I had been looking forward to this race for numerous months, which left me both anxious and excited in the weeks leading up to it. This would be my first stand-alone half marathon, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect both physically and mentally. Although I’ve ran three half-marathons off the bike in long-distance triathlons, in addition to countless training runs totaling 13+ miles, I was unfamiliar with the pain of running for 75-80 minutes at a pace slightly below aerobic threshold.
I did lose a bit of fitness in the month leading up to the race, as I spent two weeks in Toronto, Canada where it was simply too cold/inconvenient for me to train adequately. Although this was frustrating at the time, it did take a little pressure off in the days leading up to the race. I simply told myself to do the best I could with the fitness that I had left. On the Monday before the event, I did a session of 5 x 2000m at 6:00/mile (with a 400m recovery jog) which gave me an idea of the effort to shoot for.
As soon as the gun went off, I knew I’d have a solid level of competition to pace myself against. The elites immediately took off up the road, and I found myself settling in with a group that seemed to be running just a tad faster than 6:00/mile. I planned on running the opening 5km in approximately 18:00 to 18:30 (5:50/mile to 6:00/mile) and then reevaluating my pace. We hit a slight hill leading into the first mile marker, going through it in precisely 6 minutes. I was still feeling quite fresh, so I increased the effort very slightly. Eventually I started to pull away from the group, logging the second mile in 5:50. Once again we hit another light hill, but the massive crowd support kept me motivated to maintain the effort. I kept up the same pace in the mile three, running through the 5km mark in 18:10: right where I wanted to be!
I did the best I could to evaluate my effort so I could determine whether or not to adjust my pace. Although I felt I was running at a pace that I could likely hold for 75-80 minutes, I did not have the confidence or race history to know for sure. Nonetheless, I slowed down slightly and ran through mile four in 6 minutes. By this point I was running completely on my own, which I found to be very mentally tough! Fortunately, there was a phenomenal presence produced by the volunteers and the Carlsbad locals. My pace again slowed slightly, as I ran through miles five and six in 6:10. This had me going through the 10km mark in 37 minutes (6:00/mile average).
It didn’t take long to hit the turnaround point, and I began to retrace the route back to where I started. The course was an out-and-back along the coastal streets of Carlsbad, which made for a scenic event with a couple of rolling hills. I distinctly remember finding miles 7-10 to be the most mentally challenging: I was far enough into the event to be significantly fatigued, but not far enough for an adrenaline rush to push me through to the finish. The next couple of miles were ran just slightly slower than the opening 10K, as I strolled through the 10-mile mark in precisely 1 hour and 1 minute (6:06/mile average). It was around this time that the sun began to come out, and so I found myself dumping water over my head at every aid station to keep cool.
As I began to click off the last three miles, I found it more and more motivating to push through to the finish. However, my body was racking up more fatigue than I thought I could handle, and thus I found myself praying that I could hold on. I remember passing one of the leading females between miles 11 and 12, which took away a bit of the desolation I was feeling for the latter-half of the race. As I hit the final mile marker, I began to hear the music and see the setup of the race venue, which gave me all the energy I needed to get through to the finish. I ran the final 5km in 19:40 (6:20/mile), which was certainly my slowest segment of the event.
Overall time – 1:20:40 (6:09/mile)
Place – 27th / 6679 overall, 5th / 96 in Men 18-24
Link to results: https://www.runraceresults.com/Secure/RaceResults.cfm?ID=RCFY2015
I was pretty satisfied with this performance! For my first go at this distance, I cannot be upset with the time I produced. I certainly ran positive splits throughout the entirety of the event, though I’m not sure that is the optimal strategy for an event of this length. Thus, I’m eager to get some of my fitness back and give the half marathon another go! One of coolest parts of the event was my relatively constant blood-glucose: I was sitting at 135 mg/dL just before the start of the event, and I tested in at 118 mg/dL via the medical tent at the finish line. It’s difficult to express how much this means to me, as I’ve spent so many years trying to optimize race performances without diabetes complications interfering, and blood-glucose spikes are perhaps the most prevalent inhibitors I’ve had as an athlete.
Up next is a local 10K in a few weeks to see if I can set a PR! Meanwhile, I’m hoping to do a lot of building on the bike, as well as developing more strength in the pool.