Monday, September 14, 2009

Race Report: No Blood, No Puke, No Good

Sunday was my third time running the Buckeye Half Marathon & 5-K through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.

Pre-game Report:
My training schedule thus far has revolved around Hal Higdon's plan to run half the distance of my long run the day before. Initially, however, I planned a mini taper with a day off Saturday before the Buckeye Half Marathon.

Scheduling conflicts interfered and I was six miles in the hole come Saturday. You know what I did: I hit Sand Run Park for two miles at the pace I wanted to start the race (9:21-9:26 per mile), three miles all out and then the last mile at recovery pace.

My first mile, which is mostly down hill, was too fast at 9:10, the second mile was better but still too fast at 9:19, my three fast miles were indeed fast at 8:28 uphill, 7:51 and 7:31, and my final mile was nice and easy at 9:47.

Come 7 a.m. Sunday morning, my legs felt great as Martini, my bike companion and I drove to the race. I was ready to enact my three-pronged race strategy.

First Five Miles: The goal was 9:21-9:26 per mile. This race is only gun timed. I lined up almost even with the two-hour pacer so I could maintain pace during the early position jockeying.

My first mile was right on target at 9:25 as I allowed the pace group to gap me. After that, I had a lot of trouble maintaining a slow pace. I finished Stage 1 about 40 seconds too fast with an average 9:13 per mile.

Second Five Miles: The goal was marathon pace at 9-9:10 per mile. Although I had reached the second phase of the race too soon, I didn't panic. I stuck with my plan and started reeling in the two-hour pacer.

My legs felt a bit fatigued around the halfway mark and I remembered my quick six-miler the day before. I pushed on and logged miles at 9:06, 9:00 and 9:07. I caught the two-hour group -- if two is a group -- just before the eighth mile marker. The leader slowed to let me and another guy ahead of him. I kept the pacer in my peripherals to avoid pulling away too soon. My next mile was 9:30.

Twenty seconds too slow? Some pacer! I was pissed. But I stuck with him for one more mile. Stage 2 was complete within my overall goal range for 10 miles, but about four seconds slow for that phase with an average 9:11 per mile.

5-K to the Finish: The goal was an all out effort. My anger at the pacer fueled my acceleration. I hit the next mile at 8:30. I was picking off runners left and right. I scanned the racers ahead, marking each one for defeat.

Two guys asked me if I'd seen a guy with a balloon (the pacer) behind me, and I barked, "Yeah, I left him at 10 miles," and surged ahead for a 7:46 mile, my fastest of the race.

Mile 13 was a little tricky, with some tricky turns, the only real hill on the course and some rough terrain. I got through it at 8:07.

I rounded the last turn, a tight left after a dogleg right, and chased down my final mark, a short woman in red whom I mercilessly passed as the cones funnelled us toward the chute. I glided all the way to the stringer, handed him my bib tag and made a fast exit to the side to allow my fast-clench muscles to subside. My final 5-K was at 8:00 mile pace for a 1:56:5x finish.

Fellowship of the Race: Martini knocked off about eight minutes from his time last year for a PR. My biker companion finished within 20 seconds of a previous (and only) 5-K PR with just two weeks of training. Witness the drawing power of that hoodie! A successful day all around.

Post-race Revelry: Martini shared his La Chouffe, a tasty Belgian blond ale, and we hung around for the final finishers and awards. Later, the biker and I went to breakfast at the Blue Fig, which has $2 mimosas every weekend. As we all know, alcohol reduces pain and improves confidence. It's no wonder why I'm feeling like a Georgio's pizza as I enter full taper mode.

Job Well Done: This was my slowest half marathon ever, dating back to my first Buckeye in 2007, but the race was successful as a training run. I ran a negative split race, running about 59:42 for the first half (9:07 per mile) and 57:10 for the second half (8:44 per mile). I beat two hours. And I got the hoodie. Overall, I'm satisfied with my performance.

