Sunday, March 29, 2015

Bluegrass Half RR

  Even in my previous bad races, I felt there was a chance that I could pull something out even though I was not feeling the best.  This time I knew not to expect anything other than a loud sucking noise. I have been limited to about 20 MPW over the last 4 weeks with little motivation since I have no real chance of improvement until I get the genetic test results.   Even if everything broke in my favor, I would be hard pressed to break 1:45 on a tough course and I feared a Gallo-walk with a time well over 2 hours.  Fortunately, because of the generous 3.5 hour time limit (16 minute pace), there was never any doubt that I would finish.  Even if I crashed in Mile 3 and had to walk the rest of the way, I would get to the line with time to spare. 

Took the whole day off work on Friday and made it a 1 day trip.  No need to worry about wearing myself out from driving.  I was going to suck no matter what I did.  I opted for the more scenic route through Chattanooga and Knoxville rather than through Nashville.  It added about 30 minutes to the trip but it was worth it.  Even though the trees were still bare, it was very scenic especially through northeast TN and south central KY.  I arrived in Lexington around dinner time after a fairly comfortable driving day.  I scored a bargain on a bright yellow Nike winter top for just $40 at the expo then polished off a full rack of ribs at Applebee's for dinner before settling into my fleabag motel.  Race morning also went without a hitch.

Kentucky is hilly but downtown Lexington is relatively flat.  However, this course would not be going downtown.  It started and finished on the grounds of Keeneland race track and we would catch a view of the track itself.  I'm not much of a horse racing fan but that was still pretty cool.  Most half marathons start at 7:00 or 8:00 AM but this time, the gun would not go off until 9:00.  That can be a good call or a bad call depending on the weather.  This year, it was a good call as the low temp dipped down to 20 with a 10 degree wind chill.  By 9:00 with the sun up for 2 hours, it wasn't too bad.  It was probably in the upper 20s at the start and 35 at the finish with sunny skies and moderate winds. 

The course is one of the toughest I've done.  It was advertised as rolling with a 500' elevation gain.  It seemed a lot more than that.  A quick and accurate description was one climb for about a quarter mile that was relatively steep but not a killer followed by an equally long and steep downhill that gave back the previous elevation gain.  It was just like that for pretty much the entire course.  No let up.  I counted a grand total of 3 relatively flat stretches and none of them were particularly long.  No hill will kill you but the cumulative effects take their toll and by Mile 10, you're shot.  It was all rural through the horse farms and I smelled a few hints of the manure at times.

I aimed for an 8:00 pace with the expectation that I would fade in the last 3 miles but hold on for at least a sub-1:50.  As is often the case, I was out slightly faster but not stupid.  I was clearly well off form but in spite of the relentless rolling hills, I was fairly comfortable through the early miles.  There would be no early crash and if I did have to Gallo-walk, it would not be until the last few miles. 
7:48- 7:48
7:47- 15:35
7:50- 23:25

I was not crashing but every climb would knock my energy down a notch.  I saw a couple people starting to take walk breaks on the hills and I knew it would not be long until I would be doing so as well.  I passed the halfway point fading fast but still at an even 8:00 pace overall.  Even a brutal fade to the 10 minute range would give me a hollow victory with a sub-2:00 finish and it still looked to be a pretty good bet that I would break 1:50.

8:08- 31:33
7:49- 39:22
8:24- 47:46
8:34- 56:20
8:37- 64:57
8:29- 1:13:26

Towards the end of Mile 10, we hit a longer hill with a curve and it would be the one that broke my will for good.  I had to take a few walk breaks over the next 2 miles and these last 3 were just as hard for me as any full marathon.  With 2 miles to go, I saw that I could still break 1:50 with a pair of sub-9 miles to finish up.  I made a half-assed effort to pick up the pace but nothing was there.  In the last mile, the course became less rolling and more of just an annoying incline.  I took some pride in the fact that I ran the entire way from Mile 12 to the finish but it was no faster than the Gallo-walking and I mercifully crossed the line in 1:50:46 totally spent.  I had no more running left in me after this.  Hard to believe that I was once a 3:20 marathoner.

8:54- 1:22:20
9:18- 1:31:38
9:27- 1:41:05
9:41- 1:50:46 (last 1.05)
Result: AG- 59/177- 67th percentile.

Overall impression-
I would have preferred to run the Kentucky Derby next month in Louisville but I have a family commitment that day.  Not withstanding my poor performance, this was not one of my favorite races (no offense intended).  It's just a personal preference of mine to race in the city, through parks or near a lake or river but I can see how a horse racing fan would be thrilled to run past those horse farms.  It did have a pretty nice after party and one of the better medals but the shirt was a thin cotton hoodie.  No Gatorade/PowerAde was available but rather an unfamiliar sports drink.  Fortunately, I did not react badly to it.  Kentucky was state #23.  I've got Pennsylvania in September and South Carolina in October to finish the Half2Run Challenge.

To the average undertrained runner, a 1:50 on this course is still pretty darn good.  It still placed me in the top third of my age group but it has become obvious to any observer that something is badly wrong.  Even on a flatter course, this performance was worth no better than 1:46-1:47ish, which is a full 90 seconds per Mile off my PR.  To put that into perspective, if Usain Bolt slowed by the same percentage, he'd run about 11.7 in the 100.  That still beats almost everyone off the street but an average high school sprinter will run about 12-flat and most teams have at least 1 in the low 11s.

BIG news ahead:
The DNA test has arrived and there are indeed many mutations but it does appear to be treatable.  It's a complex report that I don't yet fully understand.  More to come later on the subject.

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