Yesterday I ran the Stonebridge Half-Marathon for the second year in a row. The distance works perfect for training purposes and it is a small race so you really get to enjoy it. Not to mention the post race spread is pretty good. This year Karen and my buddy Juan decided to join me in the run and we had a great time with great results.
My mindset going into this race was to practice pacing for 70.3 San Juan. My goal in San Juan is to run a 1:44 half-marathon and so that was the goal for this race. Coach had scheduled a swim session as well so I figured I would do the swim set before the race to mimic being a bit tired before the run.
At 5am I jumped into the pool and rattled off 2550 yards of swimming that included 3x (5×100 Very Fast – :30 RI) 50K sets. Obviously very fast is much faster than race pace and so I was happy to know that I would really be pushing myself and burning some of the glycogen off. As we left the house and got on the highway Karen asked me if I had my GU (First Endurance Liquid Shot is what I use) and it was then I realized that I forgot it at home in the fridge. I would be running this half-marathon with no nutrition and only living of the course and that means only water because I cannot drink Powerade. Thankfully I had eaten a Honey Stinger waffle after the swim.
When we got to the race site you could feel the cold and with the rain it was one of those days where people would question you as to why you are up and going for a run. As we walked to the starting line I told Juan that we should run 8-8:15s for the first two miles and then bring it down from there to the 8:00/mi mark and finish right at that 1:45 mark.
Then the gun went off Juan and I immediately settled into a nice stride. Before I knew it the 1 mile marker was there and our watched went off with a 8:02 mile. OK great the legs feel good and slightly ahead of the 8:15 but not by much and I am gaining confidence. We continue to run stride for stride and all I can think of is Iron War. Trying to imagine what Dave Scott and Mark Allen were thinking as they were running. They were competitors competing on the biggest triathlon stage and Juan and I are friends and training to pace for 70.3 San Juan.
It was around Mile 2 when we heard galoshes boy. The sound was horrible. Each step sounded as if the guy dunked his shoes and socks in a bucket of water before the race. It made that squashing sound and was driving me batty. I wanted to really pick up the pace to get away from him but I had a plan and I wanted to stick to it and this guy was running right along with us. I looked at Juan and said to him WTF is with this guys shoes he’s making me crazy. He agreed and said the guy had earbuds in and probably couldn’t hear them and so he wasn’t annoying himself.
By the time Mile 3 came along galoshes boy was no longer with us and we were on our own. Juan and I were in a nice stride and cruising and I was having a great time. I never felt like I was pushing it or working and was really just out for a long training run. That is until we hit the half-way point. At mile 6 you turn left and are headed down the longest straight away of the run. The problem was that the wind kicked up and the road is a series of up and down elevations. Not the type of elevation that you climb for .10 mile but for 0.25 mile then flat then another gradient that lasts 0.25 miles. Into a headwind this made it work but my legs felt great and I just attacked the hills.
It was at this point that I started to catch those that had burned past me earlier in the run and when I started to drop Juan. My legs felt great and I wanted to negative split the run and so the pace picked up. Picking off one runner after another was fun. After getting past one person I would find another. At Mile 9 I passed a guy fairly easily and he said to me ‘go get ‘em you look great.’ When he said that I realized that I was still not pushing myself. I looked at my heart rate and was around 161 bpm. Normally my heart rate would be in the 170-180 bpm range.
I credit this consistent low heart rate to a couple of things. First this past week has been a slight step back in workload for Ironman training. Secondly I had taken First Endurance Pre-Race about 45 minutes before the start of the race. My body has gotten used to Pre-Race and my heart rate felt low and consistent. After passing the Mile 9 marker I made a decision to step it up and run the last 5k harder than I had any previous miles of the race.
At the Mile 10 marker it was time to pick up the pace but not sprinting. Again I wanted to finish in 1:44 and make sure to execute the race. I had a lot of juice in my legs and dropped a 7:22 mile at Mile 11 and then a 7:28 at Mile 12. I hit Mile 12 and again made a decision that Mile 13 was going to be the fastest mile of the entire day. I was moving but again I never felt over-extended or worn out. I was in cruise control so to speak.
As I came up on the Mile 13 marker I could see the finish line clock and saw 1:40:52 and new that I would be crossing just a tad past 1:41. As I crossed the final timing mat I hit my watch and looked down and was at 1:41:10. I walked about 100 feet past the finish line expecting Juan to come across in 4 minutes as he was doing very well with timing his race at that pace. Before I could get that thought fully through my head I heard the PA announcer say ‘Catch him USC’ and I knew it was Juan. He was wearing a USC jacket for the race and I was surprised because he too picked up the pace quite a bit. He finished in 1:41:40.
With the cold clothes and weather being what it was I made a run to the car to get my bag but more importantly Karen’s bag that had fresh clothes so that we could change into them. By the time I got back Karen was just crossing the finish line. She came across the timing mat in 1:52:05 and set a PR by over 5 minutes.
Standing around we waited to see results. With such a small field you never know where you may finish. Last year I ran a 1:36 and finished 5th in my age group so I did not expect much but we did not see a lot of women so maybe Karen got herself to the podium. When the results were posted we walked over and saw that we both were going to be on the podium in our age groups. We both finished 2nd in our age group and Juan finished 5th in his. It was a great race for all of us.
- I can pace myself and hold back. Need to remember this in a month when San Juan rolls around.
- I can run a half-marathon on nothing but water, but will not try that again.
- Create a plan and stick to it even as others are passing you at the beginning as they will either flame out or they are just faster and you will never catch them anyway.