Country Music Half Marathon – PR and Recap!

So, how’d it go?  The race?  My second half marathon?

Let’s get that out of the way first.  Drum roll please…

My official time was…

1:43:03 – a PR by 1:08 minutes.

Honestly, I wouldn’t have made it without TJ pacing me.  The last 1.5 miles were mostly up hill.  That, after a lot of hills in the first 8 miles and trying to keep below an 8:00 pace… Which I did for all but the first mile.

Here is the graph and the splits:

Country Music Half Marathon

Country Music Half Marathon

My phone said I ran 13.33 miles rather then 13.1, so the times are a little off.

On to my recap

Philosophically, I view racing as similar to childbirth (please don’t get offended with me ladies).  The fact is – it hurts while you are in progress, but after it is over, you can barely remember the pain.

It was a beautiful morning.  We got to our reserved parking area in pretty good timing.  We met @BigBigGeek and @David_Topping and talked for a bit.  Then to the porta-potties for an hour wait – that was crazy.  TJ and I rushed off to coral #3 and left RS and the others to finish their business.  By the time we got done with the port-potties, it was just 10 minutes until race time.

We in just a few minutes the corals began moving. When we got to the starting line, somehow we were in coral #4 rather then #3.  I don’t know how that happened, but the 3:30 marathon pacer was also in our coral, which ended up being a very good thing.

I have never run a race with 20,000 people in it.  Actually I think the half marathon had 20,000; I’m not sure about the total with the marathoners.

We heard the horn and began our run.  It was tight.  It was hard to run freely for at least a few miles.  The first mile was our slowest at  just over an 8:00 mile (which really wasn’t bad).  That was mainly due to congestion.  Shortly after mile one, we ended back running past the corals with people standing and waiting to run.  I guess there were near 30 corals.  I thought of RS who was around coral 22.  We were 30 minutes into running before he even began.

TJ helped me make an unofficial goal to keep the 3:30 marathon pacer in sight as we never saw the 1:45 half pacer after the start.  This was hard for the first 3 or 4 miles.  He would get a bit ahead and we would slowly catch up.  The crowds were just too deep to get around.  I would see an open area and do a quick sprint to get ahead (the one thing TJ said was a mistake after it was done – he said we should have saved that energy and been patient to get around people… good point).

Finally after several miles we caught up with the pacer.  We hung with him until mile 10 or so.  This was huge for me.  Let me digress a bit and say the hills on this route were crazy.  The first 8 miles or so seemed to be one hill after another.  I could feel my mountain runs kicking in after a while.  I have done quite a few mountain runs in the past few months, but never at an 8:00 pace.  Though when I was running this race and I was getting tired, my legs seemed to keep their strength.  I needed that!  As we went up and up and up and up, my legs were good.  I was tired, breathing hard and wondering why I was doing this at times, but my legs kept me going.

Mile 3 TJ gave me my first GU. Mile 7 I had my second and mile 11, the course provided one.  Perfect.  Each time I was fading a bit, the GU kept me going.  I was so glad for them.

Finally the day got warm.  It started in the 50’s, but by mile 8 or so, it was warming up a bit too much.  This is where I first hit a small wall.  I was thinking, “I don’t know that I’ll make it the next 5 miles”.   This was when I had a neat experience.  Generally I tune out during a race.  I honestly didn’t notice much.  I just concentrate on running the race.  At this small wall experience, I ran past a person holding a sign that said, “The joy of the Lord is your strength”.  I prayed, “Lord, that is true, so please give me some strength”.  A moment later we ran past a large church with a praise band playing “Mighty to Save” by Hillsong.  I love that song and after a moment listening to it as we went by, I felt rejuvenated and had run past the wall.  Pretty cool.

Finally at mile 9 TJ said it looked like the marathon was splitting between the full and the half.  I panicked.  I had kept a perfect pace with the 3:30 pacer for 9 miles and I wasn’t ready to go it without his lead.  Fortunately I didn’t have to.  We didn’t split.  We kept following him.  Then a good thing happened.  At mile 10, we somehow got ahead of the pacer.  I looked around because I didn’t see him and he was behind us.  We never saw him again.  We just kept with our pace and at mile 11 the route split and I was fine.  Very cool.

Finally the last two miles.  I can do this.  Little did I know that they would be mostly up hill.  Seriously?  I just ran up and down tons of hills, and now, after keeping below an 8 minute pace for 11 miles I am going to have to finish with nearly 2 miles of hills.

