Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Monumental Half Marathon Recap

In sum: Ran 1:32:45 for the half marathon. Cold wasn't as terrible as advertised, I fell apart for the middle miles but rebounded and my immediate post-race perspective is never satisfied, even when it should be. Thanks, Indy!


Hey, that's me and my face doesn't appear to be melting in an agonizing state. FRAME IT!

Should I start from the beginning, it will be a foul-mouthed complaint that emphasizes a dour few miles and the pretty nice finish line hat that followed. Instead, I’ll work my way backwards.

As I was taking off from my hotel at noon for the post-race club meet-up spot, I spotted John, a ridiculously fast marathon finisher, and we discussed our efforts as we wandered the few blocks towards the restaurant.  I hadn't actually vocalized my thoughts on my race at that point,  and was sincerely trying to shake my butt hurt feelings of disappointment given I did not achieve my aggressive goal for the day, but I summed it up thusly:

“I know I shouldn't be unhappy with finishing 90 seconds off what I felt like I should have done today, because it sounds like I’m complaining for complaining’s sake.”

His response? “Yeah, that is how it sounds.” It was nice to hear that, honestly. Stopped thinking about it and we went on and he talked about how he fuels during a race and practices during training on the remainder of our jaunt. My utter disgust of bananas should be internationally known BECAUSE THEY ARE GROSS BEYOND REASON, but I was curious how someone can consume part of one during a 26 mile stretch at sub eight minute pace. As someone who struggled with blocks and jelly beans before settling on gels whilst running, race-based mastication is a honed skill I do not possess.

I ordered a locally-brewed Golden Zoe IPA (As club member Ken said from across the table, “You kind of had no choice, did you,” which I really didn't…it was delicious), and as the waitress came back with a few mason jars of water, the one placed in front of me freakishly shattered on the bottom, drenching my lap as it poured off the table top. Wet jeans may be one of life’s greatest peeves, but it didn't bother me.

And that’s when it hit me: I ran a pretty great race and was in a rather good mood because of it.

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After driving in near white-out conditions through West Lafayette (which, strange!) and rain the rest of the way down I-65, I headed to the pre-race pasta dinner after nabbing my bib from the expo. Had it been the standard-issue, Midwestern fall evening you envision for Halloween delight and merriment, it wouldn't have been a problem that it was held outside, in a walled tent. But alas, it was given the blustery conditions at hand.  Ate a meal that felt too high school pasta party-esque with my club mates and booked it back to my room to warm up. Iced my foot a bit, thought about what a 1:31 half would feel like as I dumped every piece of clothing on my bed trying to figure out what to wear, and called it a night.

Met up with a few others who were staying in the same hotel…to meet up with some other members staying in a different hotel. These are all extremely nice, friendly and genuine people. They also happen to be older than I am. Which isn't a bad thing! On occasion, though, there’s a divide present that even a shared love of racing can’t gap and I sometimes feel out of place. Though I will admit when a 70-something barrels past a poor hotel worker to get to the bathrooms past the lobby which are supposed to be off-limits to the masses, it’s nice to be with the guy that clearly gives no fucks and not use a port-a-potty when its 30 degrees out. Thank you, Bob.

There are many Bobs, actually.
Photos courtesy the ever-joyous Penny (center), who went out with us prior the the start. Beth (left) ran a PR.

I knew it wasn't going to be that bad out given the initial feeling upon my cheeks wasn't that of harshly-chilled cold, just a cool morning out in the pre-dawn darkness, which made me feel a lot better mentally. Wearing a long sleeve and wind pants I was planning to give away and did the toss just prior to the start thing was probably the difference-maker in never feeling cold beforehand. Shook out, moved up into the general corral space of choice where I could see the 3:05 pacer sign, and off went the gun.

The goal was to stay with the pacer through where the half and full courses split apart after the seventh mile mark, and then do whatever I felt was going to work to bring it home, as that seemed to be the most reasonable and solid option given my penchant for going out too fast.

We went out much faster than I anticipated.

Mile 1: 6:44
Mile 2: 6:58
Mile 3: 6:46

Because I am an idiot, true to form it didn't feel bad to start off that quickly, but I didn't like the notion that sub-6:50 miles were falling in the first quarter of the race. I DNS’d my other two half marathon races this year, the Wisconsin ½ in May on account of my foot status being unclear and the Moraine Hills ½ last month on account of the weather not making it worth the trek to McHenry, so I think it’s safe to note the lack of race sharpness whereas this distance is concerned. I should have backed off more, but I felt we settled in and I didn't want to stare at my wrist the whole time. I miss the notion of not being bound or dictated by a GPS watch, so I think I may turn off the alerts moving forward.

Mile 4: 7:04

Mile four felt great as there were only a few turns and there was a bit of crowd noise (which I’m always surprised by how much that amps me up, what a sucker), and as I felt I was settling in,  I felt a side-stitch approach. I usually get them up higher, in the center of my rib-cage and can breathe them out, but this was on my side. Nothing different in my routine, nothing out of sorts consumed, so I didn't really worry about it at first. Thought about my breathing and how it would dissipate soon enough.

