I've wanted to run this race for a while - I've heard it's a fast course and a well managed race that for some reason gets overlooked by east coasters. So I was really happy that it fit into my schedule as a tune-up for Indy Monumental next month.
As the race approached this week, I grew both excited and concerned. Excited because the weather was looking great and I knew I was fit; concerned because my ulcerative colitis was starting to flare. I had some mild cramping during last Saturday's long run that I didn't think too much of, but then Tuesday's interval workout was worse. I made it through the workout, but pooped a significant bit of blood after (sorry to be gross, but...). So I called my GI doctor.
There's a medication called mesalamine that actually works pretty well for me in addressing my UC, and is legal under USADA. And I saw results quickly when I last used it. So that's good. The downsides are that I tend to get mildly fatigued and nauseous on it. Which is fine for normal life, but bad for peak performance.
The normal course of the medication is 3-4 weeks, but I really did not want to be on it for my race this weekend. So...my doctor agreed that I could take it for two-three days only to clear up stuff as much as I could, and then go off of it in time to get it out of my system.
So I took it Tuesday and Wednesday, and by Friday I was feeling much better and did my up-tempo mile on Friday with no GI issues. Stellar.
I flew out to Columbus Friday mid-day and then used the very convenient COTA bus system to get from the airport to downtown Columbus. The COTA system is awesome. There was a direct bus from the airport to my hotel that pulled up just as I exited the airport. And then once I was in Columbus, while there was no subway system, there was a free downtown circulator bus that went everywhere I wanted to go (which was the expo, the UPS store to pick up my shipped box, the grocery store, and the Chipotle).
[I should mention that I'm a bit of a public transportation nerd. Yes, if I'm really time crunched, I'll take a cab. And there's times when it just makes sense to rent a car. But if things are a bit more relaxed, I much prefer public transportation. It's not about money. Nor, if I'm being totally honest, is it about the environment (sorry). I just enjoy deciphering public transportation maps, and I also think it's a cool, less insulated way to experience a new place.]
I checked into my hotel - pleasantly surprised by just how ginormous a suite is in a mid-western city, as opposed to New York or Philly. So that was a positive.
The negative was that I was apparently the first person to turn on the heat in my room in a while when I flipped it on Friday evening. And when I turned it on, I guess some stuff that had been sitting there for a while got blasted into the air. Resulting in the first time I've ever had an asthma attack while lying in bed reading.
Wow...this really was not an auspicious start to the weekend. I went ahead and puffed my inhaler which fixed things, and then had a somewhat poor night of sleep. I debated asking if I could move rooms, but the air seemed better in the room after the initial blast. And for all I knew, I'd just end up with a repeat experience in the next room.
After that, my breathing seemed better. I could tell on Saturday that my allergies were flaring, but not horribly. Just a headache and a bit of chest tightness that I could handle with the inhaler. And...the weather was going to be fantastic on Sunday.
Sunday morning dawned pretty much perfect - around 50 degrees with low wind. I woke up at 4:15 am, took my asthma meds and ate a limited version of my pre-race breakfast - about 1/2 of what I normally eat. This was intentional, and a calculated risk. My GI tract had felt slightly uncomfortable after breakfast on Saturday morning, and so I deliberately ate a bit less than I normally do to try to minimize the risk of race day GI issues. [I should note that I generally eat a lot pre-race - more than most people that I know - so what I ate wasn't that minimal. for example, my day-before-race lunch is usually about 2-3 bowls of Chipotle; I stuck to one this time.] Had this been a full, I'd have been very nervous about doing this. But...this was a half, and I know some people run those on just a slice of toast and peanut butter.
At just after 6:00 am, I left my room and jogged over to the start. I was an elite in this race, which meant a heated tent at the start/finish line where I could leave my bag, and also a set of private portajohns. Very nice.
I dropped off my bag and gave the staff my water bottles for the course. As an elite, I was allowed to place bottles out just after the 6 and 11 mile markers. I didn't intend to use either - it was a cool morning and a short race, so I'd just carry my handheld and toss it partway through - but I saw no reason not to place some extras out on course just in case.
Then I headed out for a jog. It was a bit of a maze in the dark, and the riverside path that I had planned to warm up on was blocked off with fencing. But I found an abandoned street where I was able to jog back and forth.
My normal warm-up for workouts and shorter races recently has been 4 miles, including 3:00 at half-marathon effort; 4x30 seconds at 5K effort, and 4x10 second at mile effort. That seemed excessive for a half-marathon, so I modified it to just under 2.5 miles, with 3:00 at half-marathon effort and 2x30 seconds at 5K. Then I jogged back to the elite tent to pick up my handheld.
In the tent, I chatted with some others - mostly about Vaporflies (most thought they were good but not THAT good) and Salazar (whom everyone was happy to see taken down). Another woman in my age group and I got into a conversation about goals. "Mindy" was also going for low 83 minutes, and liked my pacing plan of starting at marathon effort and easing into pace, so she asked if she could stick with me. I gave her my standard lecture of "you are welcome to run with me, but I don't want to know what pace we are running." And she was fine with that.
