Wednesday, May 30, 2012

#HistoricHalf Race Report

As has been mentioned in some of the press around town, I wanted to win this race. It was pretty simple. I live here, I know the course, I've trained hard. I've gotten a whole lot faster since the inaugural edition took place in 2008. Besides Tim Young, no one had ever really run fast here, at least not faster than I was capable. I didn't think I'd have to run very fast to win (turns out I was right) so I had a lot of confidence. Besides, Marine Corps doesn't pay, so I didn't expect anyone crazy to come down and lay out a fast time. But you never know...
I woke up around 2:30am to pee and never was able to go back to sleep. I wouldn't say that it was nerves or anything, and I may very well have slept a little bit more, but I just wasn't tired. I'd gone to bed early the previous two night and I slept super late on Saturday. So no problem. I got up a little earlier than my alarm, and got out the door. After getting stuck behind some Marines setting up cones on Rt. 1 for a minute, I got to Wegmans and parked before 5am. They were already open for runners and spectators, so I went upstairs to their lounge. I used the bathroom for the 5th time so far and enjoyed a relaxing morning with my water, peanut butter sandwich, and my iPhone.
A little after 6am, I went to start my warm up. My plan was to get in 4-5 miles around Central Park, get back to my car to change and then put in another 10 minutes or so around the starting line and Celebrate VA. I took a few too many bathroom breaks during the warm-up (at VA Runner and at WaWa, and then again at the VIP tent) that I only managed around 4 miles total. Greg saw me running around the parking lot and told me to get into the gate at the starting line. I saw a taller guy wearing an actual singlet, shorts, and compression socks. He was tall too, so for some reason I decided that meant he was fast. I didn't notice him on the line though.
I got into the starting line after some strides and there was a very small group of people who coincidentally all had on black t-shirts who seemed to be the "elite corral." Chris Keegan, 3rd place at J Brian's, talked to me a little bit and told me that he had rolled his ankle the day before. Bad timing for him. Brandon Dick and Chris Keohler moved up to join us while we waited for the wheelchair and hand cyclists to start. Someone smelled really bad on that line. I'm not trying to point the finger at anyone though, but I think the culprit may have spent 40 days and 40 nights without washing his VA Runner uniform...
Alison Sweeny
Anyway, our celebrity starter, Alison Sweeny, said go. Then we stood there for a few seconds waiting for the cannon to go off. With the exception of someone who decided that he wanted to run in the front for the first minute or two, I took the lead. His moment of glory was over before we reached Cracker Barrel, and that was the last time I saw any runners in the half-marathon. I refused to turn around, no matter what I felt like.
Cowan around 1.5 miles
The first mile was too fast. I felt like I was walking, but being in the front alone with the footsteps of close to 8,000 people behind me sort of made me go out a little too fast. I was taking tangents from the start, and it got me to the first mile ahead of the wheelchair participant in 5:16. So much for 5:40s. Down Cowan I did manage to slow down, and surprisingly no one joined me while I started to eat my 2nd GU of the day. I took water at Hugh Mercer after hitting the 2nd mile in 5:24. Better. I felt uncomfortable, but that was because of the pace. I tried to slow down more going into Westwood, and at the bottom of the neighborhood I could hear footsteps behind me, so I thought that people were grouping up with me. Going through the bottom, I wondered where the Walsh kids were that I'd seen the year before. 
Heading up the hill, a former student sat silently in a lawn chair looking the other direction. I guess that's what happens when you make the JV soccer team, you're too cool for school again. Then I saw his mom was working with a Marine to assist the hand-cyclist who had run into some mechanical troubles. I passed some more students and families before getting to the top and 3 miles at 5:26. I almost caught the trolley at the top of the hill and I could hear the people on the trolley yelling to the driver to speed up. Pretty funny, because I'd never come close to them again.
Alone past 5K
I turned down onto Rt. 3 and ran way too fast. I hit 5K in 16:58. Keagan later told me he was 17:30 at that point while running in 2nd place. I passed KC and her parents on Rt. 3 right where I expected them to be. I was excited to see them already, as were they to see me. At the top of William Street I saw Danny Huerta and some students wearing running club shirts! I asked their mom how far ahead I was and she just laughed. She was the first of many people to disregard my question. Not a lot of help! With the largely downhill mile, the excitement of seeing my wife, and just being an idiot, my 4th mile was a suicidal 5:01! I probably said some very mean things to myself when passing that marker.
To compensate, I almost walked down the hill from College Avenue to Sunken Road. I took my time on Sunken too. I saw Abel Shaw for the 2nd time and he was able to tell me that he couldn't see anyone behind me. I didn't exactly believe him, but it did help me to slow myself down some more so that I was 5:27 at the 5th mile.
Rounding onto Kenmore, I saw some FARC members cheering for me. I just stayed on the tangent and kept myself relaxed. Back onto William Street, I must have been pretty aggressive on the hill. That and when I turned onto Washington, there was a car coming! I could see in the driver's face how pissed off he was that he hadn't gotten through before the runners and was trying to beat the road closures. Too late buddy! My 6th mile was 5:21. I guess that was my cruising speed as I wasn't making a big effort to slow down anymore. 10K came and went in 33:10. So 16:58, 16:12. Oops. 
