Monday, September 3, 2007

International Peace Half Marathon Recap

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 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


KK said...

Good for you! Best of luck with your goals in Erie!

~Nathalie~ said...

Great race, Ace!
Very happy you won age group and top 10 Male overall.
All the best in Erie!

Yellow Scuba said...

Good job, Dane. I know you wanted to test yourself, so I'm glad you feel good with that choice. Now, get a lot of rest this week!

Lisa Smith-Batchen said...

Hi Dane!

Good running this weekend...I see my good friend Mike Wardian was 3rd. Have you met him yet?
We had a wonderful weekend here in the Tetons! Maybe next year you come run the trail marathon!
Best to you and keep on doing what you do!

Anne C said...

Great job! Good luck next weekend.

Dane said...

Thank you for all your congratulatory statements.

Lisa, Yes mike and I have met at several races. Hard not to do so when he races as much as he does.

Believe me, the Tetons is on my "to do" list for sure.

Anonymous said...

Dane, great report. I ran it too (24th place) and your thoughts on it pretty much mirror mine. Despite the mile markers being a bit off I thought it was an excellent race!

Karsten said...

The mile markers were inaccurate because that particular course was certified in kilometers, not miles. The certification map just lists the kilometer mark locations (along with mile 1). So I suspect somebody hopped on their bicycle and used their bike odometer to place the mileage signs. I think some race organizers don't realize how frustrating such minor inaccuracies can be, especially when one is trying to maintain a specific pace (as you were trying to do).

It's definitely a deceptively slow course there at Belle Haven... All those little curves in the trail, and all those rolling ups and downs towards Fort Hunt Park, really take their toll in the end.

I've had vague thoughts about Erie this coming weekend... I'll have to check to see if they have an entrant limit or offer race day registration...

Dane said...


The marathon is open but there is NO race day registration.

Anonymous said...

Just curious...

If you had trouble running 6:45's for 13.1, what makes you think you can run 6:46's for 26.2 in less than a week?

Do you put any credence in McMillan's calculator? He's predicting a 3:06 based on your 1/2 time. I know you'll say you held back at the beginning, but it seems like with your late splits, you may have actually gone out too fast.

Dane said...

Jimmy Dean,

You actually have no idea what I will say. Not that you even deserve a reply given your last set of responses (half of which I deleted).

However, besides the facts previous stated (which show why I think I have a chance to run the time I wish to run in Erie) are three other factors: heart, desire and how humans who do things they shouldn't don't base themselves on a calculated projection.

The week before I ran a 2:59 in my 42nd marathon of the year last year, the calculators would have stated I would run a 3:10 or slower. Very few of my times fit in with the McMillian projections.

So no, not until I run times that I feel are at, or close to, my best, will I put them into a calculator to see how I will run and give much credence to that time. I would rather go out and run the race.

Anonymous said...

Great race Dane, I think you've got a great shot at the 2:54-2:59 range, depending on race day factors, etc., and whether or not you feel "in the zone". Re: Jimmy Dean's comments, I actually do lend credence to McMillan's calculators, but in this case, since you've already gone sub-3 before, I'm not sure why Jimmy D. doubts you'll be in that range again. Anyway, best of luck next week...

zdesmond said...

I think that a person can maximize his/her ability, but can't exceed that ability. Heart and desire can only bring you so far. A lack of heart and desire can result in a person running slower than that person is capable of running, but not faster.

I don't think that heart, desire, or a race prediction calculator will determine your time this weekend. Your training and your current fitness level will dictate what you run. For example, all the heart, effort, and desire in the world isn't going to get you to run a 2:50 this weekend -- having that mental edge may help you run your best time and grab another sub-3, but that is about it.

Dane said...

couldn't agree more. Which is why when people ask me if I am ever going to really hunker down and try and kill myself for the best marathon PR ever I say "sure. Someday. and I may get that 2:39. But big deal. I don't have the gifts others do".

So a sub-3 and a PR is only "that's about it"?

