Tuesday, May 7, 2013

One America 500 Festival Mini-Marathon Review

(Thank you for all the kind words on my previous post about my PR in this race - this post is just my typical race & performance review for my reference later, forgive some of the recycled information)

One America 500 Festival Mini-Marathon
Crossing the bricks at the Speedway
May 4, 2013
Indianapolis, Indiana

Runners: 30,069
Course: Flat - only 82ft of elevation gain, included a lap around historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Weather: Cloudy & 60 degrees at start and finish, 57% humidity, 13mph ESE wind - pretty much ideal running weather
Health: Perfect, no issues at all
Race Weight: 177
SWAG: Long sleeve technical tshirt & hat
Food: Standard race stuff, bananas, fruit cup, 
granola bar, & cookies
Volunteer Support: Tons of friendly people
Race Organization: One of the best ever
Crowd Support: Sparse throughout the race but GREAT finish line area
Water Stops: There were a ton of them, very well managed & supported, maybe the best at any race I've ran
Time: 1:28:09 ... Set Current Half-Marathon PR
Pace: 6:43/mile
Place: 313th/30,069 Overall, 38th/1,879 ... Finished in top 1% & received "500 Club" medal for being one the first 500 finishers

Overall Race Review ... 1  2  3  4  5  

Overview: This was a great, well organized, race that went almost completely as planned from a pace strategy.  I took almost a minute off of my half-marathon PR which was set only three weeks ago, but actually ended up running 13.2 miles. The extra tenth of a mile cost me about 40 seconds, which would have put me closer to where I wanted to be.  All in all it was a really great race for me - but I still feel I can be a little faster.
One America 500 Festival Mini-Marathon Finisher Medal on the left, and "500 Club" Medal on the right
for being one of the first 500 runners to cross the finish line

Most of the time I'm way too critical on myself.  If you follow on a normal basis, you know this is very apparent in my personal performance reviews, and well ... probably my life.  Most of the time after a race, I feel like there's still room for a lot of improvement.  So I need to start this post by letting you know that I am EXTREMELY happy with the way the race turned out on Saturday.  I trained specifically for this event for about 6 weeks and felt like I was in almost peak condition, and executed a really well managed PR run.  That being said - I really feel like I can do better ... of course!

SWAG: Long Sleeve Tech Tshirt & Race Cap

I tend to peak a little early for most big races.  Ya know, like fruit gradually turning a little brown at the store, I usually feel like I'm in my best shape a couple of weeks before the event.  I know it's probably psychological more than anything, but right on schedule about a week before this one, I heard that typical little voice telling me I got myself primed too early.  That being said, I still felt strong, and my weight was about right for this run.  Also, I had absolutely no lingering injuries. I ran this race pretty much 100% healthy - I felt great!

For the last few weeks I had been running about 60-65 miles, during 5 days as opposed to my normal 6.  I had been taking Monday and Friday off and I think the extra day of rest kept my legs a little fresher.  Also, I typically ran about 18-20 on Saturdays, and then 10-12 on Sunday.  I backed off my mileage a little the week of the race but ran a couple of light miles the day before to get some circulation in my legs.  It seems like in the past if I just do nothing all week, my legs feel completely dead standing at the starting line.  But waiting in the gate on Saturday, I felt relaxed and ready to go with good energy, and my legs really seemed to feel fresh and strong.  There was no lingering effect of too much training and I felt like I had a good race in me.

Good luck Pre-race Dance - Michael showing off her cast

For this half marathon, runners could send in previous race results for a "seeding" of sorts at the starting line.  The faster your previous race times, the closer to the front you got to line up.  After turning in a couple of half-marathon and 5K times, I was fortunate enough to get a slot in Corral A.  This meant that I wouldn't have to fight much of the enormous 30,000-plus crowd.  And that was a good thing, because as they staged runners on Washington Street adjacent to the Federal Building, I looked back and couldn't see anything close to the end of the line up.  I think the Corrals went as far back as Q or R or maybe further.  It was just a sea of runners.

Our hotel was right on Washington Street, so there was no need for a drop bag.  Plus the weather was perfect, so I didn't bother with any warm up clothes.  I literally just walked out the door and started running two slow miles to loosen up and elevate my heart rate a little.

As I ran, and periodically stopped to stretch, I could hear the PA Announcer echoing through the downtown buildings.  He was really detailed and informative, full of energy and optimism.  Everything about this race was well organized and it just didn't seem like you were running with 30,000 other folks.  Michael and I had spent the days before the race fretting over the weather, but when we woke up on race day, it was perfect outside.  And right on cue that morning I heard the Announcer say, "It's a no excuse race day!"  And he was right.  It was cloudy, about 60 degrees, with a 15mph tailwind for half of the race, and no rain!  I could check the weather off of my list of performance excuses for this one.

