Monday, February 14, 2011

{Bucket list} Half Marathon... check!

Bottom line up front (BLUF)66/250 in 40-44 Age Group; 666/3332 overall; 486/1585 Males; finishing time of 1:51:36 for 8:32 min/mile average over 13.1 miles.

Pre-race routine:
We did not realize it at the time but when my Brother and I sat in the pizza joint in Lafayette, LA back in September... we established what has become my pre-race ritual dinner... pizza and a beer! So in keeping with that ritual... on Saturday night we enjoyed a couple of pizzas and I had an ice cold Sierra Nevada! Following an enjoyable dinner with the family I hit the rack early as it was going to be an early start on Sunday.
I actually had a very restful night sleep... I set the alarm for 0415 but found myself awake at exactly 0400... so up I got... and headed to what has become my 2nd pre-race ritual... shower and shave!
Now... the night before I made up what would be my breakfast... steel cut oatmeal with peanut butter and wildflower clover honey and well as mixing up a bottle of EnduroxR4 recovery drink for post race. I also laid out everything I was going to need in the morning to ensure a streamlined and efficient process had me out the door at 0445 as it was over an hour drive to the Boutwell Auditorium in Birmingham.
Having flawless operational execution despite the time of day... the planning was perfect and I was out the door at 0445 with a travel mug full of hot coffee, breakfast, all my gear to include several options for clothing depending on the temperature at start time.
Two miles into my early journey.. on the radio... FORECAST: chilly start to the day but sunny and 60's by midday... AWWW SNAP... forgot my sunglasses... {thinking to myself as I consider options in my Crisis Action Planning Branch and Sequel mindset}... CRAAAAPPPPPP... I really need to go back and get my sunglasses... so a quick Starsky and Hutch 180 and I am headed back home at speeds slightly above the posted speed limit! I get home... get my glasses... get back to the plan... crisis averted!
I arrive in Birmingham only a few minutes behind the plan but get a great parking spot... I sit there in the heat of my truck and eat my oatmeal... inventory everything I need to have on one more time... watch the temperature gauge and listen to some motivating music... I finally decide that 25 degrees is cold and I am going to wear the cold weather running gear! So I suit up and head up to the Auditorium to commence coffee transfer (read: pee) with the idea of simply heading to the starting chute from there. But once I arrive at the Auditorium I realize there are nearly 5000 people all looking to complete their morning constitution prior to the race... in the nicely heated building of course... so I head back out to the porta potty's... now I get in line and nearly 75% of those in line are women... who all have on multiple layers of running attire... let's just say that I am not entirely sure what the process involves in the porta potty but I know it is taking a lot of time to complete that process and I am 5 back in the line. I eventually get my turn and feel relief and for the first time a little bit of nervousness as I head to the starting chute!
So I am standing there doing some token stretching and listening to the announcer... "8 minutes to the start... all runners please make your way to the starting chute".... now I am thinking to myself... HOLY CRAP is it cold... about 28 degrees at this point.... do I have on the right mix of clothes??? am I going to be hot??? At this point it dawns on me... I still have on my regular glasses because it is dark... CCRRRRAAAPPPPP... I need to get back to my truck and get my sunglasses.... so I scurry back to the truck and exchange glasses then make my way back to the starting chute... only now the closest I can get to the front is at about the 12 min per mile group... DAMMIT!
Now I am standing there making sure the Garmin is ready to go... I get satellite reception... scroll through the pages... HOLY MONKEY... my heart rate just standing there shivering in the cold is 125... nerves??? shivering??? Probably a combination of both... anyway... I look up and I immediately recognize the guy next to me but cannot place him right away... I say... "I think I know you"... to which he replies.. "Yeah... you look familiar too"... AHA... Soccer... turns out he is a guy that I met at breakfast at the hotel Colby and I stayed at in Decatur, AL for the Governor's Cup tournament... we struck up a conversation one morning because he had on a USAT hat... small world moment of the day!
Alright... we have moment of silence for a couple of local runners that recently passed... a really nice prayer... and now it is game on!

