“A sweet sweet beauty, but stone stone cold…”

2017 Richmond Half Marathon

Race Report

1:44:30     (7:58 min/mile)     79/386 AG     839/7811 Overall

November 11, 2017 – The Richmond Half Marathon was the last major race on my schedule for 2017.  In actuality, I’d planned on doing the half marathon in 2016, but had upgraded to the full marathon on the fly after Ironman Maryland.  That level of craziness wasn’t in the cards in 2017 though, especially after the marathon at Ironman Chattanooga was done with a heat index in the 90’s.  I had no desire to run another 26.2 in 2017, and thus, I chose to stick with the original 13.1 that I’d signed up for.

I always seem to have my “A” race triathlon in September or October, so the Richmond Marathon/Half Marathon always seems to be something of an afterthought – to the extent that’s possible.  After recovering from IMChoo for 3-4 weeks, I was already into late October, so I didn’t have much time to do much race specific training.  Obviously, I had enough fitness built up to handle 13.1 miles, but my pacing was geared more towards 26.2 miles on tired legs than it was to a standalone 13.1.

I’d run plenty of half marathons when factoring in 70.3 triathlons, but I’d actually only run one standalone half, which was the Love Rox Half Marathon in 2015.  That race was pretty hilly, and there was actually snow on the ground since it took place in February.  I’d done that race in 1:51:31, which equates to an 8:30/mile pace.  I was looking to run 8:00 minute miles this time around, so my goal was anything sub-1:45:00.

Pre-Race

I was running the race alone this time around, and I drove downtown and planned to park at my office, which is located about 10 blocks from the starting line.  I had to move a few traffic cones before I could turn down the side street that takes me to my office parking lot, and then hit the bathroom inside.  It was really cold outside, with the temperature in the 20’s that morning.  The 10 blocks to the starting area served as my warm up, and I took advantage of the bag drop so I’d have some extra clothes to put on after the finish.  I wanted to hit the porta-potties one last time before starting, but by the time I checked my bag, the National Anthem was already playing.

Not wanting to miss the start, I made my way into the starting corral and took up a spot behind the 1:50:00 wave.  I planned to run a tad slower at the beginning, so I didn’t want to get in the 1:45:00 group and get trampled.  I figured that if I caught that group though, I’d have met my pacing goal.

Garmin Data

Course Map

Miles 1-3 (8:25)(8:28)(8:18)

Karen is a big proponent of starting of slow, and instructed me to shoot for 8:30 miles for the first three miles.  As expected, most of the 1:50:00 pace group went right by me after the start, but I resisted the urge to speed up and keep pace with them.  The course was pretty much dead flat as it headed down West Broad Street, and I was having no problems hitting my 8:30 miles.  If anything, I was having trouble holding back.  I was slightly fast on the first two miles, and then ran 8:18 for mile 3 by design.  As always, I was worried about “making up” the time on the back end, so I exercised a small amount of civil disobedience by making the third mile a little faster than the first two.

Just before mile 2.5, the course turned right onto Belvedere Street.  There was a small hill over a bridge near The Diamond, which hits you around mile 19 in the full marathon.  I was thankful that I was hitting that hill so early in my race, and was ready to pick up my pace as I reached the far side.

Miles 4-6 (7:58)(7:57)(7:59)

As soon as my Garmin tripped three miles, I picked up the pace.  By that point, I was about 25 yards behind the 1:50 pace group, which was comprised of about thirty people.  The wind was blowing directly into our faces, not terribly hard, but definitely noticeable.  I was gaining on the group, but tried to tuck in behind them as much as possible to get some relief from the headwind.  After a half mile or so though, I passed the front of the group and slid out ahead of it.

By mile 5, I was still feeling good, but was feeling the first signs of fatigue setting in.  Nothing terrible, but the easy part was definitely over.  I also knew that the hilly portion of the course was coming up once I entered Bryan Park around mile 5.5.  I focused on keeping my breathing under control, and rolled over the first hill in the park without too much difficulty.  There was a little more elevation gain in mile 6, but again, nothing terrible.

