Coming into 2015, one of the things I knew about this year is that my running was going to be a complete mystery. Besides everything in life I have going on (which is plenty), we were welcoming a new little girl into our family.
This year’s Dick Beardsley Half Marathon was the 10th time I’ve run the race. I don’t know that I’ve ever run this race and felt completely satisfied. I always enjoy the race, but the course is tough and the weather this time of year is a complete hit or miss. In 2003, in my second ever half marathon, my goal was to run under 2 hours. On a warm day, I failed by about 17 seconds. Up until last year, the fastest I’d ever run this race was in 1:40. Last year, we had a nice day and I managed to knock 11 seconds off my PR.
This year, I came into the race similar to last year with no real goal. On Friday, I made an estimated guess that I would run about 1:26:45 based on how much I’ve improved from last year in other race.
Pre Race – I did a longer warmup for this race (4 miles relatively easy). I timed my warmup so I could watch the start of the marathon 30 minutes before our race. This was first time the race has ever been a marathon. I strongly thought about running it to try to get a last minute Boston Qualifier, but I opted on waiting another year and doing the Twin Cities Marathon this year instead. The main factor was just the questionable weather. 50% of the time, you get nice weather, but there is a 50% chance you are going to see hot and humid temps. Last Saturday, for example, I ran a long run with our XC team and it was ridiculously hot and humid. Sometime when I get my BQ out of the way, though, I may do the marathon. I got my bathroom breaks out of the way with about 3 minutes to spare as I made my way towards the start line.
Mile 1 – 6:35 – While I was at the start line, I ran into a guy I recognize from the community center I run at during lunch every day. I didn’t even know his name (learned later that it’s Aaron), but he asked “What are you trying to run?” I said something around 1:27 or so, and he was like “I’ll run with you” which I was cool with. This was the 10th time I’d run this race, but this year the race had new management (the fine folks that run the Fargo Marathon) and they designed a slightly new course. The start and finish changed, but the biggest change was the course is essentially run backwards. My goal was to run the first few miles slower. The last few races I’ve run, I’ve run the first mile a little faster than goal pace and then run the second or third mile at a completely suicidal pace. I’ve joked that I need to put on lullaby music for the first 20 minutes of my run to slow me down.
Mile 2 – 6:39 – The goal is just to sit somewhere between 6:35-6:45/mile, so I’m feeling good about this mile. This pace feels ridiculously easy which is the goal this early into the race. I have no goal of PR-ing in the half this race. I just want to run a relatively fast time with a relatively hard effort just to give me confidence heading into the Twin Cities Marathon in three weeks.
mile 3 – 6:43 – Deceiving because this is the hilliest mile on the course. Strava’s “Grade Adjusted Pace” has this equal to a 6:36 which makes me feel good afterwards. Like I said, I’m striving for a strong, even effort.
Mile 4 – 6:36 – At this point, Aaron and I are basically by ourselves. A group of 5-8 runners is about 400-500 meters ahead of us and there is one guy that seems to be trying to latch onto the back of us, but it’s nice having someone to run with. Still feeling strong and comfortable. We see the leaders of the marathon during this mile (and for about the next two miles). They are basically running our same course backwards once and then finishing with the half marathon course.
Mile 5 – 6:35 – Again feeling really strong here. 6:35 pace feels like it’s no problem! I think I always feel my best in the fall because I do so much running with our XC team. When you start to run shorter repeats at sub-5 minute pace and 1k or 1 mile repeats in under 6 minute pace, 6:30 pace doesn’t feel quite as uncomfortable. One of the harder things for me to do as I’ve “grown” as a runner is getting out of my comfort zone and running hard repeats which I’ve done a lot of for the past 2-3 months.
