Saturday, October 1, 2011
Monty half marathon RR
Not much different than my usual. High quality with an average weekly mileage just over 40. After an extremely unstable summer, I finally felt a breakthrough after I completely eliminated soda, sweet tea and beer from my diet. The results have been so profound that I intend to keep this diet with the possible exception of social gatherings.
The race starts at 7:00 AM and I figured the drive in to town would be over an hour plus I would need time to park, pick up my packet, warm up and perhaps tinker a bit with the pills. For these reasons, I chose to stay in a hotel that was just out the door from the starting line. If this had been simply a local 5K or 10K, I would have driven it race morning. I lived in Montgomery from August '06-May '09 and this trip alllowed me to check out some of my old hang outs again and reflect on my time there. I have some good memories and some not so good ones but I won't get into that now. Anticipating a minimal expo, I made a couple of stops at gas stations to find what I needed for the morning, a Power Bar and Powerade zero to keep my sugar consumption to a minimum. I picked up dinner at another old hang out in Millbrook and headed to the hotel. It was right around 6:00 so I ate quickly and walked to the minor league baseball stadium just before the expo closed at 7:00. I caught up on my phone calls then went to bed at 10:00 and actually slept fairly well. I did wake up before the alarm at 5:15, took the pills that I needed and headed out the door. Weather was near perfect. 50s at the start and near 60 at the finish with clear skies and light winds. I felt good warming up and was primed for a PR. Sub-1:30? Very difficult especially on a moderately hilly course. My official PR was 1:32:49 in Chattanooga back at the end of February but I did run a time that I believed to be a PR in May in Idaho but there was a question as to the true length of the course. If nothing else, I wanted to put that question to rest and finish below 1:31:57 (my 13.1 time via Garmin in Idaho)
Pretty scenic route that showcased some of the better parts of the city (Monty has some rough areas). Miles 1-2 were mostly a gradual climb then 3-10 were flat-gently rolling with slightly more downs than ups but Mile 11 would be nasty. However, if I could survive that still feeling halfway decent, I could gun it in the last 2 because it was downhill then level to the finish. The plan was to go out conservative then try to hold 1:30 pace through the middle, survive the hill and kick it in hard. I was out a little faster than planned but not so bad that I would be doomed in the later stages. The first 2 miles each passed by in 6:55 via Garmin though the true pace was likely closer to 7:00. Just like Idaho, the course would be measured 2 tenths too long but in this case, the mile markers were pretty much on target (1.01-1.02) almost every time and the course did have a lot of turns so I will not question the length this time. Miles 3-4 were largely a shallow decline and thoroughly enjoyable as we went through a small park before heading on a main road. Here, the Garmin splits hovered right around 6:40 and despite feeling very strong, I was a bit concerned about going too fast. Mile 5 had more rollers through the Alabama State campus and the student band was out playing music for us. That was a nice touch. Again, I managed another 6:40 split but it may have cost me as the pace would gradually slow over the next few miles. Perhaps I could have held it but I was wary because I had heard horror stories about Mile 11, which was fast approaching. In Mile 6, I pulled up alongside another runner who also had a 1:30 goal and we ran nearly stride for stride for much of the next 3 miles. I managed to hold a sub-7 pace through Mile 8 and 9 and 10 were just a shade over the barrier. The course highlight here was Huntington College, where a friend of mine had recently graduated. According to the official clock at Mile 10, my time was just over 69 minutes, well ahead of PR pace and still on target for a sub-1:30 (barely). I knew I would lose it going up the hill but could I make it up on the downhill. Heading up the hill, I passed the man that had kept me company for nearly 4 miles and though I could feel my energy fading rapidly, the pace was still respectable. Unfortunately, there would be no downhill immediately following the climb. It merely leveled off and the small decline that we did get barely helped at all. Then, we went back up another small hill and the downhill did not begin until the Garmin read 11.1 miles. 2 miles to go now and I figured that the course would be measured around 13.2 so after a quick calculation, I figured that I need to do a 6:30 for each of the last 2 miles and finish strong. I had done faster than that at Statue 2 Statue but on this course, the downhill would be more gradual and I was pretty much spent. My pace increased to the 6:40s but no faster. At this point, I wanted a sub-1:31 but I was pretty much content with the PR. Once the terrain leveled off, I faded again to the low-7 range. To make matters worse, the 12 Mile mark did not come until the Garmin read 12.17. This could be another race measured at 13.3. Now, a mid-1:31 was looking acceptable but there was no doubt that I would PR. With a tenth of a mile to go, I was still under 1:31 officially and we made one last turn into the baseball stadium. It was a respectable finish but nothing special and I crossed the line offiicially at 1:31:32. I was quite pleased with this result.
Garmin splits: (probably should add 5 seconds to each to make it more accurate)
7:15 (75:31) uphill
6:54 (82:26) downhill
2:01 (1:31:32) last .32
My new running buddy Lee aka the Caucasian Kenyan ran a great race in 1:29:51. Way to go Lee. You have now earned that nickname. I broke my rule and had some beer at the finish and took in the atmosphere. As long as I limit it to special occasions and keep the consumption to a minimum, it should not hurt me. Next, I showered, checked out of my hotel and headed down to the awards ceremony, where much to my surprise, I placed third in my age group and got a nice plaque to take home. Another bit of good luck happened on my drive home. I punctured a tire and as soon as I noticed the problem, I saw a Quick Lube place just across the street and got it patched up for just $10. Great day all around.
Not only did I PR, I averaged a sub-7 pace for the first time ever. Am I in sub-1:30 shape on a flatter course? I doubt it but I'm certainly good for a 1:30:xx. It was not a brutal fade at the end but I just don't think 40 MPW is quite enough to achieve the goal. I need at least 45 with a regular 15 mile long run sustained over 2-3 months. I've got the Columbus half in 15 days, which is a faster course. After that, there is one question. Do I race a 10K in November and take a shot at sub-40 (current PR is 40:28 solo) or just focus on increasing the mileage with fewer races? I'd like to get in a 5K time trial in cooler weather that will give me a better idea of my sub-40 chances. I had originally planned a full marathon in November but will downgrade it to the half because of insufficient mileage. The half that I really have my eye on is the 3M (Jan 2012) in Austin, TX, which is a blazing fast course with very few turns and nearly twice as much downhill as uphill. That's my best hope.
Grade: I'll be a little lenient and call this one a solid A because it's a PR.