Sunday, April 22, 2012

Rutgers Half Marathon

Wooooo Hooooo! 

My official time was 1:36:28.68. 
162/2667 overall finishers. Top 6%
143/1312 men. Top 11%
24/222 in men's 35 - 39 age group.  Top 11%
My average pace was 7:22. 

I am very happy with my new 4 minute+ PR given the low expectations I had going into this race. So lets get to the race report!

Leading Up to the Race

As I've mentioned before, I've been in a bit of a training funk recently.  After Doing some really high mileage in March and seeing improvements in my fitness, I had to reduce for a few weeks to give my calves and Achilles a rest and as a result I gained a few pounds and felt a bit sluggish during my workouts.  

Specifically, this past Wednesday, I had a little tempo run with Frank, with 2 miles at my planned half marathon pace.  As we picked it up to about 7:25 pace for the first mile, I felt like I was pushing so hard to maintain it. The second mile when we picked it up to under 7:20 I felt like I was in a 5k race.  What the heck was going on? Even though there are good days and bad just like anything else, this training run absolutely killed my confidence.  If I was having this much trouble maintaining this pace for a couple miles, where would it leave me for the half?

Two days later after having lunch at a new Chinese restaurant at work I went for a very easy 3 mile run in the afternoon and felt absolutely horrible.  I was feeling weak, out of breath and my HR was crazy high.  Even after the run was over I was feeling pretty bad.  After telling April about it and describing my symptoms, she looked up MSG and it seems based on the timing, that is the most likely culprit.  But, even though there was this reason, the combination just left me thinking I'd be happy with any kind of PR with this half. 

I ran a 1:40:36 at this same race 2 years ago which was at the time an awesome race and an 8 minute PR. I remember thinking I had made a huge fitness break through after I ran it.  I knew I had to be in better shape than I was two years ago but I was having doubts due to the past few weeks. Back when my training was going super well in early March, I had an awesome tempo run where I did 6 miles averaging 7:08 pace.  At that point I decided that 7:15 was doable which would have given me a 1:35, but since then, I completely abandoned this as a possibility. I decided that I would be happy to break 1:40 and set a new PR which would be 7:38 pace, but I was really hoping that I could keep my pace under 7:30 to finish in 1:37:XX.  But I felt it might be a stretch. Plus, a little over a week ago I ran 31 miles and I was still a bit worried about hurting my calves if I pushed too hard.  So now you see why my expectations were low for this race.


I had my usual restless sleep the night before the race, even though I tried to tell myself I wasn't going to be going all out and my expectations were low.  I even had a dream where I ran a 1:37:XX and was really happy.  I woke up before the alarm went off at 10 of 6. I had my usual bowl of Special K Fruit and Yogurt which has been my favorite cereal for a couple years now.  I love it, and has surprisingly few calories. Had a cup of coffee and I was off to Rutgers.  I was a bit worried about the weather because we were expecting to get a ton of rain today, but I wasn't sure what the timing would be.  I didn't mind racing in a little rain, but if the course was already wet and it was a downpour, that would probably slow me down. When I got to College Ave. the weather was perfect.  52 degrees and no rain.

I started my walk over to Busch campus and this woman came up to me and asked if she could walk with me and talk the whole way.  I thought that was a bit odd, but I welcomed the company and we already had a built in topic of conversation: running.  I can talk for hours about running, so I was more than happy to oblige.

I paid a visit to the porta potty, checked in my gear and did a 1.2 mile warmup with a few strides.  I was actually feeling good and maybe a bit more optimistic with my expectations. I met up with Frank who was positioned right behind the 7 minute pacer and we chatted for a few minutes before the start.  With a minute to go, I moved back a few rows and was ready to start my first mile at about 7:25 pace and take from there.


The race started and we were off. The nervousness went away pretty quickly and was immediately replaced with a mild discomfort, but hey I'm a runner, so this was no problem.  I was feeling OK, but not great.  I looked down at my watch after a few minutes and I was at 7:20 pace.  I was hoping to be at sub 7 with the adrenaline of the beginning of the race and force myself to back off, but that was not the case.  So be it.  I just kept it steady and ended up passing the first mile marker in 7:27. Second mile was pretty much same as the first, but with about the same effort, I picked it up a bit and hit it in 7:22. I was still feeling so-so about how I was going to do.

