Sunday, May 2, 2010

Illinois Half Marathon Race Report


The usual... drive to destination, sleep in hotel (no problem getting to sleep!), wake up, shower, coffee, food, poop, stretch, jog, drive to race, wait at porta potty, jog a little more, fidget around at start line... national anthem... wait, wait, wait (come on this is taking forever)... pee in bush, jog back to start line... wait, wait... runner's take your mark... Go!!!

The race:

The gun goes off and I tuck in behind the 3:10 marathon pace group... about 20 marathoners with their eyes set on qualifying for the Big B... and a few of us half-marathoners (us interlopers and imposters) tagging along for the ride. The pace group strategy pays off big time getting us out in a very controlled and exact 7:15 first mile and saving me from my usual way too fast start... the next two miles were spent methodically passing the handfull of runners who had not been able to hold themselves back and were now resigned to suffer through that mistake for the next 11.1/24.2 miles...

I stuck with the pace group until mile 4. At this point the average pace was down to about 7:09. No problem for me, but I think that I would have been bothered if I was a marathoner. 24 seconds in the bank may not seem like a big deal but in this age of the Garmin, where just about every runner has thier own personal means to keep pace, I feel like the pacer quickly loses thier function if they go out too fast... but more on that later.

At mile 4 we hit a water stop... during my planning I wasn't sure if I was going to take water this early in the race, but it was incredibly humid and I my cotton (gasp!) Superman shirt was already drenched in sweat so I figured I better take in all the fluids I could! I moved ahead of the pace group so that I would have more flexibility in accessing the water... and as I moved ahead I felt this wave of freedom and energy pulse through my body. The first four mile I spent tucked into a pack; all of us focused on the runners directly in front of us. Each stride dictated by each others. Now that I was ahead of the pack, I was free to run my own race. No longer did I have to worry about making the marginal adjustments mid-stride to avoid clipping heals. It was just me and the open road.

From there I just tried to stay loose and keep a consistent stride and effort as I coasted along for the next couple miles... It was all going incredibly well... until it wasn't.

At mile 6 I hit my first wall... Suddenly I was struggling to keep pace. Doubts started creeping in. if I'm hurting this much already how am I gonna keep pace for another 7 miles?!?... had I trained too hard the last couple weeks and not tapered enough... maybe my endurance was not quite where it needed to be yet... I started playing the running bargaining games with myself... Just push through till the 8th mile and then you can let up... Just keep pace till the one hour mark and then you can let up... I started doing mental mathematics... If I can hold this pace for one more mile then I can slow down to 7:20 pace and still meet my goal... if I can hold it till mile 10 then I can slow down to 7:25 pace... how fast do I have to run so that I can slow down to 8 minute pace at mile 11?... etc... And I continued to beg, bargain, plead, chastise... until... miraculously I was over the wall and once again running freely... the burden lifted as the endorphins started to surge through my body... I slightly picked up the pace and forged ahead.

At mile 8 we entered a park; I felt another surge of energy... I started gradually and methodically passing people as I contuned along the one mile loop through statues, trees, and Illinois wild prarie grass...

At mile 9 I approached a gazebo... there was a rock band setup there, playing for the runners... As I passed they broke into the intro powercords to "Eye of the Tiger" and I completely lost it!!! I started shadowboxing, dancing around, and finished my display with a surge that propelled me past about 5 runners... 20 seconds later I was out of the bands auditory radius, the hype wore off, and I began to pay for my transgressions!

I looked down and my heart rate had jumped from the 88-90% range that I had been steadily holding for the last hour to the 95% range!!! Uh Oh... I thought... maybe I shouldn't have done that... I shook out my arms, eased up my stride, and focused on implementing a bit of active recovery without giving up to much pace... the course turned back out of the park and around a bend and then I was at mile 10.

...And right around mile 10 I hit my second wall... I only had 3 miles left, but I was suffering again... my first wall was more of a mental lapse but this wall was a physical one. I had only done 2 long runs of 13 miles or greater (the previous 2 weekends) and I had never ran this far at anything remotely resembling this pace... my fitness was running low, and I was forced to rely on my natural abilities and my guts!

The stretch between mile 10 and 11 was a long straightaway down an open road. I moved over to the far leftside of the road (most of the other runners were running on the right for some reason) so that I had an unobstructed view, focused on the next turn way up ahead, and then kicked it into auto-pilot.

