Sunday, June 28, 2009

Fairfield Half Marathon Report

Splits: 8:54; 9:02; 9:01; 9:13; 9:23; 9:03; 9:30; 8:30; 8:51; 8:54; 9:02; 8:84; 8:42; 2:32

I had a plan...I didn't follow my plan. I had a goal...please read my story to see how I fared.

As I sit here typing this, I have goosebumps. I ran the toughest race I have ever run, even though it was a half marathon. It was more difficult than my three previous half marathons, and yes, more difficult than my two marathons.
My goal was to finish the half marathon in under two hours. Miles six to seven were the most important miles of any race I've run.
I woke up at 4:45, knowing that I would procrastinate eating breakfast, getting dressed, programming my TomTom, etc. Of course my main objective was to eat breakfast early enough so that I could use the bathroom if necessary before I left. It was a 42 mile drive from my house to the race, according to TomTom. Honestly, who wants to use a public bathroom or a portapotty?! Even thought the race was starting at 8:30, I left home at 5:45. There were 4000 registered runners, 2600 for the half marathon, and limited parking, so as I did last year, I allowed myself plenty of time to get there with the hope of getting a good parking spot. (WARNING! Potty talk ahead!) About halfway there the stomach cramps started. Yup, the kind that tell you they're not going away unless you take care of business. Luckily I-95 had a rest area with a Mickey D's. Having taken care of that problem (Geez, I only ate dry toast for breakfast), I arrived at the parking lot at 6:45. It was already about half filled. My "good" parking spot was being told to park on the wet grass instead of blacktop, even though there were still a lot of spaces left on the blacktop. Oh well. It was overcast and "blah." The race starts and finishes near the beach, and it certainly wasn't beach weather at that point. After getting my bib, technical shirt (I love when you get technical shirts), and a "Chrono Track" disposable timing tag, I still had an hour and a half to kill. I searched through a sea of purple "Team in Training" shirts, looking for and finally finding Carlee, who lives in the same town as me (her blog: I also decided that putting on sunscreen was a good idea since the skies were now blue and the sun was shining. At 8:10 I headed towards the starting line, deciding that wearing my mp3 player on what was now a hot, sunny day would not be a good idea. At about 8:13 I noticed a LOT of runners with their ipods, and decided that I was a moron thinking I was going to be able to run for 2 hours without my music. So I jogged to my car (the "good" parking spot was nearby)and retrieved my music. Looking back, I don't remember most of the songs I listened to. For the most part the music helped ease the pain of all the hills on the course.
My original goal was to implement what I've been training to do when I run the NY City Marathon-Jeff Galloway's run-walk-run program. I had planned on running around an 8:40 per mile pace to and from each of the eight water stations, and drink and walk for a minute while at the stations. If all went well, I would average about a 9:09 pace, and I would run a two hour half marathon. Like any race with thousands of runners, the starting line was crowded. I moved myself to a point that was about 50 yards from the start. It still took me 54 seconds to reach the starting mat. I started my Garmin at that point, since I wanted to know my actual splits and time while I ran. There were a lot of obstacles (slow moving runners) to get around, but I was pleased to reach mile 1 at 8:54. I was already ahead of my goal pace, and feeling great...except that (WARNING: more potty talk!) my bladder was telling me the three previous pee breaks before the race weren't going to be enough. At mile 1 1/2 was two portapotties, with a line of people waiting to use them. My bladder was going to have to wait. I was scolding myself for forgetting to take the list I had of water break and restroom locations. By now there was running room, and I was able to relax and run a comfortable pace. I stopped at about the 1 3/4 miles point, and grabbed two cups of water, walked and drank, and was off. I certainly didn't walk for a minute, but because I was feeling great, I decided to "cheat" a little. Mile 2 was a 9:02 split, which I knew meant I was about 22 seconds ahead of my planned two mile time. At mile 2 3/4, another two cups of walking and drinking water, and running before my planned walking rest time of a minute. Mile 3 split was a 9:01, so now I was about 30 seconds ahead overall. In my mind I had already abandoned my pre- race strategy of running as close to an 8:40 per mile pace to and from all eight water stations, and walking for a minute at the water stations. My not so smart reasoning was that it was hot, it was hilly, and I was feeling great. Because of the temperature and the hills, I felt that I couldn't run an 8:40 pace to and from every water station. I believed that since I was feeling great, I would just keep running at what was a comfortable pace and walk for as long as it took me to drink 2 cups of water. After all, I was already doing better than expected after 3 miles. Mile 4 was a 9:13 split. Uh oh. I was starting to lose my mojo, (WARNING: even more potty talk!)and my bladder was reminding me it still had issues. I came upon the last portapotty at about the 4 1/2 mile mark, and wasn't surprised to see a line. My stubbornness took over. I didn't want to waste valuable time waiting on a line that could last for a few minutes. My only option left was going to be bushes or trees, which is an advantage of being a male runner. At mile 4.99, there were several males using the woods as a bathroom. Perfect! My Garmin beeped as I ran out of the woods, and showed a 9:23 split. WTF! Even though I was still about 12 seconds ahead of my goal pace, in my mind at that time I was behind. I took advantage of a downhill part of the course, and passed mile 6 at 9:03. Yes! But two things were a problem. First, my Garmin was beeping my mile splits about a half