Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Santa to the Sea Half Marathon Recap

For once, a timely race review.  I’m sure I’ve left something out.

2013-12-10 14.28.03Speaking of leaving something out…
My Race

I did nothing for 2 days before the race despite wanting to do some kind of easy run on Friday or Saturday.  I actually had a pretty lazy week leading up to the half. One final shorter night of track;  a short and easy bike ride; and a really short and easy run with a hill.  After I re-checked the course elevation, looked at my pacing from last year, and determined a rough goal pace for this year, I tried to stop obsessing about race details.

Actually, let’s back things up a week.  I had been running in these lightweight lower drop shoes that I was growing very fond of.  I was wearing them for track, wearing them for some faster runs, and had a great 12 miler in them. Then following my 10 mile run in them the Sunday before the race, I was surprised to see several rips.  

     2013-12-04 13.16.57      2013-12-04 13.15.56rev
This shoe tried to disguise itself due to embarrassment from falling apart at 105 miles.

Commence freak out. I was unable to find this same style online in my size, which was a good thing, because I didn’t really want to buy another pair of defective shoes. But I also didn’t want to wear another pair of shoes that was a totally different type of shoe than I had been training in (heavier, bigger drop, more support).  Note: I notified the brand and they responded quickly and offered to make it right. Just not in time for my race. 

So I  broke one of the cardinal racing rules: DON’T DO ANYTHING NEW FOR RACE DAY and ordered another pair of shoes described as having a similar feel- minimal cushioning, firm ride. (Old pair – 4.9 oz, 3mm drop.  New pair – 4.8 oz, 4mm drop) . New shoes came on Friday, I didn’t get to break them in on a run, but I did wear them around the house and we instantly bonded.

2013-12-07 14.42.23Sunglasses sold separately.
Noodle hugger sold
   2013-12-08 15.31.24Do these sleeves make my calves look fat?

Back to Race day.
I slept decently, only waking up once at 4:15 to freak out and confirm that I hadn’t yet overslept. I went back to sleep and got up at 5:05, met friends at 5:45 and we were on our way. We parked by 6:40 and had plenty of time to feel the air and make last minute adjustments to what layers we were wearing. We got on the shuttles around 7:15, unloaded at the start line by 7:30, and still had 30 minutes to kill.

I found the banner for the 1:45-1:49 line up, just ahead of the 1:50 pacers.  The race started pretty close to on time at 8:02am next to a giant Santa. 
No, I didn’t bring a camera with me. Thank you Google Street View.

My plan was to start comfortably, which was necessary with the crowd. Beyond that, I intended to see how I felt, and go from there.  It did not end up being a perfectly orchestrated negative splits kind of race.

I felt pretty good after running the first mile in 8:34, and the friend I started with encouraged me to take off, reminding me I wasn’t supposed to stay with her.  So I did. And after another mile, I looked down to see that I had run the second mile in 8:11. Whaa? I thought about slowing down a bit, closer to 8:20, but the pace felt sustainable.  The next mile was 8:15. Awesome.  Coming up on mile 3, I started to hear the 1:50 pacers behind me.  They were kind of annoying so I hoped I could just stay ahead of them (“And up at this stop sign, you’re going to turn right!”).  No thanks.  Unfortunately, they were averaging a good 10-15 seconds faster than goal pace and had banked an extra minute+ by the 6 mile mark, so I couldn’t shake them. 

Miles 4, 5, and 6 were 8:11, 8:08, 8:08. It again crossed my mind that maybe this was too fast.  It felt comfortably hard, but I didn’t at all feel tired yet.  I was just a hair over 51 minutes at the 10k point (incidentally, a new 10k PR for me by a minute). At the half way point I was at 54 minutes (3 minutes faster than last year’s first split).

I took my beloved Salted Caramel Gu from about mile 6.5 to 7.5. I take my time.

2013-08-09 13.46.55-2My current favorite fake food for running

The 1:50 pace group passed me somewhere around mile 8 after the pace leaders announced they were going to pick up the pace a bit. For the record, I was around a 1:06 at this point which translated to still being  more than a minute below goal time.  So this again annoyed me, but I let them go and hoped they would just get out of earshot. I didn’t need encouragement in the form of, “Look, everyone’s standing and cheering because they think you’re the president!”

I did start to lag a bit, with miles 9-11 at 8:28, 8:24, 8:26.Karma. 

Soon after that that first slower mile, my friend caught up with me.  My initial thought was, “ahh, sh*t,” because as she said, I was supposed to be ahead of her (turns out she was having a much better race than she expected!).  Really, though, I was glad for the company and the mid-race motivation.
Around mile 11 I mustered up the energy to pick up the pace a bit.  I managed an 8:17 then an 8:10 and the last little nubbin at a 7:13 pace despite a U-turn a quarter mile from the finish.  