Before the National Anthem, we observed a moment of silence for the Boston victims. I had worn my "We are all Boston Marathoners at heart" mini-race bib on top of my normal race bib.  And for some reason I was really thinking a lot about Martin Richard and his family that morning.  I know there were other folks who lost their life and were horribly injured in the bombing, but 8-year old Martin and his family had really hit me the hardest.  I tried not to think about them too much on Saturday because I didn't want to get overly emotional right before I ran.  But when I pinned the bib on, they seemed to really fill my mind.  For some reason when I run in races and my heart is beating out of my chest, I pray a lot.  Sometimes it's "God, please don't let me die today" ... but on Saturday, I found myself praying a lot for the Richard family as I ran.

The Race
I made my way to the starting line only about 5 rows from the front.  It literally took me 3 seconds from the time the gun sounded to cross the starting line.  Michael later told me it took her about 10 minutes to wade through the waves of runners from where she started.  I was really thankful for my spot in Corral A.  As I looked around, I saw a lot of "elite-looking" runners in singlets and non-age appropriate shorts.  I knew most of these people would finish ahead of me, but at least I wouldn't have to maneuver around them.  I just wanted to make sure that nothing broke my stride and I didn't have to fight through others runners to maintain  speed.  As it turned out, it wouldn't be an issue at all.

Miles 1-3
I had a specific pace plan in my mind for every mile of this race, and I was determined not to veer from it.  That plan included the first three miles above 7:00/pace to settle in.  As we made our way from the starting chute to a gradual bend away from the hotels, people were flying by me left and right.  I was being passed by hundreds of runners like someone had opened the doors at Wal-Mart for a Black Friday midnight sale.  Usually in a race, I start a little slower than most and get passed by folks before gradually catching up with them later in the run, but there were people everywhere.  It actually made me smile.  Like I had a little secret.  I thought, "That's right, y'all go on ahead.  I'm gonna smoke your a-- in about 20 minutes!"  And most of them I eventually would, ha. 

I didn't really fight the urge to run faster because of pumping adrenaline, which sabotages many of my races.  Rather, I really found myself throttling back because my legs felt so good.  They were bouncy, strong, and ready to go, but I was determined to manage a good race at the outset so I would have a little kick at the end. 

The first few miles took us West of downtown Indy through some very economically challenged neighborhoods.  I swear to you I saw more than one brown-bag wrapped bottle of "something" at 8:00am in the morning as the folks sat on their porches and watched the "crazy runners" parade by.  Not like "Hey, let's go outside and support the race", but more like, "What the ---- is this nonsense?"  It made me smile.

My first three miles were almost perfect at 7:25, 7:07, 6:58.  My heart rate seemed low and I felt great.  At this point I was really enjoying the complete lack of elevation to the course, only 82 feet of incline the whole race.  But later, I would lament the fact that there were no downhill breaks.  With the first three "settle in" miles behind me, it was time to pick it up a little.

Making my way through the Speedway,
(Suck it MarathonFoto, I didn't authorize this photo
so I'll use it how I see fit - ha)

Miles 4-6
If I had the race to do over again, these miles are where I would focus a little more.  My pace was still good, but I really intended to stair-step it down by 10 seconds per mile.  Unfortunately, they were kind of all over the place at 6:44, 6:47, and 6:42.  I wasn't a deal breaker by any means, but I really wanted maintain a certain rhythm and for some reason, I had a little trouble staying focused.

Also during this stretch, I really began thinking, "Man, I wish there were some downhill portions!"  I had heard runners say that they preferred races with elevation as opposed to flat races, and honestly I thought they were full of it.  But here's the thing, on a pancake flat course, you use the same muscles the entire way.  There are obviously no hills, which is nice, but there are no rest breaks on a downhill either.  All of the momentum is continually supplied from your pumping legs.  I experienced this exact same thing at the Fargo Marathon a few years ago.  It's a really flat course, but I my hip flexors were really sore afterwards.  

Miles 7-9
Although my paces for these three miles were right were I wanted them at 6:33, 6:33, and 6:26, this was probably my most frustrating point of the race.  I'm just gonna throw this out there ... running around the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway was a great experience and I'm so glad I got to do it ... but it was really pretty boring.  I thought it would never end.  After the first few minutes of, "Hey, I'm in the home of the Indy 500 ... COOL!", I was pretty much ready to move on.  It was just a constant view of empty grandstands for 2.5 miles. It was pretty cool initially, but it just got old quickly.

