***Okay, well I haven't "Rocked" 'em all, but I ran this one pretty well ... New PR 1:28:58!!!***
|Mile 9 of maybe my best race ever ... so far|
Kansas City, Missouri
Course: Nice out & back with rolling hills
along beautiful Ward Parkway and through
historic Loose Park in Kansas City
Weather: 38 degrees at start, 45 degrees at finish,
87% Humidity, No Wind
Health: Great ... healthy, fit, and fast
SWAG: Short-sleeved Nike technical t-shirt
Food: Good post race food including pizza
Volunteer Support: Sparse, but great
Crowd Support: Fairly sparse, but cheering
Water Stops: Adequate & well supported
Time: 1:28:58 ... Current PR
Place: 58th/4479 Overall, 8th/246 40-44 AG
Overview: Probably my best race ever. Felt strong, fast, and in control every step of the way. Really held back for 75% of the race and felt like I had a lot more in the tank so I pushed it a little for a Half-Marathon PR. Didn't plan on PR'ing, but just felt really fluent and smooth - really encouraging run. Just one of those days when I was feelin' it!
|Finisher medal for the 2013 Rock The Parkway Half Marathon in Kansas City, MO|
|World Famous Pre-Race Dance meets "Give Jack birthday cake!"|
Although Rock The Parkway is a really good event - well organized and supported - I really didn't have a huge interest in running it after the disaster I experienced last year at this same race. I basically went into it thinking I was going to PR ... by a lot ... but I missed it by almost three minutes and got smoked by my ex-brother-in-law. It was a pretty disappointing and embarrassing day all around - one of my biggest running defeats to date! So when I heard it was on Michael's birthday this year, and that she was planning on running it, I begrudgingly signed up too, originally planning to never run this race again ... yes, I can be a sore loser.
With a "use this as a training run" mindset, I had absolutely no intention of PR'ing. I've really been gearing up for the Indy 500 Mini-Marathon in three weeks where I'm going to try to PR, but I thought this one could give me an idea of where I am right now in my training. Plus, my legs still felt a little tired after a pretty good 10 mile Tempo Run on Thursday, two days prior. To top it off, the miles I ran on Saturday wrapped up a 66 mile week, so I was a little fatigued from that as well. But I took Friday off as usual, and standing at the standing at the starting line, I didn't feel too bad. I felt like if I ran smart, this race could be a great barometer of where I'd be in three weeks at Indy.
|2013 Rock The Parkway short-sleeved Nike technical t-shirt|
The plan going into the race was to run the first 3 or 4 miles relatively smoothly, without killing it, basically just to warm up. After that, the plan was to push it to about 80-85% of my top half-marathon speed right now. I just wanted to run a nice smooth race and come out healthy on the other side. This race is not "hilly", but there are definitely some rolling hills and the first half of the race has a net elevation gain, so I just wanted to be smart and run well ... but I figured I was nowhere near PR ready.
The gun went off and I started relatively slowly and comfortably. One of the main things I struggle with in races is starting too fast. When our first miles are faster than they should be, we don't allow our body to warm up properly and we build up lactic acid at an unusually high rate as our heart rate soars to quickly. I absolutely have to start about a minute off of my goal time to effectively run a race. So, Mission #1 of this race ... START SLOW DUMMY!!! Fortunately, I heeded the advice. My first mile was a comfortable 7:41. But if I would have started cold without a warm up, the first mile at that speed would have elevated my heart rate a little too quickly. The two following miles fell naturally into place as well, at 7:30 and 7:15. They were probably a little quicker than I wanted to be on Saturday, but everything felt smooth and I seemed to have a ton of energy, with my heart rate in check.
|Rock The Parkway Elevation Chart|
When I ht mile 4, I decided to run the next few miles at a 6:50'ish rhythm. At this point in my training, this is the pace where I'm working, but definitely not pushing it at all. It's a nice "just above cruising level" speed for me. I thought it would be good to settle in at this pace, slowing on the uphills, and taking advantage of the downhills. Accordingly, everything went as planned running the next four miles at 6:52, 6:54, 6:47, and 6:43. I remembered last year during this stretch thinking I was working way too hard this early in the race. But on Saturday, I felt great, like my heart rate wasn't elevated at all and I seemed to be gliding.
Mile 8 - Loose Park
This is probably the key area that made last year's race such a failure. Loose Park is a historic battleground site in Kansas City that features probably the toughest portion of the race. It's not a huge elevation increase, but it's the steepest stretch of the race and if you don't manage it, you can ruin the rest of your run. Last year I really tried to push it through here - I have no idea why - but I really burned up my legs for the remaining 5 miles. This year, I lectured myself ... very audibly ... to slow down going up the hills. I'm sure everyone around me probably thought I was crazy, but I'm sure it's not the first time. But my continual admonishment as I trudged up the incline worked, I slowed my pace a little to a 6:55, and still felt fairly fresh coming out of the park.
Before today, my half-marathon PR was 1:30:46, set back in 2011. On Saturday, I ran most of the race about 100 meters behind the 1:30 pace group. I kept expecting them to creep out of sight as they sped up and I slowed down, but I seemed to match their every step. As I came out of Loose Park, I gradually began to experiment with what my legs would do by speeding up to 6:27 for mile 9. And as I increased the pace, I noticed that I began to gain on the pace group I had been following for the entire race.
I have a bad habit of emptying the tank a little too early in longer races. Around mile 20 in marathons, I usually start feeling a little froggy and begin pushing the pace. Then at mile 22, I feel like crap. So I decided on Saturday that I would just hang in there and try to keep the pace group in sight, without rushing the pace too much.
But at mile 10, the thought of a PR crossed my mind for the first time. I didn't look at my watch and start doing the math, but I did begin to count to myself the seconds it took to get to the same landmarks the pace group passed ahead of me. I was roughly 20 seconds behind. For the first time I thought, if I can just hang with them and then accelerate at the end, I might be near a PR. My legs felt great and my plan worked well for the next three miles. Mile 10 was another 6:27, the hills of mile 11 slowed my pace a little to 6:38, but I really began to bear down on mile 12 with a 6:20. It was time for the home stretch.
|Michael crossing the finish line|
I can't begin to tell you how great my legs felt at this point. I glanced at my watch when I hit the mile 12 marker and it read 1:22 and change. I thought to myself ... "Holy cow, just hold on and this is gonna be a huge PR!" For the first time in the race, I fully realized that I was running my fastest half-marathon, and it gave me a shot of adrenaline. So I really put the throttle down. The last mile of the Rock The Parkway is a nice gradual downhill, perfect for acceleration if your legs aren't toast. Mine still had a lot of bounce, so I revved up to about 5K pace ... IN THE 13th MILE OF A HALF!!!
I soon caught the 1:30 pacer and he said, "You've got a half mile left, you wanna kill this last stretch?" I just said, "Let's go!", and we began a border line sprint - or at least one of us did. I think I lost him after about 200 meters. I was about half-scared to look at my Garmin, but when I took a peek, I was running a 5:15 pace ... IN THE 13th MILE OF A HALF!!! I ended up running this final full mile of the race at 5:49 ... my fastest mile in any race I've ever ran, including every 5K! As I rounded the final bend I could see the finish line clock ticking and I knew I had a shot at coming in under 1:29. I "Gave 'er all I had Cap'n" for a final sprint through the finishing chute and crossed the line at 1:28:58! I had crushed my old PR by almost two minutes ... and I felt great!
|The back of our Rock The Parkway race shirts this year ... YES, I did!|
... be great today!