Monday, September 14, 2009

2009 Chicago Half Marathon

I made the annual pilgrimage down to the south side on Sunday to run in the Chicago Half Marathon. This was my fifth time running this race. They did change up the course a little bit this year, so at least it had that going for it. I am really not a huge fan of this race - it's a pain to get down there and park and the course is pretty boring as a good 2/3 of it takes place on Lake Shore Drive. Over the years, I have learned that the best bet is to get down there early and park a mile or so away. Anyway, I got down there about an hour before the race. I was planning on running a nice warm-up to the start area before I checked my bag, but as I was coming up the Metra stop, a ton of people were exiting, clogging up the sidewalk. So much for that part of the warm-up.

Before I go any further, I'd also like to throw in a few details about the two days leading up to the Half. Tiffany woke up on Friday at about 1AM with a pain in her abdomen. After a trip to the hospital and several tests, we found out that she needed to get her appendix removed. By Friday afternoon, her appendix was out and she was recovering. Needless to say, Friday and Saturday we not very much fun (especially for her). She has been recovering at home since Saturday morning and is getting better every day.

So back to the warm-up. I walked it to the area near the the gear check and ran into an old high school classmate and his wife. She was running her first half. We chatted for a couple minutes, wished each other luck and I headed over to the gear check, swapped out my shoes and got in line for a port-a-potty. By the time I walked over and grabbed a water to wash down a Gu, I had about 20 minutes before the race was scheduled to start. I couldn't really see a good path to run, so I headed to the start area and proceeded to run mini-laps in the start area. I put in about a mile. I would have felt pretty stupid if not for another 20 or so people doing the same thing. I wasn't one of the weirdos doing incredibly high knees or power skipping, but hey, whatever floats your boat. In my warm-up mile, my heart rate was high. I was about 15 beats higher than I would normally put up for such a slow pace. I was slightly concerned, but didn't put too much weight into it.

I made my way up to the "B Corral, " which was a small area roped off by those flags people use for garage sales and such. I ran into my pal Walter in the Corral. He said he was going to start out a 6:50 or so pace. I said, "How about 6:45?" He said deal, and we were off. Actually we weren't. The start of the race was delayed 10 minutes. Eventually the race started.

The first mile went by pretty quickly we hit the marker at 6:44. Pretty damn spot on. The first couple miles of any half or full marathon are always a little tough to gauge. Your adrenaline's pumping and you're trying to get in a rhythm and not get too excited. It was kind of weird, because I wasn't really excited. That's a good thing. I think the adrenaline and excitement have gotten the best of me in the past and that then leads to me putting extra pressure on myself. The biggest difference in this race heading in was that I expected to run it well. I knew I could run a 1:30, barring something catastrophic. The question in my mind was how could I pace myself to ensure my best possible time. The fact that I had enough confidence in myself to run a 1:30 at this point is pretty amazing in retrospect. Back when I threw down the BQ gauntlet in May or whenever, I honestly thought my chances at a 1:30 half and hopefully subsequent 3:10 full were maybe 50-50.

Back to the race - I was still trying to find my groove and we hit the second mile @ 6:46. Very nice. As we were running the third mile, I was still searching for a rhythm and still coming up empty. I glanced down at my HR and I was in the mid 170s. I made a mental to ignore it because it was already running higher than where I wanted to be. Miles 3 and 4 were both 6:50s. I got a few seconds back in mile 5 with a 6:40 and I was really close to my pace plan as I hit the marker.

Mile 6 was a nondescript 6:43 and while I still was not feeling good, I was hitting my splits really well. Things got a little interesting in mile 7. It measured slightly short (.99) on my Garmin and I put up a 6:32. At that point I let Walter go ahead as he seemingly started to pick up the pace. I really wanted to put up a 6:45-6:50 for mile 8 after mile 7.

The good news is that I did slow it down. The bad news is that mile 8 measured 1.04 miles and my Garmin said I just put up a 7:03. Crazy thing is a 7:03 for 1.04 miles is a 6:45 pace. Oh well. Regroup and forge ahead. I looked at my HR for the first time since mile 3 after that 7:03 split. My HR was at 191 with 5.1 miles to go. Not so good. Mile 8 did end on a very slight uphill, so I am sure that didn't help.

I ran mile 9 in 6:36 as there was a very slight downhill at the beginning of the mile. I still wasn't feeling good. I know, the race is almost over at this point. There's just over 4 miles remaining. If I am not feeling good by now, it's probably not happening. Mile 10 was a 6:42.

