I ran the National Half-Marathon this morning, finishing in
a time of 1:32:15. (The course is here).
This is a PR of a minute from my time at this race last year, but well off of
my original goal from December of sub-1:30.
But, I’m happy with the race. I
feel that I ran the race intelligently and was mentally resilient when faced
with tough questions. I gave everything
that I had to give – it’s just a fact that I lost a ton of fitness due to
substantial injury-related layoff this winter, and haven’t yet gained it all back. I also felt a bit rusty, and unaccustomed to
race effort, which makes sense when you consider that I haven’t raced since
mid-December. So, I smile, mark the new
PR, and look forward to my next race.
The weather was glorious this morning – 49 degrees at race
start, with no wind. The pollen count
was significant, though, with tree pollen rated as “medium-high (8.4)”. I was definitely affected, though I did take
a Claritin and Veramyst the night before (I also took a Singulair).
I left my house at about 5:20 am, and walked down to the
Farragut West subway station, where I hopped on the metro to the race. My total elapsed time from when I left my
house to when I exited the metro at the race start line was an hour (I note
this for next year). Apparently the
parking lot was a madhouse, and some people missed the race start due to
traffic, so metroing was definitely the right choice. I did some of my running warm-up drills inside the metro station
while waiting for the train, to the amusement of others.
Getting to the race at 6:20 am left me just enough time to
check my bag, hit the ladies room, and jog with some strides before getting in
my corral for the 7 am start. I took
two puffs of my inhaler about 30 minutes prior to race start.
The race started, and I went out conservatively, as per my
plan – the first mile involved a drop, and then a long upwards slope – I didn’t
want to screw up my race in the first mile.
Even going out slowly, I still developed some oxygen debt, and by mile
2, I distinctly felt like I had a tight belt around my chest – the same issue
I’ve been facing repeatedly in my running, especially in high pollen or
(in a moment of confusion, I actually tried to remove my HR
monitor strap, thinking that that was what was binding my chest, before
remembering that I didn’t have a HR monitor strap on!)
I debated pulling over to the side and taking another puff
of the inhaler, but decided instead to try to relax, and make it work. I had already taken two puffs, so the
chances of a third puff helping were pretty low. And I didn’t feel like I was about to black out, I just felt that
I was struggling to breathe a bit.
The chest tightness persisted through mile 7 before finally
easing up. But by that point, my legs
were starting to tire badly (especially since this was the worst part of the
climb), and my form to falter. Loss of
form and leg fatigue generally isn’t a problem of mine; I think this can be
directly attributed to the fact that I missed a solid month of running, and
then spent another month carefully reintroducing running. I only got back to my normal mileage about 3
weeks before this race, and so I was simply undertrained for this race – my
legs were lacking in the muscular endurance to run 13 miles, including some
solid hills, at race pace.
As a result of my form breakdown, I simply didn’t run the
hills as well as I have in the past – I lost a lot of time on the uphills, and
didn’t flow with my normal ease on the downhills. My race plan had been to make up time with the smooth downhills
in the latter part of the course, but leg fatigue prevented me from doing so.
By mile 11, I was really struggling, and I knew that my time
goal of sub-1:30 was an impossibility.
However, I always set myself non-time-related goals as well. One of those goals was to stay mentally
tough on the uphill from 11 to 12 (where I had faltered last year). I told myself that, no matter what my time
was, I would stay focused on that uphill.
And so I pushed on, with a stride that was frustratingly choppy, rather
From there on, I just toughed it out to the finish. I dug very deep to produce a decent kick to
the line, and then wobbled away, hyperventilating but satisfied. I didn’t come close to breaking 1:30, but I
was resilient when things weren’t playing out the way I had hoped, and that’s a
triumph in itself, if that makes any sense.
By my watch, my splits were:
Mile 1: 7:26 (uphill)
Mile 2: 6:57 (flat)
Mile 3: 6:34 (downhill)
Mile 4: 6:54 (flat)
Mile 5: 7:04 (starting to climb)
Mile 6: 7:06 (climb)
Mile 7: 7:31 (hard climb)
Mile 8: 6:56 (some rollers)
Mile 9: 6:58 (rollers, net downhill, but failed to run the
Mile 10: 6:50
(downhill, but legs dead and stride way off)
Mile 11: 7:10 (flat,
Mile 12: 7:22
(uphill—gutted it out)
Last 1.11: 7:28 (6:44 pace – downhill, then a slight uphill,
and a kick)
Total watch time: 1:32:15
Don’t kill the first mile: done
Stay focused on the hill at mile 11-12: done
Do a solid kick to the finish line: done
Clothing notes: I
wore a tank top and shorts, with a long sleeved t-shirt, a sweatshirt, socks on
my hands, and handwarmers. I tossed the
sweatshirt right before the start, the t-shirt at mile 2, and the hand-socks at
mile 4. I wish I had kept the
hand-socks a bit longer – I ended up having a raynauds attack in my hands during
miles 8 and 9, and the handwarmers would have been handy.
Nutrition notes: I
took a shot blok at miles 3, 7, and 9.
I also tried to get water at miles 5, 7, 9, and 11. Each time, I ended up losing time, and
succeeded in getting a lot of water on me, but very little in me. The water
stops were using plastic cups, rather than paper, and so when I tried the “pinch
and sip” method, the cup would just break in my hand. I regularly run without water, and rarely drink during races, so
I think it was a mistake to try to drink during this one.