Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Mt. Nebo Half Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 10; 19th Edition 
246.6 miles run in 2015 races
Race: Mt. Nebo Half Marathon
Place: Orem, UT
Miles from home: 824
Weather: 50s; Dry; Sunny

Just 5.5 days after the debacle in my name (the meltdown in the heat at the Burgwald Marathon in Rauschenberg, Germany) I was set to run the Mt. Nebo Half. Well, "set" is not really the right verb. "Scheduled" is more like it. When I left my home about 36 hours after getting back to it from Europe, I was still quite wiped out from two marathons in a week. The ensuing head cold I was gifted on my way to Utah told me the race would be interesting to say the least.

I spent the day before the race at the expo signing books and telling people about my use of ASEA. Met more than a few new friends and made many more new ones. Helped ease some nerves of newbies and talk about race woes with more than a few from Boise who had their race canceled 48 hours previously and had to find a new one to run. I told them they picked a good one. Even though this course was slightly different than the one I ran two years ago, I knew it was one that offered the chance to really tackle some downhill and end up with a fast time.

Having a good time under my belt was something to which I was definitely looking forward. I haven't raced a good half marathon in two years. In fact, it was this race in 2013 which marks the last race with which I was happy. I did run a solid effort at the tough Heart Breaker Half in Oregon in February but I was looking for more. Even with all of the things stacked against me listed above, I was hoping for a nice 1:25 or so.

Race Morning:

I got to the start of the race with just enough time to jump in the bathroom line and run out to the start. Unfortunately, there was a snafu with getting the timing company to the start somehow so we were delayed 15 minutes or so. This delay was of no great shakes given the weather was consistent and did not necessarily forecast any hot weather to come.  However when you are ready to go, you are ready to go. There were some grumblings from runners but mostly a general understanding that no race company actually wishes to inconvenience their runners. Finally, with a quiet and subdued countdown from the timing company, we were underway.

First 3 miles:

My friend Jonathan came up to me before the start and told me to be wary of a certain runner who could easily dip under 1:10. I laughed. Even if I happened to be fit and ready to race, anyone who can run a 70 minute half marathon is not anyone who I need to even be thinking about. This runner, David, and another, Curtis (both whom I had met before) shot out of the gate like rockets. They would battle for first place and be out of my sight within minutes. Maybe even less time than that. The separation a very fast runner can put on others is astounding when you are witnessing it from the tail end.

I fell in next to another runner I knew named Bill who would go on to set a new PR this day. Running a 1:19:19 at age 44 ain't too shabby. He said he was glad I was not in his age group and I reiterated I was not being humble about my chances today. There would be no PR attempt. I forget that so many runners downplay their fitness out loud that it is all gamesmanship.  If I say I am thinking X is the best I can do, I really and truly mean it.

Then I ran a 6:08 and 5:58 first two miles for a 1:19:18 overall pace.

I knew this pace would not last. The last three miles of this course, while they look flat or downhill compared to the fall off the cliff of the first seven miles, offer some equalizing rolling hills. I fully expected to slow in the third mile. I then ran a 5:55. How about that? Obviously the downhill running gives runners the chance to run faster. But if they do not take it, that chance is wasted. Runners do not have wheels to coast.

To Halfway:

I knew the downhill wonderfulness would end soon enough but I was going to keep taking advantage of the skills I have as a downhill runner until it did.  I knew I was in the top 15 of runners but could not have cared less what place I took. This race was about time and time alone. That said, passing runners when you have the chance is always advised.  It is like Super Mario Energy Stars that boost your speed for the next quarter mile. So when I passed one runner around the 4th mile, I rode the wave. Continuing down the steep downhill, I netted a 5:55 mile to get my third straight under six minutes. I then started  thinking about what times and speeds which I may have been able to run had I been healthy.  Fortunately, I put those out of my mind.  It makes no difference what you could run; only what you can run on this day at this time matters.

The course was wonderfully shaded even with the late start. I wouldn't say it was cool but it felt not hot at all.
And it being Utah, the lack of humidity was just an absolute treat for me. In spite of the massive amounts of downhill, it was difficult to really let go in this section as for about three miles, we were presented with a series of switchback and curving roads. I felt so good here that I allowed myself a moment to really enjoy the scenery, something I rarely do when I am racing.  There are far too many other things to think about when you are running hard to enjoy the trees on the hills or a meadow in the distance. I don't think this says those running at a more leisurely pace enjoy the race more as racing in and of itself is an enjoyable feat. I can enjoy the scenery when I am out for a training run. Here I had a purpose.

With one more mile under 6 minutes in 5:59, the purpose was to run faster than I had any reason to do so on this day.

