Decent cycle overall. My mileage was pretty consistent around 40, which was a little less than I hoped for but enough to get the job done in a half marathon. As usual, the quality was high but I was very much short on long runs. That could come back to bite me in the last 5K. I had not gone over 10 miles in more than a month and had not exceeded the race distance in more than 2 months. I did not plan on that happening but every time I had planned to go 15-16, an annoying medical issue flared up on the weekend. It's probable that a chronically infected root canal was hurting my training. The problem tooth was extracted 2 weeks ago and I was hopeful for improvement or at least more stability in my body chemistry. This was my first real shot at 1:30 and though I did not expect to break it, I believed that I could put a significant dent in my current PR (1:32:49) 3 months earlier in Chattanooga. The elevation was 2,200 feet, which should have a minimal negative effect on performance. I did not feel a difference but it was probably worth maybe 2-3 secs per mile or roughly :30 total.
I flew Delta, which has not been so good to me in the past but this time, my trip went without a hitch. After a layover in Minneapolis, I landed on time just after noon in Spokane, Washington. I drove around town for a bit and found that the Centennial trail runs through downtown and would be a great place for an easy run the next day. Feeling tired, I checked into my hotel then walked to a Chili's just across the road where I polished off a full rack of ribs. The next morning, I got in an easy 5 in on the Centennial trail then hit the road heading east on I-90. It was a beautiful 3 hour drive to Missoula, Montana with mountains in the distance with peaks still snow covered. I have now been to every state in the continental U.S. with Alaska and Hawaii still to go. I chose this race because it presented the best opportunity to see both Idaho and Montana for the first time and the weather conditions were likely to be favorable even in late May. Coeur d'Alene is located in the northern panhandle of Idaho, just 100 miles south of the Canadian border. I drove around town for a bit, stopped at a mall and had dinner at a decent independent restaurant. The next morning, I got an early start and headed back to Idaho. I took in the beautiful lakeside scenery and walked around town for a bit. Dinner would really be a treat. I polished off a 24 oz. porterhouse and it was one of the best I have ever had. As planned, I was in bed early and would be ready to roll the next morning.
I felt very strong warming up and was starting to feel confident that this could be my day. The weather was sunny with temps in the 40s-50s and the course map indicated that it was a mostly flat course. That was true. Another claim is suspect. The gun went off and my early pace was around 6:20. That's way too fast but it felt so effortless. Still, I tried my best to slow down but came through the Mile marker in 6:38, 15 seconds fast. The plan was to run in the upper 6:50s for the first half or just a tad slower than 1:30 pace. That way, if it's in me, I can go for it in the 2nd half but if not, I won't be out so fast that I'll be doomed in the later stages. By Mile 2, I was getting into a groove and would rip off 6 consecutive miles in the 6:50s. Mile 2-3 were mostly downhill but 4-5 would require more effort. I maintained the pace well and still felt quite comfortable through the first half. Despite, the faster pace, I felt better than I did in Chattanooga.
1st half spilts:
6:38-(6:38) slow down fool
6:56-(20:30) very good
6:56-(27:26) new definition of an even pace
6:54-(34:20) feel great, that was a hilly mile.
6:59-(41:19) stay under 7 for as long as you can.
The mile markers were a bit short. Each mile seemed to be measured .98 or .99 and at the 6th Mile mark, my Garmin read 5.91. Normally, the reverse happens and the Garmin measures the course a bit long. Only once has the Garmin been off at the short end, which was at Mercedes this year. The splits listed are watch splits so a thought entered my mind. I may be going even faster than my splits indicate, possibly up to 30 seconds faster.