Mile 6 – 6:38 – Some rolling hills this mile, but all is still well. For the rest of the year, I’ve been really feeling the heat around this mile. And subsequently, the last half of the race has been a bit of a death march. I’ve never been a good warm weather runner and I’ve been susceptible to a lot of calf cramping in the past. This is the first race I’ve tried Skratch Labs “Hyper Hydration” before the race. It’s basically a ton of salt and sugar with a touch of mango flavoring. I can’t do anything about the heat obviously, but I’m hoping this helps with cramping. I wanted to give it a try before the TC Marathon, so I wasn’t trying anything new on race day..
Mile 7 – 6:44 – I don’t know why we were a touch slow this mile, but I think we both saw the 6:44 at the end of this mile and decided to push a little bit more.
Mile 8 – 6:35 – This was the mile I was dreading the most. When the course was run the other way, this mile was a long, gradual uphill followed by a short, sharp downhill. Now, it’s a short, sharp uphill followed by a long, gradual downhill. We powered through the hill easier than I thought we would and then we really cruised on the downhill portion. We both missed what this actual mile split was, but I think we had been running so consistently that we knew we were fine.
Mile 9 – 6:28 – Apparently we really dropped the hammer this mile. This was actually a slightly uphill mile. It didn’t feel any quicker than the other miles, but I’m not complaining as I’ve only run one mile this fast this late in a race (I ran 6:27 in the last mile of my PR half marathon last year).
Mile 10 – 6:32 – For the first time in about 3-4 miles, we can see two people from the group ahead of us. We both have the attitude that we are going to catch them. A spectator tells us we are #11 and 12. I recognize the girl as a girl who I beat in an 8k earlier this year and then was beaten by at a half marathon in July. They are about a quarter mile ahead of us, but they’ve definitely fallen back a touch.
Mile 11 – 6:25 – Right before this mile, Aaron asks “do you want to try to drop down about 15 seconds per mile the last three miles and see what we have?” I’m completely game for this. Until it comes time to actually do it. He drops the hammer and I try to go with him, but I just am feeling like I can’t change gears. I’m definitely pushing here, but I’m having a hard time hanging out with Aaron who’s moved a few strides ahead of me.
Mile 12 – 6:38 – Aaron has now completely dropped me. I’m probably 20 meters behind him. He’s really closing the gap on the male runner and I can tell he’s going to pass him shortly. The girl has disappeared from view, though. I’m really trying to go, but I just feel like I’m stuck. I don’t feel like I’m at a “10” effort, but my legs are just feeling a little stuck in the sand.
Mile 13 – 6:32 – As I’m nearing the finish, I’m about 10-15 seconds behind Aaron, but I’m quickly closing the gap on the guy ahead of me. The right side of the road is 10k runners. I don’t really want to get into a foot race with this guy, so I decide to move to the far left of the road so when I eventually pass him, he might not notice and might be a little later in responding. Either way, I’ve got it in my mind that there is NO WAY I’m going to let this guy beat me.
Last 0.1 + extra GPS – 0:57 – Felt okay, but not wonderful about my kick. I knew a PR wasn’t in the cards which I think held me back a slight bit.
Finish – 1:26:37 – 1:11 off my half PR which I think was somewhat deceiving. I ran 2:39 faster this year than I did last year in the same race. I actually ran the last 5 miles of the race 3 seconds faster than the last 5 miles of my PR half marathon last fall. Last year, I said that I thought the Fargo Mini Marathon course was about 2-3 minutes faster than the Beardsley half course. Turns out, I ran about 4 minutes faster.
After this race, I’ve got a ton of confidence heading into the Twin Cities Marathon. Sub-3 seems like a good optimistic goal and a marathon PR seems like a good “B” goal. Now, I’ve got three weeks to master my taper and hope for good weather, good health, and good luck for the Twin Cities marathon.
The only downside about this race was about 6 hours after the race. I got a MONSTER migraine headache. I’ve got another one of these in April following a long run. I don’t know what it is, but it seems as if these might be related to hard running efforts. I haven’t had a ton of these, but it anyone has had any of these exercise-related headaches and knows what can cure them, I’d be very interested in knowing what you’ve done to help cure it.