Things I Need to Work on: Despite achieving all my race goals, I still need to work on starting and staying slow. I know everyone has this problem, but it's key to pulling off the negative split. I need to stop worrying about losing sight of the pace group. During the marathon I should reach the half about two minutes back. I also need to focus on my own pace instead of basing it off other runners. And I need to remember that I won't catch the four-hour pace group as fast as I caught the two-hour group. I need patience, and that is a virtue I don't have time to learn.

Realization of the Day: Sometimes pacers suck. Maybe there's a reason why his group was only two when I caught up to him.

Quote of the Day: "If I'm not bleeding or puking, it's not a good race."--the Viper, of course, to Martini as we sipped from our cups of not Gatorade recovery beverage.

Be thankful I didn't take a picture of my footwear. Somewhere along the course, I had this odd feeling like my sock was bunched up under my toes. After the race, the sock felt thick, wet and heavy. Look at that nice ridge of blood along my toe! I even clipped my toenails before the race, but apparently missed a barb on the middle toe.


X-Country2 said...

Whoa! You've got to warn people before you go posting foot pictures!

Just kidding. Congrats on a strong race.

The Sean said...

nice work

Mike Antonucci said...

Awesome job. You had so much left at the end you should get to target pace earlier for the marathon. Considering your speed, I don't see any reason for you to run very many 9:25s.

I don't think you have anything left to do but practice target pace. You are set up for a monstrous PR.

B.o.B. said...

Congrats on a job well done indeed. Your foot kind of looks like a hand actually. You've got finger toes. (Not an insult, so do I).

Great job!

Nitmos said...

You should be the A Team the way you love it when your plan comes together. You'd be Murdock.

Jen Feeny said...

Holy OUCH Batman!!!!!

Funnyrunner said...

cool. so you were using this only as a training race? When's the marathon? I was gonna say... we are about the same pace and it seems to me you ran this pretty slowly for what you're capable of. I'm doing a Matt Fitzgerald training plan that has me doing a 1/2 marathon ALL OUT next weekend. We'll see how that goes. Yesterday I was supposed to run 22 and I FAILED miserably. Could barely make it 20.75 before I had to stop and puke. have NO clue what my problem was.

k. so. um. I guess this is YOUR blog, right? sorry. my bad.

nice toes! ;)

Funnyrunner said...

hey- I agree with Mike A. above. You can start out with 8:30s and stick to 8-minute-mile pace the entire half. You're capable of it...

Caroline Novak said...

hey, you have cute toes!

congrats on the successful 3-pronged strategy, heh, heh ...

Jess said...

So, we never get to see you face, but we get to see your bloody toe? Gee, thanks!

Nice job on ditching the pacer and making the sub-2 hour finish!

Al's CL Reviews said...

I thought the same about the finger toes...

I have nothing to add about pace, since you ran 6.5+ miles in the same pace I ran 3 last week.

Nice job on making your goals.

Jess said...

Congrats on a great race!

That picture is nasty, but I hope it heals up quick!

Razz said...

no disclaimer on the pic? Nice job on the run. Glad to see that "recovery" went well.

Aileen said...

Congrats! I aspire to 1:56! And ewwwwwwwwwww, of course.

Jeri said...

Whoa my toe (exact same one) looked exactly the same post-half (only minus the hairy-ness)! I'm kind of glad I've never done a race with a pacer b/c I would probably rely too much on them and be MAD if their pace was off (especially by that much). I do love the strong finish though. :)

Sun Runner said...

Congratulations, it sounds like you had a good race. Nice job on the elusive negative split. Hang on to that feeling for a couple more weeks and I have no doubt you'll be golden for your first sub-4:00 marathon. Good luck surviving taper madness!

Spike said...

well done! blood is awesome, and you earned it! I think your plan for a sub 4 is a go!

BrianFlash said...

Great effort, especially those last three miles! Sub 4:00 is in the bank. I've predicted it so it has to be true.

joyRuN said...

Nicely done!

Good tip on not worrying about losing sight of the pace group too. I went out with pacers my first 2 fulls & started out too fast as a result.