June 23, 2013

2013 USA Half Marathon Championship

Around the 11.5 mile mark of the USA 1/2 Champs in Duluth MN

I'm basically copying and pasting from my running log, but in summary, I'm happy with how it went this weekend in Duluth. Not as fast as last year, but I'm starting to get back into my groove (and I think I've turned the corner with this hamstring injury). Felt like I ran a smart race, stayed in control, passed a lot of guys. Finishing 60th is humbling... this was the deepest half marathon championship in history. It took sub 1:05 just to break the Top 40 (Results)! Running 5:05 pace when I've done almost no training that fast in the past two months is pretty good...

With my fitness starting to come around the past couple weeks and after doing a few workouts that gave me a decent idea of what kind of shape I was really in, I figured 1:06:20-50 was my realistic target range. Andrea guessed 1:06:38 a few days ago and she was almost exactly right. I made sure to barely beat her prediction.

The big topic of discussion the day before the race was the weather. Race officials were worried it would be a torrential downpour, runners were optimistic there would be a favorable tailwind. In the end, it sort of fell in the middle, and was just right. No precipitation, not much wind, nice and cool. Pretty much as good as you could have hoped for. It was definitely very humid (we were running through a cloud of fog), but that isn't a problem when the temperature in in the low/mid 50s.

The thing you have to pay attention to when racing a half-marathon without doing much LT or faster running leading up to the race is that you can't cross that threshold too early or too often. You don't recover. So it was important for me to stay in control early, go out a little slower, and try to maintain an even effort throughout the race. I felt like I did a good job of that, and this race was a good reminder that smart racing pays off. Even when you feel like you are in peak fitness, a somewhat conservative start is usually the way to approach longer races. That's  a no-brainer, but I need to be reminded of that at times.

The race was obviously stacked in terms of talent (way deeper than last year) and the start was absolute madness. I just tried to make sure I didn't get tripped and also avoided getting sucked out too fast. I stuck with my no-Garmin racing philosophy, and felt like I hit the first at the right effort (5:03). I caught up to my friend Paul and ran a mile with him (5:06), then he started moving up during the third mile. I let him go a little bit, but still ran 4:56 for that mile and came through 5K in 15:36. At this point I had to decide whether to try and move back up to Paul or maintain my own effort. I chose the latter and it was probably the right decision, although for the middle portion of the race I was sort of in "no-man's land" - running somewhat solo, stuck between the guys chasing sub-66 and everyone else. The next 3 miles were 5:06, 5:06, 4:56 and 31:21 at 10K. From that point to 10 miles is the hardest part of the course. I just tried to stay stead and pass some of the guys falling off the early pace (by the way, the leaders ran the first mile in 4:21!). Next 4 miles were 5:09, 5:08, 5:12, 5:09, and 50:52 at 10 miles. I wanted to be under 51 at 10 so this was encouraging. Passed a few more guys as we worked our way into town. The last 5K is net downhill but it never feels easy on this course. Mile 11 was 5:09, then I saw Andrea and picked it up for the next mile (5:01). I knew I would get under 1:07 and while I didn't have as good of a finish as usual, I still ran 5:34 for the last 1.1 miles (5:02 pace). From 5K to the finish, I passed 24 guys, which isn't too bad.

I felt good at the finish - not that "beat up and legs filled with lactic acid" feeling. More of a "that was pretty good, and now I'm just getting rolling" feeling. I don't want to get too optimistic, but I'm starting to feel like myself again. Still, this race was an indication that my "old self" isn't going to cut it. The bar was raised across the board today. 1:06, 1:05... those times don't really mean anything on the national level. You've gotta be running quite a bit faster to compete. That isn't discouraging, its motivating! I gotta give a shout out to my buddy Scott Wietecha, who came into this race with a 1:04:35 PR and ran 1:03:12 to take 9th place today. He's an example of what can be accomplished with consistent hard (smart) work and not getting down after setbacks.

Andrea and I spent the rest of the day enjoying all that Duluth had to offer. The Grandma's marathon (and the entire city) really puts on a world-class event. I'm kind of sad they aren't hosting the championships again next year. I'd be back in a heartbeat.

I'm debating between a couple of options in terms of a fall marathon, but in the short-term (this summer) I'm going to focus on more shorter races (5/10Ks). No half-marathons until TOU 1/2. I'm very comfortable running comfortably hard right now, so now its time to start transitioning towards running uncomfortably hard.

Paul Petersen and I after the race

Splits: 2012 vs 2013

Course profile... you can see why even effort results in splits that aren't that exactly tight.

Beautiful day! Here's a photo of Lake Superior.

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