Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Race Report: Pacific Roadrunners 'First Half' 1/2 Marathon

Great race! It was a cold morning, but beautiful and sunshiney: perfect late winter racing conditions. I mentioned in my previous post that I hadn't given this race much thought, so I wasn't entirely sure of the route or what to expect of the race itself. I didn't realize it was as big as it was. I assumed smaller given how quickly it sold out. And after looking at the map briefly, I imagined it going exactly in the opposite direction that it did. Haha! In a way, it was nice to have given such little thought to the race leading up to it. I knew there was a half coming and trained accordingly, rested accordingly this week too. But I didn't get tempted to over-think it or question my preparation. It did help, I think, although I still arrived with a normal dose of pre-race jitters.

I started out well and strong but I was getting really annoyed with the number of people on such a narrow course. It took about half the race before the crowds thinned out to a point where I felt like I had the space I needed. I remember there being a crowd even when I crossed the 10km split mat. There were many instances of feeling like we were all constantly cutting one another off and it was hard to find a proper groove. While this was a fast course and a great race to start the year with, the crowds are reason enough for me to consider whether I want to do this one again next year. We'll see. I also arrived to the start line a little later than I would have liked so I was near the back of the pack to start, meaning I had a lot of slower runners to pass at the start of the race.

Don't get me wrong, I had fun! Just wasn't ideal racing conditions at all times. There was a great atmosphere, a great energy, good race organization, quick race timing results, great post-race 'party' (food and prizing!), and an unparalleled "flatness and fastness" for a race course. And of course, there's something special about being part of the very first half marathon of the year!! But I didn't like the narrow course with the number of runners there. I also didn't like how congested it got at the aid stations; I carried my own GU Brew in my bottle and didn't need to stop at the aid stations at all, but with all the congestion, there was no way to simply continue running through. I lost a few seconds and lots of momentum at every one because of people ahead of me slowing or stopping to drink. And the swag, I'm always happy to get a free tech shirt and a medal. In fact for some races, that's a major factor in drawing our attention. But here, neither of them for this race were anything to write home about.

Like my last half marathon race, I felt strong throughout. I definitely feel like I have more overall strength and even when pushing myself, I have the ability to keep good posture and good breathing. This distance is now one I'm more than comfortable with and anytime I sensed I was slowing down (or my Garmin told me I was), I was able to dig in easily and find a surge of energy. I was consistent with my pacing until the 18km mark. I was slow for that km, and I recall telling myself to push knowing how close the finish was. I was able to speed up, but had a slow 20th km too with the tiniest of inclines getting me after 20km of pancake flat course. These were the only kms the entire race where I needed more than 6min. The rest were consistently around the 5:25-5:35 mark. Those two kms of "weakness" are ones I can learn from, and avoid next time.

Once I turned the corner and could see the finish, my watch chimed to tell me I had reached 2 hours. It willed me to run as hard as I could to the finish. My friend Quinton was there at the finish doing timekeeping so he was able to give me my official time right away - 2:01:38. So no, I didn't get a sub-2-hour half marathon, but I'm so close now, I know with absolute certainty that I can do it. I took almost 2 minutes off my previous best half marathon (at the Fall Classic last November), which is pretty substantial after only 3 months. I have no fear of my running plateauing - I continue to improve.

With my newest race bling for my collection.

Next half marathon will be the April Fool's Run on April 7th. That one I plan to run more as a fun training run, as its nestled right in the heart of my marathon training. There won't be any opportunity to taper or rest beforehand. In fact, the race will be an "easier" training run, being shorter than my long runs in that segment of my training calendar; I think I'm running 26+km each of the Sundays on either side of this race. So I might somehow find it in me to push harder than a training run, just not go quite at race pace. We'll see!

I'll have the Fall Classic again this year to try for sub-2, but I would like to try to find one more race where I can give it another go. Maybe something in the summer, between marathons. November is simply too far away!

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