Monday, January 30, 2012

3M half RR

I give all the honor and glory to God.
I wanted to do this race 2 years ago but was forced out by an Achilles injury but this time, I was healthy and had been eyeing this race as my best chance to hit my lifetime goal of 1:30 since the Fall of last year. A turning point occurred in December after receiving prayer at the LIFE retreat. My Thym-Adren dosage began trending down the next day and since the first of the year, I have been freed from my dependence on that stuff. Those of you that have followed me for any length of time can appreciate how much that means to me. I believe that God did it and cannot think of any other explanation. It was by far my best training cycle. I jacked up the mileage but my training paces stayed pretty much the same. I did 5 runs in excess of 15 miles since my last PR including a 20 and 22 miler. I also set an unofficial 10K PR of 40:14 in training. I had only one day of symptoms this entire month and that was only because I took a thyroid pill the previous day. The only irritation that I had was a few stuck up people on the Marathon Race Training forum online that criticized my training in a manner that was downright mean spirited. However, the half marathon forum has always been very supportive of me. In short, high mileage at slow paces simply does not work for me and I do not enjoy it either. I top out between 50-55 MPW with yearly average in the low 40s but my intensity level is higher than most others. I know 2 runners who broke 3:10 in a marathon with a similar strategy. It can be done and I believe that I am talented enough to do it if everything goes right. It won't happen this year but possibly in the near future.

It was not to be an especially relaxing trip outside of the race. In addition to Austin, I had plans to visit San Antonio and College Station. I flew direct from Birmingham to Houston and rented a car. It was probably the quickest way to Austin. Because the flight was delayed, I altered my plans and headed to San Antonio from Houston instead of College Station. I did not see much of Houston though the downtown looked impressive. My biggest gripe was that the traffic was terrible. Birmingham's 280 is mild by comparison. Finally, I got onto I-10 W and it was clear sailing to San Antonio for 3 hours. I parked in a garage and walked around town for about an hour to get a sample of the Alamo plaza and the Riverwalk, which was a cool area under a set of bridges with shops and restaurants along the water. I got a nice Texas ribeye and one Lonestar beer before leaving town. From there, it was less than 2 hours to Austin so I split the difference and stayed in a cheap motel in San Marcos. The trip to Austin the next morning went without much of a hitch. I picked up my packet at a rather small expo then called up an old high school buddy that I had not seen in more than a decade. We had lunch together and he showed me around town for a bit and gave me a tour of some of his running routes. From there, I headed to my hotel near the starting line and had a fairly relaxing evening. After the race, I headed back to downtown Austin for a walking tour of 6th Street and a BBQ pork sandwich for lunch. Next, I took country roads to College Station and toured Bush 41's presidential library for a little over an hour. That was really cool and anyone interested in history would enjoy it regardless of political affiliation. Finally, it was time for another nerve wracking drive back to the Houston airport. I stayed the night there and caught my flight back home without a hitch.

Near perfect weather conditions. Clear skies with light winds and temps in the low 40s at the start, near 50 by the finish. I had targeted this race because it is a blazing fast course. It is point to point net downhill with several bumps along the way. Most of the course was a shallow downhill that was barely noticeable and some miles seemed to have just as much incline as decline. There was a tough stretch early in Mile 10 but more significant downhill early in Mile 13 before a small bump up to the finish. According to the elevation profile, taking into account that you only gain 1/2 as much going down as you lose going up, runworks projects this course to be on par with pancake flat courses such as Mobile and Disney. If I ran a PR, it would not contain an asterisk.
My plan was to hang with the 1:30 pace group for about the first 5K then move ahead if I felt good. My training had gone so well that 1:30 was near the low end of my expectations. I had hopes of a 1:28 or maybe even 1:27 though I never publicly aired my lofty expectations. The first half mile was slightly uphill it felt much too slow. Again, my Garmin would not cooperate. In the words of Jerry Seinfeld, that's it with this piece of junk, I've had it. Somebody asked the pacers if they were on target and they responded that they had started a little slow. Just over 7 minute pace. I ditched the pacers and would not see them again. Some mile markers had clocks while others did not so I had to ask others for the approximate time so here are the estimated splits for the first 4 miles:
6:50 (6:50)
6:40 (13:30)
6:33 (20:03)
6:37 (26:40)
I felt great. Almost no pain whatsoever. At that point, the notion of a 6:40ish pace for the remaining 9 miles did not seem daunting. However, miles 3-4 were nearly all downhill. The next few miles were up and down. By now, my Garmin was working and according to the instant pace, it seemed to matter little whether I was going up or down. My pace seemed to stay about the same. Over the 4+ miles that it actually worked, every mile was between 6:41 and 6:47. According to the results, I passed 10K in 41:40 and saw a clock at Mile 7 that showed a clock time at 47:10. I figured that my chip time was just under 47 flat. I've always had good math skills and that includes during a race. I figured that since 42 is 6:00 pace and 49 is 7:00 and I'm 5/7 or 71.4% in between, my overall pace is about 6:43. From that point on, even if I faded to 7:00 for the rest of the way, I'd hit 13 in 1:29 and barring a collapse in the final 200 meters, I had it.
6:43 (33:23)
6:45 (40:08)
6:47 (46:55)
6:41 (53:36)
6:44 (60:20)
Now, I had no doubt that I would do it. A 7 minute pace would bring me to Mile 13 in 1:28:20 and a decent finish from there would put me under 1:29. I still felt good and was confident that there would be no major fade after 15K like my previous efforts. My Garmin cut off again after Mile 9 and I was unable to get it back on so I had to go naked for the remainder of the race. The course went through University of Texas and finished just outside the capitol building so I saw some cool landmarks. Based on the final results, I can assume that I basically held the same pace all the way through. I'm sure Mile 10 was a little slow because of the incline and Mile 13 was faster. In any event, my clock time was 1:27:43 at Mile 13 so my chip time was approximately 1:27:30. That means that I covered Miles 10-13 in approximately 27:10 (6:48 pace).  I'll list the estimated splits:
7:05 (67:25)
6:50 (74:15)
6:45 (1:21:00)
6:30 (1:27:30)
I knew that I was under 1:29 but I didn't know by how much. I wish I knew how close I was to breaking 1:28 in Mile 12 because I knew that I could not cover the final .11 in under 30 seconds going uphill. I passed 2 just before starting my all out kick but nobody else was within reach. It was a decent kick but nothing spectacular and I raised my arms in triumph as I crossed the line with a chip time of 1:28:12. I got my medal and used another photo op for the purpose of Tebowing.

Final thought:
I smashed the barrier by a full 8 seconds per mile (6:44 pace for 13.11 miles). This was no doubt an A+ performance and I am certainly very excited but I am really not too surprised. It was in line with my high expectations albeit near the upper end. Anyone who has followed my training this month could have predicted a sub-1:30. My buddies on the half marathon forum have encouraged me to strive for 1:25. My answer to that challenge is the same as before. I will continue to train and strive for improvement but anything beyond this is a bonus. I expect to race this distance many more times over the next few years but if this turns out to be the fastest half marathon of my life, I will be well satisfied with it. Texas was state #13 in my drive for 25. On the radar this year are the Kentucky Derby in Louisville, Denver and Indy. I plan to add more interval work starting in early Spring. This race predicts a marathon in 3:06, which won't happen this year if ever. However, it also predicts a 10K under 40 and a 5K near 19 flat. Both of those goals should be within reach with interval training if not right now.

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