Saturday, November 17, 2012

Charlotte Thunder Road RR

   It was a very good cycle up until about a week ago.  I had 2 hiccups during the week that related to my Thym-Adren and Cal/Mag issues.  Once again, I trained hard during the cycle but tapered properly and was plenty fresh enough on race morning.  There was little-no stress about this event.  I didn't care about this one nearly as much as my 10K attempt 2 weeks earlier.  I knew that it was NOT a PR course and I chose this event because I did not expect to be in PR shape after my debacle in Denver less than 2 months earlier. Moreover,  I have already achieved my lifetime goal for this distance. Charlotte and Asheville are the only 2 NC races that are comfortably within a days drive and Thunder Road certainly seemed to be the one with the most prestige so that's why I chose it.  I am now at State # 15 (60% done) with the Half 2 Run Challenge.

I took the whole day off work on Friday and drove up.  It's about 6.5 hours going straight through but I took 2 detours through my old stomping grounds in Clemson and Greenville, South Carolina.  I still like the area but I am not leaving Birmingham.  I am where I belong.  I finally arrived in Charlotte just before rush hour.  Fortunately, I was staying in the host hotel and certainly was not up for getting back in the car after such a long trip.  Dinner was a very tasty burger in the hotel lounge and I enjoyed a good conversation with a nice girl from Asheville.  Race morning went without a hitch and I felt pretty good warming up.  I decided that the all out attempt was on. Conditions were not the best but I've run in worse.  It was just below 40 degrees at the start with a 15 mph wind so the chill factor was sub-freezing.  I went with long sleeves and shorts and I was fine.  If anything, it may have been a touch warm towards the end.

I've run 17 half marathons and I would rate this one as the toughest of all.  The only other one that is comparable is ING Georgia in Atlanta (now Publix).  I don't think that there was a single spot on the course that was flat.  That's not an exaggeration.  I figured that I would have to add at least 2 minutes so in order to finish below 1:30, I would need to run the equivalent of a sub-1:28 on flat course.  Considering some of my recent workouts, it seemed to be within the realm of possibilities but realistically, it was unlikely.  A 1:31:xx or even a 1:32 would be a strong performance.

The start was in the heart of downtown but most of the course was through upscale neighborhoods with tree lined streets.  After a short incline, we turned to a steady downhill for the rest of the first Mile.  I hoped to bank some time and energy here.  The former held true.  I felt strong early and was confident that I would do well.  I hit the Mile marker just a bit ahead of schedule.  Mile 2 was almost all uphill but I was very pleased by how well I was holding the pace.  In Miles 3-4, it was net downhill but there were several rollers thrown in.  That's basically how it went for the whole course.  The miles that did not appear to be so bad based on the elevation chart probably had little net elevation change but it doesn't mean it's flat.  I was really trying to conserve energy here because I knew that Mile 5 looked tough.  Here are the early splits:
6:30 (6:30) all downhill
6:57 (13:27) mostly uphill
6:44 (20:11) looking good
6:50 (27:01) still near PR pace

In Miles 3-4, I felt a little more sore than I should have been but kept a good pace.  I had hoped to go relatively easy over the next 1.25 miles, which were all uphill.  My strength was slowly fading.  I kept hoping to get a break in the hill even if it was just for a tenth of a mile but it never came.  To make matters worse, we got near the top then had to turn off on another road which revealed even more uphill.  It didn't go back down until 5.25 miles.  As expected, Mile 5 was a little slow but I hoped to get back on pace over the next 2 miles, which contained more down than up.  When I could not get back under 7:00 pace in Mile 6, I knew that was in trouble.  I was aware that Miles 8, 12 and 13 were also almost all uphill.  Yes, there were some nice gradual downhill stretches but it seemed like every uphill was much steeper and on every climb, my pace fell off dramatically and left my body more and more beat up.  I was already in survival mode and barely more than halfway there.  It looked like I was headed for 1:32ish, which would still be quite respectable on this course.
7:15 (34:16) uphill, fell off 1:30 pace
7:04 (41:20) in trouble now
7:04 (48:24) bravely hanging on but can't handle more hills
7:23 (55:47) survival mode uphill.

I tried to regroup in Mile 9 and began feeling a bit better on a long gradual downhill straightaway but it would not be long before we went back up and the last 5K would be brutal.  I was thinking that I would be lucky to hold a 7:30 pace for the remaining 5K, which would get me to the finish at 1:33 and change.  Still not horrible but it's looking worse and worse.  In the middle of Mile 12, the course went back uphill and would continue all the way to finish line.  By this point, I basically resigned.  My body was shot and I was not risking injury by pushing it when there was nothing there.  We turned on to a street which revealed a steeper incline.  At this point, I was just jogging it in.  Finally, we had a brief downhill for about a tenth of a mile before a final slight incline for the last half mile to finish back downtown.  When I saw my split at 13 Miles, I knew that I would need to put some effort into the finish just to get under 1:35.  I lengthened my stride and managed to pick up the pace just enough.  I knew that I had it so I did not go nuts in the last 100.  I finished with legs that felt like steel beams in an official chip time of 1:34:55.  BAD!
7:20 (63:07) trying to regroup
7:23 (70:30) epic fade coming
7:34 (78:04) OUCH!
7:46 (85:50) it's almost over.
8:05 (1:33:55) I've quit.
1:00 (1:34:55) just enough (7:20ish pace for .14)

Final thought:
  Despite the weak effort, I really don't feel too bad about this one.  This was certainly not a good race by any stretch but on a level course with a more conservative early pace, I think I could have done a low-mid 1:32.  I went for the sub-1:30 but it just wasn't the course to do it even if I had my best stuff.   I'll consider it a pretty solid 10 Miler with a long cool down.  My body was clearly out of whack too but I got through it unscathed and live to fight another day.  In past years, I've had incredibly good luck on race day.  This year, not so much but here comes some heresy for my readers: I would rather feel good during training and not perform as well on race day than the other way around.  A race is only once a month while the rest of my life goes on in the other 30 days.  If I get lucky and pull out 1 good day after feeling lousy more often than not, it won't make me happy long-term.  I do not get depressed because of a bad run, I get depressed because my body chemistry is out of balance!


Cs said...

Justin, sub-1:35 on a hard course like this is nothing to be ashamed of. Especially because it looks like the only problem was that you were not ready for the hills. Do some decent hill training and you'll be fine next time. Or run more flat races, LOL. Anyway, I think you did fine.

Yo Momma Runs said...

I love your race recaps because I feel like I was there. Hills are great for burning up the legs early in a race. And thanks for that little reminder at the end. I'm still hoping that my next race day is an on day, but it's still important to enjoy the ride, not just the destination.