Sunday, March 21, 2010

Race report: National Half Marathon

Every race tells a story, and if this half marathon was one, it would be a three parter. The mini chapters would be "confused start", "relearning to race," "on the attack".



But that's getting ahead of myself. I placed this race on my calendar months ago thinking it meshed well with my frequent visits to DC to visit R. Once I started picking races in March, I realized that It's in the middle of my very own March (race) Madness. Five road races in four weeks, ranging from 5K to 30K.

The National Half (see course) was race number two, a good warmup after my ho-hum 5K last week. Even though this wasn't a goal race, I don't like to enter anything longer than a 10K without a specific purpose. I was thinking of using the run to get some marathon pace training in. MP runs are difficult to do by yourself so my plan was to race my BQ MP pace (A 1:35ish half with maybe a few minutes added). My 1:31ish PB from 2007 still stands since I have yet to go out on a planned PB effort since.)

The race expo was understated but also had managed to get Bill Rodgers and Joan Benoit Samuelson. They are both amazing and humble, and I was left from a message from Joanie to always, in life and on the roads, "race your own race."

I did hydrate and fuel up for this race and so race morning began with a 3 a.m. wakeup call to have my breakfast, a brioche with peanut butter. Took a packed Metro to the stadium and did my routine, finding myself in the 7:38 per mile pace area (1:40 half marathon).

The confused start
I knew lining up that I'd have to do weaving in the first bit to get good running room, but in the first kilometre, I decided not to care that much. While other runners were frantically hitting the sidewalks to get ahead, I just shrugged my shoulders and took it easy, advancing whenever an opening happening. It was a little frustrating but hey, that's what happens in big races: people line up faster than they know they can run.

Other than that, the first 5K was uneventful. I had run these routes during previous races (the Capitol Hill 10K for example) and was just enjoying a mass start. At one point early on, I saw Bill Rodgers running and chatting with another runner. Wow, that was awesome. I said quickly to him "pleasure running with you" before heading out.

By the 2nd mile, I had enough room to start getting up to my pace and that was followed by a nice downhill by the Capitol, accounting for a 4:23 kilometre (7:03 mile pace).

1-5K: with corresponding mile pace
1K. 5:25 / 8:43 miles
2K. 4:51 / 7:48
3K. 4:40 / 7:30
4K. 4:23 / 7:03
5K. 4:39 / 7:29
5K split in 23:58

I felt at this point I was giving some effort but I needed more time to find comfort. We passed a first bank of portapotties and some runner I was with said "I don't know if I could ever hold it in". That got me thinking that I actually had to take a break so at the next bank of portapotties, I took my break (20-30 seconds in and out)

6K. 4:56 / 7:56 (washroom break)

Then i resumed, seeing that I'd lost all the recent gains on the 3:20 group i had passed just minutes earlier. I decided then to start making some ground and go for sub 1:40, for which i had to get ahead of the 3:20 group. Turning on the speed, felt good, comfortably hard but not taxing on my cardio. That was good. We hit a turnaround and I went wide with intention of speeding my way through the turn. At that moment, I was finally getting into a race mode.


7K. 4:35 / 7:22

Relearning to race

Of course, racing means drafting, measuring effort, doling out speed bursts to keep with other runners, passing when necessary and testing yourself on the hills. Miles 5 - 8 (8K - 13K) included quite a few hills, and we were tackling one of the first when I realized my left shoe felt a bit loose.

Doh, it had come untied. Weird, since I always, even in day-to-day training, double tie my knots, my brand new shoes on their second run decided to fail on me. So I went to the side, bent down, tried not to cramp my calf, and did a double knot. The 3:20 caught up and passed me so I had to regain and pass them again.

8. 4:47 / 7:41 (shoelace break)
9. 4:34 / 7:21
10. 4:39 / 7:29
5K split in 23:31

So I ran the second 5K almost 30 seconds faster than the first 5K, even with the hills. I really zeroed in on the group I was running with and kept mental note of who was around me, who was looking strong, who was ripe for overtaking. And so the hills I took as opportunity to use as hill training, thinking of next week's Around the Bay.

Still, the pace was still conservative for a half marathon. I was running at around a 7:30 to 7:40 mile or 4:40 to 4:45 kilometres. Not a bad pace but it I've also run entire marathons at that pace or faster. Hills, I knew, had to be taken with patience. Empty all your energy on climbing them and you can max out your heart rate. I was pushing up them, then using the flats and downhills to recover while going out at a decent pace.

