Made the mistake of driving the course before the race and was reminded of how hilly the course was. I started the race doubting my chances for an 85-minute finish. I had done a 13.1 time trial about 10 days before and finished in 86:40. But I felt incredible during that time trial and managed to stay in the 6:30 to 6:40 range most of the run in what was essentially an all-out effort. I had struggled to stay in the 6:40s after about 6 miles previously. Duplicating that effort on this course was gonna be a tall task. On top of this, I would be running the race in new shoes because my NB XC900s ripped at the base of the sole on my last run of the training cycle (mile repeats on the treadmill). I’d be running the race in a brand new pair of Mizuno Wave Ekidens.
Started the race in third place, but after about half a mile realized I had zero chance of maintaining that pace so I eased up and dropped into fifth place. At the mile one marker, I realized I had forgot to start the timer on my watch. I decided not to start my watch there and just run the rest of the race based on effort instead of time.
The course is rolling hills with a first half net ascent of about 350 feet, that doesn’t sound like much, but essentially 90 percent of the first half is a gradual uphill. At about mile four I was already regretting not doing more hill work. I was working pretty hard and felt like I was probably running in the high 6:30s to low 6:40s. I drank a mouthful of water at each of the three water stops on the first half. Between mile four and five someone passed me. I was now in sixth place. I made no attempt to keep up with him.
The turnaround came and I did some quick calculations based on the time of day on my watch. I figured I did the first half in just under 44 minutes. NOT where I wanted to be, but I figured I would have a pretty sizable negative split.
Sure enough, the gradual downhill after the turnaround was like water on a 110-degree day. I started to cruise, but knew 85 minutes would be virtually impossible as I’d have to do about 6:10s for the rest of the way to make up time. I could see one dude in front of me and to my surprise he was pulling away. I wanted to catch him, but I knew if I pushed much harder things could go bad in a hurry. My breathing was already “finishing kick-like.”
I fought to maintain my pace and bypassed the last two water stops. Hit a couple of nasty uphills and figured I had a couple of miles in the 6:30s instead of the 6:10s I should have been running. Ran as fast as I could on the last downhill to the finish and hit the line with the clock reading 1:26:0-something. I was fairly disappointed to miss out on the 1:25s by just a few seconds, but immediately heard a couple of dudes saying their chip/net times were 40-plus seconds faster.
The results station by the start wasn’t working so I had to wait about 20 minutes for my results online. 1:25:27, sixth place overall and first in my age group. Technically about a 20-minute PR because I haven’t officially run a half marathon since I moved to AZ about 15 years ago.
I’m unsure of my racing plans for the rest of the year. I’m for sure doing the Bataan Death March (with a 35-pound backpack) again in March and I’m 90% sure I’ll be doing the PHX Marathon in a month, but I’m not sure if I’ll try to lower my half time further or shoot for a sub-3 hour marathon.