Half Way
As I headed towards the turn onto Pelham and the relay exchange, I could see the Tribal Quest tent. One of my students emerged in what looked like a grass skirt to stand in the street and hold out my 3rd GU. I could hear the announcer at the exchange telling the relay runners that once they saw the trolley, that the leaders should be right behind them. It was cool rounding that corner onto Fall Hill Avenue because all those people were running in the race too, cheering for me. I enjoyed that crowd of people. But now that I was half-way through, things started to get a little tougher. It was a lonely stretch of road going back towards William Street on Prince Edward. I saw Bob Lang sitting on his lawn watching. We may have made eye contact. Mrs. Bookshelf was out there too, and I saw the Morrises. Bruce was the loudest, but I did see and hear Blaire and Cleo out there too. I got to mile 7 in 5:25, feeling uncomfortable but not slowing down too much. A little kid was sitting on the sidewalk waving at me, so I waved back.
I was starting to feel it, and there were a lot of people standing around just looking at me, so I tried to get them into it. It got them going a little bit, but made me look like a fool when the picture showed up on's coverage of the event. I think there was a woman standing in the street as I turned left onto William, and I cut between her and the sidewalk so that I could take the tangent as much as possible. There were a lot of people on Princess Anne Street too, but only at the turn. I might as well have been running down the street on any other day of the year. The crowd got me going a little bit though, and I took a little bit of my GU, thinking there would be water soon. I was wrong, so I ended up with a chocolate mouth for a long time. Passing the 8th mile marker in a quick 5:17, I couldn't help but to remember that this was where the wheels fell off two years before. The 5:17 was comforting though, because I knew I was still accelerating. There were some cheerleaders at the end of Sophia Street. We almost collided.
Getting back onto Caroline Street, I knew that the race was going to be tough from here on out. This is where the tangents could really come into play and also where I could easily fall asleep on the pace. The water stop after the mill was on the right side of the road and I wasn't going over there. So they brought it to me and I was sure to thank them for it. I tried pushing it all the way to 9, where I saw Steve Swider, and was disappointed to only run a 5:24. Steve told me there was no one behind me after some Marines (or maybe they were police officers?) told me I was "#WINNING" ala @CharlieSheen. I wondered what year it was, but it was a fleeting thought.
I went under the bridge and through the 15K mark. This is when I knew that I was running fast, because up until that point I was just taking it one mile at a time. Back at the end of March, I ran the J Brian's 15K in 50:18. I blogged about it briefly in this post about Spring Break. Long story short, that race was a big confidence booster running under my PR pace for 9.3 miles alone. Honestly in the past 6 weeks I'd wondered if I were in better shape then than I was now and had wished the race had come and gone already. Finishing that race I looked at my watch and thought "I wonder if I'll run under 50 minutes." I didn't, but that was OK. I really had no idea what I was doing that day. In preparation for this race, I'd thought that maybe I'd go through the 15K in 51-52 minutes. I ran 49:49! I was flying! That put my 3rd 5K at 16:38, so right between #1 and #2. Good work!
I saw KC and her parents for the last time as I left Riverside Drive for Fall Hill Avenue. I was so excited with my pace that I couldn't help but to tell them! KC just told me to shut up and run, essentially. There were cones in the middle of Fall Hill, so that prevented me from executing my tangent strategy, but this was where I really started to hurt. It was probably the slowest stretch of road in the race yet. I passed Greg around the Firestone dealership and he yelled some sort of encouraging words. I couldn't do much more than to tell him I was faster than J Brian's! I did ultimately slow down though, as I got to 10 miles and the Verizon store in 5:30. Slowest mile so far. However, my 10 mile time was 53:35. In Philly I went through 10 in 53:55, which was a PR for 10 miles in the race where I ran my PR half. I didn't know this, of course, until I went home to look it up. Total time wasn't even on my mind unless it was at one of the kilometer checkpoints. I'm so Euro.
Hospital Hill
Then came the hills. I kept pushing up to the staircase and then the Hospital Hill humbled me. I wanted to run on the left but couldn't because of cones. I wanted to lay down and die but didn't because that would have been embarrassing. There was some support on the hill, but really very little. One person I knew down at the ER. Some cute little signs that were taped to the ground saying things like "What hill?" or "You can do it!" I don't know, I didn't pay too much attention to them. There were more cheerleaders just before the turn onto Care Way, including a student I knew. Mostly I saw Scott Mersiowsky, jumping off his motorcycle in his leather jacket right at the corner. It was almost like a scene from a movie-- totally badass. I thought he was there to rescue me or something, but no, he made me finish the race. I hit mile 11 in a whopping 6:05. Not too bad, considering how hard I was trying not to walk and give up. People don't give that hill enough credit. It's hard.

