Half marathon race report

on Wednesday, September 16, 2009 at 10:52 PM

Pfitz' plan had a tune-up race scheduled for last Saturday. It's often difficult to find suitable tune-up races on Saturday in this area, as most races are on the Sunday. Luckily for me, there were a couple of options. There was a local 5k or 8k down by the waterfront and there was a half marathon up in P ort Perry. It's been a while since I've actually raced a half marathon. My last PR in the half was set 3 years ago at this half. Since that time, I've run the first half of 3 marathons at a faster time than my official half PR, so it needed updating.

The P ort Perry half had an interesting premise this year. They set out to be "carbon neutral" by trying to offset the carbon footprint by avoiding paper advertising, encouraging on-line registration and using renewable and recyclable race amenities. One interesting thing they did was they had hand made bib numbers made out of recycled paper with little seeds embedded in them. The point of this was that you could then bury the bib in your backyard and it would grow into something.  Not sure what the seeds are supposed to grow into, but this was a neat concept. We also got a shirt made of bamboo-blended material.  The material is a bit stretchy, not sure if it has wicking properties though.

I had meant to purchase some gels on Friday after work, but I had a fairly long day and by the time I got back home, i had completely forgotten.  When I finally realized, it was too late to visit the running stores and i ended up at the local pharmacy where they didn't have gels but they had sharkies which are like little gummy bear like things that are in the shape of sharks. So bought a couple packages of these.

Arrived at the race with about 45 minutes to go to start.  Picked up my stuff and got all set and with about 30 minutes to go, tried a couple of the sharkie things which i didn't like cause it gets stuck in between my teeth.  Knew that I wasn't going to be able to race with these things so i basically downed an entire packet, picked the stuff out of my teeth and washed it down with water. Did a little bit of a slow warm-up with a couple of accelerations. Had the HR spike during these, but was able to get it under control and thankfully, it didn't reappear during the race. With about 10 minutes to go, i downed a half bottle of gatorade and then one last pit stop and off to the start line i went. 

Now i don't have much experience with racing halfs.  3 years ago, i ran the half at about 7:15 min/mile pace which just happened to be the pace I was doing my LT runs as part of my Pfitz training plan at the time.  Since I'm now doing my LT runs at 7min/mile, I thought that this would be a good target to aim for.  The one thing I do remember about the course is that is keeps you honest because it's really hilly.  It's constantly rolling and there are some steep hills.  With that in mind, i decided to not bring garmin along since trying to maintain even splits on a hilly course is a good way to be frustrated. I did wear my HR monitor though.

They had a timing mat at the start line this year unlike in previous years which means that one can get an accurate "chip time".  I decided to start a little ways back to prevent me from going out too fast as I tend to do.  Hit the first km at 4:25 which is about where I wanted to be. After the initial crush of people near the start, I passed three people and ended up being passed by one. The markers after this were a little all over the place, so i didn't really know how far ahead or behind I was at any given point, so i just tried to maintain a steady sustained pace for the race. For the most part the race went as planned.  The roads were a mix of ashphalt, dirt roads and gravel.  Had to be a bit cautious on the gravel bits.

Weather was pretty good.  They had predicted overcast skies, but it ended up being sunny and the course doesn't have much in the way of shade.  It was a little windy at times.  Water stations were fine, though they were using plastic cups which were hard to pinch and drink out of. I ended up spilling a lot of the stuff on me.  I guess the plastic was recyclable as opposed to wax covered paper cups which presumably aren't. I found the best way to drink out of these was to slow down to a jog for a couple of steps, chug the liquid and then continue on.  The finish line can be a bit cruel for those that haven't done the race before.  The race starts and ends at a local fairground with a horse track, but the finish and start lines aren't in the same place.  So you come into the fariground and see the start line, but then you are redirected and have to run across the middle of the track and then around half of it to the finish line.  Probably an extra 400m of running required.

Some pics of me finishing. 

and shortly after the finish trying to catch my breath

Final finish time of 1:31:55 which was 7:01 min/mile pace which is what I had originally intended.  I ended up using HR to gauge a lot of the effort. I was a bit surprised early on that the HR was only just above 170 but I see now that the watch was not picking up a good signal.  It only started to register after 4km or so. In general tried to keep it between 175 and 180 which is where i usually like to run my LT runs at. At least, this somewhat confirms for me that i've been doing my tempo runs at the right pace and intensity. I tried to step it up for the last two km, cause I knew it was going to be close to going sub 1:32 but these splits were basically right at 7min/miles which means even though i felt i was going faster, i wasn't.  Don't think I could have raced this much faster.

I ended up placing 4th overall, but 3rd in my age group.  I just entered this new age group the week before and this certainly was a rude awakening.  If the race had been a week earlier, i would have come in first in my age group by over 4 minutes.  In the end, it didn't matter since the first three finishers overall ended up winning prizes and with no double dipping, I ended up winning the prize for first in my age group even though i was technically 3rd.  $10 cash and another t-shirt. This was a pleasant surprise as typically there are a lot of fast people that run this race.  Two years ago (when they last hosted this race), 16 people went under 1:30, whereas this year only one did.

Being a tune-up race for marathon training, i plugged this half time into all the race predictors and they say that 3:15 for the marathon is doable, but that 3:10 is probably not.  Now 3:10 might still be possible if I pick a nice downhill course which i'll probably end up doing, but it's looking like 3:15 will be the goal for this fall.


yumke said...

Catching up. Congrats on that, that`s a great time!