tenth earlier than the mile markers. Second, I was not feeling strong. I had a little more than half the race to go, and I was starting to struggle. The course had a lot of small, gradual hills, and they were starting to affect me. I knew that the one and only GU Gel station was up ahead, and I was hoping that it and more water would help give me a lift. I had GU Chomps in my pocket, but even though I had chewed some of them, they didn't seem to be helping. The halfway point, and there was the Vanilla Bean GU Gel. I quickly grabbed three of them (Yeah, greedy, I know), and opened one, walked, sucked down the gel, and made sure to drink enough water to wash it down. I was counting on this helping me get back on track physically and emotionally. A half mile later, my Garmin beeped. My mile 7 split time was a shocker: 9:30. Had I really taken so long consuming the gel and drinking the water?? I was mad. Madder than I've ever been in a race. Looking at my watch, I did a quick calculation in my mind. I figured that if I ran the last 6 miles at a 9 minute pace, I was not going to break two hours. Looking back, I was only 3 seconds behind overall at mile 7, and didn't need to run sub 9 minute splits for the last 6 miles. I took off like a man possessed. I was cursing the hills, manuevering around the runners walking the hills, passing the runners dying on the hills. I was feeling stronger than I did at the start; stronger at any point of any race I've ever run. Maybe the GU Gel was kicking in? Mile 7 to 8 flew by, and Garmin beeped at mile 8, showing an 8:30 split. Freakin' right I nailed that mile!! I was feeling GREAT! I had goosebumps, I was actually choked up, and I was really enjoying the supportive crowd. People were banging on pots and pans, cowbells, and spraying us with their hoses. I passed one of the three bands along the course, and they along with lots of clapping people were giving me energy. I was feeding off of their energy. Mile 9: 8:51; mile 10: 8:54; mile 11: 9:02. Shortly after mile 11 I realized that I hadn't "low fived" any kids. The woman running to my right must have been thinking the same thing. She glided to her right, followed by me, and we both low fived several kids. I could see her face light up after she did this, as did mine. I was having fun! I hit mile 12 at 8:40, checked my watch, and knew I was still going to have to push it in order to break 2 hours. At this point Gamin was beeping about 1 1/2 tenths of a mile sooner than the mile markers. Talk about frustrating...My quick mental math calculation came up with me having just under 12 minutes to run about 1.2 miles. A sub 2 hour race was certainly within my reach. My quicker running was catching up with me however. My left leg was starting to cramp. It was the same feeling I had in the Providence Marathon just before my leg cramped so bad that I thought I was going to have to crawl. Fortunately in the marathon it quickly went away once I slowed down. I slowed down a little, talked myself through it, and continued on almost as fast as I had been running. Somewhere around this time I was running with "Barefoot Man." Barefoot Man runs in just about every race I do, and never wears shoes or socks. I don't know how he does it. I wish I could remember his name, because up until the last 1/4 mile, we were neck and neck. I don't know if I passed him during the last 100 yards on the gravel (Ouch, Barefoot Man). Mile 13 split was an 8:42 split, and a quick check of my Garmin showed a 1:56:45. I had to run what I thought was just another 2/10 of a mile, and I still had 3:14 of sub 2 hour time to do it. As I headed down the street leading to the beach, I realized that I had longer than 2/10 of a mile to go. I still had to reach the end of the road, turn left, and run about another 100 yards on the road, up over a curb, and across some gravel to the finish line. As I watched the seconds tick away on my Garmin, I went into sprint mode. Just before I reached the end of the road, my leg let me know it was close to cramping. I slowed down, checked my time, and now had less than two minutes to break 2 hours. I turned the corner, kept a steady pace, and the leg cramp disappeared. The finish line was in sight, and I suddenly realized that we were being cheered on by lots of clapping spectators.I could see the time clock, and hear the announcer. He was shouting out the time, and encouraging us to beat the 2 hour time. I watched the clock counting away the seconds, and watched it change from 1:59:59 to 2:00:00 while I was still 150 feet from the finish. Instead of being upset, I laughed out loud. Anyone near me must have been wondering why I was laughing. Heat stroke? Just as I was crossing the finish line, I looked up and saw 2:00:12. I stopped my Garmin, and congratulated myself. According to my Garmin, I had just finished running 13.31 miles. I accomplished my goal. My nettime was 1:59:18; as I said earlier, it had taken me 54 seconds to get to the starting line, which was when I started my Garmin. My official finishing nettime is indeed 1:59:18. I actually ran the last six miles almost two minutes faster than my first six miles. My first six miles: 54:35; my last six miles: 52:39. Why? I think it's a combination of things. The GU Gel and the extended walk break miles 6 to 7; taking it easy the first half and conserving energy... I have Jeff Galloway and some of your blogs to thank for that strategy. Most importantly, I found out that I can push myself. Instead of accepting that I wasn't going to break 2 hours, I instead got into a running "rhythm" and opened up my mind and ears. I started to enjoy what was around me: the beautiful houses, the wonderful cheering spectators, my fellow competitors, and the fantastic sunny day with its blue skies. I guess I put everything into perspective. I love to run, I'm fortunate I am able to run, running is fun, and pushing myself to be a better runner without losing the "fun" perspective is what it's all about. I hope I never forget that.
Overall: 1119 of 2597; 59th out of 115 finishers Men’s 50-54 category.

