Following my strong effort in Montgomery, I put in a 50 mile week which was followed by a steep taper. I ran little-nothing in the 3 days before the big day. Although this was technically my 3rd sub-1:30 attempt, it was the first time I approached the race believing that I had a realistic chance. As far as the pills, I had some drama this week as my dosage is trending down. I am more stable now and have not flipped from one extreme to the other but remain quite sensitive. A single pill, whether too many or too few would make a big difference.
It's a 9 hour drive to Columbus and that's about as far as I'll go via car. I would have preferred Cincy the following week but my buddy Nick could not get off work and this was our only chance to do a race together this year. This was my first Ohio race experience and my 11th state overall. The goal is to run at least a half in at least 25 states. I worked a half day on Friday and looking back, I probably should have taken the whole day off. The trip was somewhat stressful. I got caught in the Nashville rush hour and lost an hour due to the time zone difference. I made it just past Louisville on Friday night, about 3 hours from Columbus. I slept in until 9 AM then hit the road and stopped at a Pizza Hut Express just past Cincy. I arrived at the airport to pick up Nick with only about 30 minutes to spare. Then, we headed to the expo. I made a wrong turn and got caught in a bottleneck on the way. Fortunately, that would be the last of the drama. We treated ourselves to a dry rub Ribeye, settled in the room and watched our Clemson Tigers win a thriller over Maryland. Race morning went without a hitch.
Despite some anxiety over the exact right dosage, I felt good warming up and the attempt was on. My plan was to go out at 6:50 pace and hold it right there. If I had anything left, with 4 miles to go, I would let it loose but anticipated a painful finish. We were off right on time and I was feeling nice and loose but my Garmin was acting up again. Every time I looked down at my watch, I saw a pace around 4:30 and it was not slowing down. No way! This can't be right or else I'd be in the lead and running away with it. I asked a few people what the pace was and nobody answered so I would have to run it by feel until I saw a Mile marker. Finally, the watch said that I was slowing down after about a half mile. By the end of the Mile, my watch read 7:28. If that's accurate, it's way too slow. Pick it up a little but don't try to make it up in one Mile. I did see the 2nd Mile marker and an official clock time just under 13:40. I knew that 1st Mile was faster than that. Fine, I'm just a hair ahead of pace now and the Garmin would be fairly accurate from here to the finish. My only concern was that I was feeling some tightness in the calf muscles. That's not a good sign and often means that my dosage is just a bit too high. Outside of that, I still felt pretty well and decided to just keep up this pace for as long as I could. By Mile 4, it was clear that I was going to finish well. How well? Good enough to break 1:30? Under 1:31? At least a PR, I hope? By the end of Mile 5, I noticed that my pace had slipped just a tad and I was now just a couple ticks slower than 1:30 pace. Some downhill was ahead and I made the decision to make a bit of a push here in Mile 6 and turned in a strong 6:45 split. At the 10K mark, I was around 42:40 and I remember not too long ago, that would have been a PR at that distance and unofficially, I was almost exactly 45 flat at the point in which I figured that I was halfway home. Oh man, it's going to be close. This could come down to the last 5K or even the final sprint. Will I find some extra strength this time or fade once again after 9 Miles? The course was one of the flatter ones that I've done but it's no pancake. There were 3 fairly significant inclines in the 2nd half. None was steep enough to break your will but it certainly slowed the pace by a few seconds. The first of these came just after the halfway point and at this time, I began to realize that it's unlikely that I can hold this pace all the way through the 2nd half. Pride kicked in however and I thought to myself: I will remember today for years to come and I want to look back and know that I did not lose heart and I did not stop fighting. The 7th and 8th miles came and my pace remained below 7 minutes. I may be a few seconds down now but if I can find something in the last Mile, I can make it up. Unfortunately, near the end of Mile 9, I could tell that my body was tightening up and my form began to falter. I took a power gel hoping to gain a 2nd wind but it did not seem to be very effective. By the end of Mile 10, the official clock was over 69 minutes and my pace had slipped to the 7:10 range. The dream ends here and I would have to hang tough just to beat my 1:31:32 from 2 weeks earlier. Fortunately, there was no monster hill in Mile 11 here. It was just another mild incline and to my relief,I would not suffer a ghastly fade in which my pace slowed considerably each subsequent mile. I managed to show some heart and kept the pace steady in Mile 11 and 12. With one mile to go, I was in very good shape to PR but I wanted a sub-1:31. Most of the last Mile was slightly downhill and despite the fact that my body had been pushed to its limit, I managed to pick up the pace a bit. One final incline and then, we turned to the finish, heading slightly downhill. After passing the 13 Mile mark, it appeared that I needed about 5:00 pace to break 1:31. Oh, I'm going for it! I got on my toes and sprinted as hard as I could but it was not quite enough. I crossed the line with no disappointment at all in an official time of 1:31:02.
6:58* (6:58) estimated
6:42 (13:40) don't try to make it up all at once.
6:53 (20:33) right on pace
6:56 (27:29) just a tad slow
6:54 (34:23) nice and steady
6:45 (41:08) slightly downhill, back ahead of pace
6:54 (48:02) almost exactly 45 at the halfway mark.
6:58 (55:00) uphill, can I find something in the last 5K?
6:51 (61:51) back downhill, hoped for a better split, power gel.
7:09 (69:00) can't solve the 10th Mile issue.
7:09 (76:09) may have to fight for a small PR.
7:05 (83:14). PR is mine but sub-1:31 looks tough.
6:48 (90:02) Need a huge kick.
1:00* (1:31:02). estimated at .17- last .09 was 5:28 pace
Official chip time: 1:31:02, Pace: 6:57, Age group: 31/584
I had to take a shot at THE goal and I paced it almost perfectly. I just didn't quite have it in me today. I don't feel that I had my absolute "A+ stuff either" and I came within 5 seconds/mile. I know that I am capable right now. Once again, I could not clear the hurdle of Mile 10-12 and must get the mileage up to 45-50 MPW consistently. I will take one more shot this year in Arkansas next month and have decided to skip the 10K in November because I feel that my chances of a sub-40 are slim and I would have to sacrifice a long run. If I fall short in Arkansas, then barring injury, I can expect to do it in Austin (Jan 2012).
Congrats to Nick for setting a PR of 1:51 flat. That last minute is yours for the taking.