I am 9 miles into this, it’s very humid, and the sun is creasing the top of the homes I’ve been hiding behind. There are three people ahead of me, and two water stops left. This, however, is not what’s top of mind. “How am I still in the hunt for an overall podium spot in my second half marathon for time” I am thinking?Mid-race at Lighthouse Loop Half Marathon
I had a great sleep at Kaitlyn’s parent’s home. I drove to the finish line with Kathy Kelly, we parked right across the street from Aunt Catfish’s restaurant. They are a sponsor of the race and provide a generous breakfast spread for everyone at the finish. Kaitlyn’s dad, Patrick, is using the race as part of his long run. He will top out today at 26 miles, doing 7 before the race, then another 6 after when it’s REALLY warm outside! We meet him and walk over the Dunlawton Bridge. This is the last mile of the half marathon. It’s as high as our local Blue Heron Bridge, but with a longer approach.
The race start area is under the east side of the bridge. I made sure I drank the rest of the Pedialyte and I continued to drink water right up until the start. A restroom break and I’m ready to begin the run. It was still dark out at 7 am. I started near the front and ran the first 1/2 mile without checking pace. We quickly got on A1-A heading south, this was most of the route for the first half of the race. It was breezy in our face, there were no spectators, and it was 80 degrees. My first check on pace had me running in control and comfortable at 6:45. I have the Nike 4% shoes on, they were tight for width but didn’t feel odd or as if I was “springing” forward. I ran in a group of guys, probably in the top dozen. I saw the two lead police motorcycles ahead, their lights flashing and pulling our line of runners along. I passed under a large construction crane near the end of the first mile. It’s easy to see, so I tell myself, “I’ll be happy to see that again!”
The runners were in groups of two or three up front, then a string of guys running solo like me. I am coming up on a guy with a full back of tattoos, I ran next to him for a minute then passed him. I checked my watch, to see if I was surging too early or keeping pace? I saw that my pace was in the right range, this guy must have gone out faster than he thought because I passed him in the first 4-5 miles. We passed through the first two water stops ok, and now the sun was rising. The breeze from the SE was right in our faces. I tried flipping the visor around backwards, then decided it was more comfortable to carry it in my hands and switch hands often.
In these miles 5-6, I felt that the pace I was keeping was work, but sustainable. I was looking down the road, waiting for a sight of the lighthouse. We drove the course yesterday, so I know about where things are. I passed a few other lone runners, saying nothing. I used my Right Stuff water bottle in between stops to keep sipping the salty fluid. I also took water at almost every aid station – it was hot and I was losing fluids via sweat. I ate a Maurten gel at mile 4.
Once at the lighthouse park, we turned off the ocean and around to be running north. I think I was in 5th place, I ran a 6:37 mile between 6-7, it had a little curve to it, but I was happy to be out of the headwind. The road was straight, so I could see another runner ahead of me, two guys running together, and way up further, the leader and the motorcycles. I did get excited thinking that there probably wasn’t anyone in my age group ahead, possibly not even anyone over 40 in the Master’s division. I saw the leaders when I waited at the start line. There were a few young and lean guys milling around the start line, people I thought would be at 6 min pace and finish in 1:18-like times. Every half marathon has a few of those, right?
I ran as close to the course tangents as I could. I like concentrating on not giving the course any more steps than are required, especially when I’m running solo and without music. I can see far in a straight line dow the main road that runs the Intracoastal. I stay in the middle as the road is crowned, so my legs are even as they hit each stride. I am getting warmer, eating another Maurten Gel at mile 8.
I know I could do this pace to get to the bridge at mile 12, then I’ll be with the wind. If I can pass one person, I will be on the podium for top overall, that’s better than I had thought. I came closer to the two guys running together in 2nd and 3rd place. One started to fade back, so I ran up next to him and said, “Hey, I’m looking to get up there for a Master’s win.” He wished me good luck and away past him I went. His taller friend in the orange shorts was ahead still, but I caught him at 11 miles before the last water stop. At that aid station I took a cup of water to drink and a second one to pour over my head, which felt great. The short walk through the water station was a good reset.
I kept going, the neighborhood ahead had small bends in the road so I couldn’t see the race leader. I was in a good mindset believing I could be second overall as long as I kept those two guys behind me. I wondered if they were using this as a training race for something else, and if I’d see them whiz by in the last segment of the course. No time for that nonsense thinking, I had to breath correctly and keep going. My pace was higher, the course shifted away from smaller neighborhood streets to larger ones. I could see a drug store wall (CVS or Walgreens) ahead of me – that had to be Dunlawton Rd and the turn for the bridge and final mile. The whole race I noticed how quickly the miles came up – that’s what a fast pace delivers! I made it up there in noticeably warmer weather and took the left turn. The bridge was close, and the high school marching band at the base of the hill was playing. They must have just begun I thought, I am only the second runner they have seen!
I wanted to keep a good pace up the hill, knowing it would be slower than the pace I had been on all morning. I ran with the sun and the breeze behind me. I knew at least two guys were chasing me, but I didn’t look back. Once near the top of the hill, I felt queasy in my stomach and did a few heaves with no return or fluids coming up. That wasn’t enough though, the next series of “I’m out of breath and vomiting” delivered a mouthful of who knows what since I hadn’t eaten anything but two gels and liquids. I spit all of that out while still running. It intensified, so I stopped and did a few more of those with spit and whatever falling out onto the road. Once done, I knew I’d have to quicken the pace on the downhill to give anyone following me a big hint – I am too far away to catch. I made it to the bottom of the hill, my pace going down and recovering my breath was near 6:05.
There was a long straightaway leading over a small island, then again over water. Finally, the last left turn on the small street next to Aunt Catfish’s restaurant. That left only a 200m straight and a turn into the finish line, see photo below…
I was very happy to be done AND not to have been caught. I got a drink and sat in a shady spot near the finish. The two guys that I passed late in the race came to congratulate me. One said his friend was supposed to pace him to his goal time but he “didn’t have it today.” The other one said he saw me vomit at the top of the bridge and figured he’d be able to catch me slowing near the finish. He was about 40 seconds behind me at the end.
This race gave me encouragement on three fronts. First, it was a new PR, a second overall, and first in the Master’s category. That delivered a run shop gift card and a custom painted Pilsner glass for prizes.
Second, by setting a goal and having a race to train for all summer long, I did not become lazy and only attend beer runs or social things. I ran with a schedule and a purpose.
Third, the Hanson’s Marathon Method for half marathons was high miles and intense. I chose an advanced one. It had me training at faster intervals and paces than I was training at for Boston. These are the paces I’ll have to adopt for any plan looking to get me in under 3 hours for a spring marathon.
Back in June, I thought I’d be putting a faster time next to my name when I registered for a 1/2 marathon in Daytona for the end of October. I cannot begrudge what I experienced in this race. I was among the fastest runners on that course for this day. The training and my nutrition may have given me the strength to “gut out” a very humid and warm weather good run. I was thinking positively on the course even when things became rough. Overriding negative thoughts was a belief that I had become accountable to so many people about this event, they all knew I was in and what my aspirations were. I could not have this suck. I was sore and tender 1 and 2 days after the race. This race and training months were a good step towards further improvements and even faster results!