Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Wineglass Half Marathon, Corning NY October 2, 2011

Official time 1:37:45, a new PR by about 3:45; my watch showed 1:37:41 and 13.18 miles.
I was able to finish strong, running the last 10k faster than my 10k PR.
Mile splits from my watch: 7:47, 7:38, 7:25, 7:23, 7:32, 7:41, 7:26, 7:29, 7:20, 7:26, 7:23, 7:08, 6:58, 1:06 for last fraction (5:59 pace)
Weather: 41 degrees and rain, light wind mainly from behind.
The long story...
Prerace: I had decided to run in this race because some co-workers were running and it is held in the town where our company was founded. There were 4 from the IT department: running Hari in the marathon; Rudy, Scott, and myself in the half marathon. Scott and Rudy live in the Corning area; Hari and I travelled there together on the day before the race.  Scott had picked up the race packets for Hari and I.  The evening before the race Scott and his wife hosted our group along with Rudy's family and Scott's training partner Lisa for a pasta dinner. It was a real fun time chatting about the race, the cold rainy weather, and of course carb loading.
Hari, Chuck, Scott, Rudy

Race morning we met at the Corning YMCA to carpool to the respective starts, dropping Hari at his then parking at the start point for the half. We got in line for porta potties then went inside a school for shelter from the weather until start time approached. I did my usual stretching then jogged for 5 minutes or so to warm up. In spite of the cold and rain I wore a short sleeve wicking shirt and shorts, but with hat, gloves and wool compression socks in consideration of the weather. That turned out to be about right, except the gloves would have served better if not made of cotton.  This race was 3 weeks after my goal race for the fall - Lehigh Valley Marathon. I had PR'd there and hoped to be recovered for this race for another PR attempt on the same training cycle.

The race: We waited for the race clock to tick down to start time, only to hear the race would be delayed 10 minutes until the marathon start was ready. Both races would share one race clock and finish line. The half marathon course was the second half of the marathon course. I decided to run with the pace group aiming for a 1:40 finish, averaging 7:38 pace. On paper it seemed I should be able to go under 1:40, but running that pace for 13 miles seemed rather daunting. I would guage my condition on the way and adjust later as seemed appropriate. Hopefully that would mean picking up the pace rather than fading or bonking.

As I stood near the pacer for our group, Dick Beardsley moved into the crowd to run the race too. Although he is a famous marathoner, he didn't act like he thought he was someone special. He interacted with others there just like any other runner.

One more countdown and we were off. The first mile felt a bit fast but was actually almost 10 seconds slower than average goal pace. The second mile included the only hill - a modest one - and with the downhill portion we were right on the number for this mile.  By this point I was feeling what might become shin splints on my left side. I had felt the same thing in my easy run the day before, but today I would run with it until it forced me to change.  Within a mile it stopped getting my attention. The pace group had a dozen or so at the start and gradually people dropped off the back. By mile ten it was just the pacer and 2 or 3 others. The course followed country roads between the few small towns we passed through. Almost the whole route was open to traffic with only a row of traffic cones separating runners and cars. Intersections were controlled for us and all turns had someone pointing the way. The spectators were rather sparse but the water table workers were enthusiastic and on the ball to take care of us.
I carried a throwaway 16 oz bottle of my own sport drink so I wouldn't need to hit the first few tables. Many of the tables had kids from about age 8 to 12 handing the cups of drink. Even though it was cold and wet, they were always ready as runners passed by. Whenever I was going to take a cup, I would look ahead and point to the girl whose cup I would take and say "thanks sweetie" as she released the cup. Then pause to walk for a couple steps to swallow before running again to catch the pacer.
The running was actually not dramatic at all through most of my race. I just kept reminding myself to think about the current mile, remember to "run like the wind - strong, smooth, free", and to trust in the Lord to be able to run and not grow weary.  Someone remarked when we were one fourth done, then at halfway, and the pacer announced "just a 10k now". I started thinking I would be ok at this pace and would consider moving to a faster pace for the last 5k. It seemed the pacer was thinking alot the same because our pace was in the 7:20s from halfway on. I wondered about the others he was to be pacing since we were about a minute ahead of goal.
Late in the eleventh mile I moved ahead of the pacer to test myself for the remaining portion. I ran a bit with one college aged guy who had been ahead of our group. He told me that he had raced the before and his coach didn't want him running this pace today. Then we heard footsteps and a lady joined us before going ahead a little. I commented that getting "chicked" is ok when I am running my fastest mile of the race. It's not like I'm fading or anything. Then the guy is telling me there is about a half mile including a bridge to go over and another half mile on Market St to the finish. So, it is now time to step up the pace some more. I go ahead of the guy, get "unchicked" and pass a couple more runners before the turn onto Market, the main downtown street lined with shops, restaurants, and some spectators.
My breathing is heavy now but I can see the finish arch 2 blocks ahead. And today will not be about coasting to the finish once the goal time is safe. So I push to an effort I think I can manage for a distance equal to 2 laps on the track. There were 2 runners ahead of me on this block of Market. I passed the guy who is apparently is fading, but the lady is about 50 yards ahead. I doubted I could catch her, but decided I will push to the finish with all I can.  And I began closing on her. I cross a street to enter the last block of the course and push to a sprint effort (though probably not really sprint pace). As I got about 10 yards from her and 40 or 50 from the finish, a female spectator shouts "race that guy, don't let him pass you!"  The runner kind of turned her head but didn't really change her pace, so I passed her and pushed myself to the finish at last.  And turn off my watch, and kind of choke up over having exceeded my goal.  My watch showed 1:37:41.  A race volunteer hands me water, another asks if I'm ok and points out the medical tent. The Dairy Princess gave me a bottle of chocolate milk; she was even wearing a sash and tiara kind of thing. Someone gives me a foil blanket and points the way to the checked bag pickup and the food areas.
Wow. Tired, happy, really tired.

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