With 2.5 miles to go, we were now on the other side of the road that had taken us through the early stages. I survived the bridge climb and got a welcome 1/2 mile decline that felt much better than going uphill in Mile 3. I figured that the course would be measured between 13.18 and 13.20 so after some quick math in my head, I figured that I would need roughly 7:10s in the last 2 miles plus my usual strong finishing kick. If I could get through that last hill that I previously noted that I did not look forward to, my chances were good. I survived Mile 12 just on target and passed a man that appeared to be in my age group. Perhaps I had overtaken him for 3rd. One more mile to go and it appears to be mine to lose now. The next half mile would be a gentle decline but I would really have go all out since the finish was a slight incline. Coming around the final turn, it was clear that the course would be 13.2 (about 8 seconds difference from the 13.18 that I previously figured). My legs felt like lead but I gave everything I had left. With about 50 meters to go, it was finally clear that I would make it just in time.
7:09 (84:36) held up on the hill, mine to lose now
7:01 (91:37) pushing hard, need a strong kick
1:12 (1:32:49) 5:50 pace for .20, all out effort.
Gun time was 1:32:52 (7:05 pace). Watch time: 1:32:49 (7:02 for 13.20). 5th in age group.
In any event, this is my first PR of 2011 and an A grade on the day.
Final thought:
This course was 2 notches harder than Baton Rouge and I still squeaked out a PR. Given perfectly flat terrain, I would have been good for a 1:31 today. 1:30 or under will be tough but I'm conceding nothing if I can get everything to work out perfectly on a pancake flat course this Fall. Next up is the Silver Comet 10K on a flat and fast bike trail. It will be another PR attempt.


L.A. Runner said...

If you don't mind, I would like to pass this blog post onto my friend. She is one of the RDs. Great job, Justin!!! 1:30 is in sight for you!

Crazy J said...

Thanks as always for your support. Sure, you can pass it on and tell your friend that I enjoyed the race.