One of the dangerous tendencies I have regarding racing half marathons is not taking them seriously enough.
“It’s just a half…” I say, and then I do stupid things like drink a beer the night before at a neighborhood block party.
“I hear you’re racing tomorrow,” my neighbor said, looking concerned that I wasn’t holed up in my living room with my feet up on the coffee table.
“Yeah, but it’s just a half…”
The truth is, it is a bit liberating to not have to worry about a bonk or a race plan in a half, but still. Thirteen miles is a long way to run with an untied shoe or with a Cytomax chew stuck in one’s cheek.
MFP decided to join me for this race, which took place out in Simi Valley. I didn’t have to worry about parking, gear check or anything, really. Most of the time I go to races either by myself or with a friend, so it was lovely having support this time. And also someone to remind me to warm up (which I didn’t do—oops), stretch and cool down.
“But it’s only a half…”
I picked up my packet just before the race started, as this was a smaller, more low-key affair. Translation: my kind of race. The kind of race where they literally take your timing chip off of your shoes as soon as you cross the finish line so that they can re-use it next year.
I met the beautiful and talented Lisa from RunWiki at the start; we have known each other through blogging for years, but this was the first time we met IRL.
I lined up with the eight minute pace group, as I had planned on running around 1:45.
For some reason I was feeling reasonably good, and so by the first mile I was essentially running by myself in the no-man’s land between the 7 minute and 8 minute groups. (The 7-minute group went out two minutes ahead of us.)
Mile 1: 7:13 (burning off some adrenaline and some Sierra Nevada?)
Mile 2: 7:18
Mile 3: 7:23
After a few miles of running along a bike path, you sort of have a difficult time pacing, especially if you don’t have music or a group you are running with. I could not find my ear buds the night before the race, so I decided to try to run without my tunes to practice pacing based breathing alone. For a full, I would have turned the freaking house upside to find those ear buds. I have run way too many races beside people having heavy breathing/moaning issues. Music is the only way to make that go away. I know better.
“It’s only a half…”
Mile 4: 7:43
Mile 5: 7:19
At this point I had caught up to this dude, so I put a target on his back and tried to reel him in. Also my shoe came untied. (I did not double knot them. Oops.)
Soon I passed him and found a girl to pace behind, one who had started with the 7 minute , so I latched on to her for a while.
Mile 6: 7:27
Mile 7: 7:22
Mile 9: 7:34
Around this point she began slipping away from me. It seemed at the time as if she was speeding up, but now that I see my splits, I see that I was actually slowing down.
The last few miles were lonely and boring, and without anyone around me, my pace began to slide.
Mile 10: 7:37
Mile 11: 7:38
I caught up to one more guy around this point, but still, it was tough to finish as strongly as I would have liked.
Mile 12: 7:52 (I guess you can bonk in a half after all.)
Mile 13: 7:46
I was extremely relieved to get the last point one of this race done.
(Weird leg muscle photo. Just for fun.)
Time: 1:38:06, 2nd in age group
Overall I learned a lot in this race besides the fact that I should take the half marathon a bit more seriously in the future.
I can’t chew at 7:30 pace, so I will bring gels to any distance shorter than the marathon. My Cytomax chews had to be stored in my cheeks and then strategically moved to the back of my throat for swallowing during this race. I am lucky that I did not choke.
Double knot your running shoes. (Or get buy yourself a freaking pair of Lock Laces.)Always. Though running with an untied shoe was not that bad, what was bad was wasting energy saying “I know” each time another runner pointed it out. (I did not stop to tie it.)
The last few miles of a half marathon are really hard when you are not racing one during your marathon training cycle. In the Pasadena R n R half (I was knee deep in training for Boston at the time) I think my last mile was my fastest. In this race it was NOT.
And also, pay close attention to the turnarounds in smaller races. When there is no one to follow, you have to be very careful with signage. I ran too far out on one turnaround and had to be corrected by a race official. As a result, I probably ran an extra point two miles. Oops.
Running a race without twinges is the bomb. I ran the entire Boston marathon concerned that my right leg might give out, so running a race 100% healthy felt amazing.
Lastly, drink your Muscle Milk like a big girl after the race.
I could not stomach anything for a while; I should have forced some calories down.
Overall, I really enjoyed the Arroyo Creek half marathon. The price was reasonable, the atmosphere was amazing, and the staff was well-prepared and organized.
(The course was boring, but for the price it was still well worth staring at fences and a long path to nowhere for a while.)
For me, this race represented the beginning of a fall racing cycle. I am looking to stay engaged in my speed work and also to keep building mileage gradually through the spring.
I also think getting racing feedback on a monthly basis will help me build confidence towards my ultimate goal, a 3:30 marathon.
According to McMillan, if I do my mileage and keep my speed going, I should be able to run a sub 3:30. Oh McMillan you have been so wrong in the past, why do you tease me like that?
For now I happily move on to 10K training, knowing that taking shorter distances less seriously could get me into some serious trouble.
(Luckily I found my ear buds, so I have a few weeks to go get myself a pair of Lock Laces.)