I’ll start right off the top saying the race was really well run with lots of volunteers. It is a nice course as well with lots of time in areas with mature trees. It is a very good race in an area of town I don’t run in very often so it is a nice change of view as well.
I went into the race ready to push for a new half marathon PR – needed to break 1:46:00 and would have loved to have been 2-3 minutes below that. I kind of suspected fairly early on in the race that those faster times weren’t likely to happen so I did most of my planning on course to try to hit 1:45:00. I didn’t hit that with a final time of 1:47:41 (not awful for a 220 pound guy in his 40s who had to fight the trots near the end of the race…but not where I hoped to be). So what went wrong? First I will do a quick review of the run itself and then after I will put out what my thoughts are on what I need to do different.
The day started when I woke up almost an hour before my alarm went off. Was surprisingly well rested though since I had gotten to bed early – going into a race after having had enough sleep is always a nice surprise! So got to the race fully awake and ready to move.
My wife, Heather, and I got to the race and managed to park less than 50 paces from the start line. We got there about 40 minutes before the race was scheduled to start – after some prep at the van we wandered around for a bit before getting in the chutes for the race at about 15 minutes before the race start.
I felt some weird gurgles about 2 minutes before race start and decided that it was just nerves and things seemed to settle down so I didn’t worry too much about it.
Once the race started, I had to really struggle to keep my speed under control – even actively trying to keep my speed down I still hit the first mile marker at just under 7:30…whoops that was going to cost me…I had planned on doing that first mile in 8:30 – a minute too fast? Could mean a great race or a struggle later on…
The 2nd, 3rd and 4th miles were better – just under the 8:00 mark where I had planned to be. Mile 5 was also pretty good at just around the 8:00 mark and after that mile was done I took a 1 minute walk to get some fuel in me and then started going again. I was finding though that I was constantly having to check my Garmin to see what my pace was – I just couldn’t seem to settle into a decent pace – or if I did settle I started to drop into my default pace for long, slow runs.
Even with the stop mile 6 was a decent time as was mile 7. I hit the hour mark at around 7.6 miles but I could tell that I was starting to drain. I think the constant change in pace was causing some of the drain at this point.
The course is an out and back type race and I saw Heather shortly after the hour mark and she was still going strong at what would have been around the 6 mile mark for her – whoohoo!
At mile 8, I stopped to walk again and bring in some more fuel and start on some Gatorade (beyond the water I had been having up to this point) – I might have decided to do the Gatorade earlier if it hadn’t been for the stomach gurgles at the start line. I did feel a few stomach twinges around this point as well but was able to mostly ignore them but there were starting to poke at the back of my mind.
Mile 9 was not too bad but mile 10 was a bit rough – still pushing just over 8:10 but it was definitely getting much harder. After mile 11 I had to walk again and at that point I knew I needed to give up on the hope of a new PR and it was going to be a hard push to be even within a minute of my PR.
It also didn’t help that just around mile 11 the stomach started gurgling again…I thought I had solved that issue with my fueling strategy from back in May and June! Except of course that I wasn’t following that strategy, I was doing something else again. I guess the new strategy didn’t work as well as I was hoping.
Mile 12 took some work but did manage to pick up some speed and while I didn’t pass anyone I was gaining on a few in the last mile and was not passed. So I was still running strong with lots of endurance left but there wasn’t any more speed in the tank – couldn’t even sprint to the finish – ran strong but no sprinting.
Official time in the end was 1:47:41 – 55th overall (not a big race…) 10/16 for age group and 44/85 men – 1:41 slow compared to half marathon PR set back in May and about 4-5 minutes slower than had been hoping for.
Heather was 2:21:09 – 134th overall 6/10 for age group and 55/71 for women – fantastic first real half marathon running race!
So what happened? Why did I not get a new PR?
I would say I am in far better running shape than I was back in May with well improved endurance on my long runs and higher speeds coming on my short runs.
The weather was almost perfect – maybe a bit humid but the temperatures were perfect so the humidity wasn’t really an issue.
The course has a few tight corners but that should only cost a few seconds here and there – nothing major. There are few hills and inclines but again nothing awful that would account for minutes off my hoped for time.
I think in the end it came down to 2 things:
- Pacing – I tend to do my longer runs outside and I don’t worry about pace on those runs. For convenience I do my faster runs and speed work on the treadmill…where the treadmill worries about the pace and I just have to make sure I don’t fall off. So I wasn’t used to running at a relatively fast constant speed outside – I had to rely heavily on my watch for pacing and I found I kept speeding up and slowing down. This would have been a drain on the legs. The fix for this is to force myself to start doing some more mid length runs outside at a faster pace – so I get used to the feel of the speed outside as well as getting used to the feeling of the pace I want.
- Fuel – back in May and June for a half and a full I had come up with a fueling strategy that took me mostly off of things like gels and Gatorade. That stuff messes with my system and I had a continual fight with tummy troubles on race and I had found a way to get around that with plain regular candy and Coke. (yeah, I run half and full marathons with Coke) Not normal half and full runner fuels but it seemed to work and I avoided the porta potties. Over the summer I was investigating what ultra runners do and realized that based on what they were doing what I needed to do was eat more solid fuel and avoid the usual running fuels that most people use. I tried that out over several 18-23 mile runs over the summer and it worked great. Then I got to prepping for this race and ended up throwing all that research and testing away and went back to using Gatorade and other pre-packed running fuels and predictably my system rebelled. I second guessed myself and went back to what has a history of failing for me. Weird choice but it is what I did. So for the next race I have in October – Coke and solid fuel (cookies, candy). What I think it comes down is I am hauling around 220 pounds (I am overweight but I am also 6’2″ with significant muscle mass) and that takes a lot of fuel and it has to be dense – and my body seems to take the light and easy running fuels out there and rips through them too quick. I’m not saying I going to carry a piece of pizza with me but there will be sugar, lots of sugar (for the quick calories and energy) and then some more dense fuel like spirulina and things like cookies that will give an initial sugar hit but the stomach can work on them for a while. My phone app says I burned through 2265 calories on that race – I need fuel that will slowly release in my system so I’m not stopping to eat something every 10 minutes. It is hard to believe but it looks like Coke and cookies will be my fuel for the WFPS Half Marathon in October…
I will do some practicing and take another attempt at a new half marathon PR in October!