Hurting a little in the last half-mile
But probably the biggest issue during these miles was my pace.  I ran the miles right where I wanted them, but they weren't near as easy as they should have been. Up until mile 7, I had pretty much been on cruise control.  At the Speedway, I planned on applying a little pressure to my pace.  A 6:30 mile at this phase of the race should have been a breeze, but I was really working.  This is the point where I really started to wonder if it was going to be my day or not. 

Also during this stretch, I noticed for the first time in the race that I was adding mileage.  As I approached the mileage markers, my Garmin indicated that I was about .05 miles over.  This would also eventually cost my overall time.  I knew a low PR meant running the tangents well ... and apparently I wasn't.

Miles 10-12
During Rock The Parkway, three weeks prior, miles 10-12 was the point were where I realized it was a special day.  I didn't feel like I was working to keep the pace and I was really able to put the hammer down.  When I tried to do the same on Saturday at Indy ... there didn't seem to be much there.  It was weird.  I wasn't dead-legged or anything, but I really expected to get much more response from my leg turnover.  Instead, I still struggled to keep a 6:30 pace.  

Even though these three miles were pretty close to what I planned at 6:27, 6:26, and 6:25, it was really becoming a grind.  Before the race, I thought I might be able to squeeze out a 6:10-6:15 average over these three miles.  But more than anything, I was really just holding on at this point.  I didn't feel like I had much to give in the final mile.

Mile 13
Throughout the race, I had thought and prayed a lot for the Richard family, and especially their son, Martin.  For some reason, as I made my way through the last mile, Martin became even heavier on my heart.  At some point, I think about 12.5 in between huffing and puffing, I said, "Martin Richard ... Martin Richard", out loud.  I must have said it louder than I realized because two runners next to me pumped their fists in support.  I looked at them and smiled and it really gave me a boost.  

RAWKFIST at the finish line with a new PR,
he pained expression says "Exhaustion!"

I tried to finish with a strong kick, but there was still just not much there.  Mile 13 was my fastest of the day at 6:22, which was nice, but it wasn't anywhere near where I wanted it to be.  I held on as I powered down the last .1 mile and finished with 1:28:09.  Almost immediately after I crossed the line, a young man handed me a medal and said, "Welcome to the 500 Club!"  It was pretty cool! Out of over 30,000 runners, I was one of the first 500 to cross the finish line.  

I looked at my watch while I looked for some water and realized I had cut another chunk off of my previous half-marathon best by almost a minute, but as crazy as it sounds ... I was a tad bit disappointed. For starters, I had actually ran 13.2 miles in the race.  The extra tenth of a mile had cost me 30-40 seconds on my time.  Also, I just never really settled in and felt right during the run.  It had really been a grind the whole time.  At no point in the race did I feel like I could run through a wall like I felt at Rock The Parkway.  And finally, I finished 9 seconds shy of being below 1:28.  That will drive me nuts if that ends up being my all-time best.  It's like a 3:00:09 marathon ... WHO WANTS THAT EXTRA 9 SECONDS???  But all in all it was a good solid race.  I had gradually gotten faster during the race and I had set another PR.  More importantly, I had a great time in one of my favorite cities.  And hopefully falling just short of breaking 1:28 will give me something to shoot for this summer.  
... be great today!


  1. I think that's pretty good for not feeling "into it"! And you'll be under 1:28 next time, with some tighter corners. Good racing. Your ability to speed up after the first few miles always impresses me!

  2. Awesome! I love a great race! The half I PR'd at last year was a perfect day and when I was almost exhausted and wanted to slow down I kept thinking it's not going to get much better. Good job!

  3. Well done. I simply love this race. Someday I hope to be back on the track!

    In my opinion -- splits are just splits; it's the avg and final time. Both of those you excel at!

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  5. I like your detailed analyses, Jim. I remember when I ran the Bolder Boulder 10K 2 years ago my husband advising me to "pass no one" in the first mile of the race. That turned out to be great advice--and it looks like you translated it expertly to the half-marathon (even if you weren't quite as peppy in the legs as you wanted to be). Great race!

  6. ridiculously good time for being sort of all over the place! And your mile splits are awesome, every mile faster than the next. and to me running a PR should hurt a lot, since you ran faster than you ever have before. So it shouldn't feel good to me. But yea, I bet you can improve by a minute at least on next HM.

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