Monday, November 30, 2009

Seattle Half - Goals, Revised Goals, New Goals, Met and Unmet

My original goals for yesterday's Seattle Half Marathon:

  • No PR.

  • Run at a comfortable pace and finish in about two hours.

  • Feel good enough to do it again at the end.
So how did I do on those goals?

  • I did not PR. (SUCCESS!)

  • I finished under two hours (SUCCESS) and although my splits were all over the place (more on that below), I felt pretty comfortable with my pace most of the time (SUCCESS, I think).

  • I felt pretty good at the end, certainly not at death's door, but it is hard to know whether I would want to do it again because I couldn't resist a last minute burst of speed in the final couple miles. At least I didn't feel like I couldn't keep running, if I needed to! (Partial SUCCESS.)
I had a few other technique-type goals which I didn't do quite as well at. I planned to eat one Gu during the race around eight miles, not for the nutrition so much as for practice eating on the run. That was a FAIL. As mile 8 approached I had no interest in eating; I still felt satisfied from my breakfast (pumpkin cake and coffee at 5:30 a.m.). I postponed to mile 9, but then I was in a part of the course (a hilly part) where I felt like I needed to concentrate my efforts on running rather than fumbling for a Gu. And after mile 10 I was so close to the finish that I just wanted to go for it.

I also planned on drinking from my fuel belt (two bottles of Nuun) rather than getting water at the water stops. Well, I didn't stop at any of the water stations (SUCCESS) but I only drank from my bottle once (PARTIAL FAIL). However, I did do it while continuing to run (PARTIAL SUCCESS).

Before I go on to my other goals (which were more objectives than goals, really), let me go back and describe race day and all the things that should have made it a disaster, but in the end didn't!

As I mentioned on Friday, I decided to take Saturday as a true rest day to keep my legs fresh for the run and to (hopefully) allow my bruised tailbone to heal. So early Saturday afternoon I headed to Seattle to pick up my packet at the race expo at the Westin Hotel. I was lucky enough to find a street parking spot only a couple of blocks from the hotel, and put enough money in the meter to give me an hour of browsing at the expo. As I walked over to the hotel, I ended up jogging across the street to catch a couple of changing lights, and I found (to my dismay), that while my tailbone didn't hurt me standing and walking, I could definitely feel it when jogging and running. Oh dear.

I got my bib and chip (they were using the old-style velco ankle bracelets, not my favorite), and took a loop around the expo to look at the displays. Yes, I bought a couple of things...some socks (black ones to go with a black pair of shoes I got, going all Kara Goucher), and a shirt and fleece, just because they were cute.

As I was leaving I saw the pacer table and realized that I knew one of the pacers from work! I went over to say hi, and found out she was pacing the two-hour half marathon. What a coincidence! I wasn't sure how I felt about running with a pace group on a hilly course, though, since she said they were directed to maintain even splits, which seemed like unnecessary effort to me.

That was pretty much it for my day-before-the-race activities. I headed home, and spent the evening eating pizza for dinner, watching/not watching football on TV, and packing up my stuff for the run in the morning.

So, day of the run dawned early with the alarm clock going off at 5 a.m. My mom was meeting me to leave from my house at 6 a.m. The run started at 7:30, and since I didn't have to check in or anything, I thought that would be plenty of time to drive to Seattle and park, as well as do a warm-up jog before the race.

Well, I thought wrong. The traffic jam started on the freeway just before we exited at Mercer to Seattle Center (race start location). We crept along and finally broke free of the other cars by Seattle Center, just needing to find parking at that point. Also easier said than done... but after we drove around to the north side of the Center we found plenty of unoccupied lots.

However, by that time it was already 7:15! I left my mom in the car, where she was planning on staying anyway because she is having knee problems. I decided to combine my warm-up with getting to the starting area...didn't have time for more! Luckily I had jogged several blocks away from the car when I tripped on the sidewalk and fell to my hands and knees. I felt stinging, but didn't bother to inspect my scraped knee. I just got up and kept running. (Later I would discover that I had skinned my left knee pretty well, but my snug fitting running pants kept it from bleeding.)

To top things off, I had to go to the bathroom, but didn't know whether I would have time to get through a porta-potty line. I wondered if I would have to take my first mid-race potty stop. The outlook seemed grim...until I ran into a bank of porta-potties with a pretty short line! It only took a few minutes to get to the front. Things were looking up.

I felt especially lucky when I saw the next bank of potties with a much longer line...clearly I got the better deal.

What I didn't get a better deal on, by being so late, was getting into the starting corral. The crowd was huge. I saw, not too far from where I was, a pacer sign but it was turned away from me. Eventually I managed to work my way to a position where I could see it was the sign for...2:45 half marathon.

Really? A pacer for a 2:45 finish? I have to say, I agree with a much more obnoxious blogger that I sometimes read,* that having a pacer for running a 12:30-ish mile pace seems a little...odd. (I wonder how that gets paced? All running or with walk breaks?**) I was able to work my way through the crowd enough to spot the 2:20 pacer sign. This one I can understand a little better, that would be a 10:40 pace and I could see how pacing might be helpful for some.

Far, far in the distance I saw the sign that I knew said two hours. But as I got further enmeshed in the wall of other runners, I realized (actually was told by someone else) that we weren't actually in the starting corral, we were outside it, there was a barrier separating us, and the entry into the starting corral was way, way back where I had started.

Even if I wanted to go back at this point, I couldn't. We were all stuck where we were. There were also a few non-runners amongst us, spectators who had arrived early to get a good viewing spot alongside the starting corral.

As the gun went off, everyone around me came to a consensus that our only logical way into the race was to climb over the barrier. Luckily it was only waist high! So, after a few minutes, I made it into the starting corral and was able to walk toward the actual starting line (mat) along with everyone else.

