Sunday, April 5, 2009

Big D Half '09 - Sometimes PRs Happen Unexpectedly

I had written a post a week or so ago to get my thoughts out on paper about my excitement for Big D Half today and the items making me nervous or freaked out about the race.  I wasn't able to get into the chiropractor the week before (a must for me), I would be standing for 3 days straight before race day because I supervised Big D Packet Pickup in Dallas... oh yeah, and I hadn't run in a month.  That was the big one.  I had done Austin Half, Cowtown Half, and Texas Independence Relay pretty much back to back before that month off, but all I could think about was that month of no running.

I was happy to be getting another half marathon under my belt, in a world where doctors told me I would never run.  Take that!  But I was sad because I had PRed every half I had ever run, and this would break that highly unusual trend.  And at least I have enough of a sense of humor to keep joking that when you started out as slow as me (long distance walker before a runner), it's not as hard to shave multiple minutes off a half marathon time!


Recent history:

Big D Half, April 2005: 3:33:17 - FIRST HALF EVER

Jump ahead to...

Big D Half, April 2008: 3:07:57 (first half back after the baby was born, and a PR)

Oklahoma City Half, April 2008: 3:00:15

White Rock Half, Dec. 2008: 2:54:25

Austin Half, February, 2009: 2:50:34

Cowtown Half, February 2009 (two weeks after Austin): 2:42:40

Big D Half, April 2009: 2:42:13 - 27 second improvement


Race Review

This was my third time running the Big D Half. 

Horrible traffic getting to the race.  Coming from Allen, we left at 6:30.  We were at the ramp from Hwy 75 to I-30 at 7:05, plenty of time.  And then we just weren't moving.  It took FIFTY MORE MINUTES to make it the 1/4 mile to parking and get parked.  We jogged most of the way to the start line, a good warmup perhaps? Got there a few minutes before the race started.

The weather was 52 degrees but with a COLD, sharp, strong wind.  I felt pretty cool knowing that I was the ONLY person in the world running with my shirt.  I had decided to run in the one sample proof of the 2009 Heels and Hills event technical shirt, so stinking cute in its hot pinkness!  When I saw other runners at the race, I  wondered if I was crazy to have a short sleeve shirt and shorts on when tons of people had windbreakers, long sleeve shirts, and pants.  But I was really comfortable during the whole race.  I think wearing a running cap helped keep me feeling a little warmer, my head always felt warm the whole race.

I saw Debbie and Barbara at the start line.  They were sending us all off just to cheer us in later.  I saw Jeff, who was running the marathon with first timer Elle.

I spent the first four miles expecting that friends and random runners were cursing me.  At packet pickup, when asked if it was a hilly course, my response was that it wasn't too bad.  "There's hills but they don't go on forever.  You do them and they are over, and there are nice flat segments.  It's not like Oklahoma City (lots of rolling hills) and definitely not like Austin (killer hills)."  I didn't remember all these hills the first handful of miles from my past runs of the course.  In terms of hills, nothing seems bad after Austin, so I felt good about them, but wondered how others were feeling. 

This race felt more isolating than some of the past halfs I've done.  EVERYONE had on headphones.  I never wear them, so it made it all the more noticeable to me.  Typically, at least with people my speed, there's many general occasional comments back and forth from runners, encouraging banter, etc.  None this time.  It seemed people were in their own world, and there were too many instances where it seemed their music was too loud because they couldn't hear the biker warnings near the lake or the car warnings coming through the Swiss Ave area.  I was concerned for their safety, but I generally missed the social moments that come from people chatting with each other during these challenges.  <head shake>

My pace has been all over the place in the past, so I was concentrating on hitting more even pacing this race.  I'm still only a few months into owning a Garmin so I'm still learning that what my body is feeling corresponds to a certain number on that screen.  I felt extremely good with how I did on my pacing for this race, you can see it on the splits at the end.

Around mile 8, I started doing the math, good distraction for a mathematician and a normal thing for me to do in a half.  I compute a couple dozen finish times based on every possible combination of paces I could have over the next 5 miles.  What if I do a fast few miles then have to walk the rest?  What if I do slow and steady and still have to walk a couple miles?  What if I keep going strong the whole way? etc etc etc  (I usually repeat this exercise at mile 10 with a 5K to go)

And I had gone through several miles contemplating this odd Avg Pace item showing up on my Garmin.  It kept saying around 12:15 the whole way.  I kept thinking something was broken.  Because I knew my last half at Cowtown was a finish at a 12:30 avg pace.  So what could that mean?  It took that whole mile from 8 to 9 to convince myself that yes, I was actually ahead of PR pace!  Funny how stupid you can become in the middle of one of these races.

About the time I had figured this out, I was looking for Natasha and other DRC folks and spotted them, around mile 9.5 on Swiss Ave.  She had said they would be out cheering on runners and where to look for her.  They gave me some great cheers and I just spit out, yelling, "I haven't run in a month and I'm on PR pace!"  I was freaking out and I'm sure all the runners around me thought I was crazy.  I heard Amanda ask if I wanted her crutches, and everyone else gave me some last cheers as I passed.  Thanks, guys!

Right after this I was also losing some steam and didn't want to stop and take a Gu.  I never feel very coordinated and tend to take a walk break when I want my Gu, which is every 4-5 miles for me.  I thought about not taking it at all with about 3 miles left but thought I would end up sputtering out.  So I slowly jogged while eating it and was glad I did for the energy it gave. 

Mile 11 I hear one girl tell another she has pretzels.  I would kill for a pretzel.  I wanted to chew something more than Gu and wanted the salt.  I later found out pretzels were at those medic tables on course, but since I knew I didn't need a medic I never even looked at those tables!  I actually consider offering her $5-10 for a couple of her pretzels, with the promise that since I'm friends with the Race Director, I can get her address from him and mail her the money afterward.  Desperate, huh?  I quash the thought and continue.

Mile 12 is a blur.  I just want it to be over.  I never want to run again, especially with this pressure I'm putting on myself at this point to hit that PR - it will be close.  I hate this part of the course because of the way it winds around the perimeter of Fair Park, you are so close to the finish but SO very far away. 

I'm in a please-be-over please-be-over trance inside Fair Park for that last couple tenths of a mile.  I pass the Race Director, who says something to me but I'm so tired I can barely translate the words he's saying.  And then I see Debbie and Barbara and probably a couple other friendly faces in the blur cheering me into the finish, all the faces blend together but I hear my name a bunch.  I've been watching that Garmin like a hawk the last mile or so, and I know I've made it.  A PR.  I never would have thought it possible going into this morning.  The streak of Half PRs is unbroken. 

How am I ever going to PR again in 3 weeks at Oklahoma City Half?  EEK!

I never hang around much after races, not even to get post-race food, so I missed congratulating a lot of friends on their finishes.  Congratulations to all the finishers!


Next up

Probably won't get in much running between now and OKC...  

Here's where to catch me the next few weeks...

April 11 - Race Directing - Heels and Hills Distance Challenge 15K, $15, Irving

April 18 - Race Timing - a small race in Carrollton

April 25-26 - Coordinating DRC bus trip and accommodations for Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon.  There are about 10 bus seats left before we fill the 52-seater giant bus if people want to join us.


Mile Splits at the Race

Mile 1: 11:51

Mile 2: 12:29

Mile 3: 11:49

Mile 4: 11:32

Mile 5: 12:28

Mile 6: 12:41

Mile 7: 12:21

Mile 8: 12:50

Mile 9: 11:56

Mile 10: 12:29

Mile 11: 12:37

Mile 12: 12:35

Mile 13: 12:39

Last 0.1: 11:59

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