Sunday, February 22, 2009
Exceeding Expectations: The A1a Half Marathon
The A1a Half Marathon is a hometown race that I had signed up for a year ago based on discounted early race fees. As several of my running friends were not running this event for various reasons, I wasn't too excited or focused on this half marathon. I had gone to a Miami Heat game during the day on Saturday. That evening was spent with some none running friends drinking some wine and eating dolphin they had caught fishing that day. While the fish was delicious, it was far different from the usual pre-race pasta feed. We talked with our friends late into the evening. By the time I got home, arranged my running gear and turned in for the night, it was past 11PM. Not the best for my planned 4:30AM wake up. My sleep that night was not the best either. I suppose it wasn't any worse than a pre-marathon's night's sleep, but I awoke feeling a bit out of sorts.
Cool weather in the mid 60s and a slight breeze bode well for a good start. My situation at the race starting area, however, was like being involved in a train wreck. The parking lot near the start, which is normally maned by a fee collector for major events, had no attendants. Instead, everyone had to stand in an enormous line waiting to use the pay machine for a parking slip to put in the window of our cars. After waiting in line to pay for parking for what seemed like 45 minutes and still a good half hour from being able to use the parking toll machine , I hear the race officials announce that the wheel chair division will start in 5 minutes. I abandon the line, risking a $25 parking ticket.
I head into the corrals without time to make a port-a-potty stop...and I feel like I have to go. I find some friends and we wait for the start. We wait some more. It turns out that the race officials decided to delay the start by 15 minutes for a train to pass which crosses the course. "Oh good," I think, "I can get to the potties and back before the start." I bolt over to the port-a-potties and duck into one. No toilet papar and a very wet seat. No thank you! I find a cleaner potty. Unfortunately, I get no luck in getting my system started. After sitting for 5 minutes with no results, I decide its best to get back to my corral before the starting gun is fired.
I resign myself to a bad race and start asking some friends who I've met up with what pace they plan to run. 8 minute miles? Sounds good to me. That would equate to a 1:45, which I think may be wildly optimistic given my morning so far. One of these friends I'm with, Jana, is usually a pretty fast runner. However, she feels under trained for the race. Her hedging is not helping my doubting psyche. I decide that running with this group is probably the best I can do. I hope not to blow up and end up off this 1:45 target, which feels like a stretch goal.
Once the gun goes off, however, I break ahead of this running group. I later learn the group splintered from the start. I just go by feel and I seem to feel OK. I hit the first mile marker with a 7:30 mile. I think I may be buying trouble, but there is no going back. I run mile 2 in a similar time of 7:30. I know I'm out too fast. I slow things down a bit and settle into the 7:45 to 7:50 pace range. As I pass from Las Olas to A1a I see injured buddy John and friend Tracy and high five them on the way by.
As I head up A1a, I figure I'll try to stick to a 7:50 mile pace until I start to bleed pace and drop into the 8:00 to 8:30 range. However, the 7:50 pace never seems to wear me out. I must have either gotten good speed work the week before on my race pace runs or I'm more rested from the 2 week training hiatus. "Best not to over-analyse during the race," I think, "Just keep going until your pace naturally drops." It never does. I keep the 7:50ish pace and come in strong for a 1:41 finish.
Bill at around mile 12
Our really fast friends, Keith and Jen, take age group places. Jana had the trouble keeping pace that she expected, but finishes respectably in 1:46. Our friend Carrie, doing her last event before heading out to New Zealand for her first full Ironman, comes in at 2:04. Fast bicyclist, first time half marathoner, Tony comes in around 2:10. Injured buddy John is at the finish to take pictures as we cross the line. Injured wife Salome took all the pictures in this blog entry. Everyone was in good spirits and glad to be done before the temperatures start creaping into the upper 70s. We headed to the food area to munch on bananas, cookies and muffins. We've earned a little indulgence.
Tony, Carrie & Bill at the finish area
Why was I able to sustain a sub 8 minute pace when I've dropped pace after the 10K mark in my last several marathons? I'm not sure. Perhaps it was simply not going in with great expectations, allowing me to run a more controlled and even pace. Maybe it was simply good weather. I'm not sure I care about the reason. The result was good and I never did receive a parking ticket. I think I'll just enjoy the result and let it be.