Mile 5: 7:12
Mile 6: 7:39
It didn't. It was sharp and pokey and I got really angry and guilty for wanting this to be a solid run from start to finish, and that suddenly seemed like it wasn't going to be the case. Slowed and the pacing group drifted on by. When the pace leader sign-holder guy stated, “Way to go” to someone who severely over-thinks everything, it sounded like it was said in a tone lathered in pity and I let it rattle me. Accidentally grabbed Gatorade, which I don’t drink whilst racing and threw the cup away, so I was over-thinking the lack of liquid then, too. Got water at the next station and took most of my gel with a scowl on my face. There was seemingly no one around me, all off ahead and down the road. Life was horrible, fucking Circle City is just a gnarled pile of missed opportunity.

As the 10k timing mats loomed a few blocks ahead, two guys came up along beside me, the first noticeable bodies in my orbit for a while. Decided to stick with them and we ran three abreast, chatted a bit. I find I talk to myself a lot more than a sane person should, so it was nice to have some momentary company. They were both doing the marathon, with the right-most gent adorned in a sweater vest that got him adoration from supporters along the curb. His siblings were running up ahead, but he has the family PR and wasn't too worried about it. The guy I was next to noted how he sounds drunk when he speaks in the cold and his hands look ridiculous in forever unpleasant race photos as we passed by an overhead photo station.  

I mean, when you oddly wear your gloves, what do you expect, guy?

Mile 7: 7:17

Felt a lot more relaxed and at ease after connecting with them for the mile-ish +, discussing the presence of beer on a course and what we were looking forward to in the aftermath. Side stitch had finally gone away while with the tandem, too. Thanked them profusely as the course split approached. “Thank you both for helping me get my head out of my ass.” Gloved guy gave me a fist bump and told me to go negative split the thing.

Mile 8: 7:11
Mile 9: 7:13

Calmed down instead of let the tailspin take over because I wanted to. Before the 10k point, I was mentally bemoaning the costs of the trip and how a poor race correlated to it not being worthwhile. I wanted it to be worthwhile. So slowly chipped away, working my way back into a pace that worked.

Haven’t mentioned the wind as it wasn't as harsh as the forecast predicted, but it was prevalent in bursts every once in a while to the point that I felt chilled, the kind that makes you facially wince. Not having many bodies around, not having some random block the wind when it made its presence known wasn't fun in this stretch of the course.

Right before the 9 mile mark was the north-most point of the journey, and having a slight understanding of the course layout meant I knew that we were finally reaching the straight shot southbound around that point, which was a nice boost.

I am NOT smiling for the camera. I am laughing maniacally at myself, wondering out loud if the photographer captured my TEXTBOOK glorious snot rocket on film.

Mile 10: 6:56
Mile 11: 7:04
Mile 12: 6:54
Mile 13: 6:53
Finish: :48

Really nice. Combined with a bit of a decline, I felt like I was moving well again. From right before mile 10 to the last little looplet hook to the finish was all on the same street and I felt powerful. Perceived effort mattered more. Knew I could finish in control and wasn't going to fall apart.

Reached the final turn, maybe 150 meters to the timing mats, and gave it a shot to kick past a guy who pulled away when we pulled up even around that bend. Went to the well one last time but just couldn't pull past him. Looked at the full results and forever know that a Dusty Israel out-kicked me.

Proof of Dusty.


I work in an IT department and the cardstock Master's degree I posses states NEW MEDIA, but physical exertion be DAMNED. Needs to be on paper to resonate.

Went through the 10k at 7:07 pace, overall 7:05 average. Don’t recall passing 12 bodies in the process, either, so that’s a nice boost to the ever-fragile ego as well.

A 12:34 minute PR should be more much satisfying than that which I felt afterwards, but between how I haven’t raced a half in a year, how I've been progressing at the shorter distances and my training has been more focused than it ever has been this fall, I expected to come away with a time that meant such would transpire.   
Still know that I’m capable of dipping under 1:30, and I’ll give it a go in a few weeks time. Have a pair of long runs remaining for a last-gasp endurance boost, along with some focused speed work and can do better on my tempo runs beyond perceived effort. I can go out a lot more conservatively and am not really scared or feel hindered by the shifting cooler weather. I know I can run fast, I just need to run smarter and not put the cart ahead of the horse. Because like bananas, horses suck.

I am very excited for this weekend’s cross country race. As always, more to follow.

3 comments:

  1. Congrats on the massive PR. Way to reel things in after a fast start! Too bad about not out-kicking Dusty. Maybe next time? :)

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  2. Thank you! I'll hopefully put my lessons learned to practice....one day.

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    1. The main thing I know that works for me for the "silly half marathon" distance is to negative split. Big time, in fact. The first mile of my now untouchable PR was 7 minutes. My last mile was a sub-6. Anyway, I am running the Schaumburg half too, if my sore Achilles heel "heals" by then.

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