I felt like I was still maintaining a steady pace but as I neared the turn I heard a voice behind me quickly approaching... someone behind me was just monologing away as if they were out for easy stroll without a care in the world... They were talking about marathon's past, and ultramarathons, and trail running... And then as I finally reached the turn I was overtaken by a wave of runners as the 3:10 pace group streamed past me; the voice behind me: the pace leader.

I felt a wave of anguish... had I really slowed down that much and given up so much time over the past mile? I latched onto the pace group once again and struggled to keep up... and then we passed the 11 mile mark... "about 1 minute ahead of pace" someone says... "Oops" says the pace leader "guess I got to talking and let the pace get away from me on that last mile" (turns out they had just ripped off a 6:55 mile)... Now I was really glad that I wasn't trying to BQ with this pace group!

At the 11.5 mile mark the half-marathoners and marathoners parted ways as the marathoners turned right and the half marathoners continuing straight towards the finish... The field thinned considerably after the marathoners split off... at this point I could see about 15 runners ahead of me and none of them looked like they were running particularly strong.

By know I knew that I had about 30 seconds in the bank on my 1:35 goal time plus an additional 59 seconds leeway on the 1:35:59 time I needed to qualify for the Chicago Marathon Corral B... now that the pressure was off I could relax and just focus on maintaining a decent pace while preparing for my 50 yard. I coasted on mile 12, passing a struggling competitor now and then, and then started gradually picking it up again on mile 13 knowing that the finish was at hand.

As we approached the stadium, Garmin was telling me that I had about .5 mile to go which equated to one lap around the outside of the stadium before we entered for the final 50 yard sprint to the finish. I looked behind me... nobody within reach of catching me... In front of me... about 7 runners loosely grouped together. I steadily picked it up until I was on the heels of the nearest runner as we rounded the final turn and headed toward the entrance of the stadium. We entered the stadium and as my feet touched down on the turf I geared it into overdrive and kicked it into overdrive... I sprinted past all seven runners nipping the last one right before the finish line (he was on the 20 yard line when I started)... Of course it helped that nobody else was kicking at all (mostly they were plodding along and I'm pretty sure they were just happy to be done)... I jogged through the chute, receiving my finishers medal, and then continued on to the end zone where I proceed to do 13 push-ups (one for each mile run)...

I'm sure I looked like a complete jackass, but at that moment of time I was a champion in my own mind. I had pushed through fatigue to finish the half-marathon and achieve my goal time!


And now... da stats...

Final time: 1:34:37 (PR of 5 minutes and 2 seconds)
Pace: 7:13
Overall Place: 106/5622
Division place: 19/320
Age Grade: 63%

Mile splits

Mile 1: 7:15
Mile 2: 7:12
Mile 3: 7:10
Mile 4: 7:07
Mile 5: 7:05
Mile 6: 7:10
Mile 7: 7:29
Mile 8: 7:10
Mile 9: 7:12
Mile 10: 7:13
Mile 11: 7:14
Mile 12: 7:26
Mile 13: 7:10
Last .07: 6:28 pace
Last 50 yards: 3:30 pace


  1. I'm glad you openly admit that you probably looked like a jackass. That saved me from having to be the one to break it to you. LMAO

    Seriously, AWESOME JOB, MAN!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Wow! Absolutely amazing job! Great job!!! I guess I won't be seeing you at Chicago since I'll be in the open corral lol!

    Great job again, great great job!

  3. Great Job on your Half Marathon Man. Will you be dancing around at the next one after 8 miles again? lol. Great recap.

  4. Congrats on the kick-ass PR!

  5. Great time and recap. Thanks for sharing!

  6. nice dude! congrats on the pr and making your time goal. that pacer would have screwed me up in the full for sure, but i guess at least he helped you out?

    i love the sprint finish - it's my favorite part of the race. even if it makes me realize i had more to give mid-race ;) whoops. next time i pr, i'm doing jackass pushups at the finish!

  7. Hey, just want to say, congrats on your race! Especially the part with you dancing in the middle? I think you got way too much left in the tank if you could pull that off! Congrats on the PR again. Well deserved!

  8. SWEEEEEEEET. Perfectly executed - nice work. Very nice work.

    Way to hang in there after a few dips in mental stamina. I say mental stamina because I think that so much of this running stuffs is mental. So much.

    Wow, if I was a full marathon guy and I was following that pacer I'd be pretty pissed if we were a full min ahead of pace. that is a LOT at the 10 mile mark.