Two weekends in a row of racing. Three races in 4 weeks, with the first being my 40-miler, last week being a 10-miler and then this half-marathon. Yeah, I’m abusing myself a bit, but what the hell? It’s all part of the plan.
Since last Sunday’s 10-miler PR, I have run absolutely zero (0) feet. Not even a shuffle. Monday was my normally scheduled rest day; the rest of the week was either getting ready to travel or actually traveling. And there wasn’t any time available to run during that time, although I had my shoes ready in case an opportunity presented itself. It just didn’t. Matter of fact, I wasn’t even sure I’d make it back in time to run the half. But we got back early Saturday morning, which gave me a whole 3 hours sleep before heading back to work a full day. Luckily I did get a full-night’s sleep before the run, but I definitely wasn’t loose and ready for it.
My goal was a PR. When I toed the line, I knew that I should be happy with a well-paced run, which I would have been. Based on last weekend’s 10-miler, I was looking to run 8:00/mile splits, which would get me under 1:45, a new PR by over three minutes. Not unreasonable to expect, but not likely considering my lack of running during the preceding days. But that’s a minor point. The run would be what it was.
As I’ve finally figured out this year, consistent pacing and negative splits are the way to go. So starting out a bit slow in the opening miles would help me to warm up as well as save my energy for later. So I watched a good chunk of the field pass me in the opening miles, knowing I’d see many of them again.
Looking at the graph below, each half mile pace is represented by the bars and the scale on the left side. The line shows my average pace, with the scale on the right. The spike at 1.5 miles was an unplanned porta-potty stop. Unplanned but necessary. The spikes later on (6.5, 10, 12) were me walking through the water stops. I walked through every one, but those reflected the most in my pace.
The pace the first miles were too slow and easy, which I recognized at about the half-way point. Instead of being close to an 8:10-ish pace which would poise me well to negative split, I was sitting at about 8:20, which mean that I had a pretty huge deficit to make up if I planned on pulling off a negative split. But I also knew that if I kept a quicker pace, I’d whittle away at that overall pace and likely still PR, so that was my goal.
The best part of the run was that it covered most of the ground that I ran all summer, except this time it was during daylight. I actually got to see my surroundings! It was a scenic run as we worked our way from Camp Liberty to Camp Victory, out to Camp Slayer and then back. Although I’m sure that means nothing to most of you, as far as coalition locations go in Iraq, these are the jewels. Several ornate palaces and mosques surrounded by large lakes and palm trees made for a nice run.
Although I was going slower than I had hoped, I was still moving well. Save for a handful of folks in the very first miles, I didn’t start my “passing campaign” until mile 4. It was after that point that I started passing runners quite readily. During the remainder of the race, I was only passed by one runner who managed to stay in front of me until the end; anyone else who passed me was reeled in and passed for good. I even got stink eye from the 4th Infantry Division’s Commanding General at about mile 11 as I passed him and his group very comfortably. Apparently he wasn’t too keen on getting buried by an Air Force guy. I was tempted to give him a “good game” as I went by, but I like the rank that I’m at right now.
At mile 10, I was only three minutes off my pace for last week’s 10-miler. Sitting at 1:21, I did the math in my head and knew that I’d have to knock out 3.1 miles at faster than 8:00/mi pace. Taking stock of my legs, I figured I’d give it a try. So I accelerated, but apparently a mile of that was all I had at that point, since I slowed to 8:10-8:15/mi pace after mile 11.
By mile 12 I had an odd experience, my shoulder started cramping up. Wouldn’t you know it, I’m working it out as I run, I go around the corner and there’s the photographer, snapping away as I’m all contorted. Oh well. On the chart you can see where the combination of a water stop and my massaging slowed down my pace.
The last mile I accelerated comfortably, working to get it as close to 1:45 as I could. I didn’t bother looking at my Garmin, instead just going by feel. It didn’t feel great, but it wasn’t supposed to. Looking at my heart rate data, the last mile I pushed deep into Zone 5; I knew it at the time simply based on my breathing. I didn’t need the Garmin to tell me what I was feeling.
After I crossed the line, grabbed my finisher’s shirt and schwag bag, I headed out to the course. Luckily the last mile was a horseshoe-shape, so I didn’t have far to go to cheer on folks who had about 300 meters to the line. That was a great experience, seeing so many folks that worked all summer to build up to this half marathon. A full cross-section of runner passed by on the way to their finish – tall, short, slight, big. We even had our requisite bloody-nipple guy.
But the best part for me was seeing all of the folks that I worked and ran with this summer. Just 4-5 months ago, none would have ever considered running a half-marathon. Only one of them had ever run 10 miles and he swore that was his limit. But to see each of them surge to the finish line of a half-marathon was great. Some have goals to run a marathon next year, some may never run a half-marathon again. But at least for this period in their lives, they now know what it is to be a runner – one who sets a goal, trains for it and conquers it. They are hooked.
It makes me smile. And that’s my PR. One that will never be broken.