January 21, 2014

USA Half Marathon Championships

Start of the 2014 USA Half Marathon Championship in Houston, TX
You can find me if you look for the sunglasses

I ran in the USA Half Marathon Championships the past two summers in Duluth, and despite still being in post-CIM "coast" mode and not being in top shape, I decided to head down to Houston over the weekend and run in the 2014 race. I ended up running 1:07:26 for 55th place, but I'm not really bummed out because that's roughly what I expected, given my very gradual progression back into harder efforts over the past few weeks.

Below is my race report, also posted on my Fast Running Blog.

Overall it was a pretty awesome weekend. Eight guys broke 1:02 in the half, and my friend Scott ran 2:17 in the marathon and got the Olympic Trials "B" standard. There were something like 60 performances that hit the OTQ A/B standards for Men/Women combined.

Race Recap...

My time (1:07:26) wasn't stellar on the fast Houston course, but as long as I can look back on this as my slowest race of the year, I'll take it. Targeted 16:00 5K splits and was pretty much dead on - had a little lapse from 15K to 10 miles, but otherwise ran very consistently. The effort never felt that hard, but when you haven't run under 5:10 pace in two months, it's kind of hard to get moving quicker than that.

5K Splits - 16:01, 15:55, 15:58, 16:08

I finished pretty much at the back of the race, which isn't exactly something for me to be proud of... but I feel like I'm actually at a good starting point for 2014. Last year I ran 65:55 in January, and the next 7 months weren't any better. I was either regressing or stagnant until later in the summer. I have a good plan for the winter / spring, and I think that my incremental approach will actually get me to where I want to be.

Some additional thoughts...

When I decided to run here (registered in November) I knew I wasn't going to be in good racing shape unless I pressed right back into harder workouts after CIM. I didn't do that (which was smart), but I was also over-optimistic at the time and figured I could still run low/mid 1:06s without training for it. When I look back now, I really haven't done much work faster than MP since Indy Monumental... 11 weeks ago! If anything, I was stretching out the window in which you can run 5:00 pace without training for it at the Mesa 10K on Thanksgiving. By the time Houston rolled around, it had been way too long since I've run any LT workouts! Luckily I realized this a few weeks ago and adjusted my goals accordingly.

This may seem very ambitious to say after running one of my slowest half-marathons ever, but I really believe I'll be in range to take a serious crack at 2:17 this year if I follow through on what I have outlined. Talked to a lot of fast guys who will also be targeting the OT standard at the Grandmas Marathon.

Course - Flat and fast loop. Long straightaways, minimal turns. Lots of concrete. It was perfect. I can draw the elevation profile using my keyboard:

Race Organization - Just like Duluth, awesome. They take care of everything for you. I can definitely see why most athletes who ran in 2012 want the Olympic Trials to return to Houston in 2016. I was hoping we might get cowboy hats as a gift... no dice... nice pullover fleeces instead. If Andrea qualifies, we'll go back in 2015. And I will not run 1:07 again in that scenario!

MUST-DO in Houston - I highly recommend the rooftop hot tub at the Hilton Americas.

Random people - to my assigned roommate, whoever you may be, thanks for not showing up! I had my own room for the weekend which was nice. I cooled down after the race with the guy who beat me by a few seconds at the Portland 10,000m in 2012 - we exchanged some words during that race (all of which started with "F"), but we're cool now :-)

Mile splits - 5:09, 5:11, 5:11, 5:03, 5:08, 5:07, 5:05, 5:10, 5:09, 5:15, 5:07, 5:11, 5:39 for the last 1.1. I wore my Garmin (I can't remember the last time I've done that in a half-marathon) to make sure I didn't go out too fast. It was useful early and then I didn't pay much attention to it after that (probably should have paid more attention in the tenth mile!). Pro-Tip: Turn off autosplits if you wear a satellite watch in a race. You'll get some relative pacing feedback but the course markers on the road are more accurate 99.9% of the time.

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