At 7:10 we were led out from the tent to the start line, where we were allowed to do some strides in between waves of the wheelchair racers leaving. The National Anthem played and fireworks boomed and I was really glad I was a runner and not on a horse at that moment, because pretty much any horse would have spun at the noise and the smoke. I was feeling slightly tight so I puffed my inhaler twice (bringing me to 4 puffs for the morning - I keep count because under USADA I'm allowed up to 8 puffs in 12 hours)
Then we were pulled back to the line, for the countdown and then the start. And with a BOOM we were off.
I was careful to ease into pace over the first mile, which was uphill out of the starting area. Mindy pulled ahead, then looked back and saw me, and decided to keep going. So much for that plan. Which was fine with me - I don't particularly need or want company when racing and get a bit uncomfortable being responsible for others' races.
I held marathon effort for the first 2 miles as others streamed past me. Including, surprisingly enough, the 3:00 marathon pace group. This group was accompanied by a chorus of protests - "we're going out WAY TOO FAST - so it didn't worry me too much.
About 2.5 miles in, there was a nice long downhill, so I used that to build momentum and ease into pace. I didn't feel fantastic, but I didn't feel awful either, and the effort felt like one I could hold for the next 8-10 miles.
From there, I just held the effort, working my way past those who had passed me earlier. The course had some gentle inclines up and down, as well as some straightaways that weren't truly straight - I focused on holding the tangents while everyone else followed the gentle curves.
At some point here, I passed Mindy and another woman - I was expecting both of them to try to hitch on, but neither did. Later, I tried to look up Mindy to see how she did. But I couldn't find any women named Mindy with elite bibs who were 47 years old, so either I got the name wrong or she dropped out.
About mile 8 I took my expresso GU. My GI tract groaned and complained a bit, but then settled down. So yay. I continued with my work.
A mile later, though, I started running out of gas. Just a deflated feeling, combined with stiffening quads, and my gait shifted towards a shuffle. Much more like end-of-marathon legs than end-of-half-marathon legs. Nothing to do but keep pressing forward. I only had about 4 miles to go, and I knew that the last mile was downhill. Plus, I was still passing women, even though a few men were passing me.
The next miles were hard. There is an overpass near the end of mile 12 that seemed like a mountain, and I trudged up it. My breathing tightened up as I climbed it, and never quite recovered on the back side, and so I just clung on for the last mile. That mile was mercifully downhill, which minimized the damage, fortunately. Per my plan, I lapped my watch at the marathon mile 26 marker (rather than the half-marathon mile 13 marker) and then started emptying the tank at that point. I really didn't have much left, though, and the last 200m was a real struggle (can't wait to see the finish line video).
And then I was done (this time making sure to fully cross the finish line before stopping my Garmin). Someone grabbed me and I puffed my inhaler and then slowly made my way to the tent to sit for a good long time and suck on the inhaler once more (grand total of 6 puffs - still under the threshold).
Splits ended up being:
Miles 1-2: 13:21
Mile 3: 6:11
Mile 4: 6:21
Mile 5: 6:21
Mile 6: 6:15
Mile 7: 6:32
Mile 8: 6:29
Mile 9: 6:18
Mile 10: 6:26
Mile 11: 6:32
Mile 12: 6:26
Mile 13: 5:41 for .9 (6:18 pace)
last .21: 1:15 (6:00 pace)
So....it doesn't look awful, but not great either. I wanted to close hard, but instead I faded, saved from a worse fate by the downhill finish.
It's frustrating, because I don't know how to read my fitness from this. On the one hand, I had an off day, and I still set a half-marathon PR. On the other hand, this is not the kind of performance that indicates that sub 2:55 for the marathon is a reasonable goal.
When people have poor half-marathons during marathon cycles, and describe it later as "I felt like I could have held it forever, but couldn't run any faster" - I don't get worried. That happens during marathon training, and it's not a bad sign. But...on the other hand, when you run out of gas and feel drained and exhausted in the final third of a half-marathon, it's not encouraging for going twice the distance in a few weeks. But...again, there were external reasons for feeling so bad, and I'm just not sure how much weight to give them.
And as I look at the splits, I also wonder if I had waited just a bit longer to ease into half-marathon effort, would I have been able to close better at the end?
In the end of the day, for my pacing for the marathon, it doesn't matter. I'll run Indy off of feel, the same way I always do, and just run the best I can. But between now and then I really need to get my reserves built back up.
- Weather was really great - temp of 55, DP of 42, no wind. Pollen.com says pollen was low, but weather.com/sickweather says ragweed was high. Pollen.com has been lying a lot this year, so I'm going with weather.com.
- I've run 3 half-marathons this year, and all three have been on very fast courses in fantastic weather, and I've underperformed. My next half-marathon is Houston in January. Perhaps we'll have not-so-great weather but I'll run really fast?
- I wore the Vaporfly Next for this race - my first longer race in them (I've worn them for a 5K and a few road miles). After this race, I'm leaning towards returning to the original Vaporfly for Indy. The Next is a great shoe, and much more of an all-around shoe that also works for shorter distances. But for longer races, when I'm just trying to grind out at the end, I prefer the higher heel-toe drop and rolling action of the original Vaporfly.
- I'm due for my next Xolair shot today (Monday) - Xolair is the once-a-month shot that suppresses my allergies. It often wears off in the last few days of the month, and I'm kicking myself for not moving the shot up and getting it before I left. Perhaps it would have helped.
- Despite all my whinging about my own performance, Columbus really is a great race, and I recommend it highly to everyone.