Saturday, October 19, 2013

Race Report: Fall Half Marathon

Goal: sub-1:30
Secret Wish: 1:25:00
Actual: 1:27:32 (is this what's called splitting the difference?)

So... all in all, pretty disappointing I have to say. After my 38:53 10 km I felt confident about running very close to 1:26 if not faster (not in the least because I plugged 38:53 into a half dozen marathon prediction calculators and got times ranging from 1:25 to 1:26:30). All in all, I am not quite sure why I came up short. The weather was ideal, the course, though rolling, was fair, and although the race was not extremely competitive (1:27:32 netted me 13th overall) I did find a good group to work with.

I went out right at 4:03 pace and within 200 m found a tall guy to hide behind. I shamelessly tucked in right behind him. I was riding buddy so closely that I doubt there is a single picture of me for the first 5 km:

1 km - 4:03
2 km - 4:03
3 km - 4:04 (this guys is a metronome!)
4 km - 4:11 (except when he's not)
5 km - 3:53 (overcompensate much??)

At 5 km I decided that although it was not in my best interest, I could not in good conscience continue to blatantly hide out behind this guy without at least offering to help so I pulled up next to him and asked if he was happy leading or if he would like to me to take it for awhile. "I would LOVE for you to take it for awhile." Sigh... ok.

6 km - 4:17 (are you sure you want me to take it?)

Whereupon another guy immediately pulled up and told me he would try for a kilometer, I had my doubts because he was breathing pretty hard but off he went and he was gone.

7 km - 3:50 (buddy must have run under 3:40 on that one)

So I continued to effectively lead our little group with buddy way off the front:

8 km - 4:05 (uphills begin)
9 km - 4:06
10 km - 4:12 (solid uphill)

At this point the pace felt comfortably hard and I was very pleased to be working within this little group. I got behind the original tall leader again along with another guy we swallowed up and felt content to ride this little train for as long as possible. I felt quite certain that although I might not be able to finish at this pace, that I had not gone out very much over my head.

11 km - 4:10 (continuing uphill)

At this point I got passed by a woman and moved into second which honestly did not bother me. Mostly I was just happy to have more company in the pack.

12 km - 4:08 (yes, uphill)

Right around here the pace started transitioning from comfortably hard to hardly comfortable and my little train started breaking apart. The first place woman started pulling away. Two of the guys sort of went with her but couldn't keep up and just got strung out, another guy stopped due to what looked like a back problem and suddenly our little train was gone. I was feeling less "Little Engine that could" and more Whingy Whiner.

13 km - 4:07 (still ostensibly in the zone but feeling oh, so bad)
14 km - 4:14 (steepest km of the race)
15 km - 4:17

At this point the course is a gentle downhill until the finish and I had imagined myself easily running 3:55s - 3:57s over this portion to compensate for what I was sure would be a slower pace on the uphills.

16 km - 4:21 (first downhill km)

I decided that that was a blip and that now that I was on the final stretch which was thankfully gravel (and downhill), I would for sure start hitting sub-4s.

17 km - 4:11

When I saw 4:11, I thought for sure that they had mis-marked the km. Yes, PPC wasn't running slower than planned, THAT km MUST have been long.

18 km - 4:14

That one too.

19 km - 4:15

And that one.

20 km - 4:11

Oh... forget it!!

21 km - 4:07

last 100 m - 21 seconds.

Total time, as mentioned above, 1:27:32.

About which I can only say CRAP. I honestly believe I was fit for sub-1:26. I did not wimp out mentally, I was working hard the whole way. I am not sure where those extra 90 seconds came from. It wasn't a cardio problem, my breathing was fine until the last 100 m when I was really trying to kick... it was a muscular thing. My legs were just trashed. By the time I got to the downhills, I couldn't take advantage of them because I was just too tired muscularly. I actually ran slower on the downhills than on the ups.

If I had to guess I would say I was lacking longer runs in my build up; I did 2 hours once and probably 7-8 90 minute runs... I probably would have benefited from more 2 hour runs to build that muscular endurance but honestly my training program, humble as it was, strained my family more than is acceptable so...  it is what it is. More manageable would have been to lose some weight before this half; there is no denying that every extra pounds (down to a certain physiologic limit) is extra weight carried and time added. It's straight forward physics and I trained at and raced at close to 8 pounds over my ideal weight. 8 pounds a lots of minutes makes. I just finished reading The Secret Race which is a tell-all book about the world of elite cycling and I was amazed at how closely elite cyclists monitor their weight and restrict their diet. The cyclist about whom the book was written talks of going on 5 hours rides and then drinking sparking water to fool his stomach into thinking it is full, taking a sleeping pill and going to sleep to avoid eating until the next day. In fact, he even goes so far as to say given the choice between having access to more EPO or losing weight he would always chose the latter because the effect is so important. It was a pretty wild read and astonishing to me how closely they can predict improvements in performance based on weight loss.... anyhow my take home messages are, if I am really serious about running fast over the half marathon but am not willing to take any more time away from my family or lose anymore sleep than I am going to need:

1) more 120 minute runs pushing the children in the stroller if necessary
2) less chocolate cake
3) EPO

yeah, I`ll probably leave it at 1 & 2... after a nice, long break that is.


  1. So..this means you have qualified for the NYC marathon doesn't it?? To me as a mediocre runner a time of a minute or so is okay...but it seems your ability permits you to analyse every if the outcome means losing a pound for the next big event I'd be backing diet changes ahead of more exercise any day (well, I mean I would PREFER to have the time to do more exercise but then the big picture of overall health, adrenal fatigue and poor sleep come into play...whereas a few changes to diet can be made with only willpower being exerted :) ) Enjoy the recovery and chocolate cake for now!

  2. I'm just still trying to wrap my head around being disappointed by this time. But my solution to everything these days is to run an ultra trail marathon. If you train for one of these, run one and then come back to running a road half, I bet you'll suddenly be back closer to your old half times. I would also love to see what your training plan is like. I (yes this is SLG) don't think losing weight is the answer. I think variety in your training is the answer. It is really hard for me to give advice when I don't know what your current strategy is, but of course we know there is a lot of untapped potential and it is a question of unlocking it again. It is so hard for me NOT to say congrats to a 1:27!! You are still in incredible shape, but there is no reason not to believe you can't run a 1:20 again.

  3. Still a great race! You seem to know your body and pacing and how to properly train much better than I do but here's my theory (for the little it's worth) on why you didn't hit the time your training indicated you could hit.... when you settled into that guy's pace instead of your own early on, your legs settled into that slightly slower pace and once you do that for a few miles its hard to pick it back up to the top end of the pace the legs are truly capable of - at least this is what I sometimes find. So there you go!

    And yes, actually running this past weekend was the easiest and least stressful thing I did. Managing the kids in the hotel room, car and a strange environment was exhausting!