Sunday, September 14, 2014

Race report: Navy-Air Force Half Marathon, September 14, 2014

I ran the Navy Air-Force Half Marathon today, finishing in 1:29:33.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about this performance.  On the one hand, this time is not what I had hoped I would run.  I really didn't know exactly what I would run, but I had assumed I'd break 89 minutes at a bare minimum, and possibly be 1:27:xx.    I never know exactly what I'm going to run - in the end, I race watchless and by effort and see what happens.  But I had some expectations based on workouts.

On the other hand, I ran a well-paced mentally tough race and left it all out there on the course.  And just getting to start and finish this race is a vast improvement over last year at this time, when I was sidelined with multiple injuries.  My coach was actually fine with the time - he noted that I was still coming back, and that this was a big improvement over where I was last month.  So there's that.  But of course, we all always want to run faster.  And we want to do it now.

The race itself was a set up for big PRs.  It's a very fast course (think Cherry Blossom with an added segment in Rock Creek park), and the weather was absolutely perfect - mid-50s, low dewpoint, pollen wasn't too bad, no issues with wind.  Perfect.  This is absolutely a race to target if you want a half-marathon PR.

There were a few management glitches, though - I think the race management is still learning.  Packet pick-up on Saturday was a bit disorganized, with unnecessary long waits, and a bit of a search to find just where the pick-up was (it was in a baseball ballpark, which is not a small area, and there were very few signs).  I ended up spending over 60 minutes on my feet, which I prefer not to do the day before a long race.

They also made arrangements to open Metro at 6:00 am so that runners could get to the race, which started at 7:10 am.  It was a nice gesture, but not early enough for metro to be a viable option for most people.    Metro opening at 6:00 am doesn't mean that a train leaves your station at 6:00 am.  And since trains on the orange line (my line) were running once every 24 minutes, I decided I didn't want to take the risk.

The most annoying difficulty was the combination of the courses of the half-marathon and the 5 miler - the 5 miler started 30 minutes after the half, and used the last 4 miles of the half marathon course.  Obviously, this created issues at the end of the half, as we had to navigate slower runners.


I debated whether to drive my car in and try to find parking, or to take a cab in and metro home later.  I ended up doing the latter, though next year I think I'll drive in - there was plenty of street parking not too far away.  I scheduled a cab for 5:50 - very early, but I wanted to have fudge time in case the cab showed late or didn't show at all.  As it turned out, the cab showed early, and I ended up getting to the race at 6:00 am - a bit earlier than I would have liked, but not too bad.

After doing bag check, I jogged for about 2 miles, including a 2 minute pick-up to about 5K pace.  Then hung around some more, until just before getting into the corral, when I did two strides.  My legs felt fairly perky, and I was psyched for a good race.

The gun went off, and I went out pretty conservatively, per my norm.  I like to go out pretty slow, and then pick up the pace when I "feel like it", which is generally between 2-3 miles out.  I felt controlled and in the groove, then about mile 4 I actually started to feel a bit tired.  It was a bit early, but I decided to take a few slurps of  my Rocktane to see if that would perk me up.  (I generally don't take gels in one shot when racing; I prefer to work on them slowly over 2-3 miles - the slower extended delivery of sugar seems to work better for me).

I did perk up a bit, but by mile 6 or so, I was feeling a bit tired again, and ready to be done.  No real reason for this - I was rested, tapered, well fueled and hydrated, and the weather was great.  It wasn't a breathing issue either - my breathing was great.  My legs just felt heavy.  Crazy, when we weren't even halfway.

Of course, I am in marathon training, where all I do is practice running fast on tired legs.  So, if nothing else, this was a great opportunity to practice doing just that.  And, though I was hurting, I was fairly certain I was having a good race.

So that was the rest of my race - just working on staying positive, continually checking in to see if I could give a bit more.   The miles seemed to creep by, but I know perception of time can be off sometimes when racing, so I put it out of my mind.    If there's one thing I can do, I can grind out long runs at a fast pace.  I was running very tense for some reason, but I just kept focusing on relaxing forward.

The last few miles on Hains Point were a bit frustrating, with what seemed like large crowds of slower 5 miler runners to be dodged.  My splits showed that my last two miles were some of my slowest, but I don't think I actually faded - it was just that I lost a bit of time with all the congestion from a large group of half marathoners trying to pass through a larger group of walkers and slow joggers.

Then I came over the hill and crossed the finish.  I didn't see a finish clock, so I didn't know my time until I flipped screens on my Garmin.  I was pretty disappointed to see my time, but it is what it is.  And much better than sitting on the sidelines.

Splits were:

Mile 1: 7:08
Mile 2: 7:07 ( I think this was long - Garmin shows 1.03 miles)
Mile 3: 6:25 (I think this was short - Garmin shows .97 miles)
Mile 4: 6:50
Mile 5: 6:53
Mile 6: 6:50
Mile 7: 6:47
Mile 8: 6:47
Mile 9: 6:45
Mile 10: 6:47
Mile 11: 6:49
Mile 12: 6:55
Mile 13: 6:55
last .11 - 36 seconds (but very steep downhill)

Other notes:

  • Used Dulera for my asthma before the race - worked great - no issues.
  • I've been dealing with an annoying neuroma in my right foot for some time.  It's been flaring on long runs and after workouts, so I was a bit worried it would bug me here, but it was a  non-issue.  Which is consistent with the fact that it seems to be aggravated more by slow running than fast running.
  • The part of this course that was on Rock Creek was somewhat banked, which aggravated my hip issues a lot.  It worried me and threw off my gait for a while, and my left hammy started to feel ouchy (which always scares me, given the issues I've had with that hip in the past).   Luckily, I just focused on my posture for a few miles and it resolved.  Still, I'm going to watch it pretty carefully over the next few days.
  • Debated what shoe to wear for this - I feel a bit faster in my Hitogamis, but the toebox is slightly tight,.  I was worried about my neuroma (neuromas are aggravated by compression of the toe area, which pinches the nerve), so I went with my Adios Boost 2s, and their wider toebox.  (I'm planning on wearing either the Adios Boost or the Adios Boost 2 for my marathon).  I doubt the shoe made much difference pace-wise, but at the same time I think I'll probably go with the Hitogami for Army Ten Miler.
  • One benefit of racing halves and 10 milers - it's not just a race, but also an extended lactate threshold workout, which is a type of workout I really thrive on.    I generally get a big boost in fitness about a week or two after racing the 10-13 mile distance, which makes running this race a win regardless of the time.
  • Shoulders and upper body are pretty achy now - I really need to work some more on that "running while relaxed" thing.
  • The half-marathon conundrum continues (I really thought I would beat it this time).   My PRs at both the 10 mile and marathon distance are better than my half PRs.  I've run mid-65s very consistently for 10 miles, but I've only managed to crack 89 once for the half.  I think part of this may be that the only half marathons I've ever been happy with are those that I targeted as a goal race (actually, I don't think I've ever been happy with any race I've run during a marathon training cycle).  Mental note to focus on a half marathon for a season, maybe this spring.
  • Ended up finishing second masters, which earned me a nice trophy and a call up onto the awards stand.  This aging thing ain't bad at all.

1 comment:

  1. So nice to see a race report from you. I'd kill for a 1:29 right now...all about where you are at the moment!