A forgpotten motivator? Money. Like if somoene wanted to put, say $10,000 on the line I bet I would be MUCH closer to a sub 2:50 then without that bet.

1L said...

Not sure if it was smart or not, but I must say that I would have done the same thing (run/raced a half marathon 6 days before a marathon) back when I was in my early 30s and in my running prime. I even ran a 10K PR two days before Boston in 1985 - so there ;).

Good luck with Erie. I would say you have a shot since you know the course so well. I will send some karma so that the wind off the lake is at your back. Be smart and be positive - you still ahve to get my PR (which is 20 yrs old in November at MCM).

Anonymous said...

One more thing...don't forget to take 26 walk breaks of 30 seconds, one at each mile. You may think you're losing time, but you will actually finish faster. Galloway works!

Dane said...


I do indeed know the course and the course has caused me trouble on every damn race!

Thank you for your well wishes. If you make it down, please give me a call. I will only be in Erie the morning of. Got to head back to VA to work the next day (nice 6 hour drive after a marathon).

Dane said...


You are about to get slapped.

Anonymous said...

lol...the debate continues. Just remember, the key to setting a p.r. is the famous negative-split. If you go first half in 1:30 with a couple of walk/drink breaks, you will get 1:27 in the 2nd half for a 2:57. If you go 1:27 in the 1st half, with no breaks, you will finish 2nd half in 1:36, for a 3:03. That is my prediction. It is up to you to choose which time you want.

Ha Ha! Go get 'em!

Dane said...


It isn't a debate. You continue to tell me what you think is the best way to run a race, I acknowledge that it may be the best way for you, and then you tell me again.

There are many schools of thought that think a negative split is FAR from the best way to run a race.

As I mentioned earlier to someone else, if you care to make a wager on my time based on no walk breaks, I am happy to take that. I could use the travel money.

Anonymous said...

O.K., I will contribute to your charity the amount of $25.70 if you run 2:57 (up to 2:57:59) or faster.

Dane said...

Ooh, I get the Boston Qualifying seconds too! Now, that I like. Incentive!

If I stop to pee is that considered a walk break?

upendra said...

Hey, congrats on the great run. I'm sure I saw you whiz by me at some point.

This was my first half-marathon and longest ever run. I enjoyed it, despite having to share the path with all those pesky bikers.

Dane said...


I can't tell you how cool it is for me personally to learn that I ran a race the same day as someone else ran not only their first half but their longest run ever. While the mystery of whether I can run 10, 20, 50, or 100 miles has sort of disappeared from my my mind, it always gives me great pleasure to think that someone on the course may be going the furthest or fastest they have ever gone in their entire life. IT is just so neat to me.

Thanks for sharing.

Karsten said...

Ah, I guess I will not see you at Erie this weekend, Dane. It looks like there is race day registration, but the event Web page says, "Fees double for race day registration." Yikes! Looks like I might make my way to Punxsutawney for a 50K on Saturday instead.

Hope you do well at Erie! And I agree with you, running the half-marathon on Monday morning was a good idea, giving you a better sense of where you're at physically and what pace you'll be able to run in Erie. I too like to go into marathons with a good feel for how I should be approaching 'em. Now go kick some ass, eh?

Dane said...

Bummer I won't see you. Although I wonder why they have conflicting views on thier page as the front page says "There is NO DAY of RACE REGISTRATION."

I hope you kick ass on the 50k and I will do booty punting in Erie.

Anne42pt2 said...

I really enjoy the Belle Haven course. Just the right amount of hills, imho. Glad you did well. (Saw Karsten running well, too.)

Anonymous said...

Huh...McMillan looks as though he knows a bit about predictions afterall, eh?

Dane said...

"Jimmy Dean"

It is enjoyable sometimes to post your comments as they show, to everyone, what a true ass you are.

If you ever desire to come out of hiding (or those testicles someday descend) and have a conversation like a man, let me know.

p.s. Your obsession with looking up the results before they were even posted on the race website, it both unnerving and pathetic.