Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Race report; Navy-Air Force Half-Marathon, September 18, 2016

I ran the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon yesterday, finishing in a time of 1:33:13.   Not the time I'd normally want to run, but I'm not upset.  Just neutral.

This is a great race course, and when I'd signed up, I'd hoped that I'd finally beat my habit of racing poorly in September.  Allergies have historically been an issue for me in September, but I feel like I finally have them under control, and so I'd give it another shot.  What the heck.  Plus, the timing of the race worked well as a final tune-up before Chicago - do the last 20 miler 4 weeks before, then race this 3 weeks out, before a full-on taper.

Of course, the weather gods didn't play nice this week.  When I checked the weather forecast earlier this week, Weather Underground forecast a dewpoint of 70 - far from optimal for a longer race.  I hoped for once that Weather Underground was lying to me.  But, as I discovered on race morning, they were right once again.  Sigh.

Oh well, I was committed to the race anyway.  And since swapping up asthma meds I've been breathing significantly better in the humidity - almost like it's a non-issue.  Plus, I'm good at going out conservatively, which was what was needed for today.    I had run in similar conditions at Grandma's Marathon in June - while it was slightly cooler and less humid then, I also hadn't had the benefit of several months of acclimation.  I decided I'd just pace it the same way - go out very conservatively for the first half, and treat my handheld water bottle like my best friend.

Because of the conditions, I started my warm-up a bit earlier than normal, to give me time to cool off a bit and drink some water before the start.  Then hopped in my corral.

Because of the explosive devices discovered in New York City and New Jersey the day before the race, the final announcements for the race included a caution "if you see something, say something."  I idly wondered just how many people would actually notice if there was anything unusual on the course.  A few years ago, when I ran Army 10 Miler, there was a weird routing issue where a group of us were routed THROUGH a construction area on Virginia Avenue - at the time I didn't think anything of it - I just kept going...


The race started, and I went out conservatively, per my plan, holding way back in the first mile.  Which was not difficult, as the road was fairly congested and I had started back in the field.  Then we turned onto Hains Point, and I was able to find a rhythm.  For the first few miles, the pace felt stupidly easy, and that was good.  I had two goals at this point, and neither involved time - just stay relaxed and keep drinking.  Even so, I was a bit surprised at how quickly I drained my water bottle - by the first stop it was nearly empty.  Good thing I had it.

I can't really give a mile by mile split of the race, since it was more or less the same - an increasing sense of respect for the heat and humidity, an increasing reluctant to pick up the pace, and an increasing appreciation for my water bottle.  By the time I hit mile 9 or so, I was thirsty.  Not good.  But I'm sure I wasn't alone in feeling that way.  Nothing to do but keep drinking and keep running.  There was another woman running near me who looked like she was my age, so I kept her in my sights.  I wasn't focused on passing her at this point - working to pass her at this point would probably haunt me later.  Better to run my own race, and chase her down at the end.

By Mile 11 I was starting to struggle - pretty much like everyone else.  At this point, the course climbs up a hill to Memorial Bridge, and that was when it got really tough.  Not asthma - my lungs never grabbed up during the race.  More of a falling back into old bad habits, where instead of staying relaxed and letting the finish line come to me, I push and tense and try too hard.  When I do that, I fry energy and I lose control of my breathing - not an asthma thing but a tension thing.  I paused my running (but not my watch) for a moment to shake out my shoulders and reestablish my breathing before continuing - not proud of that, but it happened.  The interesting thing is that I think I ran the last mile faster as a result of taking that pause - once I had reset, I was able to run much faster and chase down the other masters runner I had kept in my sights all along.  But it would have been far better not to tense up at all.

Thankfully, we hit the turn and the final downhill to the finish.  If I have one running skill, it's running fast downhill.  The other masters runner was still right next to me, and I managed to outkick her to the finish by a second.  Immediately after, she graciously congratulated me as I caught my breath - very nice sportmanship on her part.


Since I race with my watch face blanked, and the clock when I finished was set for the 5 mile race, I had no idea what I had run until I checked my watch.   I was surprised but not surprised to see the time - 1:33:13 is just one second off of my slowest half marathon ever.  On the other hand, I knew the conditions weren't great, and that times were just going to be what they would be today.   Going into this, I had hoped that I'd handle humidity better than I have in the past.  And I guess I did, but still not as well as I wish I could.  Or maybe it just wasn't my day.  Oh well.

Splits were:
Mile 1: 7:09
Mile 2: 6:59
Mile 3: 7:11
Mile 4: 7:05
Mile 5: 7:27 (extended water stop due to coordination issues with cups)
Mile 6-7: 14:09
Mile 8: 7:08
Mile 9: 6:49 (I think this one was short)
Mile 10: 7:05
Mile 11: 7:13
Mile 12: 7:18
Mile 13: 7:04
last bit: 37 seconds.

Other notes:
  • Temp at the start was 72, with a dew point of 70.  By the end it was 76 with a dewpoint of 71.
  • Took a blackberry GU before the start of the race, and a lemonade one during.
  • Parked my car at 6:00 am (race start was at 7:08) which was just about perfect.
  • This whole weekend was a tough one for me - Brian and I were adopting a kitten, but she died suddenly on Saturday afternoon.  I didn't handle the loss well, to be honest.  I debated whether to race on Sunday, but decided to go ahead.  Not racing wouldn't change anything, and some of my best races have been when I've been under a lot of stress and very worried about something non-running related.

    In retrospect, I think that there's a difference between stress and sadness, and I was dealing with the latter.  I didn't feel focused on Sunday morning - my head wasn't in the game.  I wonder if that played into some of the tenseness/straining issues I had in the last mile.
  • At the awards ceremony, I received a trophy as the third place masters female.  However,  the second place masters female was a bib-swap (the results are being corrected).  Please, people - bib-swapping hurts others.  Don't do it.
  • I'm a very heavy sweater, and by the time I was 5 miles in, my shorts started slipping down.  I'm really glad that I'm coordinated enough to re-tie a drawstring while running, and appreciative that this episode wasn't caught on film.
  • As I've noted in previous posts, I've been on Clarinex the last few weeks for my allergies.  It's helped those tremendously, but it's also very drying, and I've struggled to stay hydrated - taking many many short water breaks while running.  I suspect that didn't help me on Sunday.  My heart rate was ridiculously high in the last few miles, indicating that I was dehydrated.  If Chicago is even borderline weather, I've decided I'll probably skip it and redirect to a later marathon.  My reasoning is that if I struggled to stay hydrated over 13 miles while carrying a water bottle and stopping at every station, then it's just a waste of time to try to run 26 miles in warm weather.  Going off the Clarinex isn't an option, since ragweed levels may still be quite high.


  1. Congratulations on the 2nd place AG. You keep getting all the bad weather for your races :(

  2. I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of the kitten. Kudos for hanging in there in tough conditions.