Monday, April 16, 2012

Rock The Park Way Half-Marathon Review

Rock The Parkway Half-Marathon
April 14, 2012
Kansas City, MO
Time: 1:33:02
Pace: 7:05/mile
Place: 96th/4,015 Overall, 11th/217 40-44 AG

I've often said that even if there were no races or finish lines, I would still be out there running.  I love to run, and running has provided me many great moments.  I've ran with family and friends.  I've been very fortunate to experience a lot of the United States running marathons.  I've ran across the finish line at all kinds of races, sometimes faster than anyone in my age group that day.  And I had one of the greatest honors of my life last April running the Boston Marathon.  In fact, when I look at the big picture, there have been very few low moments involving a run.  But yesterday ... was by far and away my most disappointing and worst day ever running.  And as I write this race report more than 24 hours later, it's still killing me.

I'm angry, frustrated, disappointed, and feel like I missed a great opportunity all in wrapped into one.  I never train specifically for shorter races.  I usually just run them as fast as I can as part of marathon training.  But for almost a year, I have eyed this race as a PR opportunity and trained specifically for it for about 3 months.  I had hoped to be down around 1:25-1:26 and maybe even sneak into the top 3 finishers of my age group.  And I was quite sure that finishing faster than my previous personal best of 1:30:46 was in the bag.  But not only did I NOT set my personal best on Saturday at the Rock The Parkway, I was over 2 minutes off the pace and walked 3 times toward the end ... in a HALF-MARATHON???  And yes, obviously I understand that I'm not gonna get a lot of sympathy after finishing in the top 100 of a 4,000 person race.  I know there are many people who would love to run a 7:05/mile pace half-marathon.  I get it.  I mean only ten 40-44 year olds finished ahead of me and 216 finished behind me!  However, this post is simply about not meeting your own personal expectations rather than quantitative times or finishes.

But maybe more than anything I was simply embarrassed.  There were so many of our family and friends there on Saturday, and many of them had great races.  If you read my wife's blog, you'll see that she blazed a personal best with an amazing pace of 10:57/mile.  And although I'm feeling sorry for myself - I couldn't be happier for her!!!  She's turning into a really good runner and all of her hard work is really paying off!  Then there was my ex-brother in law, who at times has been more like a younger brother to me.  He's an amazing Ironman and Triathlete, but I've always felt like I was at least a little faster runner than him.  But he ran an awesome PR of 1:29:35.  (I'd be lying if I said it didn't bug me a little that he smoked be by more than 3:30!!!)  I sent him a congratulatory email, and he gave maybe the best compliment I've ever received from another athlete.  He said "I knew you were back there lurking somewhere.  I spent the last 6 miles wondering when you were gonna pass me".  Somehow that made me feel a lot better about the race.  But Saturday just wasn't that day!  And many of our other friends from running, work, and triathlons had great races as well.  I'm really happy for all of them - I just wish I could have been part of the celebratory day!
2012 Kansas City Rock The Parkway Half Marathon Course Elevation
Race Day...
The Kansas City Rock The Parkway is an awesome event that I would highly recommend to everyone.  It's ran more like a big marathon with an awesome packet-pickup and race expo at the Overland Park Convention Center.  But probably the most impressive aspects were the wonderful organization and pre and post-race parties.  They had great live music, wonderful food, and a terrific atmosphere held in the parking lot of Black & Veatch on Ward Parkway.  The course is a beautiful out & back that takes runners down tree-lined Ward Parkway in Kansas City, MO, past Ward Parkway Shopping Center, before circling Jacob L. Loose Park, the historic site of the Battle of Westport.  The course is described as fast and flat, which I would disagree with slightly.  It features rolling hills with a total elevation climb of about 400 ft.  There are no "killer hills", but the course definitely makes you focus on pace.

World Famous Pre-Race Dance Party (with me doing my best Usain Bolt
imitation - what a cocky idiot!  Easy big fella, you're not "that fast"!
Michael and I got around early to meet her friend Christi who was riding to the race with us.  When I woke up, I felt great and confident, and focused.  I was locked in and knew this was gonna be my day. We snapped a few pics our World Famous Pre-Race Dance Party, and then off we went.

The Midwest got hammered this weekend with thunderstorms and tornadoes, and going into the race, there was a concern that we would experience heavy rains and high winds at the starting line.  But when we arrived at the pre

I got in about a half-mile warm up before the race, trying to loosen up prior to - as opposed to during the race.  I felt I had started way too slow in previous races and wanted to hit the ground running in this one.  And standing at the starting line, I felt pretty good.  I noticed I was sweating a little more than usual at that point, but it really didn't concern  me.  I was in the zone and knew I was gonna rock this mother!  The gun went off and I started a little too fast - but tried to slow myself down.  During most races, I've felt like I left too much time on the clock in the first few miles.  And I felt like I had plenty of energy, plus it was "just a half-marathon" right, so I pushed it a little.  But literally at mile two, I was dripping with sweat and knew that I had a big problem on my hands.

