Monday, September 28, 2009

Capital City River Run Half Marathon

On Friday Mark and I drove up to Michigan, both for a visit with his parents and to run the half marathon, one of the organizers of which is a family friend. The drive up there always turns into an epic journey because apparently the favorite thing to do in both northern Indiana and Michigan is road construction and random, unexplained traffic backups. On no other drive have we come to a dead stop on the interstate so many times for no apparent reason. It's only a little more than 300 miles, but it usually takes us 6.5 to 7 hours to drive. There's nothing like inching forward past signs that say "Speed Limit 70 MPH" when it's past your bedtime and there's still more 100 miles to go.

We FINALLY got there, had a snack, and went straight to bed. Luckily this is a Sunday race, so we slept in to 9 a.m. the next morning, went for a short run (6.4 mi) and had breakfast. Mark's dad is a big Michigan football fan and has season tickets. They went to the Big House for the game (against IU, ha!), and his mother and I went to a movie (Up, which I have seen and she hadn't yet). It's a great movie and I was glad to see it again. Joan enjoyed it too. We got back in time to watch the last quarter of the Michigan/IU game.

Afterwards, we went out for dinner and went to bed soon after--we were waking up at 4:45 in order to get some breakfast and an early start on the 1:15 drive to Lansing for the race. We arrived around 7:30 and got shirts/bibs with no trouble. My new last name makes for easy locating on bib number lists, and low numbers (7!). I got a 15-minute warmup in and then we jogged to the start.

I was not sure what to expect from the race. My only real speedwork recently has been 2 tempo runs totalling 9 miles. The only other miles I've run under 8:00/mile were 8 MP miles at 7:58 a few weeks ago. Otherwise it's all been easy LSD. I know from last cycle that this works for me, but I didn't feel sharp and I didn't feel confident in my ability to run much faster than 8s for 13 miles. I always want to go for a PR, but I knew that probably wouldn't be in the cards for this one. Columbus has always been the secondary goal race of the season. This one was more for fun, at the suggestion of the family friend, and an opportunity to visit family.

Then there was the matter of the week preceding this race. I didn't want to sacrifice any workouts toward the bigger goal of Philly, so I wanted to keep the mileage right up. No taper to speak of. Because of the two days I took off the week prior, I had backloaded that week. Then I frontloaded the week preceding the race, so as to give myself a bit of extra rest. As a result, my 7-day total on the Wednesday before the race was 90 miles. Ouch. For me, that's a LOT. The two calendar weeks ended up at 64.3 and 68.0, which really masks the insanity of those 7 days. I ran a tempo run as part of a 16-miler (partly by accident...see my last post) on the Monday before. I hit 7:40 pace and it did not feel easy.

What I'm trying to get at in my rambling way is that I've never come close to running this much before, and I was feeling it. And I felt SLOW.

So I started in the race and just ran. I hit my watch at mile 1 and saw a 7:40. Well, that wasn't so bad. In fact, I was feeling good and thought maybe I'd speed up a little. A little too much actually! I missed mile 2 and at mile 3 realized I'd run 14:17 for two miles. At that point I just figured, the heck with it...I ran how I felt and just hit my watch for the splits. And they were varied. Miles 2-3 were fastest, but I ran a 7:20 quite late. This wasn't a race in which to hit a groove...this was a race to experiment and FIND that groove. I tried on paces like shoes. It was kind of fun to not worry so much about the end result and just run.

And of course, that took its toll at about mile 10. I actually came darn close to my 10-mile PR, but I was done. I knew I could basically call it in for the last 5K and run a 1:45 or so...a very good time, and my hard-fought PR from a year and a half ago. But I also thought this was a good opportunity to practice running marathon pace in an end-race-situation. Mile 10 was 8:00 and I just wanted to keep that up. Miles 11 and 12 did end up in the 7:50s, but then mile 13 slipped to 8:20ish. I picked it up a bit, finished, and saw that I'd PRed by 2 seconds with a 1:40:22. Ahhh, if only I'd kept up those 7:55s for one more mile, I'd be under 1:40! But truly, I am VERY pleased for a number of reasons.

Let's compare my previous 1:40 to this 1:40. In February I was in the middle of a painstaking marathon buildup. I had a very solid, long-term base. Six weeks earlier, I had a run a huge 10-mile PR. I averaged 62.7 miles in the 8 weeks before the race. The week preceding the race, I ran 41.8 miles and no speedwork, the longest run of which was 12 miles. It was a true mini-taper. I was gunning for 7:40 pace from the outset.

Right now, I'm coming off a shaky base. When I went back to get my 8-week average before CC, I realized that 8 weeks out I ran 15.3 miles, and that was just about what I was running for many weeks of the summer. The miles were higher since I started marathon training, but the 8-week average is 56.7. Six weeks ago I was very excited about simply making it through a 14-mile long run, and it felt like a 20-miler. The week preceding this race--well, I've already talked about that. Ouch. As I've mentioned, I had no clue what to pace for and ended up just doing them all--LOL!

Now let's compare the races themselves. Last Chance for Boston is a one-mile loop on perfectly flat ground. It's like time trial with race-day magic thrown in. Not only was pacing very easy, with every quarter mile marked, but there was nothing to break my rhythm and the mental part was very easy.

Capital City features a twisty, turny course, often narrow, with a variety of running surfaces, including asphalt, concrete, bricks, boardwalks, and dirt. No real hills, but a few inclines just big enough to make the legs whine. I actually really enjoyed it. It's a fun, interesting, scenic course, but I would NOT call it a PR course. I am grateful that my "fun" race fell to this course, and my secondary goal race will be at Columbus, which is in fact supposed to be a PR course.

We could even look at the weather. In February it was cold (duh!). Yesterday it was cool (55-60), but VERY humid (90-100%). I didn't feel like it bothered me that much, but most likely it did have an effect.

So, as you can see, I'm pretty stoked for Columbus. I feel that as long as I continue training well and avoid illness/injury, do a real mini-taper, execute a sensible race, and with a little luck in the weather department, I can sustain 7:20-7:25 pace and run a 1:37 half.
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