I hit the Garmin as I crossed the mats and was able to start running, or jogging, right away. Based on past experiences, I was very concerned about losing too much time with a couple of unnecessarily slow miles in the beginning, so I really pushed hard to weave around people and run fast whenever I got the chance. This paid off with an 8:54 first mile (which wouldn't usually be spectacular but was under the conditions). I was so worked up with my efforts that I finished mile 2 in 8:15! But I slowed after that. I think it was probably the weaving in the beginning, and inability to run tangents until midway through the race, that added a quarter mile to my overall distance by the end.

In mile 3 we ran onto the freeway express lanes and in mile 4 we went into a tunnel. Not surprisingly, my Garmin lost the satellite in the tunnel. Although the overall distance and time came out right in the end, my times for miles 4 and 5 were all screwy because of the lack of satellite. Mile 4 was ostensibly 7:36 (no) and mile 5, when I was back out of the tunnel, was 9:46 (also no). However, the average pace for miles 4 and 5 comes out to 8:40, which is more like it.

In the second half of the race we got to the hills. Yes, it was hilly. "Interlaken" (name of the boulevard) is apparently a synonym for hill. During these miles my pace fluctuated wildly from the 8:40's to almost 9:30-ish.*** However, I felt okay about that, as I was able to run up and down the hills pretty easily by varying my pace, which seemed better than trying too hard on the uphills or holding back too much on the downhills.

Here is probably a good place to mention two new "Goals" or "Objectives" which I developed during the run. I did not succeed on either, by the way. That's okay, though, because they still gave me something to shoot for.

One was to catch up to the 2-hour pace group. I don't know whether I would have run with them, if I had caught them, because it was clear that running even splits wasn't working for me. I wasn't sure if mathematically that was even possible, if they were running a 9:09 pace and I (as it turned out) was averaging 8:50. But I kept hoping to see that green sign ahead of me (but never did).

The other new goal/objective, which practically speaking would have been the same result as above, was to cross the finish line at or below two hours on the clock. I finally figured out (after passing a couple of timers) that I was a little more than five minutes behind the clock. So finishing at two hours was not impossible...but it was not to be.****

In the last 5K or so the hilly terrain changed to a gradual downhill, which was pretty great. My times slipped back under nine minutes again, and decreased progressively. In the last mile, we ran down a couple of steep hills coming back into downtown Seattle, and they helped give me an 8:03 for mile 12. Those hills were a little too steep for comfort though (I'm sure some people's quads—though not mine*****—are suffering today), and I think if they had been a little less steep I could have been even faster in that mile.

The final little gift before the finish was one more steepish uphill approaching the finish area. I was using my finish-line extra gear, and managed to keep my pace at 8:32, anyway.

Final results: 13.36 miles in 1:58:07 (8:50 pace for the distance, 9:00 pace for the official distance). Gun time five or so minutes slower.******

The two-hour pacer, I found out, finished just under two hours chip time and just over for gun time.

My overall splits: 8:54, 8:14, 9:15, 7:36 & 9:46 (average 8:40 for two miles), 8:42, 9:02, 9:27, 9:02, 9:21, 8:55, 8:41, 8:03, 3:04 for .36 miles (8:32 pace).

In the end, I was happy with my result. And I might even do this one again! (Next time I think I would want to spend the night before in Seattle, though, to avoid the traffic issues.)

And, by the way, my tailbone is still tender, though hopefully improving every day, and I could feel it at the beginning of the run but I guess the endorphins took over eventually. My scraped knee also still stinging, but that I expect to go away in a few days.

Running plan for the rest of the week: Today (Monday) cross-train (elliptical) at the Y. Tuesday easy run (~7 miles or so). Go to Walmart for some cheap warm-ups to wear to the start in CIM. Do laundry as needed and start packing. Wednesday cross-train (elliptical). FINISH PACKING. Thursday short run (~5 miles total, with 4 x 400 at track just to tweak the fast-twitch muscles). Thursday night THE CIVIL WAR and fight for the Rose Bowl (Go Ducks!). Friday fly to Sacramento!

*I couldn't find his post about this very subject, but I realize I have "borrowed" the question from someone else. And although I find some of his posts rather offensive and/or irritating, it's also kind of of entertaining.

**Keeping in mind that there is a separate start for half-marathon walkers.

***Meaning my average pace. I'm sure (I know) those slower miles actually included some 10-minute plus paces, but the downhill portions kept the average pace relatively reasonable.

****If I had not run an extra .26 miles total, I would have been very close to that, however.

*****I wonder if skiing helps with the downhills? I also do run down hills regularly, but not this steep.

******I know that gun time is the "official" time, but I disdain that. It is absolutely unfair to penalize the runners for the unavoidable delay caused by a big, crowded race. And I'm kind of irritated that the printable race certificate shows "pace in minutes" based on gun time, which puts me at 9:25 per mile... those extra 25 to 40 seconds (depending on whether you are comparing my pace for the actual distance or race distance) were all added while waiting for the starting line. How does that reflect an accurate pace? (I wouldn't be quite so offended except that the certificate is supposed to be something I would keep as a memento... do I really want a memento that tells me I was running a 9:25 pace? I don't think so.)

1 comment:

Lisa said...

Nice job! It is great when you can run a race as a training run and still get in under two hours. It wasn't so long ago when the two hour mark was the goal you strived you are on to bigger things!

And what is up with your race using the gun time as your official time??!! My official time in all the races I have run (all two years of them) have been chip time. I received an official certificate from the Rock N Roll Marathon and it didn't even mention gun time. Using gun time sucks!