Monday, September 19, 2011

Postmortem of a Half Marathon

Well, first of all, all I have to say is PR, PR, PR!!! If you can't tell, I am a little excited by that. I sure didn't expect a PR at all, but the best part of achieving it is that I didn't intend to.

Basically, I went into Sunday's half-marathon "tune-up" race with a plan, and I stuck to it. In fact, I was so intent on following my plan that I didn't look at my watch during the run. There was no need. The plan simply stated that I was going to run the first three miles and then switch to a 3:30-to-40 seconds Galloway-style run/walk. Towards the end, if I felt good, I would run the rest of the way in starting from whichever point I "felt good."

I am happy with how I executed my race plan, and I feel I achieved all the goals I set out for myself. In starting the event running the first 5K straight through, I wanted to try for an easy pace based on perceived effort, not on time. My normal MO when the gun goes off is to charge full speed ahead until about a quarter mile down the road, when I poop out completely exhausted. I didn't want that to happen this time so I tried to pay attention to my breathing and not let it get too out of hand. I also borrowed a trick from Pikes Peak and purposely didn't pass anyone right away. If I found myself behind a slower person, I just tucked in behind them and tested that pace out for a while. I figured if people had lined up appropriately in their starting corrals, then I couldn't be going too slowly.

At the 5K point, I switched over to my run/walk strategy. Although I am curious how I would do just running a half marathon straight through, I supposed two weeks before a marathon was not the time to try it out. The time intervals I chose were kind of custom made based on my experience with my training runs, and it was tried out for the first time this past Sunday. Most of my long runs had been done at a 4-minute run to 1-minute walk. In some of my long runs I had played with stretching that out a bit - doing a 6:1 run/walk. However, I found that in running the six minute segments I was always looking at my watch with one or two minutes left to go. So, at the suggestion of my husband, I tried breaking the 6:1 up so that I would instead do a 3 minutes to 30 seconds interval. (Same time, smaller increments.) The 3:30-to-40 that I finally ended up with came from trial and error and finding out what worked best for me. Anyway, I did the run/walk for 8.5 miles at which point I ran the final 1.5 miles in.

The most amazing thing to me was my pace. Based on perceived effort, I thought I was running maybe a bit faster than my typical 10 or 11 minute mile, but my running times show that I was more solidly in the 9-minute range. My first three miles were done in 9:22, 9:20, and 9:11, respectively. During the run/walk, my fastest run segment was at 8:41 pace and my slowest at 10:03. Most were solidly between 9 and 9:30. Even my last mile and a half, which I ran, was done in under a 10-minute mile. Where I apparently bombed was in the last third of a mile of the event where I finally hit the wall. I did that .3 at a 10:58 pace.

Happily, even my walk breaks were respectable. I had set a goal of not dawdling on the walks, and I think I achieved that. My fastest walk was done at a 12:34 pace and my slowest at a 15:36.

During the event I tried my hardest not to look at my watch, and I guess that's why when I crossed the finish line in the time I did it was such a happy surprise. The only clue I had that I was going faster than normal was that at around mile 5 I heard a lady tell her running partner that if they kept their pace until mile 7, they could lose 5 seconds per mile after that and still have a 2:05. It probably goes without saying that I tried my darndest to keep them in sight from there on out. I did lose sight of them eventually, but maybe that is what pulled me along.

Nutrition-wise, I once again stuck to the 100 calories every 30 minutes, which meant a GU before the race and then two more GUs and three Cliff blocks during. The nice thing about finishing ahead of schedule is that it meant one less GU/block product. I really can't stand them.

The day itself was awesome. Better weather could not be had for a race - temps in the 50s and sunny skies. Our running club had a VIP tent for the first time at the start of the event, and that was a lot of fun. It was great to have a gathering point for folks to see each other and wish each other good luck beforehand. Also, the amenities (coffee, bagels, GUs, porta-potties) were also great. For the first time ever I got a pre-race massage. The lady who has given me two deep tissue massages before was at our club's tent doing the massages. She worked me over pretty good before the race. Everything was pretty stiff, but she did a good job of loosening up my back and IT bands. After the race I took advantage of the race's post-race massages as well. That was amazing! Two massage therapists worked on my IT bands, quads, glutes, hips, and hamstrings for 10 minutes. Heaven! If only every event had massages!

The only thing I was disappointed in as far as the run goes is that my knee started bothering me - and fairly early on. What is even more annoying is that it was my good knee that was bothering me. I have some patellar tendonitis in my left knee that I am working through, so I consider it a sad thing when that knee is fine for an event, but the "good knee" gripes at mile 3. Luckily, after a few twinges the feeling went away - until the end of the race. Then it really barked at me. During the post-race massage the therapist hit a pretty major knot in my quad, though, which I think mostly took care of the issue. Ouch!

So, that's it for the numbers. A good race. Glad I went. :)

Happy trails!

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