BANG goes the gun... and 4 mins later I finally cross the starting line! Alright... so here was the game plan... overall goal- 1:59:59... and don't hurt myself! So my plan was to start off at a pace of 9:05 knowing that it was the required average race pace to achieve goal.. and after a few miles... try to negative split if possible to make up some time... save myself for the last 3.1 miles and run it like a 5K event at 8:00 pace.
Did I mention that 7132 people where running the combined Marathon and Half Marathon and we were all lined up in a 15 yard wide chute? Now the traffic was insane on the first couple of miles but I was able to pick my way through the masses and actually ran a 9:03 first mile... albeit the pace bounced around from 11 mins to 7 mins as I weaved in and out of folks. Mile 2 was not much different... mile 3 and 4 things start to spread out and it is easier to get into a nice comfortable stride... and I am negative splitting as planned...
My other plan was to get water at every station and to eat a GU Chomp every two miles just as I had done in training... things are going great.. now... you know me so it shouldn't come as any surprise when I tell you that I downloaded the race course and imported it into Google Earth to study the elevation... so I knew at mile 6 there was a long climb... and this is where my training on the hilly terrain of Prattville paid off in spades! I passed A LOT of people of the long, slow, grinding climb with relative ease without much increase in heart rate.. mile 6 and 7 behind me... HOLY CRAP... I am halfway.. this is cool! I finish the downhill section back on a negative split pace and resume a comfortable stride... at the mile 8 aid station where they are handing out GU... WHAM... a guy cuts across in front of me to get to the girl handing out the GU and clips my front foot almost sending me to the ground... the incident is readily obvious on both my heart rate and pace data lines from my Garmin... now... the one part of my body that does not respond well to the sudden redirection of both pace and direction is my left hamstring... I immediately feel it ball up and cramp... but I am able to adjust my gate without significant slow down to allow it to work itself out... WHEW... back to running my race!
Alright... mile 9 had what appeared to be a benign climb to it on the map... but at this point in the run it appeared much more ominous... and again I cruised by what seemed like hundreds of people on the climb without much change in pace.. and very little climb in heart rate... this felt great!!! So I am coming up on the mile marker... and each had a digital clock with the race time... I check the time and do the math... looking good... HELLO... at this point it finally dawns on me... I HAVE BEEN RUNNING FOR OVER AN HOUR... LOL... never even crossed my mind... as up to this point I was only consumed with maintaining a pace to meet my goal! Take about OCD and being caught up in the moment... that is some serious compartmentalization right there!
So... here comes mile 10... 5K ahead of me.. race time... and given it was relatively flat I was going to kick it up a notch... and end up running a 8:15, 8:19 and 7:52 pace over the last 3 miles... the plan was coming together! Okay... in the last half mile I see a guy out in front of me running in gorilla feet... shoes... slippers... whatever you call them... and I distinctly recall when he passed me on mile 11 and make a conscious decision that I will not let him beat me... I slowly catch up to him and he senses it so he picks up the pace and I return... with only 100 yards to finish I quickly run around him to finish seconds ahead of him... small victory... and then it dawns on me... HOLY CRAP... I just finished my first half marathon... way cool!!! 
A quick look at the Garmin shows I beat my original goal by over 8 mins... I could not be more thrilled at this point... I get my finisher medal and ball cap... I grab a bottle of water and run into one of the Navy students at Air War College... he finished about 10 mins ahead of me and we congratulate each other... what a great feeling and sense of accomplishment!

Post Race
I make my way over to Boutwell Auditorium to find the massage tables... I spend about 20 mins in line talking with some great people... turns out an Army guy and a retired USAF guy are in front of me and right behind me... I do some token stretching anxiously awaiting a much needed massage.
Thank you Miss Mary... the local Massage Therapy school in Birmingham supplied about 30 students to give post race massages and I was fortunate enough to get Miss Mary... she was awesome... and actually spent about 35 mins on my legs... turns out the knot in my left hamstring... which she found almost instantly required some significant encouragement to loosen up... she was determined to return it to as close to its original condition as possible and for that I will be forever grateful!
The post race celebration was hosted by Michelob Ultra and Jim N Nick's BBQ... I found my way to the beer line then picked up my bag of BBQ... that smoked turkey sandwich never tasted so good...
I made my way back to my truck... drank my EnduroxR4 and headed home... now.. I have to be honest... I don't really recall too much of the drive other than talking with my wife, Mother and Brother as I was on that "runner's high" but I seem to recall a humongous sense of satisfaction in my preparation for this race... as they often say... fear the training!

I am thrilled with the results... not sure I ever want to run a full marathon... decided I really enjoy the various aspects of multisport events over pure running events... and realized once again that without the full support of my family I would not be able to have these small personal victories.... and for that I am forever grateful! It was a banner weekend for the entire family... maybe a family marathon relay is in our future!

1 comment:

  1. congrats on the 1/2 mary. Ive thought the same thing about not needing to do a full. But I think I'm fooling myself. I think I will do several before it's all said and done.