Monday, April 6, 2009

Race Report: Martian Half Marathon, or, The Perfect Race

I approached this half marathon quite differently than my previous two. For one thing, I did not train specifically for this race, merely faithfully followed my marathon training plan. It just happened to fall at a convenient time in my training for the Cleveland Marathon next month. I was scheduled to do a long run of 12 miles anyway, so I decided to throw in an extra 1.1 and make it a race. I love racing, and a bunch of my running buddies were also going to be participating. Additionally, I was not worried about being able to run the miles, as my long runs have now reached the 18-20 mile range. Compared to my 20-miler the week before, the mere 13.1 of the Martian Half Marathon would be a breeze!

Confident I could go the distance, I decided it was time for an actual race strategy. This was the first time I knew my racing could go beyond "just survive." I wanted to improve on my PR from last year's Marine Corps Historic Half (1:56:45), but my true, "A" Goal was to finish under 1:50. To do so I would need to average 8:23/mile. But how to do it?

I decided on a three-stage approach knowing what I was physically capable of and drawing on the advice of several running friends whose opinions I value. Part One: Don't Start Too Fast! I am frequently guilty of this cardinal running sin. This time I was determined to avoid it. I wanted to run the first 6 miles at an 8:20-8:25 pace, and I was going to stick with that no matter what. Garmy would be my guide. So: after a short warmup, I arrived at the starting line with only a few minutes to spare. Despite the hasty transition, I was not nervous at all. Nay, I was eager to put my plan into action. I bid my running buddy adieu; he would be running much faster than me and I would not see him until the finish. When the race started I set out at my planned pace, and did not yield to the temptation to go faster. I was bursting with stored energy from my mini-taper all week, but I didn't want to use it all in the first half of the race. I was going to need it later.

Miles 1-6: 8:19, 8:25, 8:17, 8:20, 8:21, 8:20. OK, so I slipped up a couple of times (mile 1, mile 3) but overall I stuck with the plan.

Part Two: Cruise Control. At mile 6, it was time to engage the second phase of my plan. I gradually started increasing my pace until I was running in the low 8:00s. I wanted to maintain this speed for the next four miles. Now was when I needed to stay the most relaxed. I concentrated on keeping my breathing low (using my belly breathing) and even. I let my elbows dangle and kept my shoulders loose. I was in my magical fifth gear where I feel like I could run forever.

Miles 7-10: 8:12, 8:07, 8:08, 8:06.

Part Three: The End. Once I passed mile 10, it was time to kick it. I downshifted and picked up my pace again. The last three miles would be the real test. How much did I have left, how strong was I going to be, how much hurt was in store? With a half mile to go I finally peeked at Garmy. I saw that a sub-1:50 finish was in the bag. Now it was all grit. I was tiring. Not dead-legs-can't-move tired, but getting there. There was a tiny incline that obscured my view of the final turn to the finish area and when I crested the hill and saw that turn I let myself fly down the slope. I turned the corner and saw the finish line about 200 meters ahead. Push it, PUSH IT, PUSH IT! My lungs and thighs were burning, my breath was frantic, but I charged to the finish with everything I had. I officially finished in 1:47:02, crushing my PR from last May by nine minutes and 45 seconds!

Miles 11-13: 7:58, 7:48, 7:34 <-- holy crap!

I successfully executed my plan and had one of the best races of my life. I felt so good during this run it was almost ridiculous. I am feeling more optimistic than ever about my goal of qualifying for Boston next month.

Final stats:
1:47:02 (NEW PR!)/8:10 average/15th out of 155 in age group/85th woman

Enjoying a Bell's Hopslam IPA in the parking lot after the race. I tell y'all, when I can have a great run and drink great beer and hang out with great people all before 10:00 in the morning...well, it doesn't get much better than that.

18 comments:

pigtailsflying said...

This ends abruptly-- did you post too soon? I want to hear about you crossing the finish line!

Spike said...

fantastic race plan and even better execution. You destroyed your old pr! Nothing better to give you confidence going into a marathon than a great race!

Kristin said...

Great race report! Awesome job at following your plan and getting it done! I try not too look at my garmin too much during races, but I am still in that "just survive" mentality. Great insight into what it takes to get out of that!

joyRuN said...

Nicely done! Solid plan & perfect execution. Congratulations!!

Jon (was) in Michigan said...

Nice job! Beat my PR. :)

raulgonemobile said...

Holy crap girl! That's awesome! Way to race it! Sounds like a perfect execution to me.

milebymile said...

These are the best racing strategies--break that race up into manageable chunks--oh, and follow through!

Way to go on that fantastic PR!

Betsy said...

Wow, those splits are amazing, and so is you time. Congratulations on a fantastic race!

jen said...

Congratulations!! Way to perfectly execute your strategy. Congrats on the HUGE PR. You are going to do great in the marathon!

Kristin said...

Congratulations again! Sounds like a great race!

Nitmos said...

That's a good sign that you had something left in the tank at the end. You are certainly pointing in the direction of a BQ but keep working!

})i({ RunnerGirl said...

Way to go girl!!!!!!!!! I love your blog BTW. :)

errindel said...

That's awesome! Great race!!

Ben Szporluk said...

Congrats on the PR! Great race report as well.

pigtailsflying said...

Ka-pow, sugar! I wish I was gonna be there to cheer you across at Mile 26.2--it's going to be a GREAT moment! Hugs.

Viper said...

Great race execution. And nice score on the fine post-run hydration. Looks like I have a couple minutes to shave off my 1/2 PR. Cheers!

Chelsey said...

Was the Martian Half Hilly? I am thinking about doing it this year, but it would be my first half and I am EXTREMELY nervous!

Sun Runner said...

@Chelsey: no, I didn't consider it hilly. Hines Drive has a very gentle slope in a few places, but it wasn't really noticeable. The route is an out and back on Hines Drive which is easily traveled via car if you want to see for yourself the terrain. Good luck!