Michael down the stretch of another PR!!!
For the first half of the race, my heart rate was elevated.  I was really working to just keep up with the 1:30 pace group.  Throughout the race, I just never felt like I found a good rhythm or got comfortable.  I knew I had started too fast, and I was struggling to keep pace, but I couldn't force myself to slow down and catch my breath.  I was convinced that since it was "just a half-marathon", I could power through for 13 miles.  But I was wrong.

My first 8 miles looked fairly decent with the following splits: 7:35, 7:11, 7:02, 6:42, 6:47, 6:43, 6:49, 6:45.  They were a little slower than I had planned, but it was really humid and I was losing a lot of fluid, so I could live with splits.  But it started to fall apart a mile 9 when I tried, unsuccessfully, to drop the hammer.  I attempted to pick up my pace to about 6:15-6:30, but my legs just didn't respond. My heart was racing at about 185 bpm, and I when I tried to speed up, there was just nothing there.  I had ran these paces over and over and over in training and never felt like they were tough at all.  But on Saturday ... the pace was killing me.

For most of the race, the 1:30 pace group was about 100-200 yards ahead of me.  I was able to keep them in sight and thought that if I could hold on until the final few miles, I would just breeze by them and at least get a PR out of the event.  But after struggling through mile 9 with a 7:22, mile 10 with a 6:59, and mile 11 with a race worst 7:46 - the pace group began to disappear and I realized that it wasn't going to happen.  So after mile 11 ... I stopped and walked and tried to verbally hold in the stream of profanity racing through my head.  I couldn't believe this was happening.  All the hard work, all the hours of training ... I had blown a golden opportunity.  I was in great shape, but I just didn't have it on Saturday.

Michael after her big race with Chick-fil-A???
I walked two more times after mile 11.  There's a weird thing with me.  If I'm not gonna PR - I have A LOT of quit in me.  I'll always finish.  But it's kinda like I say, "what's the point" - and I'm no stranger to slowing way down and even taking some breaks.  Probably pretty shallow and immature I know, but if I'm not gonna finish in the top three or PR, I just don't see the point of killing myself.  I dunno - that's just how I do it.

I finished the race and walked back to the car to change out of  my wet clothes.  My finishing time was 1:33:02 - no where near a PR.  I was crushed.  I know was a good time, but it felt really pedestrian after all of the race-specific work I had logged.  And after looking around to make sure no one was watching me, I opened the trunk and threw my medal, my water bottle, my ipod, my shoes, my shirt, my heart rate monitor, my hat and sunglasses against the back seat - really hard.  I was so pissed.  And admittedly I was acting like a complete child.  But in case you haven't noticed by now - there aren't many people more competitive than me.  If I go out and do my best, but it's simply not good enough, that's fine.  But going into the race, I felt like I was much better than my finishing time indicated, and I felt like I had let myself down - and that's pretty tough to take.

After my little temper tantrum, I walked back to the finish line to watch for Michael.  There were so many people hugging, high-fiving, and fist-bumping ... I was so jealous.  But I got my phone ready to catch a picture of Michael as she crossed the finish line with yet another PR.  This girl has been a PR machine lately!  As she crossed the finish line, she was waving and smiling and I knew she had PR'd again!!!  She was awesome on Saturday and even though I was really disappointed, I was excited for her.

After the race Michael tried to talk me down from the ledge.  She knew I was so disappointed, but I didn't want it to ruin her big day.  I literally lost sleep on Saturday night thinking about what a huge failure the race had been earlier in the day. If I had to put my finger on one thing that cause my poor results, I think it would be the race pace.  I went out way too fast on a warmish steamy morning.  I'm just not one of those people who can run the whole race at a certain pace.  I have to start really slow and ease my way into it, finishing the thing much faster than my final time.  That's just how I have to do it.  Huge negative splits are the key to me running well in races.  So hopefully I'll tuck this away in the memory bank and use it as a lesson learned for future races.  One thing's for sure, I won't forget about it any time soon.

I began this post with how much I enjoy running.  And on Sunday morning, even though the sting of the failed PR attempt was still fresh in my mind ... I ran.  I ran in part because I was still pissed and needed to get some lactic acid and frustration out.  I ran in part because I felt like a new run would help erase the memory of the day before - it didn't.  But mostly I ran because that's what I do.  Rain or shine.  Success or failure.  I run.  And I always will no matter what.  Hope your weekend went better than mine!  Have a great week!
... be great today!


  1. Running races can be very humbling. Don't beat yourself up too much. Keep looking (and moving) forward!

  2. I know how you feel and understand exactly where you come from. Over the years I learned not to worry about runs like that any more. That is still such a good time. My best is 01:41:37. I hoped to go below 1:40 one day but now I'd rather run another ultra than worry about it. You will still get that PR some day.