To mile 10:

My left quad had been feeling some tightness since about the third mile. Yet, when my right calf issued a complaint to the Department of Dane's Muscles, I paid much more heed. In addition, I was feeling a little bit of a hotspot on my right heel which told me the old socks I was wearing were ready for the dustbin.  All of this made me pull off the throttle a bit even as I wanted to continue running sub-6s as long as I could.  Fortunately, I surprised myself with another 5:57 at mile six before hitting a 6:17 for the 7th mile. After that, though, in spite of efforts to fun as efficiently and use all the tricks of the downhill running handbook, I only got a 6:24 for the 8th mile and a nearly identical 6:25 for the 9th. Passing a competitor during this stretch and bringing two others into view made me feel like I had been speeding up but my watch told me otherwise.

I knew the "free ride", as I would call it, of downhill would end at the 9th mile and I wanted to squeeze out one more fast mile before that happened. Fortunately, the protesting in my calf had subsided enough that I felt I could push hard again. Even as I sped up, however, a blonde pony-tailed runner passed me.  One woman had already gone out with the first pack and was long gone from sight.  But the way in which this runner passed me made me think that perhaps she might catch her. (She didn't. Running a 1:20:56 to first place's 1:20:04. Given I congratulated the 2nd place runner when we were in the finishing chute and she just glared at me, I am glad the other woman won. Yeah, take that, complete stranger!)

When I hit the 10th mile I was surprised to see a 6:47. This was a bit of a bummer even though I knew the course had mostly flattened, we were exposed to the sun and on an occasion or two we had a small hill to climb. Nevertheless, I was hoping for another sub 6:30 and didn't get it. With the hardest mile of the course coming up, I was curious how much further I would slow. 

Onto the Finish:

I vividly recall this section from two years prior and how much the mile from 10-11 had taken out of me. With just 3 miles to go I had far exceeded my expectations for this race so I decided to be conservative for the remainder of the day. I recalled there were essentially three small rises in this mile and I would simply tackle them the best I could. I could see just one fella way far in front of me and heard no one from behind. No spectators to speak of (save one family whose house I passed and their cute little daughter said "Congratulations on your achievement!") gave this my usual feeling of training running in a race. When I mercifully saw the 11th mile marker I braced myself for what the carnage would be. When 7:05 appeared as my split, I was ecstatic. I was thinking 7:30 would be more like it.

In fact, this quite possibly put a pep in my step as even with the smaller but still present hills in the next mile I managed a 6:59. One mile to go, a small dip and then rise before a jaunt through the neighborhoods and onto the track for the finish was all I had left.

A bouncy and friendly young woman bounded by me and insisted I run with her.  I insisted that this was the top speed I had right here and she should revel in kicking my butt the remainder of the way. By looking at my watch, I could see that I was going to run a time in 1:23 no matter how hard I pushed this last mile. As such, running hard to finish one spot higher in the standings meant nothing to me. Remember, this race was all about time today.  I had already far exceeded what I was hoping to run and the rest was just gravy.

I passed a few people with signs they thought were witty "This is my Marathon sign" who implored me to run hard to the finish.  "This is hard," I replied and hit the last 200 meters.  My buddy Chris (aka Vanilla Bear) had just finished a bike ride and clippity-clopped in his bike shoes from his car over to me to cheer me on. VB had given me a ride to the start and would be taking my sore, tired, and sick butt home to his place to crash for the day.  He's the bestest boyfriend ever.

Crossing under the banner in a time of 1:23:40 for my 6th fastest half marathon ever was a nice treat. I love my spreadsheets containing numbers and I noticed I technically do not have a 5th fastest half-marathon ever. Two separate races, run 4 years apart, share 4th place overall.  I guess if I am a little bummed about anything it is that I didn't run 13 seconds faster to knock those two into 5th place. But if that is your biggest complaint, than you have no complaints.

Overall, the race was fairly well-run. The road was not closed to traffic on the way down the canyon but there was very little traffic to worry about.  The volunteers at the aid stations were very friendly and the finish line spread was quite nice. I had worked with ASEA to give all competitors their own personal 8 ounce bottle at the finish. I was happy to see so many runners undoubtedly trying it for the first time and being exposed to a product which has helped me run 55 marathons, 60 half marathons, numerous triathlons and adventures races all in the past 6 years.

More importantly, even though I knew the last marathon was an aberration, it was good to have a fast race as my last race run. Knowing what you can do, and having done it, are two different sides of the story. Now I must simply build on that for the remainder of the fall season and see what can happen as the weather finally, or hopefully, starts to cool down a touch.

I'm ready for it.


Unknown said...

Way to go. It was fun to meet you.

Unknown said...

Great job. It was great to get to meet you.