Saturday, August 9, 2008

Provo River Trail Half Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 3; 11th Edition
212 miles raced in 2008
Race: Provo River Trail Half Marathon
Place: Provo, UT
Miles from home: 45 miles
Weather: Sunny and 70s

Today was a long-waited for attempt at setting a new PR in the half-marathon distance. Last year I was hoping to set a new PR at the Ocean City Half but a freak snowstorm and wind conditions nixed that. (Video HERE) Then later in the year, in Erie I decided to run another half and really give it a go. Again, while I set a new PR, it was no where near as fast as I was hoping for.

This year I have run three marathons where the first half of the race was near or below that half marathon time in Erie. It was obvious to me that a new PR was well within my grasp. But I rarely race half-marathons. I don’t look for them to run and rarely even think about them. If I am going to race I want the full monty. This weekend looked no different until about 10 days ago.

You see, I was supposed to be heading to the Falmouth Road Race to both speak and run in this famed 7 mile race. However, when a plans fell through and left me with no time to find another partner who may wish to take the free expo space I was offered, I was left with no race to run.

Then I remembered there was a half-marathon in Provo that very same weekend. With no full marathon to entice me, I decided I may give it a go. However, figuring out where exactly the race was, where it was run and how to get there were all up in the air. Now, I don’t expect every single race website to have elevations maps, crystal clear graphics, and perfect grammar (ok, yes I do on this last one) but I do not expect the website to be so horrendous that it is treasure hunt in a foreign language.

Here are a few treats on the website (keep in mind these are verbatim)

“If you wait for the last bus's you may have to start after 1st runners have left, If bus is late, you will start late, so be early.”

“Do not drive up south fork. Due to the past fire at bridal veil, which is almost out. You are not starting at Deer creek dam! Don't drive there!”

Um, what?!

So, when there is such a lack of attention to detail on easy things it is hard not to worry about how the race will come together. Nevertheless, after the disappointment of not going to Falmouth, I needed a race. I also was dealing with the disappointment of the Deseret News Marathon and how I did not set a PR there. Therefore, regardless of any trepidation, I signed up for the race with a week to go.

One thing I knew about the race that was it was a mostly downhill course. And if you can decipher the text from above there was a slight course modification due to a fire in one of the nearby canyons. I learned from some of the runners in my Track Club here in Salt Lake City what exactly those changes were and how that in spite of the mostly downhill course that the hill from ~ mile 4 to mile 6 would test you. With that in mind, I watched the parade of nations of the Olympics, and after lying in bed for hours, finally fell asleep around 1 am. A 4:30 AM wake-up call would indeed be a little early.

Not to kick a man when he was down but a snafu at the start of the race delayed the start for at least 15 minutes. When the race finally did start, it was a cluster as ~ 2000 people crowded the start. With no chip timing on this smallish race, people pushed forward to the start line. Typical runner common courtesy was apparently forgotten this morning as people who had no business being in the front of the pack felt the need to be there anyway.

Figuring to finish in the top 20 or so based on last year’s times, you can imagine how perturbed I was to be in about the 5th line of people. In fact, it took a good 200 yards of the race, weaving in and out, before I finally escaped the masses.

This race would be a tale of three different segments. The first 4 miles were the largest downhill portion of the course. Following that, two miles of up hill would dictate the race. Finally the more gradual and winding final half would test me to see if I was ready to set new highs.

First four miles:
A 6:05 minute per mile pace is what I needed to not only set a new PR but go under 1:20. As that math is too hard to do while running I decided to run as close as possible to 6 even and count the extra seconds as a bonus to work with and draw on later. When I ran through the first four miles in 5:28, 5:50, 6:05, and 5:58. I was quite happy. Leaving a small one-lane country road to join the highway, I could see all 1.5 plus miles of the uphill we had to battle in the distance.

The Up Hill
With a 6:18 and a 6:21 for these two miles, I was completely stoked. I was right where I needed to be. I had passed a few runners and let none pass me. I knew the next 6 miles would mirror a portion of the Utah Valley Marathon that I had ran back in April. I just needed to hold my pace.

The last half:
A 6:00 minute mile for the first portion of this section made me feel great. A 5:56 minute mile had me shocked. Soon thereafter I was brought back down to Earth when at mile 9 had me passing in 6:51. Well obviously the mile before was short and this mile was too long. Could I trust the rest of the mile markers from here on out? Seeing myself hit a 6:07 at mile 10 gave me hope that I would reach my goals. I had a 5k left and only need to run just under 20 minutes to get a sub 1:20 I can do this!

Then a 6:19 at mile 11 really hurt my chances. With the last downhill section of the course contained in this mile, I was actually hoping for a little few extra seconds cushion. Instead, I lost about 15. I need to ratchet it up for one mile and then go all the way to the wall in the last.

Too bad I never saw another mile marker. As the course snaked in and out of parking lots and followed twisting and turning arrows, I could never quite find a quick pace. I was gaining ground on those in front of me, which only told me that either I was speeding up or they were slowing, but not how much was left of the race. With the mile 12 marker obviously not posted, I just tried to focus on the finish. I could hear cheering and a band in the parking lot nearby. But how were we going to get there? Unfortunately it was in the cruelest way possible. Passing within 10 yards of the finish, we looped up and then back down a riverway bike path. With no idea what the right time was, where I was going to finally turn around and head back towards the finish and which mile I was on, I simply gave it all I have. I had saved some in the tank as all I wanted to do was go sub 1:20. Even if I had more in reserve, the last thing I needed was to blow it too early and lose the big goal.

Between a surprising large crowd of people on either side of the bike trail, I finally caught a glimpse of the clock. Pushing it home, I not only broke my PR of 1:23:27 but also got under 1:20 in a PR crushing time of 1:19:37(ish) and finished in the top 30 (where exactly I do not know as of yet). I finally have a half marathon time I can be proud of. (As an addendum, when the results were finally posted, all of our times were skewed up, and my 1:19 became a 1:20. Oh well. Now I simply will have to crush my PR again later on!)

After cheering on a few friends of my club and being quite happy about my day, I remembered the sobering news I had heard the night before about a friend. I was originally dedicating this race to my best friend Anne as it was her birthday today but I had to also let the other friend know my thoughts were with him. Facing a potentially long and difficult road given a recent medical examination, I was even more grateful than usual that I get to go out and "play" every weekend as a healthy and fit member of the human race. I rarely take this ability for granted but it was even more plainly put in front of me with this tough news.


Katie said...

Congrats on the sub 1:20 and huge PR!!

Anonymous said...

Awesome job...a PR smash to be proud of no doubt!

Yellow Scuba said...

Great job, Dane. I'm so glad you finally got the half PR you've been hoping for! Best wishes to your friend for quick healing.