Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Jacksonville Banks 1/2 Marathon, PR attempt

My running career started with the 2008 OBX 1/2 Marathon, which I finished in 2:09 with minimal training. 3 month later, I ran the Myrtle Beach 1/2 Marathon in February of 2009 with with even less training, and struggled for a 1 min PR at 2:08. That turned out to be the last time I raced a 1/2 marathon.

Fast forward to March of 2011, I signed up as an alternate pacer for the Tobacco Road 1/2. On race morning, I wasn't needed but I was dressed and ready so my good friend Gary talked me into running with him as pacers for the 2:00 pace group. I didn't want tell him I have never ran a 1/2 that fast. To my amazement, it was not difficult and I ran forward, backward, knocked over cones, talked to runners going for PR's, sprinted to take pictures and finished in 1:59:58.

In general I hate running fast and do not care for racing hard. I prefer long slow runs on trails. Even my "goal" races are long slow runs where the cardiovascular system is not stressed. However that pacing run at TRM got me curious on what I could do for a 1/2.

Fast forward to November of 2011. After Jade finished Medoc Marathon and I finished Mountain Masochist, she wanted a winter 1/2 to find out where her fitness is compare to a few years ago. This obviously require a flat race. After some research, we settled for the Jacksonville Banks 1/2 Marathon. I asked her if she wanted me to pace her. I was secretly been lazy and didn't want to have to run fast. She told me to race for myself. Crap, now I have no excuse to not try to run fast.

A couple short tempo attempts at 8 min pace on the Tobacco Road and greenways made me think that 1:45 goal may not be realistic. However after reading Meagan's post about the elite racing, I figured what heck, I'm never gonna find out how fast I can run if I don't gamble and try.

Race day weather is perfect, low 40's at start, some breeze, and expected to get up to high 40's by finish.    We shivered by a big spot light to stay warm before the start.  I lined up next to the marathon's 3:30 pace corral, hoping the sheer momentum of the crowd will not allow me to slow down.  I wore my Umstead Marathon shirt with that big ole tick on the back of my shoulder.  A guy standing next to me asked if I had run that race.  Turned out he did it this year as well for his first marathon.  Very cool, 500 miles from Umstead and I find someone who did the race lined up next to me.

The first three miles I tried to relax and maintain the magical 8 min/mile.  At 3 miles we run by the start/finish and 5K racers peel off, at the same time the 3:30 marathon pacing group catches up to me.    I tuck in next to them and after a mile or so my heart rate was rising faster than I wanted so I let them slowly pull ahead.  However I was able to keep them no more than 15 to 20 seconds ahead of me and keep the HR steady in the mid 160's.

Each mile I give myself a probability of finishing in 1:45.  After 5 miles, the probability has dropped to about 20%.  I simply could not see myself maintaining this pace for another 8 miles.  I grab my first cup of gatorade from the mile 5 aid station and attempted to run and drink at the same time, which ended with about 3/4 of the gatorade dripping down my shirt.  I got wiser at mile 7 aid station and walked while chugging down the gatorade, which puts me back about 30 seconds.  No big deal, the probability of hitting 1:45 just dropped to 10% at this point.

From mile 7 to mile 10 there wasn't any race clocks at mile markers.  The last race clock had me about 35 seconds behind.  A few 2 ft high hills in this section made me gasp, and the HR continued it's slow march toward 170.  The marathon pacing group split off on their own course just past the 8 mile marker, but by now I have found a girl and a guy that were running the exact same pace.  The three of us ended up pacing each other, taking turns leading and drafting from mile 6 to about mile 12.  The mile 11 marker has a race clock and to my surprise, I was 39 seconds off the 1:45 goal.  That meant I only lost about 4 seconds in the previous 4 miles.  There is HOPE!

I took one last sip of water and gatorade at mile 11 aid station, and skipped the aid station at mile 12.  Shortly after mile 12 I leave my tiny pack and figured I was close enough to start punishing myself a bit more.  By now the HR has risen to 174 and no amount of coaxing the watch will make the # go down.  Finally I see in the distance runners turning left onto the soccer field, signaling the end.  I lean forward as much as I could, and dig in through the hard left turn onto the soft soccer field.  I figured I was less than 2 minutes from the finish, and told myself I could endure just about anything for 2 minutes.  Really digging deep within myself, I focused on moving my feet as fast as possible and rounded the track toward the finishing banner.  When I finally saw the race clock at the finish, it was about 40 yard in front of me and said 1:44:58.  CRAP!

I crossed the timing mat around 1:45:09 or so and immediately dropped down into a fit of dry heaves and could not move myself away from the finish line.  Fortunately nothing came out, since there wasn't anything in my stomach.  After a few minutes, the hazy cloud in my head starts to lift and I remembered something about gun time chip time business.  Wait......scrolling through my watch history.......1:44:51!!!!  Yeehaaa!!!