Back on Cowan I was hurting. I knew that I only had to do this for like 12 more minutes if I hurried. On a long run I put 50 meters on Pat and Justin by running the tangents, so I knew that I could make this race as short as possible. I didn't even have the energy to look at people cheering for me at the neighborhoods. I really tried to push up that last hill and got up it in just 5:48, but at the cost of my hamstrings. I felt them both pull a little bit as I headed downhill. The first water stop was now a mess of cups all over the road which I tried not to slip on. David pulled up beside me on a bike. Worried that I would get disqualified or face some sort of controversy like Tim did the first year with David Lovegrove, I told him to drop back behind me and stay away. He told me there was no one in sight.
Knowing I was going to win for that last mile was pretty sweet. My legs were hurting and I just wanted to look good for the finish, so I took my time. I hit 20K in 66:48, so an 18-minute 5K up the hills. Not too bad, considering I wasn't really falling apart but more slowing down by design. I was passing 5K participants and I could start to hear the announcer at the finish line once I passed the Grevens at Cracker Barrel.
Approaching the Finish Line
I'm not going to try to hide it; I was excited. I coasted in that last two kilometers and tried to make it look as easy as possible. My last mile was 5:36, but I didn't care and didn't look at it either. I crossed the line and broke the tape-- possibly the first tape I've ever broken, although sadly it didn't actually "break," they just let go of it and it fell around me. I ran through the chute, stopping my watch late, and have an official time of 71:33. The announcer was very excited to have me come in under my announced goal of 72 minutes, but really I was just happy to win.
It's Over!
The interviews started almost immediately, which was something I hadn't anticipated. I won't go into those anymore, as they're all included below. Once that stuff was all over, I went to go watch Anne finish in what I believe was a PR for her. Great job Anne, way to prove once again that you're probably a better runner than I am because you can just PR any time you want. I had to get to the awards ceremony by 9:30, so my cool down pretty much consisted of me running around the Wegmans parking lot a few times before it was time to go. I got there with plenty of time and stretched while chatting with Sue and Charlie.
The awards ceremony was cool. I went on the podium with Brandon Dick. We didn't quite pull of the Fredericksburg sweep we were looking for as last year's winner, Wyatt Boyd from Washington D.C. broke up the party. Otherwise, we did go 1, 3-5 thanks to Brandon, Nick Oltman (First Active Duty) and Chris Keegan. Wyatt didn't attend the ceremony, so Brandon and I were up there alone. Afterwards, my mom wanted a family photo on the podium, so we did that too.
Umi Sushi Bar
Post-Race celebrations included eating some very stale food in the VIP tent, some beers at the FARC tent, and then delicious sushi at Umi. I really need to talk to Sony about getting sponsored. So good. In the aftermath, I'm really happy. I ran faster than I would have guessed I could on that course with no competition and was 30 seconds ahead of my PR race at 10 miles. Were it not for those hills the last two miles, I probably would have run a PR. Oh well, I did what I came to do.

Post-Race Press and Media

1 comment:

  1. Awesome job on that was my first half ever but had been there the previous two years as a photographer


Thanks for commenting on my post. I will review your comment as soon as possible.

Race Photos