Monday, March 19, 2012

Rock & Roll USA Race Report

Well, half marathon #5 is in the books. I missed a PR by a little over 2 minutes, but with a tough course like this, I'm mostly satisfied with my performance.

The day started off shaky, with the crowded Metro situation getting to RFK Stadium. The trains were packed, and at one point, the operator threatened to take the train out of service if people didn't stop jamming the doors. Luckily, we made it there with time to spare.

Temperature at the start was mid-50's with a touch of humidity. Not bad, at least not as bad as I was expecting, going by what the weather forecasts were predicting. I was running with my Team McGraw teammate Megan, who was also aiming for A 1:59-ish finish as I was. So I had a running partner! Corral 8 crossed the starting mat about 8 minutes after the official start, and I have to hand it to Competitor Group - the corral situation was outstanding. Everyone left at a similar pace, and there wasn't the usual jostling for position and passing mis-seeded runners. Megan & I quickly got into our pace, and finished mile 1 at about a 9:10 pace, right on target.

Miles 2 & 3 were mostly flat to downhill, and we ran it easy, getting both miles in below 9 minute paces, but with minimal effort. Megan commented that we were banking some time for the hills to come (how right she was!). The 4.5 mile mark is where the course got tough. Up 18th Street NW towards Connecticut Avenue. The uphill seemed endless. We got through mile 5 at 9:05, which was race pace, and seemed to be going well. Then we got to mile 6.

Mile 6 was, for all intents & purposes, where the race was made. We struggled through that hilly mile (I'm not going to try and guess what my paces were after this point, probably mid-9), and got a bit of a respite in mile 7, with some downhills mixed with smaller hills. Mile 8 was a bit of the same, and we figured that after we passed the 8 Mile sign, we were gold for the trip in. Um, yeah. We kept up a good pace through miles 9 & 10, surprised by the hills there.

I had said in my pre-race blog post that if I hit 1:31 at mile 10, I was going to go for a 1:57:40 finish (sub-9 minute pace). So at mile 10, I was just over 1:31, but that wasn't happening. My new goal was to just hit a PR, which was still do-able. And then I hit mile 11.

Not so much Mile 11, but we made a turn at around mile 11.5 (I don't remember the street), and I'm thinking, just 1 1/2 more miles. But all I saw was this long up-grade. I let out a pretty loud expletive, and I was done. I told Megan to go on, I'd struggle the rest of the way home.

Mile 12 I picked up the pace as it was a nice downhill; I somehow ran about a 9:08, and I was thinking at least break 2 hours. Mile 13 comes, and it's pretty much all uphill to the finish, and I was really done this time. I just brought it in easy, with a finish time of 2:01:13, 2:04 off my PR set last year at Shamrock. Megan, by the way, just missed a PR by 5 seconds, and she was much fresher than I was when I saw her at the tent!

For the toughness of this course, I really can't complain. I was so ready going in, and the hills just did me in. I learned that I need to do a better job hydrating myself. It was a warm race, warmer than anything I've run in over that past 6 months. I brought a quick-release bottle with me, but that definitely wasn't enough water. I'm thinking that had I taken the time to stop at the water stops, I may have had a bit left in the tank. I had planned on downing a GU gel at mile 10, but I couldn't do it. I assume that was a factor as well. This is all good to learn, with the Marine Corps Marathon coming up in 7 months.

So now what? I've got my eye on a local 10K in late April, the Ashburn Village 10K. I really bonked on this one in 2010, but I wasn't nearly as fit back then as I am now, so I'm thinking I want to tame this beast. But I'm not sure yet if I want to do this. The main concern is to drop some weight before MCM training starts in July; those summer long runs are going to be hell with this extra poundage.

223 days until MCM!

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