I don’t normally dream about racing, especially the night before a race. Typically, it’s very difficult for me to fall asleep and the night before the AFC Half Marathon was no exception. After getting all my stuff ready (translation: after procrastinating packing for the race), I finally lay down to sleep at 9:00 PM (though I wanted to be in bed by 7 PM). I seriously can’t remember if I slept at all. I slept so lightly that I felt like I stayed up all night.
I had set my alarm for 2:30 AM on race day (August 15, 2010) to give me time to prepare my breakfast and be on the road by 3:30 AM. I left the house on time to arrive at the home of my buddy, Eric, by 4:10 AM. He was driving us to the race parking lot. Eric and I had targeted this race to shoot for a 1:35 half marathon time. We were ready. We had a pacing plan. We each had a role: Eric was in charge of driving, overall time tracking, and mental fortitude. My main role was ensuring that we kept to our set pace plan for each mile.
Pre-race: Immediately after parking the car, I had to take my first bathroom pit stop, what would be a total of five before the race. For some reason, racing takes away my normal constipation tendencies. While I appreciate the extra “movements,” I’ve been finding that the timing of these bathroom trips right before races to be inconvenient. Fortunately, I brought my own toilet paper. I timed breakfast perfectly, 3 hours before the race start of 7:00 AM. I just had an energy bar and pre-race Infinit drink mix to consume. Eric and I made our way to the front of the crowds near the start line for the national anthem and official start.
First 10K: We ran the first mile at a comfortable 7:44 pace as a warm-up. It seemed easy especially since the first four miles of the race were downhill from Cabrillo Monument in Pt. Loma to downtown San Diego. I felt good and we both kept pace. At mile4+ we were about 10 seconds ahead of schedule overall. When we completed mile 5, Eric announced that he had a blister on his foot, was not feeling well, and could not sustain the pace. Immediately, I felt deflated. I guess I was depending on Eric to help me get through the race mentally. I didn’t expect that he would be “in trouble” so early in the race. I still felt good. My legs felt good. But I felt bad for Eric, and I toyed with the idea of just hanging back with him for the rest of the race. When he told me to “go ahead if you can,” I took off.
I decided to adjust my race goals and shoot for a “just under” 1:40 race time. Though my 10K split was not my fastest 10K ever, the split of 45:12 was still close to a minute within my 10K PR.
Second 10K: After crossing the 10K platform, we headed right towards Harbor Island, for me, the most boring and mind-numbing part of the race. I took my first drink at the next aid station right before mile 7. I need to improve my aid station skills because I dropped the first cup. I also need to practice drinking while running because it always makes me choke even though I don’t drink a whole lot of water when I pass through.
As I choking on my sip of water, I slowed down a little to recover. Eric was able to catch up with me. Finally as we made it around to mile 8, I felt better about the race course as I knew we would be leaving that lame Harbor Island loop and making our way to the heart of downtown. Feeling good I pressed forward harder and dropped Eric. I would not see him again until the end of the race. I was totally on my own.
By mile 11 I was feeling okay, much better than I felt in the previous year’s race at the same milestone. At mile 11 the race course starts its toughest portion, a slight uphill for about 1.5 miles, followed by a steep hill during the last part of mile 12 through 13. At this point, I was torn between pressing hard uphill and running conservatively, saving some energy for a last ditch sprint inside Balboa Park where the race would finish.
The Finish: My time goal of 1:39:59 was within reach, but I knew it would be close. Unfortunately, I chose the conservative route. And it cost me a sub-1:40 time by 17 seconds. I’m pretty sure I went up that last hill faster than I had in the previous year, but my last ditch sprint when inside Balboa Park was too little too late, and so the Berlin Wall still stands. I continued sprinting into the finish chute, and completed the race with a time of 1:140:16.
Honestly, I was pleased with my results, but mildly annoyed that my time was still over the goal. What pleased me about the results was that I got close to my half marathon PR on a difficult course. I obtained my PR at this distance this past February on a super flat course at the Surf City Half Marathon.
Eric came in almost a full-minute after me with a time of 1:41:15, a new PR for him.
With the 2010 calendar year more than half over, I’m recommitting myself to training harder and racing all out at the end of races. I’ll start with declaring my top race goals for 2010:
- Run a sub-20 minute 5K at Shelter Island 5K (November 7).
- Run a sub-1:40 half marathon at the Silver Strand Half Marathon (November 14).
- Qualify for the Boston Marathon at the Tuscon Marathon (December 12).