11K. 4:46 / 7:40
12K. 4:39 / 7:29
13K. 4:27 / 7:09

On the attack
So by 8 miles/13K, I felt I wasn't racing up to my potential. It was pretty much the same group of people, including a few marathoners, I was jockeying back and forth with. As we hit 8 miles, I decided to let it rip, really leave my group and start targetting way ahead.

It was good timing, because right when I decided to attack the course, we had a slight downhill followed by a flat that ran alongside the McMillan Reservoir. The sun was shining on the water, the road looked pancake flat and the wind was blowing just right. As I've done in other 10 mile to halfs, I turned it up to a whole other gear.

14K. 4:11 / 6:43

That 14th kilometre in 4:11 really felt good. I had shed my group and was looking far ahead for opportunities. Instead of pack running, I was running entirely by myself. Instead of drafting, I was pulling alongside, then targetting ahead. Not attacking the runners, but attacking the course.

15K. 4:27 / 7:09 (5K in 22:30)
5K split in 22:30 (1:30 faster than the first 5K split)

The next 5K (3 miles) was spent on this mode of racing, just attacking, leaving nothing. I wasn't really content to catch a pack of runners then run with them. This sort of racing is exhilarating (if not a bit of a cheat) because if you use the strategy of going slower than you're capable of, you will catch runners who went out too fast. Kilometres 16 - 17 were pretty much tempo pace, while 18 - 20 where also in the lower tempo ranges. All felt decent and I felt there was plenty of gas left.

I remember the 10.5 and 11 mile areas because they had pretty sharp turns. I entered each one at full speed and it felt great.

16K. 4:12 / 6:45
17K. 4:15 / 6:50
18K. 4:20 / 6:58
19K. 4:27 / 7:09
20K. 4:22 / 7:01
The 5K split in 21:36 (funnily enough, only 18 seconds slower than my 5K race last week)

The last mile or so was directly into the sunlight and I saw plenty of runners that I could pass so I did. In the final straightaway before a curve, they split the marathoners from the halfers and I wished the marathoners well before finishing up the race.

21K. 4:04 / 6:32
Last .100 in 4:08K pace / 6:39

Really happy with this race. Not a PB by a long shot but a well executed race plan from the moment I decided to race. The last 5 miles is how I know I could have run the majority of the race. Despite the lack of real quality work this marathon cycle, I know that my body has the built-in fitness, muscle memory from experience, and the now-countless road race experience, plus on top of all of that, the miles I do on a consistent basis.

I'm also pleased because yesterday's runs served multiple purposes: I ran at MP for quite a few miles, I turned the last 5 miles into a tempo run, and then I piled on seven miles after the race to give me 20 miles on the day. That equals the last 20 miler since next week i'm racing a 18.6 miler that's 'Older than Boston'. Gulp.

Chip time: 1:36:37
Average page: 7:22 miles / 4:34 kilometres
Overall: 472/6239
Category: 75/520
Gender: 388/2909
5K Splits: (Love them, a progressively faster run!)
5K: 23:58
10K: 23:31
15K: 22:30
20K 21:36

Splits
1K. 5:25 / 8:43 miles
2K. 4:51 / 7:48
3K. 4:40 / 7:30
4K. 4:23 / 7:03
5K. 4:39 / 7:29
6K. 4:56 / 7:56
7K. 4:35 / 7:22
8K. 4:47 / 7:41
9K. 4:34 / 7:21
10K. 4:39 / 7:29
11K. 4:46 / 7:40
12K. 4:39 / 7:29
13K. 4:27 / 7:09
14K. 4:11 / 6:43
15K. 4:27 / 7:09
16K. 4:12 / 6:45
17K. 4:15 / 6:50
18K. 4:20 / 6:58
19K. 4:27 / 7:09
20K. 4:22 / 7:01
21K. 4:04 / 6:32
.1 4:08 (200m) / 6:39

6 comments:

Marky Mark said...

Thst sounds like a good race to run in. How is it different from MCM? Amazing that your last K of a half is so strong! Hope the weather holds for ATB.

Marlene said...

Congrats Kenny! It must be a great feeling to turn it on like that at the end of a race.

5 races in 4 weeks... and I thought *I* was a race addict!

Boris T. said...

Good work Kenny! You've got some speed in ya!

macnic said...

Congrats! Have fun at ATB next week. Hope the weather is much better than last year.

trialsoftraining said...

LOVE that picture! Sounds like you enjoyed the race day too :) Way to get the 20 in!

Thanks, again, for the support - It was really fun to see you on the sideline (mile 16 ish, right?? ha, it's a blur)! hopefully you can join us for another evening run sometime this summer!!

Quinto Sol said...

Excellent race... and as always, an enjoyable RR...