Pace Bunny Half Marathon Report

on Sunday, April 27, 2008 at 7:33 PM

Did the Hartwell Challenge half marathon as the 1:45 pace bunny today. The event is named after a local runner who died during a marathon back in 2001. Last weekend, there was a posting in a local web forum about the organisers looking for pace bunnies. Since I was supposed to do 17 miles today anyway, I offered to volunteer to be the 1:45 bunny since that pace of 8min/mile would be at the fast end of my long run pace.

I only realized after that the course was really hilly and it really had me worried about pacing since I wasn't sure if I could maintain 8min/mile up some of the hills. They changed the course this year which meant that the elevation data that you get from Motionbased about past runnings of the race wasn't going to be useful. While doing a little google sleuthing, I found a website made mostly for cyclists that will let you plot a route and then spit out an elevation profile for it. The neat thing I liked about the site is that it will automatically follow the contours of a road for you so you don't have to micromanage the plotting of the route. Anyhow the elevation profile it spit out looked nice in places (ie., downhills) and brutal in others (ie., uphills).

So arrived fairly early and checked in and was given a Brooks running cap with bunny ears on it that read 1:45. I was a bit paranoid about the pacing so I had calibrated my polar food pod on Saturday for 8min/mile pace. The foot pod is almost deadon accurate if you happen to be running at the pace it was calibrated at. I also had a 1:45 pace band and my garmin. While fooling around with the garmin last week, I disovered the avg/pace per current lap display which is a great tool as it lets one adjust their pace on the fly during a race without having to depend on the wonky instantaneous pace feature of the garmin. For example, if one is running 8min/miles and you happen to be 15 s behind pace at a certain point in the race, you can mentally adjust the pace to get back on track by running 7:55 over the next 3 miles. What's cool is that the avg/pace per mile in the garmin gets more accurate the farther into the lap you go, so if the avg/pace says you're doing 7:50 for the current lap, you slow down a bit until it gets back to 7:55. By the time, you reach the next mile marker you should have avergaed 7:55 which then means that you're made up the 5 seconds and now are only 10 seconds off pace. Hope that makes sense.

Anyhow the race starts and as usual I started out too fast. I didn't think I was going too fast becasue everyone was passing me, but I hit the first km at 4:44 (should have been 4:59). I felt that I was breathing a bit too hard. Other than the fast first km, things were pretty good from that point on. I had a couple of people with me at the start, but they immediately dropped back at the first hill. I had decided to try and run even splits for the race since I could use the garmin and polar to judge how fast I was going. I figureed that trying to run even effort would have made me crazy since with the big hills I was never going to know exactly how ahead or behind I was at any given point and whether or not I was going to be able to make up any differences.

Somewhere around the 4 km mark, I lost one of my bunny ears. The bunny ears were made with construction paper and they had been stapled to the hat. A little bit of sweat had gotten into the paper and with the strong wind blowing, well it ended up tearing off. I continued on with just the one ear, making sure to try and hold it in place whenever I sensed the wind blowing. About 3 km later, the other bunny ear ripped off. I went back and picked up the bunny ear and ran the rest of the race with it in my hand. This was a bit awkward since I was also carrying a bottle of gatorade, plus I had to hit the lap button on both the garmin and my Polar watch after each km marker.

By this point, I had really only picked up one other runner who was gunning for 1:45. We started chatting a bit and she was saying that she was more into the tri scene but that she was hoping to better her PR time of 1:47. I wasn't sure that this was the course to try and set a PR, but she seemed to be doing okay. Shortly after the 7km mark, there is a 60m elevation drop over about 3 km. I sent my fellow 1:45 runner on her way down the hill to bank some time since I was trying to run even splits. She ended up staying slightly ahead of me for most of the race until there was only about 5km to go.

There were a lot of rolling hills, up and down, up and down. Trying to run even pace was forcing me to push the HR up, but it wasn't too bad since it meant that I could also recover a bit on the downhills. By the 11km mark, I had banked about 40 s of time. I guess the 5 seconds here and there adds up. I used the garmin avg pace feature to slowly dwindle this down to the point where I was only 11 seconds ahead of pace by the 20k mark. I'm pretty sure the last 1.1km was a bit long cause I ended up finishing at 1:45:07 chip time. Polar measured the last little bit at 1.16km and garmin says it was 1.2km. Anyhow my fellow 1:45 runner was suffering a little bit at the end, but she ended up finsihing a little behind me at 1:45:17 for a new PR! As we shared congratulations after, she commented "Who says you can't PB on this course!"

Well a fun experience. I wanted to try and squeeze in another 4 miles afterwards since I was supposed to do 17 miles for the day. i ended up doing another mile or so but just wasn't motivated to do the rest.

So here's the HR monitor info. Notice the nice constant pace and the HR going up and down with the hills. (No HR spikes, Yah!) The elevation profile is very similar (though not identical) to the one that the bikely website spit out.

Oh yeah, someone actually picked up my other bunny ear during the race and ended up returning it to me afterward. He said he was trying to use it as motivation to catch me.


Audrey said...

um, WOW!! you were dead on for your pacing. they are SO going go invite you back!! that is unbelievable.

Quinto Sol said...

Excellent! Nice report...

Love2Run said...

Nice pacing on a tough course. I admire you for trying to run even pace but wonder if even effort would have been easier on you. You only needed to get to the end by 1:45 right?

jen said...

Great job on the pacing! You were dead on and that is hard to come by. Congrats! :)

Stephen said...

You're a Machine Francis! Nice Job!
Sorry one of your Bunny ears fell off.

Sonia said...

Good job Fran-Bunny! Bang on! Glad you could make one a happy triathlete PB!!

yumke said...

Crazy elevation. And I always wondered about those bunny ears. They never really looked that sturdy