Monday, December 10, 2012

Gar Williams Half Marathon Race Re-Cap

*Update: Here are the official results posted online:
Overall Rank: 56 out of 152
Gender Rank: 43
Age Rank: 14

I was going into this race without any big expectations.  I built a great training foundation leading into Marine Corps Marathon in October, and I've, more or less, continued my training since; however, the intensity of my training has declined quite a bit.  I still have intense training days, but I know that I don't have the same level of drive I had every day leading up to MCM.  There have been several weeks over the past couple months where I only managed to run 3 or 4 times, and got in a whole 2 runs over Thanksgiving.  That being said, I figured it would show in my race last weekend, so, leading up to the race, I planned on running a "scenic trail run" where I'd just "have fun" and be "social".

All of that changed when I read a blog post, Taking Risks, by an extremely seasoned ultra marathoner, Wyatt Hornsby, where he told a short story about his Mohican Trail 100-Mile Run.  It was so refreshing to read someone's perspective, that differed from the usual "run a smart, steady race...pace yourself...nutrition...fluids...etc."  Sometimes I just feel like going out and "running."  When I ran MCM I was more worried about finishing respectably, and near the end of the race I had a choice.  Try to run harder to meet my goal of breaking 4 hours, or continue at my current pace and finish well, but fall short of my goal.  I was scared that I'd fall apart if I ran faster, so I opted to continue along at ~9:30 miles and finished at 4:03:55.  I'm happy with my finish, a PR by 18 minutes, but I feel like I left something out on the course.  I can't help but wonder, "What if I just ran faster?  I may have held on to run a 3:59:02."  Just seeing that time makes me wish, at the risk of completely falling apart, that I had tried for the sub-4-hour marathon.

So, Sunday I took a cab to the start line of the Gar Williams Half Marathon and told myself, "I'm going to run fast.  I don't care about anyone else on this course.  I'm going to PR today, and I'm going to PR big."  It was cold and drizzling, and the trail was muddy with giant puddles scattered everywhere.  It was a perfect setting for a battle.  We all stood shivering on the trail as the race coordinator/volunteer with DC Road Runners made a couple of announcements over the bullhorn, and like that we were off!

There were roughly 300 of us running on a very narrow dirt/gravel trail bordered by a canal on one side, and a forest of trees on the other.  I flew out of the gate and was dodging people left and right, running through the leaves on the side of the trail, and occasionally jumping over sticks and branches on the ground.  I was hardly even aware of the time until my Garmin beeped that I'd covered a mile at a 7:50/mi pace.  I was cruising, but it didn't scare me.  It inspired me to keep going.  I logged the next mile at 8:06, and my lungs were already burning, I could feel my heart beating in my chest and in my head, and I wondered for the first time, "Can I actually hold on like this for 13.1 miles?"

I slowed down slightly, but logged mile after mile in the 8:20-8:40 range.  This was insanely fast considering my PR for a halfmarathon was 1:56:58 (avg. pace 8:56/mi).  As the miles went by the burning in my lungs and the screaming in my body never really decreased, but somehow became more manageable.  After hanging in there for so long, I got to roughly the 10-mile mark and felt that I had the same choice as during the MCM.  I could continue at my current pace and certainly PR, or I could run faster and break the 1:50:00 mark.  In large part thanks to Wyatt, I decided to run faster.  I logged a couple miles in the 8:20's and finished with an 8:02 mile.  I reeled in runners that had passed me earlier, and it felt great.  I felt competitive.  I felt like a runner.  I crossed the finish line at 1:48:03*.  My lungs were still on fire, my pulse was pounding in my head, my hip-flexors ached, and I felt great.  This was the first race that I can honestly say that I left it all on the course.

Training Summary for Last Week:

Monday:       Off
Tuesday:       4.03 miles; 33:55; avg. pace 8:25/mi
Wednesday:  4.01 miles; 32:45; avg. pace 8:10/mi
Thursday:      Off
Friday:          Off
Saturday:      4.00 miles; 34:05; avg. pace 8:31/mi
Sunday:        13.1 miles; 1:48:03*; avg. pace 8:15/mi

Total Mileage:   25.14 miles
Total Time:       3:28:48
Average Pace:  8:18/mi

Happy Running!