National Half Marathon

March 21st, 2009

I finally got back on the horse, so to speak. With having missed the Philadelphia Marathon in November due to illness, this was my first double-digit mileage race in a year. As a result, I won’t lie—I was more than a little worried, doubly so since I’ve been training entirely on my own for both this and the Potomac River Run Marathon in May.

To make matters slightly tougher, even though I’ve run the National Half Marathon all four years, now, starting last year they changed the course for the half marathon option. In past years, it was an almost entirely flat course. 2008 and 2009’s course, though, has a long slow climb for miles 5-8 (followed by a swift drop for miles 9-10), and then one more hill at mile 12. When I ran this course in 2008, I ended up several minutes slower than my previous year’s time, thanks to burning out on the hills and choking at the end.

This year, happily, that ended up not being the case. I ended up with a much more consistent pace, and an overall much better feeling about the race in general. I never felt beaten down like I had last year, and while I now look back and think that there are spots that I could have pushed a little harder, it’s ultimately a big victory. With that in mind, though, there were some things I feel like I need to remember in what I did right and what I did wrong.

Things I Did Right

  • This year, I successfully found one of the official pace groups to start the race with. I’d used the 4:00 (full marathon) group in 2007 and it worked out really well. Having found the 3:55 group (which is an 8:58min/mile pace), I figured they would be good to run with. Aside from a slightly slow first mile due to crowding, miles 2-4 were good, with the second mile even making up the lost time from the first. That said, when the hill started at mile 5? They took off, so to speak. They were about a block ahead of mile by the time I hit marker 5 (and I was all of 11 seconds off of the pace, so I hadn’t slowed down that much), and were completely out of sight by marker 6. Yeesh. I never caught them, either, and my finish time was only 30 seconds off of their projected finish. Oh well. Still, I felt like I was smart to stick with them, but also didn’t get pulled into the craziness. That said, I now wish I’d latched onto the 3:50 group, who knows how that would have worked?
  • This year, I also had the good sense to really think about how I was going to handle the course. I told myself that if I picked up a little bit of time on the uphill that I would just make it up on the way back, and because I had the plan in place that’s exactly what happened. As it was, only mile 7 was where I gained any significant time (33 seconds) and I burnt that all back off the next few miles.

Things I Did Wrong

  • I ended up seriously dehydrated this race, and it’s my own fault. Towards the end of last year I started running with Gatorade in my water bottle instead of water. It certainly seems like a smart idea, but the reality is that I don’t actually find Gatorade terribly refreshing. So unless I’m really, really thirsty… I don’t drink it. I ended up drinking less than half of my water bottle the entire race, and at the very end (with about a tenth of a mile to go) it was definitely starting to catch up with me, feeling a little crampy. Then, as soon as I was handled some bottled water, I drank the entire thing in about 5 seconds flat. So from now on, I’ll stick to grabbing a cup of Gatorade at water stops and using that to get the electrolytes back into my body, and carry water. Sure, it was a cool day out, but I sweat a lot and dehydrate easily. Not smart in the slightest.
  • Also, on a similar note, I really need to wait until closer to the start to get into the entrance corrals. I spent the entire race needing to use the bathroom, but (unlike last year) ended up just gritting my teeth and bearing it the whole way through, since every available stop along the way had a huge line. Not smart.
  • I also really need to drop 5-10 pounds. There is no way around it. I’d gotten rid of a few earlier this year but they mysteriously came back in the past couple of weeks, just in time for the race. Hmph.

Overall, I’m really happy with this year’s finish. I think I could have done better had I really pushed it, but I have a full marathon in six weeks, so this was the way to handle it. And, should I run the race again next year, I feel like this new course is no longer my nemesis. Yay!

(9:15, 8:43, 8:58, 9:00, 9:09, 9:00, 9:33, 8:52, 8:52, 8:40, 8:57, 9:16, 8:50, 0:50)

Posted in Half Marathon

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