Note: I’m posting all my old, pre-blog race reports.  Here’s how my second half marathon went.

What: Oktoberfest Half Marathon
When: Sunday October 26, 2014 9am
Where: Pennypack Park, Philadelphia, PA
Time: 1:51:42.5
Pace: 8:32 min/mile
Place: 123/572
AG (M40-49) Place: 23/59

Total and Complete Epic Fail

This was supposed to be a standard, run of the mill training run. Last weekend represented my peak mileage weekend for this training cycle. The race was miles 38-50 since 5am Saturday so my strategy going in was to go out easy (3 miles at MAF heart rate) and then run whatever felt comfortable. I had already run parts of this course before so was planning on 11-12 minute miles to start out and then settling in to about a 10 minute pace. This was the smart, low risk way to run the race. This is what I should have done.

You can see by my time and pace above that I didn’t come remotely close to executing this plan. Frankly, it didn’t even last 200 yards. As soon as my watch started chirping at me that my heart rate was too high; I slowed to a walk, shook my head that it was way too early for this (even though this worked perfectly for my last race!), then immediately started jogging again. I caught up with Kate,who had moved ahead of me, in the parking lot and told her I felt like running. She encouraged me so I took off. I guess it’s all her fault then. My legs were tired a day later, but not absolutely destroyed so I think I made it through the experience without hurting myself. Better lucky than good I guess.

Let’s Get it On!

I turned my heart rate alarm off, hit the paved path, and started to run. A bunch of coworkers had signed up for the race and we all started in the third of 3 waves. So by the time I started running, virtually the entire field of runners was in front of me. I said hey as I passed each of them and everyone seemed to be doing well. One of the reasons I went off plan so early was that my legs felt pretty good despite all the miles I had already put on them. My watch showed a split of 9:47 at mile 1, which was quicker than I really wanted to be running but it didn’t feel too bad. Mile 2 had me in the mid-8s and this is when I knew my plan was completely and utterly out the window. I passed my last co-worker Bill during mile 3. He asked our pace and I told him we were running 8:17. We both agreed that this was too fast, yet on ahead I pushed. About a mile later I noticed Ryan ahead of me who was the only coworker that I hadn’t passed yet.

Comfortably Hard

I was steadily passing people (running just off the path when it was blocked) and figured it was only a matter of time until I reeled Ryan in. I got a little closer to him over the next mile or so, but then couldn’t quite bridge the gap. Ryan, myself, and this other lady steadily passed people, singularly and in packs, for the next 5 miles. It’s funny how you can get into a rhythm with other runners without even trying. The three of us were probably never more than 50 yards apart over this span, however yo-yo-ed back and forth a bit.

It was in here that I noticed that I was running “comfortably hard”. It wasn’t an easy pace, but it wasn’t an all out effort either. I felt like I was working, but not so hard that I couldn’t maintain the pace for an extended period. In hindsight, mile 5 was when I moved from comfortable to a hard effort. This is also when I started counting down the miles. When I’m running easy, I never give thought to how much farther I have to go. It’s just an in the moment, having a blast kind of thing. But on Sunday, I counted down each of the last 8 miles.

Fade to Black

I was clocking mid- to low-8 minute miles through mile 8. Mile 9 is when I started to fade a bit. We had moved from the paved path onto a nice little trail section about mile 7 and I was enjoying the change. Most of those I spoke with afterward didn’t seem to like the trail section, however it was far from technical (maybe a 3 on a scale of 1-10). I much prefer trails to road/paved sections so was my favorite part of the race. I started to lose sight of Ryan ahead of me and noticed my pace had slowed to high 8s. I very briefly entertained the thought of pushing to keep pace, but quickly remembered that this was only supposed to be a training run for me. This may have been the one thing that kept me from injuring myself. I decided to just maintain my level of effort from this point on and accept the slowing of pace. I don’t want to imply that I had multiple gears left at this point. If I had wanted to, I probably could have saved a couple minutes of finishing time but that’s about it.

Personal Records

This was the second time I have ever run a half marathon. Going in, I honestly didn’t think I had a shot of going sub 2 hours let along breaking my half marathon PR of 1:51. I checked my pace at mile 7 and noticed that the 8:30 pace was right on track to match it. I never gave it another thought though the rest of the race and was surprised to see that I came up only 16 seconds short of setting a new PR for the distance. And I couldn’t care less largely because I’ve run half marathon splits in the 1:40s three times in 2 of my flatter marathons. So it’s not like I don’t know I’m quite a bit faster than that time. I’ve just never raced 13.1 miles in the 2 years since I set the PR in my first race. I don’t have much interest in races these days less than 30 miles so it’s likely I’ll never break this record.

I can see a point in the not too distant future where time goals go by the wayside entirely. That’s not to say I wouldn’t like a “good time” in the races, it’s just that running the distances themselves are challenging enough that you don’t have to layer on added goals like finishing in X amount of time. The courses are also so varied that the times aren’t even remotely comparable even at the same distance. Or maybe I’m just telling myself this because I’m on the wrong side of 40 and my times are going to start getting slower pretty soon regardless of what I do. Overall, a great race and a fun time. I just hope I haven’t had all my great runs before I even get to my A race. We’ll know in 4 weeks. . . .

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