Monday, February 23, 2015

Don't call it a workout #LoveROX

I'd planned to run the Colonial Half Marathon at William & Mary yesterday, as the race is always very important to me. I wasn't able to participate the past two years due to injury, so I was excited about returning for the 2015 edition. It was not meant to be, however, as Williamsburg got just as much snow as Charlottesville, and race directors were forced to cancel the half-marathon portion of the event. Rick Platt offered the elite athletes entry into the 3-mile race, but it wasn't worth the drive, no matter how much I love Williamsburg.

I got word of the cancellation on Thursday just as I was about to go out for a run. Despite my complete understanding and support of the decision that they had to make, I was pissed. Any wrench thrown into training is upsetting. Luckily, Google was able to find a race for me to run in Richmond instead. After my run, I looked at their website, which had lots of red font saying that the race might be cancelled, and called the phone number looking for an entry. Michelle politely told me that they didn't offer comp entries to elite runners, but offered me a 25% discount off of the $95 entry fee. She told me to sleep on it and that's what I decided to do. Results showed the previous winner was in 1:17, and I felt like I could easily run 1:15 if I had a good day, and maybe bring home money to cover my entry fee. The prize structure was $250-$150-$100, so all I needed was a top-3 to break even and actually come out ahead. Later that night though, when I was talking to KC about it, I got an email from Adam Otstot saying that he was thinking about running it too. So I said to her, "Well, I guess I'll have to beat Adam for the first time in my life."

The next morning we woke up with frozen pipes and decided we'd be spending the weekend in Fredericksburg. With KC in a boot and me potentially leaving town to race, it would be helpful to have some support from her parents. Besides, we needed to do some stuff in town anyway. I signed up for the race and we packed our bags.

As this weekend was not about running a fast half-marathon, but preparing to run a fast full-marathon in April, I ran 14 miles on Saturday morning. Tim met me for the first 7, then I got in some community service hours working with the FARC war vets for the next 7 miles. All in all it was an easy run, and extremely cold. I took my first selfie and posted it on Twitter for the world to see the small amount of ice that accumulated in my beard during the run. The rest of the day was uneventful, save for a 3 hour trip to a variety of "doc-in-the-box" clinics to find out that Henry had a dual ear infection.

I woke up Sunday morning, still unsure about what the weather would bring in Richmond, after we'd gotten another inch or two of snow in Fredericksburg (and 6-7 inches in Charlottesville.) Getting out of the neighborhood was the most challenging part, and once I was on the interstate, it was just driving in the rain on an empty road. I stopped at my sister's to get my bib (she went to packet pickup for me the day before) and drove around in circles for 20 minutes trying to figure out where to park. Luckily I was ahead of schedule and had plenty of time. The sidewalks were covered in ice around the Richmond Coliseum and the Greater Richmond Convention Center, but the later was largely empty save for the runners wandering around it's cavernous hallways. I hid all of my stuff under the counter of an information booth and went out for my warm up.

It was very warm. I had planned to run the course (two six-mile loops), but realized I didn't even know where it went for the first mile and just went up Monument and back down Grace. I ran on the street for the most part, which was fine. I thought it was strange that all of the sidewalks in front of houses & businesses were shoveled, but not in front of the churches. Those sidewalks were all in pretty bad shape. As I got back towards the starting line area, I dipped into the Richmond Marriott to use the bathroom at 9:10, just as the 5K was starting 10 minutes late. I ran over to the starting area and asked some official-looking people if the half was going to start 10 minutes late as well. They said yes, so I kept running. My pre-race plan had me running a 6 mile warm up, changing my clothes and getting on the line just in time to start. This 10-minute delay was throwing me off schedule. But I didn't want to run much more. I got in another half-mile and then went in to change and decided to just take my time. I was breathing very comfortably and wanted to arrive on the starting line the same way, but hopefully still sweating. As I said, it was very warm, and I didn't feel chilly at all outside with my singlet and gloves on. I chatted with Adam as we did a few strides, and spoke with Mark Hopely while taking note of which runners had on white 10K bibs and which ones had on red half-marathon bibs. Then the gun went off.

