A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 2; 25th Edition
400.53 miles raced in 2007
Race: International Peace Half Marathon
Place: Alexandria, VA
Miles from home: 8
Course Difficulty: 4.5
Course Enjoyability: 5.5 out of 10
Weather: 80 degrees; humid
On Sunday, the day before this race, I ran a sluggish 10 miles with my running club. Surprised anyone was even here with the Virginia Beach Half marathon going on down south and it being Labor Day and all, I still kept myself to 10 miles. I knew I would be cycling 16 miles later on in the afternoon as I am trying to make use of the bike I got on my birthday back in May. It is ironic to me that I am a little wary of riding it, only because I am trying to protect myself from getting injured by riding it, to protect the "investment" I have made in becoming a runner in the past year or so.
Nevertheless, I have well-documented how my races have, for the most part this year, left me a little flat. Too high expectations or bad luck or bad weather, the reasons do not matter. Only the results. So my goal for the Erie Marathon this upcoming Sunday was to run a 2:54 which would be a 5 minute PR at the distance. As many runners can attest about a certain time, I feel a 2:54 is what I should HAVE right now, not a time I am shooting for. But I feel I have not tested myself lately using a longer speed workout. Therefore, in the middle of my ride, which coincidentally was on the exact course of the International Peace Half Marathon, I decided I would use the half-marathon the next day as a training run. I would go out at projected marathon pace and see if I could hold it.
Getting a decent night’s sleep I awoke at 7 AM glad it was a later start so I could sleep in but wary of what the temperature might be. When I walked outside at 8 AM to 71 degrees and a slight breeze I was very pleasantly surprised. But remembering how that is still not a “good” temperature for me I kept my smile in check.
I drove down to Alexandria on the George Washington Parkway and took in the morning. This was made easier by the fact that all the traffic lights in Old Town were still seemingly on rush hour timing so I sat needlessly at about 4 lights waiting for them to change. I quickly paid my fee and strapped on my number. A quick jog to the bathroom and it was soon time to start the race.
Beginning in the Belle Vernon area south of Alexandria, the course is shady and paved as it winds its way through forest alongside Potomac River and George Washington Memorial Parkway. The course lends itself to being crowded because it is not closed to the normal runners and cyclists who use the path for exercise but for the most part this is not a problem. There are however a few hills to contend with and being that is it a straight out-and-back course, you find on your way home that hills you were not even aware you were running down, poke their evil little heads out on the return trip.
I started the race off by pushing past a few people in the first hundred meters who were very fit but were obviously not going to do well on this race. I knew it was going to be tough to keep myself in check, but my goal was to see where I was fitness wise in order to ascertain my shots at a 2:54 in Erie. In order to do so, I wanted to keep myself at a pace of 6:40 per mile. Give or take. If I saw I was going to be in the top 5 (which afforded generous prize money for a race of this not so abundant size) I told myself I would allow my legs to kick in at the end.
Mile 1: 6:34
Immediately I could see that two African runners were going to take one and two. Local runner Mike Wardian (3rd place)was right behind them and also another speedy Washington guy, Max Lockwood (4th place; although only out for training run) made me know I was finishing in 5th place at the bare minimum. I quickly realized that with a few others between them and me, I was not in ANY money today.
Mile 2: 6:26
While the first mile felt pressing a little bit and made me wonder if I could even do just 6:40s today, the second mile felt much better. A few other runners passed me and left me in the 10-15th place range
Mile 3: 6:32
Now I am nearly 30 seconds under my goal pace, in no way feel like I am pushing too hard and feeling good. I am running almost step for step with two other runners and we are feeding off of each other.
Mile 4: 6:27
Another 13 seconds below my pace tells me I need to slow a bit. This is made easier by laughter as one trying-to-be-helpful spectator tells us we are only 3 plus minutes behind the leaders. At 4 miles! My two running companions share in my laughter and we trade names. Greg Ashe (10th place) is trying to go sub-3 for the first time at an upcoming marathon and John Hannan is putting in some road miles in preparation for an Ironman in Florida. Greg had heard of what I had done last year and mentioned how fun the Drake Well Marathon sounded and how all the participants had written such wonderful things on marathonguide.com I beamed a little bit but had to tell Greg I was not running it again this year.
Mile 5 and Mile 6: 13:09 (6:35 avg)
Greg wanted to run 6:30s so I told him to go ahead. I must have missed the 5th mile marker so I clicked my watch at 6 miles and see I am 55 seconds ahead of pace. Still feeling good. A young female runner passes me and does so with ease. I can tell I will not see much of her the rest of the race. As I turned around to run home I saw my friendly rival Karsten Brown (15th place)
Mile 7: 8:03
I could tell by the placement of this marker that it was off before I even got to it. Heading out I would see a mile marker and then 30 seconds later I would see a marker for another mile going home on the other side of the path. Mile 7 was located almost directly across from mile 6. Nothing too bothersome but enough to throw me off just a bit.
Mile 8: 6:43
That’s better. I knew I might go over my goal pace but I had plenty of seconds to give thanks to running well in the first half.
Mile 9: 6:33
With a nice big downhill I passed John and felt good about my chances of possibly running a low 1:26.
Mile 10: 6:51
Giving back 11 seconds made me realize that I would be in the 1:26s but it might be closer to 1:27. No problem. A 6:40 pace leaves me with a 1:27:30 so I would be pleased to be in the 1:26s.
Mile 11: 6:46
Still not where I wanted to be but again I only lost 6 second out of my bank. Is that John coming up behind me? I hear slapping of feet I think.
Mile 12: 6:47
Still can’t tell if it is John per se but I know that I am listening to the sound of my shirt slap on my back. The weather has quickly gotten much warm and much more humid. I had been feeling it get this way for about 3 miles. Only one mile to go.
Mile 13: 6:35
Well, I am happy with that mail but where is the finish line? Kicking it in well would only take me 36 seconds but I cannot see where I will end.
Last .1: 0:54
Certified or not, and I have no reason to believe it isn’t, this marking was not properly placed. There is no way it took me nearly a minute to run the last .1 of a mile. Oh well.
Harder than I was hoping it would be I finished in 1:28:26 which was good enough for first place in my age group and 11th overall. A few seconds behind me John came in. He may not have been the feet I hard behind me but he was close enough to make it interesting.
Moreover, I realized I may just have to restructure my goals for the Erie Marathon next weekend. Instead of shooting for a 2:54, I am instead going for a 2:57 or so. I will give everything I have to set a personal best and if it feels good in the second half will go for a 2:54 but it appears with how I feel, I may need those extra few minutes.
Some will undoubtedly think that my decision to moderately race a half just 6 days before a full was foolish but I honestly believe it was a very wise decision. This race afforded me the opportunity to reassess my goals so I do not crash hard in Erie. While they are not adequately spaced apart and I have other races in between, I do have 2 other marathons planned for this fall. Both afford me a cushion to set new and better PRs if I do not do so in Erie. Ergo, I am pleased I ran today.
Full results, when posted, can be found here.
Video of my finish can be found HERE