I hit 6.55 (Garmin) just a hair slower than 1:30 pace. I believe that my time was 45:06. A PR should be in the bag and if the Garmin measures the course at around 13.0, I may still have a shot at 1:29:59. By the 8th Mile, I was working quite hard and my pace was slowing. We hit a decent downhill in the next mile and it did not significantly increase my pace. I began losing contact with my pack and several runners would pass me before it was over. With 4 miles to go, a PR was still as good as mine unless the pace slipped to near 7:30. Sub-1:30 had slipped away and so had 1:30:xx but I still appeared to be in good shape to break 1:32, which was the more realistic goal coming in. It was here that my lack of long runs really came back to haunt me. Mile 10 was into a headwind and would be the slowest mile of the race. I was still under 70 for 10 Miles, which is an unofficial PR. 5K to go now and I'm in full blown survival mode. Time to grit my teeth and show some heart here. Mile 11 would be a bit faster but the remaining 2 miles would be mostly up a gentle incline. Running all out, I struggled to keep the pace under 7:20. As for the mile markers, they were now consistently measured at 1.00 if not 1.01, putting the official measurement closer to the Garmin time. Still, I hit Mile 12 with an 11.96 reading and expected the course to be no more than 13.10.
6:51-(48:10) shaping up to be the race of my life
7:07-(55:17) slipping a little, slight incline
7:02-(62:19) downhill, hoped for a faster split. Survival
7:23-(69:42) uh oh. show some heart now.
7:09 (76:51) Barring disaster, you've got a PR.
7:17 (84:08) Hang on, uphill.
Now, this is where the nightmare begins. After some quick math, I figured that I needed right around 7:00 to break 1:32 and my pace could slip to 7:48 for the last mile and I'd still PR. I was running on fumes now and the incline was a bit less gentle on the 13th Mile. With the finish line so close, or so I thought, an act of will kept my pace steady but I could not increase it until I came off the trail just before the Garmin turned 13 (I did not see the 13th Mile marker). Okay, I figured, only 40 seconds to go. Sub-1:32 may have slipped away but you'll certainly PR. I thought I had a short straightaway and maybe 1 turn to go but the finish line just wasn't there. We got a short downhill and my watch read 13.15 and it had already turned 1:32. Uh oh! I've really got to hustle just to get a baby PR. I turned on the speed as fast as I could and my pace hit 5:00 at my fastest but the finish line still wasn't there. I rounded another corner and finally saw a clock 50 yards away. With a PR gone and feeling some mild GI discomfort, I packed it in and finally finished demoralized at 1:33:21 (#3 all time). Garmin pace was 7:00 or 7:01 which is good enough for a PR but the distance registered at 13.31.
Last 2 splits were:
1:55 (1:33:21) 6:11 pace for .31.
I have mixed feelings right now because I'm not entirely sure of the exact value of my time. Even if the course was measured accurately, I came within 32 seconds of my PR or roughly 2.5 ticks/mile, which is nothing to be ashamed. What is certain though is that for my next attempt in the Fall, I need more long runs and need to be steady in the 50-55 MPW range. I tried running over 60 last Fall and ended up hurt and badly unbalanced so I will not do that again. 50-55 should be safe especially if I'm sensible with the paces.
Was this a PR performance? The course had relatively few turns and was not in an urban area. Also the fact that the entire discrepancy occurred in the final Mile leads me to believe that the course was indeed long. I'd be more inclined to trust the course measurement if the Garmin consistently measured the Miles to be 1.01 or 1.02 and I'd head into the last mile knowing that the Garmin read it long all the way. That's what usually occurs. The official distance is 13.11 and my watch usually reads between 13.15-13.20. I've never had anything over 13.26 before.
13.11 projects to a 1:31:57. 13.21 projects to a 1:32:39. Even 13.23 projects to a PR.
I heard that in Little Rock, a similar situation occurred and one of the participants e-mailed the RD, who admitted that the marathon course was accurate but the half was long. I sent a polite e-mail to the RD and hope to get a similar response. Even if I have to include an asterisk, if I did cover the 13.11 distance faster than I previously had, this performance should be recognized as such. In the Fall, I want a new PR that puts this question to rest.
I could not stay long because I had a plane to catch. I wanted a full day off back in Birmingham to recover from jet lag and decompress. My return trip also went without a hitch. This was a very good trip overall and was worth doing regardless of how the race turned out.