Someone jumped out to a very quick start. Adam and I trailed behind with a group of people, and we went straight down a hill. I looked at my GPS watch (which I had disabled the auto-split feature of) for the first of two times as we were going down hill, and saw that I was running 5:10 pace. I backed off, and let Adam and another guy start to gap me. We did the finish of the Richmond Marathon/Half/8K and crossed over to Brown's Island. It was very sloppy over there and we had a lot of little snake turns. After we reached the mile in an authentic 5:12ish, I said out loud to Mark and the other guy wearing headphones that was with us that I was going to back off. Mark said something about it being a downhill mile, but I ignored him and allowed a gap to form. Things got sort of single-file there for a while anyway, as we ran across a footbridge, some cobblestone covered in snow, and a couple other treacherous spots. I could feel some tightness in my right hamstring and IT band right behind my knee, and started to get a little worried about the road conditions beyond that point. I took a turn a little bit too wide, missed the sidewalk, and ran completely into a pile of snow, soaking my feet. At this point, I was running behind 4 people who were all pretty far away from me. I passed the first water stop and the 2nd mile marker to see a 6:29 split on my watch. Good Lord, was I really running that slowly? I guess that's what happens when you're tired and you mentally let them run away from you immediately into the race. I decided I needed to catch back up to Mark so I picked it up. The next mile was largely uphill, but I caught him pretty quickly. I knew he had his GPS on (it beeped when we went through the first mile), so I asked him what he ran for the 2nd mile. He said something in the 5:30 range, I forget, but I knew that I wasn't a full minute behind him at that point. That was when I started to lose confidence in the mile markers. Kyle Pawlaczyk was on the side of the road cheering, and it was nice to see him.

I started gaining on Adam too, but it wasn't consistent. I went through the third split in 5:13, which seemed absurd, but I figured it was making up some of the 2nd mile being off. We kept working up hill and then had a little bit of a downhill before we jumped onto the big bridge at Lee Street to cross over the James River. I could tell that I was getting closer, but then all of the sudden, the gap would seem bigger. The two guys in front of him were so far gone. I knew that the first one was a 10K guy, but wasn't sure about #2. I could see them both as this was a very long bridge. There were 4 lanes of traffic in each direction, and they had the far right lane coned off for us to run in. I watched Adam from behind as he approached a huge puddle that went across all 4 lanes. Adam went to the sidewalk to avoid the puddle, but had to jump up into a giant pile of snow, only to discover that the snow was several feet deep at that point and then jump back down onto the road. Poor guy, because then he had to go through the puddle. I tried to learn from his mistake and just went through it right away. My feet were already wet anyway. But now, after the puddle my butt and back were soaked too. I kept getting closer and closer on the bridge, which was a lot more of an uphill than I remembered from running it with Anne in November 2013. On the other side, we went through a water stop and I saw a mile marker and took a split. 7:33. Nonsense.

As we got closer to Broad Street, I was getting ready to catch Adam. So the question was do I stick with him for a while and run together, or do I go for it now and try to hold him off at the end? As I looked at my GPS pace for the 2nd and last time, I saw that I was running 5:00 pace, so opted for the later. As I went by him, I asked if the guy in front of us was in the 10K, and said something about the mile markers being off. I clipped off another split, this time a 3:21, and slowly started to realize that maybe the last one that I got was a marker for the 2nd loop. (Sure enough, it was the 11th mile marker.)

Heading back towards the start/finish line, I worried that I was being too aggressive too early. But I didn't really know what was going on as my splits were so erratic that they could not be trusted. My next split, which came around the end of the loop, was a 5:34. I tried to believe it and was kind of happy that I wasn't running 5:15 pace, and decided to embrace it. I saw Jason Driscoll cheering for me, and acquired my own bike escort and several police cars to lead me back through the city. I missed the 7th mile marker (I saw it on the cool down) and just leaned into the hill. I wanted to put a gap on Adam if I could, so that he'd have to work at the end to catch me, unless I was walking, which is what I expected. I looked back for the first time when I got back over to Brown's Island, and saw that he was still coming down the hill, as was Mark. That gave me some confidence to relax while I was going through the cobblestones, without having to worry about him passing me then. Then it was back to work on the uphills, taking meaningless splits and running scared. Kyle was gone (disappointment), but I passed the first lapped runners about 8 miles in. I just kept telling myself that it was a marathon and that I was at miles 21, 22, as I continued. Work on that mental game. After those two runners (walkers), the crowds started to get thicker. Getting onto the bridge, there were a LOT of people.

