Sunday, January 8, 2012

My first Half marathon - 1/7/12

I'm paying the price today for my efforts in yesterday's Half Marathon. Legs are really tight and sore. it was worth it though, finished up 6th out of 25 in my age group with a time of 1:44:10 (results here).

I've never run a half marathon before yesterday. Well, not an official timed event. Once upon a time, many years ago, I was training for a marathon and so I have run the half distance, but never for any kind of time. So, yesterday was the first.

I'm pretty good at recognizing my RPE level (Rate of Perceived Exertion), mostly because I have only recently started training with a heart rate monitor on my bicycle. Never have done that with running. So, I had set a goal in the days leading up to the half to finish in less than 2 hours. In fact, I had decided to shoot for a 9 min/mile average pace. That calculates to a finish time of just about 1h58m.

Having only run 5k and 8k races in the past several years, I know that I tend to go out faster in my first mile. Knowing this, I thought I'd do my best to control my effort and not do the first mile too quickly. I'm fully capable (in a 5k) of doing a sub 7 min for my first mile, and that is what I DID NOT want to start with for this half marathon.

I lined up with my peeps Bo, Robin and Scott somewhere in the middle of the pack. This was a good thing as there were some peeps who ran a pretty fast half marathon out in the front of that pack!

As I was running along, just finding a groove, Rob Dempsey (HIS radio DJ) ran up along side me and I chatted with him for a minute. His garmin (or whatever device he has) beeped, and I asked if that was mile 1. Yes, in fact it was and we had covered it in just under 8 minutes. Somehow I had missed the marker, and my Garmin forerunner is on the blink, so I was using my old fashioned Timex watch (with timer and lap counter).

As we ran along through the 2nd mile, we chatted a bit, but mostly I was listening to my body to see how it felt about the pace we were running. As we approached mile 2, I actually saw the marker and clicked off a lap on my Timex. Actually, lap 1 was 2 miles, and my time was marked at 16m07s. In the neighborhood of 8 min/mile now for two miles. I was feeling good, so I decided this was the pace I would continue until I felt I needed to settle down a little. Rob decided to slow his pace a little and we went our separate ways.

Up till mile 2, it was basically flat, and after mile 2, the course started some shallow rolling hills miles 3-5. At mile 3, my trusty Timex shows 24m10s and at mile 5 (missed mile 4) it shows 39m53s. That's a solid 8ish min/mile pace.

One of the great things about this course is the hills. While it is hilly, and some of the up-hills are pretty damn mean, it really means that you get both: up-hills and down-hills. Although you lose time slowing down on the uphills, you gain it right back when going down-hill. What I found was the downhills are not terribly steep, allowing you to open up your stride and carry some speed as gravity assists. This allows you to make up time from the ascent. This allowed me to maintain the 8ish min/mile pace.

The Mile 5 marker is right at the base of one of the steeper hills on the course. Was great to See Nikki and Cara near the top. After that hill, the rollers became a little deeper for miles 5.5 - 8(ish).

I missed the mile 6 marker, but my mile 7 time was 56m8s. Despite the rollers, and the hills between mile 5 and 7, I was able to maintain the 8(ish) min/mile pace that I had been carrying. I was pretty happy about that, and was still feeling pretty good at just past the half way point. The time was clicking by pretty fast I thought.

At mile 8, Timex shown 1h3m55s, and at mile 9 1h11m56s. Around mile 8 was a another steep hill, and right at the top was a water station. I grabbed a cup of water, and tried to drink some down. Unfortunately, I ended up with a bunch of air in my stomach. I was able to run through it (partially because of a long downhill immediately following the rest station). After a long gradual downhill, we turned into the Green Valley neighborhoods.

Near Mile 10, I saw a good friend who had volunteered for the race. Her job was to direct the runners on the course. Although I was feeling good, hearing her ring the cowbell and offer support meant a lot. I high-fived her and another friend who was there waiting for his wife and kept rolling along. At mile 10, I was still rocking the 8 min miles, my time was 1h19m56s.

I rolled through mile 11 at 1h27m48s. I was really pleased to see how well I was keeping to that 8 min/mile pace. I had thought by now I'd be dropping time, especially on the hills. They weren't bothering me that much by mile 11, although I was definitely feeling it by this time.

Just past mile 11, the course turns uphill until the last tenth of a mile. I had been passing people since Mile 5. No-one had passed me until I approached mile 11. This guy goes flying past me at a pretty good clip. He had to have started pretty slow. No matter, he passed and I decided it best to try to stick with the pace I'd been running. Although as the road turned up, I could see that I was catching some other people. Of course, this gave me motivation, and I tried to reel in whoever else I could see. That is, without significantly increasing my pace.

My pace did increase, although I missed the marker for mile 12 and there was no marker for mile 13. I did catch 3 other people in those last couple of miles. One was a younger kid who stopped to walk just past a refreshment station. It feels good when I pass people who are half my age!

There was one guy I was trying to catch, he must have sensed it because he never let up. For any increase in pace I may have had, he somehow knew, and matched it perfectly. I must have been about 50 meters behind this guy for the last mile. That distance never seemed to vary. I didn't have enough to sprint early enough to catch him, although even the sprint I did make as the course turned for a down-hill finish - he matched it and I gained no time on him.

I crossed the line at 1h44m10s. That calculates out to about a 7:57min/mile pace. I'm pretty happy about that, as I had initially thought I'd be lucky to hold a 9 min/mile pace.

Next race: The Winter Challenge!


  1. Nice! A 1:44 for your first HM is a fantastic time. Was that the Resolution Run in TR? I ran that one twice. I heard this year they changed the course to add more hills and the swamp rabbit trail section was all paved now. Great job JD!

  2. Thanks John. yes it was the Resolution run. It was a great course, and it had plenty of hills. The swamp rabbit sections (there was more than one) are nice. The terrain overall is really beautiful.


Don't be shy! I'm interested to hear your comments or experiences.
NOTE: I have switched on the comment moderation because I have been getting a number of spam comments lately. Be patient, I'll post it up as soon as I can! Thx JD