At mile 12.5 I told TJ that I couldn’t continue.  I felt like it was too much.  He encouraged me saying we only have a little left to go and to try to keep my pace up so I’d beat my 1:44:11 PR.  Honestly, I don’t know how I did, but I did.  Without TJ there, I would have slowed down.  I doubt I would have walked, but I know I would have not kept up my pace.

We finally began going down a hill.  A runner who had finished was walking up the hill we were running down and saying, “It’s all down hill from here”.  I pushed as hard as I could.  A couple guys ran hard past us at the very end and TJ took off and passed them with just a few hundred of feet to go.  I had nothing left.  I just put everything in my body to get to the finish.  Everything.

I finished.

1:43:03

Personal Record.

Hills.

3:30 pacer.

TJ

Gu

RS

Bands

Runners

You (for reading this far)

Thank you all.  It was well a done race.  I hated the hills, but my mountain prepared me for them.  Once again, without TJ I would not have come close to the time I had.  Thank you TJ.  Thank you to my family for letting me spend a weekend away to run this race.  Thank you to everyone who liked my “results” post.  Blogging makes running so much more fun.

Tom

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5K tempo run… The best one ever!

I’m very excited about my run yesterday.

It was my tempo run day and I was dreading it.  Running that hard for that long is difficult for me, but it always benefits my running.  After my tempo day, I run easier, faster and with less effort.  So I make myself do them and I never regret it.  I do dread it through.

Yesterday I ran 2 warmup miles in my Saucony Mirage 2 shoes (my favorite shoes) and then came home and changed into my Saucony A5 racing flats and went for the tempo run.  TJ started me doing this where he changes his shoes before beginning at tempo pace.  It not only gives a chance for a little rest, but it is amazing going from a regular running shoe to a light racing flat.  It feels like there is nothing on your feet.

My hope was to run 2 of my tempo miles under 7:00 pace and then the third as fast as I could, knowing that I would be tired.  I have never run 2 miles under 7:00 pace before, but I wanted to get use to the feeling of running that fast.  I wanted my brain to learn how fast that was and my legs to know how to keep at that pace.  So, I went for it.

I finished 2 miles feeling pretty good.  From my iSmoothRun app, I could tell that I should be averaging under 7:00 pace.  The third mile was an effort.  But the idea behind a tempo run is to hit the wall.  To know that feeling when your body says, “No more”.  Well after yesterday, I know that feeling.

So how did it go?  Here is the breakdown of my tempo miles:

Mile 1 – 6:50 pace
Mile 2 – 6:50 pace
Mile 3 – 7:02 pace

Wow, I set a person record.  My last 5K race I ran at a 7:09 pace and a total time of 22:10.  I was not in a good place when I finished as it took 10 minutes of medical attention to get me back to a normal breathing state.  I ran this 5K at a 6:54 pace and a total time of 21:29.  I couldn’t be happier.  It was hard, but I was able to get in 2 recovery miles afterwards.

TJ, RS and I are training for a 5K in May where my goal is to run it at 20:00 (6:26 pace).  It is a big goal, but this will be the first 5K I have ever actually trained for.  I’ve also learned that I need to run my easy runs at a slower pace.  I’ve read that those who run too fast all the time end up running slower and getting hurt more than those who run 80% easy and 20% fast.

Today is an easy day, and I need it.  I am a bit sore this morning, but not too bad. It was worth it!

With all the dreading of my tempo day, it was the best day ever.

It’s an honor to be nominated…

liebsteraward

Thanks StriveBalance (strivebalance.com) for nominating me for the Liebster award. You would have been one of my nominees, but someone beat me to it. 🙂

She has a good summary of what Liebster means on her blog along with a lot of other great posts. Check it out.

I am rather new to blogging, so I wasn’t sure what to do next. The idea here is to post the image, tell 11 random fun facts about yourself, answer 11 questions and nominate other bloggers for the award. So, here I go…

11 random facts about me:

  1. My mom went into labor with me at a Penn State football game.
  2. My mom and dad were married over half a century.
  3. I’ve been married over a quarter century to my lovely wife.
  4. I have 5 kids who make me proud each day.
  5. I became a Christian in August 1982.
  6. My dad ran marathons from his mid 50’s through his mid 70’s.
  7. I have 2 brothers and a sister who passed away almost 10 years ago (who I miss terribly).
  8. I am a VP of Information Technology at a non-profit.
  9. I’ve had my current job for almost 6 years and I still enjoy it.
  10. My lovely wife and I moved 13 times in 11 years, but have lived in the same house now for 10 years.
  11. I live in the South, but love the north.