Our one lane had turned into two lanes because of the puddle (I suppose), but as we approached the water, there was a police officer standing there shutting down the third lane so that runners could cross in the shallowest point. Wimps. Just run through the water! This was causing a huge bottle neck of traffic, and my one remaining police escort (a gator with 6 cops on it) got caught up behind some cars as I ran on the edge of the cones, just slightly in the car lane. Without the escort, some of the intersection police officers would yell at me, not knowing that I was leading the race, telling me to get inside of the cones. But I couldn't do that, as there was a sea of runners wearing pink and black who were taking up the entire lane.

My legs started to really feel it after going up the bridge, but I knew from the first loop that the last 2 miles were largely downhill. I saw that 11th mile marker again, this time correctly splitting between signs. But I'd stopped looking at my watch long ago, because I knew that the times were meaningless. I was just running as hard as I could on feel, no data. The rest of the race was just a blur, literally, as cars were spitting up water in my face from the street and I was just chasing the people who I was lapping and who were still finishing the 10K. Jason was back at mile 12.5 or about, cheering me on, and the gator reappeared to lead me in. As I rounded the second to last turn, I saw a guy with a microphone start running towards the finish line, assuming that he was going to announce that the winner was coming in. That did not happen, as I ran by him and to the line unannounced. The clock did not have the total time on display. I took my split and looked at it as I waited for Adam to finish. 1:11:44. I think I was too overwhelmed by the fact that I a) won and b) beat Adam to recognize how fast I had run. He came in two minutes later and we went for a slow cool down. I finished up the day with a little over 21 miles, and just a hair under 90 for the week.

This is the 4th fastest half-marathon I've ever run. My PR is a little under a minute faster from Crawlin' Crab in the fall. I've also run 70:51 in Philadelphia, and I ran 71:33 at the Historic Half the year I won that. So three of my four fastest times have been huge victories run largely alone. Although its not fair to say that this was done alone since I had other runners around me for the last 5k. They were very helpful, and there is no denying that. I feel pretty good today. Mostly just normal soreness. The front of my right foot, under my big toe, is tender, and I think that I'll need to get a new pair of racing flats in the next couple weeks. My current Adizero Adios have been through a lot since September 2011, they've earned their retirement. Adam and I waited around at the post-race party/awards ceremony for a very long time, eating soup and bagels. They had the 10K results scrolling on a computer screen and did those awards pretty quickly, but we had to wait forever for the rest of the ceremony. Adam got tired of waiting and went to talk to them, but they weren't even able to confirm to him that he'd been second place! He left frustrated, and I continued to wait while they did the 5K results. Finally around 1pm (I finished before 11am), I heard some people talking about getting results from the directors and went to talk to them. Michelle (from the phone) was very nice and was talking with the top-3 women as well and made a phone call to confirm our places. So I got to walk out of there with a check. I learned this morning that my time was officially 1:11:43.8, and I was 2 minutes ahead of Adam in 1:13:44.5. I don't trust the results after that, as there was a woman in 3rd place and Mark Hopely was not in the results. Maybe he did drop out. But they also had the 10K guy running under 30 minutes yesterday, and today his time is not even close to that fast. They also have the winner of the 5K and the 10K as the same person. Maybe that is true. If so, he got a nice $500 payday out of it. Regardless, results are certainly suspect. How I don't have any splits and was not ranked first at the finish line is beyond me...

Love ROX Results at (Update 3/20/2023: The original link to these results which showed some level of splits no longer works, causing this blog post to get flagged for spreading Malware or Malicious Content. So I have updated the link, but the splits are gone.)

Anyway, it was a good day. I'm really happy with the time and to get the win. I was expecting to run 75 minutes. Hell, I was doubtful that I could do that unless the day was perfect. I remember thinking, can I run under 2:32 pace? Instead, I ran 2:23 pace! The weather was completely ideal, as I was even warm on the bridge with the sun bearing down. Once I left, I drove back to Fredericksburg and KC and I went to shovel the driveway at our house and her dad's office. We got back to Charlottesville around 6pm and I was happy to sleep in my bed and run an easy 8 miles this morning with Alec and Rachel.

Two months to go...

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