Monday, October 19, 2009

Columbus Half Marathon Race Report

Up until last weekend, I was ready to go all-out for sub-1:37. Then I got sick. I took three days off and only logged about 25 miles for the week. I was feeling mostly recovered by yesterday's race, but threw the sub-1:37 goal out the window and was prepared to be happy with sub-1:40. I figured I would just start running and see what happened.

Mark and carpooled with three others in two vehicles (was going to be six, but one ended up having to drive separately). Jon, Thom, and Shiva were our companions for the weekend. All three were running the full in the hope of qualifying for Boston. Since this was an important goal race for everyone else in our group, I felt the focus was not on me at all, and I didn't really feel nervous. It was a fun drive. We witnessed a high-speed police chase even (car sped by us in the shoulder, followed on the actual roadway a minute later by a police car). Who does that, seriously? It's not like anyone EVER gets away.

We stopped at Fazoli's for lunch and then arrived in Columbus in mid-afternoon. We headed straight to the expo, meeting up with Ben, Steph, Rick, and Melissa (Steph and Rick were also running the full). After packets and shopping (I got two Saucony shirts for the price of one!), we confirmed dinner plans and headed to the hotel.

Dinner was at a place called Bar Louie's. It was excellent. I had Thai-chili salmon, which was basically salmon with Thai stir-fry veggies/sauce and rice. Best restaurant meal I've had in awhile. Thanks to Steph for picking out this restaurant! Next time I'm in Columbus, I will definitely seek it out again.

After dinner we stopped back at the hotel, and then headed back out for a quick trip to pick up breakfast supplies. Well, it wasn't a quick trip due to some bad directions from the hotel clerk, but we finally managed to find the place. We finally got to bed around 1o p.m. We were sharing a room with Jon, and left the wake-up time completely up to him (5:45). In the morning, I had a banana, a few bites of a bagel, and some Gu for breakfast. I really need to work on forcing myself to eat more on race morning. I drank some water too.

The weather was clear, about 33 degrees. It was supposed to warm up only to 36-38 by the end of the race, so I opted for capri tights, a long-sleeve compression shirt, and a short-sleeve shirt over that. I wore gloves and an ear-warmer also.

We left the hotel at a little before 6:30. After a little confusion, we finally parked in a surface lot and walk/jogged for 10 minutes or so to get to the start with about 10 minutes to spare. The start was extremely crowded, with lined-up racers and people in line for the bathrooms all mingling together. There were no corrals or any indication of pace. Pacers were holding up white balloons with the paces written on them, but they were high up, and bobbing up and down, making them impossible read even from close by. Most things about this race seem well done, but their start line set-up needs some serious work. What a clusterfuck. Mark and I split off from the group and worked our way backwards to find shorter bathroom lines. This worked and we were in and out in five minutes, but working back up to the front of the sea of people was impossible.

I started with the walkers and took about 15 minutes to cross the line. I immediately went to the far right and luckily the road was quite wide and I was able to run relatively unencumbered. I was passing walkers for more than 2 miles. The mile markers at the beginning were on the left and I was to the right, so I missed the first mile.

1/2 - 14:28

I realized that I had actually started out a tad too fast. HA! I tried to ease up. I quickly found that settling into a groove was going to be impossible. Constant dodging and weaving.

3 - 7:27

The course narrowed and I found myself in a bottleneck. It was necessary to run in the grass much of the time.

4 - 7:40

We went through some residential neighborhoods with sidewalks, so I hopped up to take advantage of the "express lane." I had to pass everyone there too. Argh! I hope people didn't hate me too much! Still, I had a couple of better, more steady miles.

5 - 7:25
6 - 7:19

Miles 7-8 kinda sucked. Course was still causing me some bottleneck problems. I was getting plumb sick and tired of weaving. The crowds had thinned out a little, but not much.

7 - 7:43
8 - 7:30

The road widened again and I took advantage with a couple of faster miles. I was starting to feel tired and worried that I would crash again at mile 10.

9 - 7:16
10 - 7:26 (new 10-mile PR 1:14:18)

I realized I was through mile 10 about a minute faster than at Capital City, and I still felt like I could hang on. It was so tempting to give up. I really think my mental game in this race wasn't very good overall. It was a little boost to come around a corner and see mile 11.

11 - 7:35

I really lost focus in mile 12. I knew I could go faster, but that annoying little voice kept telling me I could slow down and still PR.

12 - 7:39

With 1.1 to go I finally dug in and got my legs moving again. There was an actual hill in this mile and it was fun to pass people on the way up. I was ready to be done but still feeling strong.

13 - 7:21

Coasted down the hill and managed a respectable sprint to the finish. I think my clock time was 1:5x. Ha. The announcer gave an admirable attempt at pronouncing my name.

13.1 - 0:41
Official Time: 1:37:33 (7:27 pace)

I went through the line and collected a mylar blanket, medal, finishers' fleece hat (very nice), and some water, then ducked aside to wait for Mark. I knew he had been stuck in the back too, and if he hit his goal, he shouldn't be far behind. Sure enough, he came through just a few minutes later. He didn't know his time, but we found out later he ran 1:40, nearly tying my old PR. YAY MARK! We spent about 45 minutes searching for the car; it didn't help that we misread one of the confusing confusing downtown maps. At least it was just a half and I could jog instead of hobble after the race. :) I was cold and shaking and Mark's hands were about to freeze off, but we finally made it to the car and changed into the warm, dry clothes.

We headed straight back out to mile 26 to cheer on the rest of our group. The first person we saw was Rick...on the sideline. The clock time was still sub-3, so we were surprised to see him and I stupidly asked him if he had already finished (his goal was 3:15). Unfortunately, Rick had an injury act up that forced him to pull out at mile 17. He used Mark's phone to call his wife Melissa and then headed off to find her. We stayed and waited nervously for the rest of our group. We cheered for everyone, but missed Jon and Rex.

Finally we swung back by the car and then headed to the finish to find our runners. We gathered in the warmth of one the buildings nearby and traded stories...it turned out to be a pretty tough day for the marathons corps. Jon was on pace for his BQ until mile 23, and then was hit with full-leg cramps. He was forced to walk it in. Shiva and Steph had both been battling injuries and finished around 3:22, short of their goals...but gutsy performances nonetheless. Thom ran a stellar, negative-splitted 3:04 after having a similar problem as me and starting way off the gun. He had been hoping for sub-3.

After showers, we ate lunch at Gordon Biersch, another great recommendation from Steph. The beer was yummy. Shiva and Jon were already talking about running Monumental in a few weeks, and Rick had mentioned that possibility as well. You can't get a good marathoner down! We lingered awhile and then finally hit the road to return home.

Post-Race Thoughts
I'm very pleased with how I did, but wish I could have gotten my splits under control and been better mentally. I know the dodging and weaving probably cost me some time. But even so, I plugged this time into the McMillan calculator, and this is my best running performance ever; it predicts a 21:06 5K, which is one second faster than my PR. It also predicts a 3:25 marathon. It looks as if my goal of 3:30 might be possible if I have a very good day. That will be my A goal, but my realistic B goal will likely be 3:32-33. C goal will probably be just to actually BREAK 3:40. :) Excitement! I kept having to check my watch to make sure the 1:37:xx was real.
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