Sunday, March 2, 2014

Phoenix Half Marathon

After taking a solid 4 weeks of pretty much no training post Ironman, I was feeling the urge to get back at it.  My body felt recovered, but also chubby, slow and uncomfortable from the time off.  I knew we were spending a good 10 days in Mexico eating chips and salsa and drinking cervesa so putting in some run miles was going to be the only way to help me feel half normal.  With that I needed wanted a reason to put in those miles, so I signed up for the Phoenix half marathon.

Of course it's not a fun race when you don't wrangle several friends to sign up with you.  A couple notes on Facebook and we had a pretty good group to run!  I sent Michelle a note to let her know that I signed up, but for fun, not with a goal to have a fast PR race.  I knew what it took to get there, and that wasn't my early season goal.  I had an Ironman to train for and a lot of work to do on the bike to get me ready for the hilly course.

So my January build started with lots of swimming, lots of biking (not long miles, just more days), and each week when I expected to see more tempo or speed running, it just never showed up.  If working with Michelle for 3 years has taught me anything (ok, a lot!) its that I 100% trust her.   I don't question her (ok, sometimes I question her sanity) and I don't question what I see on my schedule each week.
Lots of swimming and biking compared to last year.  A lot less running.

Finally about 2 weeks out from the race, after a weekend 18 mile aerobic run (I keep forgetting I have a marathon in a few weeks!) I sent a note saying something like... "I know I'm not planning a fast half marathon next week, but I would like to remember what it's like to run fast, or at least have an idea of what I can expect to do next Saturday."

So, with that 2 track workouts popped up on my schedule.  One was last week with a 24x200.  I didn't even know what to do with that one.  Thankfully, Kelly was in town and joined me for this.  We were given some pacing to do and I have to say I epically failed at it.  Give me 800s, 1200s, 1 mile, 2 mile, heck I can even pace a 20 mile run to perfection, but 200s?  Half a lap?  We started out with the first 6 faster than we were supposed to descend down to.  I just had no idea what my garmin should be reading, and couldn't figure out the math.  We managed to hold the pace and pick it up a bit on the last 6 so I suppose it was a success?  We ended the week with a 4hour hilly ride and the next day a 1:45 run where we went super easy the first hour then goal was to build each 15mins.  I wanted to see what race pace(ish) would feel like, but all I could muster at the end of that run were ~7:50s.  It felt harder than it should have, so with that I knew a super fast half just wasn't going to happen.

I had one more opportunity to test out the legs on Wednesday before the race with a trackworkout of 2x2miles around race pace.  I wasn't sure what to expect, but was happy about being able to hold ~7:30's without it feeling too hard.  Now I had a descent gauge and figured I could pull off about a 1:40.  Anything under would be super, anything over, well that would be ok too.

Prep for a race that is 100% for fun is so easy and stress free!  Packet pickup took all of about 5 minutes, and honestly the only part we had to really think about were race morning logistics.  My two little BSC athletes running the half are not known for their punctuality, and when I mentioned we had to leave our houses at like 4:25 in order to catch the last bus at 5am they were about ready to bail on the whole thing.

Somehow we figured out a way to catch a ride to the start.  I studied the race map and figured it would be pretty easy to get dropped off close.  The thought of standing out in the rain for 90 minutes before a race did not sound fun.  Our plan worked out perfectly.  We were dropped off about 250 yards from the start line and stayed in the warm car until about 15 minutes before.  Just enough time to jog a bit and get in line.

My goal was to just stay close to the 1:40 pacer and see what happened.  I lined up with the girls in the 1:50 group so I could just ease my way up. It started pouring rain just before the start so the roads were wet, but the temperature was perfect.  I couple of miles in the rain stopped and I was just  slowly picking up the pace.  I got a random side stitch at mile 3 so I slowed from my 7:35 pace down to a 7:45-8.  The next several miles just clicked away right around my 7:35-7:40 planned pace, but I still wasn't catching the 7:40 pacer.  I didn't have the confidence to pick it up so I just did my own thing.  Everything was going great and I felt like I was putting forth a solid, but not too hard effort.  Something I could hold.  Then miles 8-12 happened and we ran into the 10k walk/runners.  We had one side of the road, but it was so crowded.  I was litteraly zig zagging back and forth, up the side walk, back down, outside the cone, back in.  It was so much wasted energy and it cost me about :15/per mile for a while, but there was no way around it.  It was super frustrating and I found myself getting a bad attitude, then quickly got my head back on, remembering this was not an important "race," and to just keep going.  In the last mile I was just passing people left and right and realized I had quite a bit left in the tank so I picked it up.  My last mile + were my fastest and it only took me about 2 minutes to gather myself, and catch my breath before jogging back out for the girls.

This race was such a great experience and learning opportunity.  Honestly, one of the things that I love most about this sport is always finding something new to improve on, to learn from.  While this wasn't a PR race by any means, it was a good measure of where my fitness is, and reminder that the hard work I'm putting in right now is working, and helping me get ready for my first big A race in CDA.  You don't have to spend miles and miles on the track killing yourself to have a solid race.  Putting in the time and consistent training makes you a strong, durable and FIT endurance athlete.  I'll take finishing a half marathon with energy to spare and ready to get back out there with little down time ANY day!

My official finish time was 1:40:40, about 6 minutes slower than my PR for a half, but a great day indeed.  Nothing beats putting a medal on this guy.  My little retired runner.  He's got more miles in his 4 legs than most and wears each medal he gets proudly.

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