Sunday, April 22, 2007

Santa Cruz Half

Today was the Santa Cruz Half Marathon - the 3rd in a series of 4 halves in my attempt to go from a time of 1:51 to under 1:30. The 1:51:51 was my first ever race back in October 2006, after just 6 of months running. The sub 1:30 is hopefully coming in July in Los Gatos. Intermediate steps along the way have been 1:38 in Feb on an overall downhill course, and 1:35:22 on a flat course just five weeks ago.
Goals for Santa Cruz were
1) Beat my PR of 1:35:22 - which would be good as it's a hilly course
2) Go under 1:34
3) If it all goes bad, slow down and take it easy to run the Parkway Half in 2 weeks

The plan was to try to run on pace (7:10) pretty much the whole way and try to make up any lost time due to the uphills on the downhill. I wasn't feeling too confident going in to this so I told myself if I can get thru mile 4 on pace (which ends at the top of a hill) I would go for it, otherwise I'd make it a training run. Weather was great (high 50's/low 60's and sunny) , after a wet, wet night, it cleared up and the sun came up just as the gun went off about 7:15.

The First Four Miles
Fairly big race (2,500 people including the 10k which started at the same time). Started near the front and managed to weave thru the crowds, get up the first hill and cover the first mile in 7:07. Miles 2,3 went by fast at 7:04 and 7:10. Mile 4 was the first hill and I got up that at 7:21. Average for 1-4 was 7:09 so the race was on!

Miles 5 to 8
Mile 5 started with a steep downhill and I hammered it at 5 something. That was a mistake and my quads complained bigtime. Settled down and got thru 5 at 6:59. 6 was painful (because of 5) at 7:22. 7 and 8 were on a trail overlooking the ocean which was an amazing view: these went by OK at 7:16 and 7:24. At this point I realised that my Garmin GPS was reading differently than the mile markers, so I stopped worrying about garmin pace and decided to just go by time at the mile markers.

Miles 9 and 10
9 had a big uphill and I pushed through some growing discomfort and managed to get over in 7:30, mile 10 was 7:14 but I was really beginning to hurt. based on the time at the 10 mile mark I figured 1:34 was going to be tough, and that I probably needed to run 7:05s all the way in.

Miles 11 and 12
Mile 11 was a big mental decision: my mind was telling me I was way off 1:34, my legs were telling me to ease off, coast it in and run the half in 2 weeks. I was tempted but decided I'd try to push through and see if I had it in me. Mile 11 at 7:15 but it hurt. A lot. Mile 12 had a little rolling hill which was probably only 30' but it almost killed me, and it seemed like the longest mile ever - pace was 7:32 (my slowest mile) and I was dragging. When I crossed the 12 mile post I knew I was way off 1:34, and even a PR was at risk if I didn't get my ass in gear.

Final 1.1
Just into mile 13 I caught someone, he kept with me for 20 steps and then he completely fell apart - this was a huge boost for me so I kicked with all I had (whch was not a lot). Got to the final downhill and somehow managed to keep my legs from buckling under me. Turned the final corner and saw the finish line just ahead. I was only at 1:39:50! Obviously mile markers were a little randomly placed - The last 100 yards were on the beach so I sprinted thru the sand with what felt like people were holding my ankles. Crossed the line at 1:34:12! I couldn't believe it. Final mile pace was 7:09 so I'd finished strong. If I'd known I was so close I could maybe have hit that mile 12 a little harder.

So bummer, I didn't beat 1:34, but I got a 70 second PR on a course with some hills. Plus I learned a little about mile markers in the process too! Overall I am really happy with the day - I stuck with it and didn't wimp out.

Now I have 12 weeks to train for the next one when I need to take 4:13 off my PR and run at 6:52 pace. That is going to fun.

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