A few Sundays ago (Superbowl Sunday) I ran in a half marathon road race (my first one ever!). Here is a really brief report pertaining to that race. The race was called the Ralston Half Marathon, and I crushed it (relatively).
The focus of the last couple months has mainly been on run training, and it will continue to be so until at least Spring. I’m still doing a good number of laps in the pool and spinning the pedals for a bunch of hours every week, but building run durability and endurance at faster paces is the focus of the early season.
Half marathons are perfect for me as a fitness test and as a training stimulus. It’s a pretty far distance but not super long – a full marathon is so long that, if you race it and go as fast as you can, it becomes quite physically damaging and you need to take some time off after the race to recover. A half marathon, 13.1 miles, is far enough and hard enough to provide a strong training stimulus, but short enough that you should be able to resume regular training with maybe only a day or two of reduced running afterwards.
I said this would be really brief. But I almost just dove headfirst into an explanation of training stimulus/training stress, muscle breakdown, recovery, supercompensation, adaption… The whole training process and why it makes us fitter, stronger, faster. We won’t go into that for now. But I bet that now you can guess what my next article will be about.
Anyway, my coach wanted me to run a half marathon to get a gauge on my current running race pace and to provide a good, hard workout. My teammate Michelle was already signed up for this race, it was a short drive south of Boulder, my parents were in town, and I wanted to drink beer and eat chicken wings to excess that night during the Super Bowl, so this race seemed like a great opportunity.
My coach gave me a race plan – “run the first 8 miles at 160-165 heart rate, then see what you have left for the remaining 5 miles.” Okay, kind of vague on the last 40% of the race, but I felt confident that I could hold that heart rate for the first 8 miles.
My teammate Michelle, my parents and I drove down to Arvada, CO for a relatively casual 9:45AM start time. I was feeling really relaxed, I think mostly because I had a race plan that I knew I could achieve. And, being my first ever half marathon road race, I didn’t have a lot of personal expectations to live up to.
The starter's gun went off at 9:45 and about 400 of us went running off.
For a change up in writing style, and because people often ask what I think about during a race, I’ll narrate the rest of the race in 1st person stream of consciousness:
And that was that. 13.1 miles, 1 hour 34 minutes, 1000 ft of gross elevation gain. It was so snowy/icy and so hilly that my average pace is somewhat meaningless (7:10/mi). Nonetheless, I was way pleased, mostly because I was able to maintain my effort and pick up the pace and effort even higher during the last couple miles. Historically, I’ve always gone out way too hard and finished kind of weak, so it’s encouraging to see myself gaining the fitness and pace awareness to even split or negative split (2nd half faster than 1st half) a race.
As a bonus, I won my age group! And placed 18 out of of 405. Certainly I could hold a faster pace on a flatter half marathon course, but the age group win and solid overall place provides additional confidence that I am on the up and up with regards to running.
Age group winners were awarded pint glasses. Nice! It pays to win! Wait a minute, this seems like a way to even out the field! If you win, you’re awarded a pint glass, encouraging you to do more cold beer drinking, and that’s probably not going to make you any faster… Well, a few certainly can’t hurt :)
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading!