But that’s not a race. Although there was some racing. Mainly me trying to catch up to the pack every time the road moved off of level or we hit a secteur pavé.
Although I could leave the fellas scattered by the wayside once I got the diesel engine wound up and started the sprint from a kilometer out.
And while that’s all great, great fun, it’s not an organized race.
And the reality was, as I posted in February of last year, I was athletically rudderless, not really interested in pursuing a specific athletic goal. Mainly because most of the ones that interest me take so much time away from Goddess. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m quite keen on the Goddess. That means I am quite protective of my time with her, so I wasn’t wild about the 4-6 hour (or more) weekend training days that marathons, ultra-marathons or grand bike tours require.
So I just kept an unfocused training regimen, focused on having fun and staying fit, while not demanding too much time from Goddess. And I kept a thought in the back of my mind, which I did verbalize to a few folks, that I wanted to remain fit enough that I could fake my way through a half, whether that be a half-marathon or a half-Ironman triathlon.
That brings us to today.
On a lark a couple of months back, I signed up for the Heidelberg Half Marathon. It was to be interesting, since I had no plans to specifically train for the race, just rely on my fitness and see how it worked out, since my training at the time was focused on a grand bike tour. Plus, considering that I have not run greater than seven miles in the past two years, save for one other lark of a 14-miler that involved running straight up the side of the Alps, then back down, running 13.1 miles was going to be a stretch. Especially this one, with some pretty steep sections and 3,400′ of cumulative climbing.
I was going to have to rely on the diesel engine and hope that the suspension held up.
Here’s the race map, overlaid on terrain:
That gives you an idea of the terrain. But it doesn’t tell the truth like the profile does:
Like I said, this was a lark. In the previous week, I had run three times, including a fairly fast 1.5 miles for my fitness test. Before that, I had not run in a month, thanks to a combination of things. I had injured myself playing frisbee, which halted any running. Then I went on the grand bike tour and didn’t have time to. Then I got back and came down with some crud that kept me down for over a week.
And that led into this week. Monday was a slow 5-miler to make sure everything still worked properly. Wednesday was a hill run which included the same set of stairs in PR; this time I set a new PR and ran up the entire set of stairs without stopping, although the pace was decidedly slower than 9:35. Then on Friday was my PT test, so basically it was a short race.
In short, I didn’t train for this half-marathon, nor did I taper.
I was walking into it cold.
When I signed up, I took a stab at a finishing time and selected two hours. I based that on the terrain and hope. Unfortunately, hope is not a technique.
I seeded myself appropriately in my corral (#4 of 4), towards the back. I cracked jokes with a few first-timers that I’m surprised we weren’t surrounded by people with walkers, complete with tennis balls. We were only there a few minutes, then the gun went off for our group (some 850 people). It was time to settle into a comfortable pace and see how the day worked out.
It wasn’t long before I was passing people. That turned out to be the theme of the day. I started out near the back of the 3,445 that finished and I finished 1,416 overall. The math is simple – I passed over 2,000 people in 13.1 miles. On this course.
Luckily a good portion of this run is on familiar ground, with the first large hill being part of our normal Monday run. So I knew what to expect. However, the course splits from where we normally head back down to the valley and continues upstream, then crosses further up than I am familiar with. Then heads straight up the other side so that we can loop behind the Heidelberg Castle. So after the midway point, it was all new territory. And that kept my effort in check.
The only spots I walked were the water points. No sense in trying to run and drink, instead sloshing water all over myself. Although plenty of people did and gained nothing from it. I did find it interesting that so many thought that they were saving time, although they had to slow down so much to prevent the sloshing that they might as well have been walking.
The flats were OK. The uphills were great, probably because that’s where I passed huge chunks of people each time. At one point, in the closing miles, we were climbing a series of cobbled switchbacks that were steeper than 20% grade and I had a flashback to the grand bike tour. And the downhills were fun, cruising past many folks who just weren’t comfortable with letting go. I was amazed at how many were walking the gradual downhills, even only halfway through the race.
As you can tell, I had a great time.
But there was one significant annoyance, for which I’m partially at fault. The race is capped at 3,500 registered participants, mainly due to the narrow streets in Heidelberg as well as the narrow trails through the forest. My fault was ignorantly seeding myself way at the back. The annoyance were the many, many, many runners who could not hold their line while running, instead darting side to side even though they gained nothing from the maneuver. I spent more time than I cared guiding people with my forearm, especially when their erratic movement threatened to push me off the trail and down the hill or into a ditch. Or gently guiding someone forward who would dart into an open spot, but not overtake the people around him, while many of us were flying downhill at a much greater pace than they were. But once we got past that section (and ran straight up a wall), the crowds were all but torn apart and the running became smoother.
My piriformis started talking to me at about the eight mile mark, but nothing more than a gentle reminder that I was abusing them. In the closing miles, my calves started twinging, telling me that they were close to cramping up. I’ve been there before, so knew how hard I could push it, keeping right at that point where they would twinge, but nothing more. In the last half mile, a time where I’m usually flying past other runners, I didn’t. But none caught and passed me either.
So the time?
Without training for it.
Just keeping myself fit with a good mix of high intensity and endurance training, mainly on the bike. And that time fit nicely within the cluster of times for the half-marathons that I trained specifically for.
The trick will be seeing how I walk on Tuesday morning.