P.S. Everyone that completed the half marathon got some cool bling. Unfortunately I'm not smart enough to post a picture of it. If Carlee posts a pic, I'll let you know!


Mel-2nd Chances said...

Congrats!! Get some rest! :D

Lisa said...

Great report and an awesome time. Clearly whatever you are doing is working. Nice job. Love your perspective too.

Lisa said...

Fantastic race report! Congratulations on your sub-two-hour finish and your AWESOME negative splits! I am very impressed.

Now you know that you have the mental strength to accomplish your goal. WTG.

Anonymous said...

Hey, came across your blog just searching the web. I enjoyed reading about your race - I was there as well. Had to laugh because I also saw the line of men using the bushes and was a bit jealous that I wasn't a man and had to wait in the port-o-potty line. Also, was in awe of the barefoot man who went running past me. It was my first half marathon and was very happy to have finished in 2:04'39 with a chip time of 2:03'34. Can't help but wonder how close I would have been to a 2 hour half if I didn't have to wait in that potty line. We'll never know. Very pleased to have finished 1339 overall and 70/184 for my age group (F40-44)
Thanks for sharing your story and happy running!

Irish Cream said...

Awesome race, Rick! Way to hang in there at the end and totally nail your time goal! Seriously, I am just so excited for you. I love the way this plan seems to be working out so well. Keep up the great work :)

George said...

Great run and great blog. The Fairfield was my first half marathon and didn't have any other goal than finishing. Reading your post will be a great resource for me when I first start to set timing goals. I'm training for the Hartford Marathon and have a blog as well at . Good luck and hope to see you a the races.

Anais said...

NICE! Great recap :) I'm so glad you were able to enjoy the race AND achieve your goal!! good job :)