Chip time: 1:48:48.  New PR by 6 minutes!
17/136 in my age group  -  125/1054 women  - 358/1750 overall

2013-12-08 19.42.31

So I guess my splits were about 54:00/54:48 53:40/55:07.  I may make more of an effort to run negative splits for my next half, but I don’t regret running miles 2-6 the way I did. Initially I thought those paces were too fast, and maybe they were, but I ended the race without a ton of energy leftover.  If I didn’t feel whooped at the end, I would have kicked myself for not pushing more.

Race Logistics

I carpooled to the race with friends.  We parked at The Collection, a new shopping area in Oxnard, about a 5 minute drive from the start, where we caught school buses to the start line.  There were plenty of school buses so there wasn’t a need for assigned shuttle times. Port-a-potties were available near the parking lot shuttle stop and at the race start.

From where we were dropped off, we had maybe a quarter to half mile walk to the actual starting area.  Estimated finish times were listed on banners to help with the line-up, and there were pace groups as well.  Along the side of the race line up was the bag drop and the donated toy collection area. This was a little cramped and chaotic.  Gift drop could have been closer to the bus drop off, but I understand they probably want a photo with all the gifts below the giant Santa, which is at the start line.

UPS managed bag drop which was necessary since it was just above freezing at the start, and because it was a point-to-point course with our cars waiting close to the start line. It was in the mid 40s but sunny at the finish.  Post-race bag drop pick-up took way longer than it should have. I was easily standing in line for 15-20 minutes and it took them several minutes to locate my bag once I gave them my bib number.  They sort of had bags sorted by number, but organization was lacking or there weren’t enough volunteers in the truck looking for bags once a bib number was called out to them.

Cheering sections along the way were fantastic, as were the volunteers and police officers helping with traffic control along the course.  The course was flat/downhill.  The only inclines were two overpasses, one at about .5 mile and the other around mile 6.  The course goes through fields, an industrial center, neighborhoods, the historic district (nice Christmas decorations by the way), more fields, then along the ocean.  Visibility was amazing and you could see the Channel Islands so clearly toward the end.

sttsmapThis is where your strawberries come from.

Finish line food was great, there was Powerade, Water, and Pineapple juice.  There were Powerbars, fruit cups and bowls made up with different combinations of orange slices, strawberries, raspberries, bananas, pretzels, and cookies.

As for the pacers? I will be curious to see the official time for the 1:50 pacers.  One of the 1:50 pacers dropped back and was WALKING against race traffic when I had about 3/4 of a mile to go. This annoys me because I took my pacing job seriously and these dudes were clearly several minutes ahead.  I’ll let it go now.

We stuck around for awards at 11 because there were some age group awards for people in my running group.  There were several buses waiting to take people back to their cars when we were finally ready at 11:30 and there was no waiting. It was probably a good 15 minute drive back toward the cars.

Post Race

Back where we parked, we grabbed lunch and beer at the conveniently located Yard House before driving home.  Well, riding home, for me. Which is good because this is a strong beer.

2013-12-08 13.08.06My PR-celebratory Old Rasputin.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Gaining Speed and Half Marathon Goal

After several months of hit-or-miss speed work this spring and summer, I made more of an effort to get to the track this fall.

June 11: 
Two sets of 5x400m with 400m recovery and 400m between sets.
First set ranged from 1:46-1:53/average 1:51
Second set ranged from 1:43-1:53/average 1:47

October 29: 10x400m with a 200m recovery
Ranged from 1:38-1:45/average 1:42

December 3: 6x400m with 200m recovery
Ranged from 1:37-1:40/average 1:38

Last September:
7x800m, 90 sec recovery
Ranged from 3:39-3:42/average 3:41

October 15:
8x800m, 2 min recovery
Ranged from 3:22-3:39/average 3:30

November 19:
6x800m, 90 second recovery
Ranged from 3:24-3:29/average 3:26

October 1:
5x1000m, 200m recovery
Ranged from 4:34-4:43/average 4:38

October 22:
5x1000m, 200m recovery
Ranged from 4:33-4:37/average 4:35

November 26:
5x1000m, 200m recovery
Ranged from 4:23-4:27/average 4:24

Basically I am listing all of this out to boost my confidence in my ability to run a solid half marathon this Sunday.  My current PR from last year is 1:54:48 (8:45 pace). I beat that on my 12 mile run two weekends ago, averaging 8:35 with a 7:50 final mile and talking most of the run- except for the last mile. 

I have noted that I again avoided long tempo runs.  I did a few mid-distance runs involving 3-4 miles in the middle around a 5k pace, many solid long runs, consistent speed work, plenty of hills, some trail runs, and cross-training in the form of cycling.

Let’s put up some goals.

A Goal: Sub-1:50 (<8:23 pace)
B Goal:  Better than my second to last long run (<8:35 pace, <1:52:30)

For easy math-on-the-run purposes,  an 8:20 pace would be nice. Each 3 miles would be 25 minutes and it would mean a 1:49 and change.

Weather will be fantastic for running but borderline cold for standing around before the 8am start. It’s a point-to-point course, so I may have to actually plan out throwaway clothes or a drop bag for the first time ever.

2013-12-06 17.42.38

Now the trick is to turn off my brain which has a tendency to tell me my goal paces are too fast.

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