11 questions asked by StriveBalance:

  1. What did you do today? Being 3:00 AM, I woke up, read my Bible, drank coffee and wrote this post. It is going to be a long day.
  2. What is your favorite movie? The Matrix (movie #1) – Sometimes reality makes more sense to me when looking at it in the context of this movie.
  3. What is your biggest dream for the next 5 years? Qualify and compete in the Boston Marathon.
  4. If you could snap your fingers and be anywhere right now, where would that be? Right where I am. I love my life and wouldn’t change it for the world.
  5. What is the last book you read? Steve Jobs.
  6. What keeps you motivated to blog? I love feedback and “likes”, but I mainly blog keep a journal of my “journey” so I can look back and remember where I came from, where I am and where I hope to be one day. Also, hopefully to help and encourage others to run and learn from my successes and failures.
  7. Who do you admire most, and why? My lovely wife. Not many people know her like I do. She has always supported me (even in some dumb decisions). She lost 90 lbs, even with a bad back and little exercise. Everyday I go running, she says, “Run fast and don’t get hurt”. I can go on and on. She is truly a grand old flag (inside complement).
  8. What did you want to be when you were a kid? A dog. Yeah, I didn’t aspire to much. I looked at my dog and she just got to lay around, play outside, eat and sleep. I thought, what a great life. I’m glad I grew up and got motivation to experience life.
  9. What is your favorite kind of run? Any run ( or race ) where I set a personal record. That is the best feeling in the world.
  10. What is your biggest pet peeve? People chewing in my ear. Either in person or on the phone. Especially chomping gum. It is like fingers on a chalkboard to me.
  11. What fills your heart with joy? Wisdom. To be honest, much of what I do is way beyond my ability. I can work for hours on a programming problem and just be stuck. I’ll tell my lovely wife and she will alway ask, “Have you prayed for wisdom”? After I do, I usually figure the issue out in a short time. That is the best feeling in the world. At work or at home. To be “stuck” and pray for wisdom and have the solution almost immediately. It is awesome.

Here are my nominees…

First half marathon recap – It was fun

I admit I was nervous going into our first half marathon.  I didn’t really know what to expect.  The only races we have run thus far were 5Ks and now I’m looking at the starting line of a 13.1 mile race with thousands of people crowding around me.

It was fun.

The first 6 miles were easy.  They were relatively flat and it was amazing seeing all those people running through the streets of Birmingham USA. I was encouraged that my app was continually measuring my pace around 8:00.  My goal was 8:2o so I figured I was banking some time for what was ahead.  Then the hills began.  In fact it was more like on long 2 mile hill.  Not really, but that is what it felt like.  The people around me went from talking and laughing to breathing hard and being quite.  It was tough.  I was beginning to pace closer to 8:30, but I told myself where there are uphills, there are downhills.  Finally the downhills started and I was able to pick up some time.  The downhills seemed to last a couple of miles also and I was feeling much better.  I was also getting back into the high 7 minute pace.

The final leg of the race was the toughest.  It was three straight flat miles.  There was a small incline for a while and then just flat.  I knew I only had a couple of miles left and knew that the time I finished with would be the time I would have to live with, so I picked up my pace.  By the time I turned my last turn and had a half mile to go, I was shot.  I somehow kept my time up though.  With the finish line 500 yards away, I gave it my all.  I ended up finishing in 1:44.  I beat my goal of 8:20 with a final pace of 7:58.  I could have cried.  A month ago as TJ and I were beginning our workouts (hill, tempo and steady state runs) I really thought 8:30 pace was a dream.  Here I finished at a time that if I could have done that for the 26.2 miles, I would have qualified for Boston!  Thanks TJ.  It meant more to me that you will ever know.

TJ, by the way finished at 1:28.  How great is that for a first half marathon.  I was so impressed.  RS, whom I was worried about since he had been hurt so much, ran in Vibram 5 finger shoes and not only finished, but ran it under 2 hours!!!

It was an amazing day.  Now some much needed time off.  TJ is already getting our training together for the Spring Scramble 5K.  It was the first race we ran in when we started running last spring and so it will be great to run it again.