Then came the third mile.  I felt like I was just cruising along and started to feel strong.  I looked down at my watch about half way in, and I was at ~7:12 pace.  Now there was a bit of a downhill, but still, I was really liking this.  I thought about how great I felt compared to the run with Frank, and this was much better at a quicker pace.  I finished the 3rd mile in 7:09. The next mile had some major uphills but I still managed a 7:28 so I was really happy at this point. I also realized that my HR was nice and low throughout all of this. It was hovering around the mid 160s.  By contrast, last year, during the shortened 10 mile version of this course (due to flooding, hence why I haven't run a half in two years) my HR was in the low 170s. I was really starting to think this was going well


I told myself that I would try to cruise through the middle of this course and keep an even effort and then see where I'm at once I get to the 10 mile mark.  That is exactly what happened.  As is often the case with these races, I yo-yoed back and forth with a few folks and this kept me at a fairly even effort. Miles 5 - 9 were pretty quick ranging from 7:06 to 7:26. I was feeling really strong, but I still felt like a was holding a bit back for the end.


When I hit mile 10, I was starting to slow down a bit.  I was fading a little, plus there are a few major hills at the end, so miles 10 - 12 were slower, but not by a ton.  The 12th mile with the biggest hill was 7:38 (Still faster than my average pace for the half marathon from two years ago). Once the 12th mile was over and the hill was done, I figured I would pick it up a bit and I was happy to see I had reserves left to do so.  Even with a bit of hill in the 13th mile, I managed a 7:11.  The last 10th of a mile I picked it up even more, but it wasn't my usual crazy sprint to the finish.  Seeing 1:36:XX on the finishing clock was such an awesome site!

Splits from RunningAHEAD

 TypeDistanceTimeTotal TimePaceAvg HRMax HRNotes
1Interval1 mi7:26.627:26.627:27158168 
2Interval1 mi7:22.2114:48.837:23165170 
3Interval1 mi7:08.0221:56.857:09164169 
4Interval1 mi7:27.5029:24.357:28167169 
5Interval1 mi7:18.6436:42.997:19166170 
6Interval1 mi7:05.3943:48.387:06166170 
7Interval1 mi7:25.6651:14.047:26166171 
8Interval1 mi7:17.7858:31.827:18165168 
9Interval1 mi7:09.021:05:40.847:10165168 
10Interval1 mi7:31.931:13:12.777:32162165 
11Interval1 mi7:29.181:20:41.957:30164167 
12Interval1 mi7:37.621:28:19.577:38164167 
13Interval1 mi7:10.581:35:30.157:11166173 
14Interval0.17 mi0:59.741:36:29.895:52174176 


I was so super happy when I crossed the finish.  I really had exceeded my expectations and I also felt like I ran a pretty conservative race.  I didn't feel like I pushed 100% and that was the plan.  I just didn't expect to get such a good time doing it.

While grabbing quite a good assortment of food, I saw Frank and we congratulated each other. He also had an awesome day.  He ran a 1:30:59, setting a PR, managing sub 7 minute pace! That is incredible.  He is trying for a BQ on the same day as my ultra, May 20th. 

After that, I met up with my Dad who came to see me.  I wasn't sure if he would be there because of the weather, but luckily it was only drizzling so he made it.  It was so great to see him, although once again like last year, he missed me.  I should have told him I was wearing a ridiculously loud outfit.  A bright yellow shirt and bright green compression calf sleeves.  I think he was more upset than I was that he missed me since I was still in a state of euphoria from my finish.  

This ranks up there with one of the best races I've had.  I think it was the combination of my expectations and the outcome. I had so many doubts and worries going in, and everything turned out better than expected, including the weather. Also, it feels so great that all of the training I've been doing and the increased mileage has obviously paid off. 

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