  3. I totally get it, and you should never apologize for being disappointed that you didn't achieve a goal. You will, though! I love that you still got up and ran the next morning. On to the next race! :)

  4. I am so sorry that you didn't get the result that you wanted. I have been there so I know what you were feeling. But you are a great runner and you will get it next time!

  5. Sorry you didn't live up to expectations. I know how that goes. If it makes you feel any better, I think you're progressing along faster than I have been. I just set a 10k PR with a 7:04 pace in ideal conditions.

  6. Sorry that the running Gods weren't working with you on this one. Sounds like you're already learning from it, so there's some positive. Awesome job by Michael. Something tells me this will fuel a killer outing the next time you head to the starting line.

  7. totally understand and can relate!!!
    the first thing that popped in my mind was what my college XC coach would tell me-
    "your only as good as your next race"
    the good news is that you are learning more about your racing style...if starting slow and building up pace works for you,then run with it!
    no doubts your next race will bring redemption!!
    looking forward to the recap already!!!!

  8. I think that disappointment is only natural when you haven't achieved what you planned. And even if you're one of the fastest runners in the race you can still be disappointed (not that I will ever know). It's all about relativity - and not in the Einstein way - how did you run in relation to how you can run? I also think it's okay to wallow for just a little bit and then pick yourself up and refocus for your next goal.

  9. You made sure others weren't watching when you "threw your tantrum." You weren't being showy but handling some frustration privately. Nothing wrong with that. You made sure to be excited for Michael. Don't be upset with how you handled it and yes it is fast but you know what you wanted to do.

  10. Ah, Jim, I totally understand. The last race I ran pre-injury (a "measly" 5 miler) felt just like that--my legs just would not do what I wanted them to do and I was way off where I thought I could be. I was glad I was alone for a while and could have a tantrum too! It happens to everybody and you will have your day.

  11. Looks like a tough course! Nice work despite not making your goal. You worked hard. This is one to put in the lessons learned file, but i don't see it as a failure. Sometimes it's had to know if you can pull off a pace until you are at least half-way into a race. Then it's either green light, or a good lesson.

  12. Wow, you took that race hard. I know where you are coming from, though it just seems like both the weather and your race plan of starting fast didn't turn out perfect. And while you didn't get a PR, you didn't implode either. If this is your worst running day ever, I think you need to have something more catastrophic to happen to know how a real crappy day goes during a race for most of us out here - I'm talking a complete meltdown with tons of walking, maybe even a DNF due to the conditions or just how the race goes. In high school cross county I basically had that happen at league finals - I was dehydrated and basically imploded on the course, I ran the worst race of my life - that is by far my worst day of running ever.

    Anyways, I would just chalk this race up to the weather gods and starting too fast. I try to pay real close attention to my heart rate during races, and if it goes up above a certain number I know to back off or else I might implode.

    And if you want to PR in a half marathon, I'd maybe do like 1 a month for 6 months in the Oct-Jan timeframe when the weather is better, that way out of those 6 races one of them is bound to have perfect weather and you will feel good at one of them. You might have to take out some marathons to do this plan, but I think that would work to get a PR.

  13. Think we all have runs/races such as this...but keep up the hard work, and dedication...You rock!

  14. ah crap Jim I am so say we have all been there will not make you any less angry and dissapointed..I know that. After Surf City I was so mad and dissapointed with myself..I just decided to add a half to my schedule...2 weeks later and I got my PR there. Probably not the best way to deal with Surf City but I needed to "erase" that half. I know nice cooler halfs you could do...Big Sur November and Long Beach October..:)

  15. Great job well done, Congratulations. I love those pics, thanks for sharing this to us. Nice post too, looking forward always for more updates.

  16. Several thoughts:

    1. How does Michael look good in every stinking picture I've ever seen of her???

    2. Every runner has had that race... You trained right, ate right, slept well, tapered... and still didn't meet the goal. I get it. Be disappointed for a while, and then put it behind you and use it as motivation!

    3. 1:33 is still ridiculously fast. You know that, right?

  17. It sucks the race didn't go as happens to the best of us. Both brothers of my trail partner (one of them an elite!) had to drop out of Boston at the half can bet THAT was not in the plan! Big breathe. Look forward. The best is yet to come. You are a great runner, and you will get your PR back. Sometimes you just have to take what the day gives you :)

  18. Humidity is no ones friend besides tropical birds and Kenyans.

    Don't beat yourself up!

  19. I think you should be proud, but I totally understand. Way to go for Michael though ;) And can you get over to my blog and please weigh in on the minimalist shoe discussion ?? :)

    I wish I could run 7min miles ;)

    I love the dance shot lol

  20. I am glad you wrote out your feelings because so many of us can relate and sometimes it feels better just to write it out. It is so disheartening to train hard for a race and to not meet personal expectations. But the truth is it happens to all of us and it humbles us and teaches us to keep working hard.

    Shake it off and move forward. Look at all the ELITE runners that trained there asses off for Boston this year and dropped. Camille Herron dropped at mile 8, Jeffrey Mutia at mile 18. It happens to everyone Jim!


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