Saturday, September 14, 2013

2013 Navy / Air Force Half Marathon Race Report . . .

. . . or, how I "cast my ego adrift," and just "glided" for a race.

YES THOSE WERE PUNS, I'M DEALING WITH SOME SRS DRAMA IN MY LIFE, OK????

 Anyway.

The Navy / Air Force Half Marathon is done! 

I signed up for this race just after doing the 2013 Cherry Blossom, and thought it would be (1) a nice "check how I'm doing" type race pre-Marine Corps Marathon, and (2) it is very close to the CB10 course, which I both love, and is conveniently located near my home, which makes getting to the start an easy task (no need for bag check, get a little more sleep).

Packet pickup at Bolling AFP was smooth, although they were very strict about you having to bring a copy of your registration receipt (you can log into the website and reprint it), along with ID.  But, once there, the expo was minimally populated, and I had my race bib within minutes of arrival.

The race expo was small.  There was one table of a guy selling gear/Gu/etc, but it was enough for me, as his prices were fine.  So, the only task left was planning out how to race this.

I had a couple of problems:

1.  A tight(ish) hamstring from doing a lot of track work, and
2.  My ego.

I'm not used to doing races where I pay for the opportunity to run a race, and then DON'T give my all.  I wouldn't run VO2 max the whole time, of course, but I normally go hard, and go hard from mat to mat.  But, it made no sense for this race.

The trick HAD to be to see if all my summer long runs had helped any, and in particular if the downward performance I'd been noticing was related to hot weather or overtraining.  So, before the race had even started, I'd planned to fail.

"Fail," is an ugly word.  But I guess what I mean is that I was going to step on a starting race mat KNOWING I could demolish my old PR for a Half Marathon, and would CHOOSE not to do so.

But the thing is, I want a sub-4 hour marathon finish so badly, that it was time for my Ego to deal.

The (ship's) bells sounded, and off we went:

It really wasn't so bad. The first 6 miles or so were basically me just holding myself slightly faster than a sub-4 marathon pace, probably around 9:05 per mile. I felt like I could do that pretty much all day.  I will say that I DID find it amusing to hear so many people around me wheezing and struggling for air at their pace.  Sheesh, is that how --I-- sound when I'm running an 8:20 something??  Eek.  But, I just chugged along, and had only mild concern that my heart rate increased -- just a tick -- at mile 7.

I'm not sure, however, that miles 7-10 weren't just adrenaline.  Because, I'd decided that it was fair for me to run the final 5K (3.1 miles) harder than the trot I was doing.  I know that finishing some long runs fast is a training technique, so I didn't think it was THAT awful of a decision.  Serendipity at mile 10 helped.

What I mean is that there was a timing mat at mile 10, so that meant I could run the last 3.1 miles and get a decent idea of what I had left.  The advantage was that I'd get two very distinct splits for post-race evaluation.

But, I hit the mile 10 mark under the magic sub-4 hour marathon pace, and then took off, figuring I'd satisfied my scientific curiosity about my training, but with my ego ready to at least make a show of things. I passed a LOT of familiar faces who had passed me during the course of the race earlier. No one I tried to pass held me off, but then again, I was probably so far back that anyone who COULD have held me off was probably already done with the race!  It was weird.  I'd start to overtake people in clumps of 2, 3, even 4 at a time.  Sometimes, a single runner would start to accelerate, and I'd hear his/her breathing get (even) louder.  But, I just kept cruising, made sure I was taking short strides to protect my knees, and each one would fall away in less than a minute.

I finished just under 1:57 (I think), so about 8:55 pace overall, so under the magic required 9:09 pace to reach a sub-4. This definitely helps me understand that the long slow weekend runs are doing SOMETHING for me. There were a lot of heavy breathers around me for the first 10 miles, and I didn't really feel taxed at that pace, so it was interesting to listen to them. 

This race required me to check my ego at the start line, knowing I could easily PR, yet choosing not to, because I have to think long term (as in 26.2 long term!).  This seriously might have been one of the most mature race-related decisions I'd ever made.  I can only hope it pays off.

Overall:  Just under 1:57, an 8:55 pace.
1st 10 miles:  Just over 1:31, a 9:06 pace (good practice for a 9:09 pace in 6 weeks?)
Last 3.1 miles:  Under 26 minutes, under an 8:20 pace (male ego!)

The good of this race:  Downtown location, nice time of year, and scenic views.  Packet pickup was a snap, despite being on an AFB.

The bad of this race:  I'm nearly 100% certain the mile 2 marker was misplaced.  I didn't even hit "lap" on my watch the first time I saw it, and when we looped back around to it, I was only at mile 1.8 -- that's WAY off.  Judging by others' reactions, I wasn't the only one concerned with its placement.  Also, one mile marker just plain wasn't there.  I think it was the mile 7 or 8 marker.  Yuck.

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