Sunday, September 13, 2009

18 Mile Long Run / Parks Half Marathon

For my 18 mile run today, I parked 5 miles from the start of the Parks Half Marathon, ran to the starting line and then ran the race.

My plan was to treat this as a marathon pace run. A little faster than a long run, but slower than I would normally run a Half Marathon. My target pace was 10:40/mile - which corresponds to a 4:40 marathon.

I set my alarm for 5:15am, but thanks to my younger son, I didn't need to rely on the alarm. He came into our room at 4:45am needing to go to the bathroom (which he can do on his own, but for some reason likes to wake us up in the middle of the night anyway...). I decided to get out of bed then and get an earlier start. I got into my running gear (including my UofM Alumni tech shirt - which was a great conversation piece during the run, especially after our big win over Notre Dame yesterday...GO BLUE!), made some instant coffee, went to the bathroom (the reason for the coffee, right?), ate a pre-run banana and headed out to my car. As I left my door, I saw a brightly shining moon and Orion up in the night sky....beautiful!

I parked at the Rio shopping center. As I was pulling into the Kohl's parking lot, I saw someone walking on the sidewalk in shorts and a t-shirt. Another crazy runner, I thought. However, I soon realized that this guy was actually heading home for the night - not heading out for the morning like me. Oy!

Since I was wanting to watch my pace today, I changed my Garmin main screen from 3 fields to 4 - adding average pace to my normal trio of elapsed time, current HR and distance. Later on I found out that by doing this, the elapsed time will only show HR:MIN and not HR:MIN:SEC when you go over 1 hour. It shouldn't really be that big of a deal, but I'm just so used to seeing the seconds on my elapsed time. If it continues to bother me, I may have to just leave average pace off the main screen and make myself hit the up button to see it on the next one. I'll need to make this decision in the next few weeks - I don't want to tinker with this during the NY Marathon.

I started my run - nice and easy. Average HR for the first three miles were 137, 138, 138 (the other two miles were 145 and 144, so they weren't so bad either). The Garmin showed an average pace over the 5 miles of 10:40...perfect! Except later on, when I downloaded my stats into RunningAhead, it shows my pace as 10:42/mile. Not such a biggie, but I'm started to get a bit frustrated about the accuracy of the Garmin....especially when I am using it to keep me on the right pace to reach my goal!

A few comments about the early run - it was definitely dark, and there were some areas that were not well lit (and one point where the sidewalk goes into the woods for a bit - woods where I know coyotes have been seen). I must say, I like running early in the morning, but I'm not such a fan of running in the dark alone.

The other thing is that although the coffee had it's desired affect before leaving home (and thus, not needing to use the port-a-john while on my run), it also gave me some pretty bad acid reflux. I was hoping this would go away at some point, but I was still feeling it towards the end of the half marathon as well.

I got to the starting line of the Parks HM about 25 minutes before the start. I bumped into a few people I knew - my running buddy from last week's 17 mile long run - HH - two "virtual" running buddies from RunningAhead who I knew would be at this race - Trent and Jellyfish - and my sister who was running her second half marathon.

I lined up with my sister and we left in the wave that was for the 10:00/mile and slower group, which started at 7:06am. I ran the first mile with my sister - hitting another 10:40 pace and average HR of 141. Mile 2 started to get downhill and I was trying to not get boxed in the crowd, so my pace was much faster - 9:50. After that, I made myself slow down and got into a rhythm.

I pretty much ran this race on feel - I was trying to watch my pace and HR, but didn't pay too much attention. At the half-way mark, my average pace was around 10:30/mile and my HR was in the high 150s. But I felt really good.

I actually felt so good, that around mile 9 or so, I was still chipper as ever while thanking the volunteers for volunteering for the race. One of the other runners made a comment that I was in way too good of a mood this far into the race! I ended up speaking to her for the next mile and a half - she was starting to get really tired and needed a little push to keep her going (or at least someone to speak to and keep her mind off of how much she likely wanted to stop...).

By the time we got to the last 2 miles - on the gravel Georgetown Branch Trail - I was still feeling really good. My average pace was at 10:39/mile - and even though I had already run 16 miles that morning, I felt that I had enough in the tank to put it into a higher gear and go. The Garmin shows that I ran the last two miles in 18:32, but it did lose the satellite while under the Air Rights tunnel so that may have messed up the distance part of the calculation (actually, it shows I did mile 13 in 8:04 - which I'm sure is not right). Either way, I was able to finish up strong with a chip time of 2:18:59.

Later on that morning (after showering and changing of course!) I met up with Trent and Jellyfish at the Silver Diner for brunch. It was nice to meet these folks in person and hear their running stories. Their take was that if I was able to run this course in less than 2:20 - and after running 5 miles already - that I should have no issues running a 4:40 in New York. The NY marathon is flatter and the weather will be cooler. However, I definitely need to ensure that I pace myself well - as it is in any longer distance race, if you go out too fast you are doomed at the end.

In summary - it was a great run capping off a week where my runs didn't feel so great. Still, I had my highest mileage week of the year - close to 37 miles - and I have two more really high mileage weeks before the marathon. I'm getting more confident that I will be able to reach my goals in New York - running a more balanced marathon and running it in 4:40.

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