I decided to run this half marathon last minute while on my Saturday morning bike ride. However, I hadn't fully committed to run it until I was up and ready to go on Sunday morning. I figured I was going to run a 10 miler anyway, and since this was on roads that I routinely bike on and only a 15 minute drive from my house, what was another 3 miles? I promised myself if I was going to run, I was committed to watching my heart rate, and not really worrying about pace. But I wasn't setting any alarms, and if I happened to get up naturally with enough time to get to the race, I would be using that as my long run for the week.
Since I wasn't "racing" per se I didn't even do a warm-up, planning on utilizing the first miles of the course for my warm-up and see how that panned out for me. I started out in the second line a little back from the front to avoid going out to hard, and just planned on taking it out slow.
Listening to the Start Line Instructions
The race started off and everyone starts flying. Some of the guys in front taking off at a sub 6 minute mile pace, I almost went with them for a minute, but backed off quickly and remembered that this was my long run, not my long race. The course starts off flat to downhill so it was perfect for a warm-up. I noticed myself holding back more than I normally would in a first mile even though I ended up running a downhill aided 6:18. I let people run ahead, not really concerned about who was in front of me and where I was in the overall. Initially there were about 30 people ahead of me but as I continued to monitor my heart rate and stick to my target I noticed I started to pass people. I was extremely comfortable and felt amazing as I started to get warmed up.
As we continued the first few miles up to the reservoir I moved through the field in a methodical fashion picking off runners one by one while staying within my prescribed limits. The real benefit to me on this course was how well I knew it. I ride the roads every weekend and in some cases over the summer I was on portions of the course 3-4x a week on my bike. Using my extensive knowledge of the course by the time we hit the rolling climbs of the reservoir I had strategically moved myself into about 15th place by balancing expending energy when I knew I could recover quite easily, and backing off when I knew my heart rate would spike out of the range I wanted to be in.
On the reservoir is where I really made my move. I was able to stay within my limits and use my leg strength on the short steep hills, and utilize the downhills to recover. There is no better feeling, when in the heat of a battle, making a pass, and knowing you have much more to give, and at the same time your opponent is maxing themselves out trying to not let that pass happen until they break. You can actually feel the deflation when they crack. On this stretch I was able to do this more than once. After the race I was told by one of the runners I broke, I had reduced a few to a walk! Someone keeping tabs on the course let me know I was in 12th place somewhere along the reservoir, by the time we worked our way down to the flats of Lyons plain road I had worked my way into 7th.
Everything was going my way, I had been staying within my targets yet still gaining on the field the whole way. I had not gotten passed once and I continued to pick off runners until that point. At this point I could only see one remaining runner in front of me, but I knew he was not in first place. Which meant he would be the last one I would be passing for awhile, if at all. Looking at my heart rate I didn't fall off, or push my pace to keep up and he kept running steady enough to keep me at bay. At 15k I looked down at my watch to see I was still under an hour, which had been a goal of mine for a while, who knew I would be able to do it in a 1/2 marathon! At this point I was still in 7th place about 10 seconds behind 6th, and 10 seconds ahead of 8th and everyone was running steady.
As we approached mile 11 this was where it got tough. While we had a slight net downhill aiding our pace from miles 5-11 we now needed to make that up to get back to the school in the next 2 miles. The initial climb started a little before mile 11 and lasted till about 11.8 miles, this point was the only time I was passed all race. One guy ran by me comfortably and continued on up the hill also methodically running by the 6th place runner, who I was still about 10 seconds behind. I capped my HR at 168 and decided I would not go any higher, and slow down as necessary. Surprisingly it seemed that I was actually gaining on both of them steadily.
Even though the majority of the climb ended at about mile 12, there was still a slight climb for the last .9 miles or so before the course flattens out with a track finish. I backed off let my heart rate fall back to where it was supposed to be on this section as we ran through the final stretch on the school grounds. I was content with my 8th place finish considering I wasn't really in 1/2 marathon shape and my longest run since Pumpkinman had been 9 miles. As I entered the final 300 m stretch on the track I could start to hear the footsteps of both 9th and 10th place on my heels. At that point I decided I was going to let it fly and not give up my spot. Once on that track I spiked my heart rate and sprinted out that last stretch at a 5:36/mi pace to hold off the charge. It's a good thing I did, because right behind me was what turned out to be the 2nd place finisher in my age group. I had passed him at mile 8 and he hung on the whole way. Good thing I did because it also netted me what turned out to be my first cash prize! I crossed the line with an almost 5 minute personal best of 1:25:34!
Who knew that I would finally break the 1:30 half marathon barrier, and get my first cash payout on the same day? Looks like my run focus is starting to pay off already. Even better was the fact that I didn't jeopardize Monday's training as I was still able to get in my swim and my 4 miler! I can't wait to see what I'll be able to do in 2013! 1:20 I'm coming for you!
One of the nicer awards I've gotten!