Just so you know, I LOVE RUNNING!

It was the best of runs, it was the best of runs

Guess what?   Yesterday was the best run I have ever had.   I ran 4 miles at a 7:54 pace and 3 of those miles averaged 7:48.  I wasn’t tired.  I wasn’t pushing it.  It was just great.

Now to my question.  Why was yesterday so easy when Monday was one of the worst days I’ve had running in a long time?  I don’t know.  I was using the same shoes.  It was a similar day, other than no rain.  The only thing I did do differently was eat a piece of plain bread right before I left (something I remember my dad doing before his runs).  Surely a few carbs couldn’t have made that much of a difference.

Well I guess I won’t question it.  It was supposed to be an easy run for 4 miles since we are tapering for the big day.  It was so easy I thought my phone might be wrong.  I know some days are better than others and TJ said he has had similar days, but this was about a minute faster than my normal pace about a month ago.

On to training for Sunday.  TJ said today I should run a minute at half marathon pace and a minute jog and alternate back and forth.  That is what he is going to do.  It sounds good and I can make my phone tell me when to switch so that won’t be too hard.

3 more days to the half marathon.  I was talking with a sales rep the other day who has run this race for 4 years now and he said it is very well done.  Being my first I didn’t know what to expect.  He said they have pacers who will run the half marathon (and the whole) at different paces so, for example,  if you want to finish in an hour and 30 minutes, someone is setting that pace. Or if you want to finish in 2 hours, someone is setting that pace, and so on.  I guess I’ll start in the two hour group and then try to pull ahead in the last few miles.  He also said there is lots of food, beer (9:00 in the morning?) and massages given to runners.  I am hoping my lovely wife comes to cheer us on, but I understand it might be a bit difficult for her to sit for 3 hours with a bad back.  I’ll understand if she doesn’t go, but it would really be special if she did.

That is it for now.  This is so exciting, it is like Christmas is 3 days away and I’m an 8 year old kid.

I love running.

Final week training for the Mercedes Half Marathon

Well, my experiment yesterday proved to be a success!  I chose to take Saturday off to see how my long run day went.  Normally I take off the Monday after my long run day to recuperate, but my thought was that since I run early in the morning on Sunday and don’t run on Monday until mid-afternoon, there is quite a lot of time between the two runs.

Yesterday I ran 10 miles in preparation for our first half marathon next Sunday.  TJ encouraged me to run the first 7 at a good regular pace and the pick it up for the last 3.  Usually I have been pretty worn out by the end of the 7th mile and just push through the last 3.  Yesterday was different.

To begin with, I never hit the psychological wall about having to run so many more miles than my norm.  It just didn’t bother me for some reason.  I don’t know if it was the fact I didn’t run on Saturday and so my body was more rested or what, but it was nice to just run and not worry.

Second, I was able to pull it out for the last three miles.  I was averaging about an 8:40 pace for the first 7 miles and finished the last three in about an 8:10 pace.  In fact, I felt better during the last three than I did on the first 7.  Don’t get me wrong, I was tired and ready to stop at mile 10, but my body felt better picking up the pace. Ultimately I was able to set a new PR for the 10 miles, shaving off over 4 minutes from my last best time.

Today starts more tapering and our workouts aren’t as difficult.  TJ has some good ideas for this last week.  I’ll write each day what we did and how it goes.

T minus 6.

I love running.

A new workout to prepare for my first half marathon

Okay, 11 days left until our half marathon and things are getting exciting.  We are working hard at our workouts along with tapering them somewhat so we are fresh for the race.  No hill runs until after the big race (yay), but I had a new experience in my running yesterday.  TJ and I ran together and I did a steady state run.  Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t anything new, but it was new to me.

We started with a warmup mile and then we proceeded to run 4 miles at an average of 7:50 a mile.  This is TJ’s normal pace, but for me it was hard.  By the time I made the 5th mile, I told him that I thought I should stop.  He that I could try one more mile at a cool down rate and then see if I could pick it up after a half mile.  Well, I decided to go with his advice and ran the last mile at an 8:57 pace.  Overall we ran 8:06 which got me a PR for my 10K.

RS got hurt again while running.  He says his foot felt swollen and wisely walked home rather than trying to run on it.  We need to figure out how to keep him healthy so he can continue to run.

Thanks TJ for the help.

I love running.