Miles 7-9 (8:03)(8:07)(7:53)

Mile 7 was the worst of the course (elevation-wise), but having endured the Hell of Chattanooga a few months prior, it really was’t all that bad.  My pace deteriorated a little, and I was a bit surprised by the fact that Bryan Park seemed to go on and on.  I finally broke out of the park by mile 7.5, and I knew that the course was predominantly flat or downhill from that point forward.  My race had focused on being ready to turn it on once I got out of the park, and even though it was beginning to hurt, I felt like there was still plenty in the tank.

Mile 8 was fairly flat, but I only managed to run an 8:07 mile.  I’m really not sure why it wasn’t faster, but perhaps I was still recovering a bit from the last hill in Bryan Park.  Nevertheless, mile 9 was done in 7:53 as I began my gradual acceleration towards the finish.

Miles 10-12(7:51)(7:46)(7:38)

Miles 10-12 were a gut check, but I was able to consistently drop my pace, even as the pain steadily grew.  I knew that the outcome of my race largely depended upon how I did in those three miles, and that I needed to run below my overall goal pace in order to finish under 1:45:XX.  This was the same part of the course that makes or breaks the full marathon folks, and my mood was only slightly better during the half than it was in years past in running the full.  There is a decent amount of crowd support in those miles, but I was deep in the well of pain, so I pretty much wanted to fight anybody who said that I was almost done.

Since the course was fairly flat, I was able to keep accelerating and I was actually a bit surprised to see my pace creeping down towards 7:30/mile late in the race.  I was bolstered by the fact that the last quarter mile or so was all downhill, and I was able to keep pushing, even as the wheels felt like they were about to fall off.

Miles 13-13.1 (7:06)(6:02 pace)

The last full mile hurt like hell, but I turned in a 7:06, which made me very happy.  My legs felt like they were turning to Jello and the sides starting closing in a bit.  As much as it hurt, I focused on one block at a time and knew that the pain was almost over.

After making the last right turn to head downhill to the finish line, it was a quasi-sprint towards the end.  I was concerned that my quads might give out on the steep descent, and I was passing people left and right as I let gravity take over without braking.  Based upon my Garmin, I felt like I was going to make my sub-1:45:00 goal, but there was still some concern that my unofficial timing might be off.  The last thing I wanted was to run a 1:45:01, so I kept pushing all the way through the finish.  As it turned out, I had 30 seconds to spare, so my pacing had been spot on.  Actually, I should say that Karen’s pacing was spot on.

Post-Race

Upon finishing, I kept moving through the finishing chute and did my best to keep from locking up.  I was feeling pretty famished, so I made my way through the food line and began looking for the bag claim.  Unfortunately, it was way back near the finish line, and by the time I got there, most of the people in my wave had already lined up to get their bags.  I stood there shivering for the better part of an hour to get my bag and some warm clothes.  Had I gone straight to the bag claim after finishing, it probably would have only taken five minutes.  Oh well, live and learn.

After it was all said and done, I felt like my pacing for this race was nearly perfect.  I started out slow and built into my goal pace and beyond, leaving myself 30 seconds to spare.  I was hurting pretty severely at the end, but it left me wondering if I’d left any time on the course and whether I could have run any faster if I’d set my goal a little higher.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Its easy to think that in hindsight after the pain subsides.

As the Richmond Half Marathon ended, so did my 2017 race year.  It ended on a high note, but, as always, it was bittersweet to know that nothing was on the race calendar for several months.  Truthfully, I needed a rest, even though I wasn’t planning on tackling a full Ironman in 2018.  The plan for 2018 was to build speed with shorter races, culminating with a half-Ironman in late 2018, but I was already chomping at the bit to get to the speed work.

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