Monday, March 22, 2010

The Canyonlands Half Marathon-Or, Taking The Extreme Taper To The Next Level

I had been wanting this to be a tune-up for Boston as well as an attempt at that 1:37 half marathon standard for guaranteed entry into the NYC marathon. I did not necessarily want to use a race time to go to NYC, but just wanted this as a goal to work toward. My training this cycle has been as consistent as it could be with calf and shin problems. Some weeks were dialed back with less mileage and/or cutting out speed work, but I've been doing as much as I can over the past three months.

It has been a rough two weeks, with a sinus infection that I finally had to get treated when it wouldn't go away on its own, my shin whispering at me a little (again), and finally a really fun stomach bug earlier in the week. Considering how miserable I was on Monday and Tuesday, though, I just tried to count myself as lucky to not have to bow out of the race altogether. My race roommate Ilana and I did our standard pre-race hang, which included some Mexican food, margaritas, and then a soak in the wonderfully hot hot tub at the Gonzo Inn. By the time I got out of the bubbling water, it was probably about the best I'd felt all week, and I was ready for some solid shut-eye.

By Saturday morning, I was almost my old self, but feeling a little bit weak. I'd run a whopping 11 miles all week-an easy five on Wednesday and an easy six on Thursday. My plan was still to race the best I could, run for at least a PR (sub 1:41:06), and shoot for that 1:37 if I felt good.

We caught the bus to the start, and milled around wearing our sweats until the last possible minute because it was so darn cold and unusually humid (for here, anyway. I know you southerners are rolling your eyes). Then we had half an hour of standing around waiting to run. It was a welcome relief to finally start running and get to warmed up.

The first mile drops sharply and I went bombs away, thinking I felt pretty good. I figured that regardless, I could take advantage of the downhill here and not have it really affect the rest of the race.

Mile 1- 7:09

I tried to maintain a strong pace as the road evened out and rolled some. It was warming up a little bit-not much-and the sun was shining. Really nice racing weather.

Mile 2- 7:15
Mile 3- 7:36
Mile 4- 7:42

I was trying to kick it into high gear and it's just not happening. I just didn't feel very good at this point. I shook out my arms to loosen them up, relaxed my hands, and did other things to keep my game face on, and not just phone it in because I didn't feel perfect.

Mile 5- 7:36
Mile 6- 7:42

I was feeling far more gassed than I should halfway through a half marathon. I made sure I took time at the next aid station to walk for a few seconds and guzzle some sports drink and again try to change how I was feeling physically and maybe get a little recharge.

Mile 7- 7:37
Mile 8- 7:47

Still fighting to stay in it, and get those splits back in the other direction. I charged the one big hill on the course (not that big-but everything was feeling harder than usual today).

Mile 9- 7:39
Mile 10- 7:47

I passed the awesome drummer ladies of the Moab Taiko Dan, and I fed off of their energy. This group is one of the best parts of coming to a race in Moab, and I needed all the energy I could muster. We then spilled out onto my least favorite part of the course...out of the canyon and onto the highway into Moab. This year, complete with mass construction on the corner. This is a big, ugly mile, but I stick it out to stay under an eight minute mile by the skin of my teeth. There were some spectators along here, and I high-fived any kids along the route as another distraction from how I felt.

Mile 11: 7:56
Mile 12: 7:50

We make the turn onto the side streets toward the finish with only one mile to go. I was positively thrilled to be off of that car exhaust-filled highway. It's pretty flat to slightly downhill for a bit, and I powered through this as hard as I could. We then made a lefthand turn for the loooooooooooooooong, uphill finish. The finish arches and clock are a distant speck and it feels like someone's idea of a bad joke to stick it there where you have to run uphill to reach it. I went into "I hate you, finish chute" mode and kicked harder.

Mile 13: 7:37

My early morning training partner's mom, age 70, is still an avid walker, having walked The Other Half two years prior, and also walking the corresponding 5-miler a little bit before the half started. I heard her very distinct voice shout out my name as I approached the finish and I just picked up and gunned it after smiling and waving at her.

Last .15 measured by Garmin: 1:04 (7:06 pace)

Garmin time 1:40:18, OFFICIAL CHIP TIME 1:40:16, and somehow I've got a new PR! I was 13 out of 376 in age group (there's that 13 again! My marathon number last spring), 72 out of 1942 women, 309 out of 3282 overall. A PR the hard way.

On one hand, I was kind of ticked off that someone who never, ever gets stomach bugs got one days before a key race for the season. I wanted to do better than that and I just didn't do it today. On the other hand, that small PR was definitely earned every step of the way. Nothing was easy or comfortable on Saturday. It feels good to run ugly, run feeling gross, and squeak out a PR, knowing it could've been a lot worse. I last ran this half in 2008, so the race PR was just about seven minutes on the nose.

Ilana and I also had the good fortune to run into Blue Earth from RWOL, and Mrs. Blue Earth in the park/finish area, along with SimonSaysRun. It was great for everyone to meet and say hello. Ilana and Blue Earth both placed in their AG's so the forums represented well in Moab! Now, back to get that nose to the grindstone on working toward that 1:37 half.


Nanookie said...

I posted this on our thread, but congrats on the PR. I hope you're feeling sufficiently recovered from the HM and the stomach bug (it's making the rounds here, too!). At least it was now and not closer to Boston!

L.A. Runner said...

Yeah! Way to hold on to it late in the race! That showed some serious discipline. Despite all that you had against you the days leading up to the race, you did VERY WELL!

Anonymous said...

Great report! Did you notice that you, me, and BE all had our slowest miles at 11? You'll break 1:40 next time, easy.