|My 32nd half-marathon.|
My first race since the Oct. 9 Bank of America Chicago Marathon presented an interesting challenge -- what to wear for a chilly race morning. The low was to be 29 degrees, although it was 31 degrees when I woke up in the morning.
I decided to wear shorts instead of running pants as I've often felt that the pants have slowed my leg movement and speed in a race. And I didn't want to wear a windbreaker shell since I didn't want to have to run the race with it tied against my waist.
So what I decided on were two layers of long-sleeve technical T-shirts, which I call the "Zion Rules" after we went to the national park in December several years ago and I didn't have the luggage space to bring my heavy running layers. In place of the windbreaker, I decided to wear the Team BEEF short-sleeved shirt, also as a way to start chipping away at the $300 reimbursement that is allowed this year for races.
I ran to the start from home because I didn't want to worry about parking. It was 1.76 miles, a little longer than I would typically like for a warmup, but when I got to the start line I was pretty well warmed up and I only had to wait a few minutes. I brought a space blanket with me but didn't need to use it. A thin Outdoor Research watchcap and some old thin Nike gloves rounded out my kit.
When the race started my plan was to just run easily. The rolling hilly start in the first two miles seemed incredibly easy and I went back and forth with the 1:45 pace group. Since the race's namesake created the walk-run method, this was the way the pace group carried its business (suffice to say you don't normally see that in other half-marathons).
While that is all fine and good, when it was the group's time to walk, they just stopped right where they were and walked. I suppose they only walked for a few seconds but it is the norm for walkers to move to the right during races. It created a little bit of a logjam in the early part of the race.
I felt pretty good throughout the race and tried to make sure I was running at no more than a 7:50/8 minute mile pace, even on downhills where lots of runners, including the pace group, picked it up. My main reasoning was I wanted to have something left for the last part of the race, especially the huge hill up St. Charles Avenue and later along 10th Street and Piedmont Avenue.
Around Mile 8 I ate one of my two GU gels that I carried with me. The space blanket took up a lot of space in my waist pack and I fumbled around for a while trying to get the gels (my hat and gloves were in there as well, having come off before Mile 2).
Around Mile 10, right after turning onto Piedmont Avenue from 10th Street, trouble hit. I started to get a cramp in my left leg. Then for the rest of the race they would alternate in both legs. I knew I had to slow down and I just tried to take it easy. I kicked myself for running such a long warmup, thinking that if I hadn't maybe the cramps would have developed a little closer to the finish line.
It led to an 8:30 Mile 11 and a very slow 9:39 for Mile 12. But I discovered that the cramping was going away near the end of the race, allowing me to pick up the race and finish with an 8:30 Mile 13, picking off three of the four people who'd passed me in the last mile.
I ended up finishing 20 seconds faster than what I ran last year, and improved my finish placing from 72nd last year to 62nd this year. After the results came out I counted and was chagrined to learn I likely will have placed fourth for my age group and maybe would have placed had I not been forced to slow down at the end of the race.
I basically did not prepare for this race at all, my last long run was a 9-mile run a month ago. Although that was the same way I prepared for my PR 1:42:40 Publix Georgia Half Marathon in March, I'd done much more plyometric work leading up to that race.
So next year I plan on running it again because it will be the fourth year for the race's streak. I'll be better prepared for the race and will count my lucky stars it will be enough to place in my age group (although in the 2015 race I would have had to run a 1:37 to do that).
Time: 8 a.m.
Temp: 31 degrees
Gear: Noted above, Brooks Pure Connect 4.