The original plan was to reassess at the tenth mile and see if I could turn it on for the last 5K. I decided to just try to pick it up to the 6:30s or so. I hit the 11th mile in 6:28. Upon further review, it measured .97 miles. I can understand being .01 over here and there, but I and still not sure why there can be .03 and .04 variances both positive and negative. Anyway, only 2.1 miles to go.

I hit my 200 max heart rate in mile 12 and put up a 6:50. I tried to start to dig down deep and turn it on, but I couldn't find anything when I was digging. The familiar feeling a race slipping away from me started to tickle my stomach. I had a brief moment of weakness where I considered slowing it down for a quarter mile or so and then finish strong. I decided that was absolutely stupid and I was dumber for having thought of it to begin with. I hunkered down and sucked it up.

At that point I start doing the math to see what I'll need to run the last 1.1 miles in to get me a 10 minute PR (1:28:35). I bargained with myself throughout the mile, reminding myself how much more is left. I finally hit the 13 mile marker and I had a 6:53 to show for it. All things considered, not bad as it measured a 1.03.

I got a nice rush of energy after I hit 13 and could see the finish line. I ran the last .1 (.12 on the Garmin) in 40 seconds, a sub 6 minute pace. Final finish time: 1:28:25. A PR by 10 minutes and 10 seconds.

I was really happy with my time. I never got into a solid rhythm and didn't feel like I had my best stuff. I do think I ran the fastest race I could have on Sunday though. That's a huge step for me. You never know how you're going to feel on race day. Often times, I have given in on those days that I didn't feel the greatest in the past. And the fact that I could overcome my moment of mental weakness at mile 12 makes me feel good that I'll be able to gut it out in the latter miles of the marathon if I need to. I do think I could pick up another 1-2 minutes in a half, but that's obviously not my focus.

This 1:28 confirms for me that I am in great position for a 3:10 at the Chicago Marathon. There are just 4 weeks remaining until the big day. I have one more big week left this week. I'll come close to 70 miles for the last time in this cycle. All that's left is to get these miles in, stay healthy, don't do anything stupid and be patient waiting for October 11th to get here.

Final Splits / AHR
1-6:44 /169
2-6:46 / 174
3-6:50 / 174
4-6:50 / 178
5-6:40 / 181
6-6:43 / 183
7-6:32 / 186
8-7:03 / 186
9-6:36 / 191
10-6:42 / 191
11-6:28 / 196
12-6:50 / 198
13-6:53 / 202
.1- 0:40/ 206


Greg said...

In my opinion, this race was more impressive than the 10k. After seeing your splits and you heart rate, it seems like you were red-lining it from mile 9. That is extremely tough to hold on for 3 miles like that. I give you serious props man... You have had the near "perfect" marThon training cycle. I am praying for you to feel great over the next 3.5 weeks, and to have a wonderful weather day on October 11.

Crazy J said...

I ran this race last year and it was an adventure in the driving rain.
You ran a great race and I'm really pulling for you on 10/11 That's a tremendous PR. You are READY!

ExSoccerGuy said...

An astonishing performance considering how you never seemed to feel "right". If you had any questions about your fitness, this race should have quelled them completely. Enjoy all these big PR's, since you're in the kind of shape now where small improvements is all you can hope for, except for the marathon, of course. I foresee a 20+-minute PR in a few short weeks. Well done!

Puerto Rican Kenyan said...

Others have already said it, but it bears repeating. You have had such an amazing training cycle, and I CAN'T wait to be among the first to congratulate you when you earn your BQ.

I have told Don that I'm more excited about your race at this point than I am about mine. Not that I'm not looking forward to my own race performance, but seeing the upward trajectory that you are in the midst of right now has been a real treat for me!

Girl In Motion said...

Really, really good report. And for someone who wasn't "feeling it" for basically the whole race, incredible result! Love the bargaining at the end, and man, I cannot believe you actually hit 200bpm in a Half! What do you hit in a 5K?

Great job Zab, very impressed and looking forward to seeing you slaughtering that 3:10. You will be feeling that one and it's gonna be all good.

Mir said...

I had to laugh a little--"well, I hit this great mile split, then I didn't feel good, then I hit another great mile split," etc., etc. Racing well when that's happening really says a lot about your fitness. Tapered and rested for the full, you'll do great!

Preston said...

Excellant time in the half, you should be able to hit that 3:10!

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