Monday, May 19, 2014

RACE REPORT: Cheshire Half Marathon

April 27th, 2014

As I sit here in my bedroom, I'm excited to think that the following race report is only a late spring test.  The tri season has not even begun in the Northeast yet.  I am one excited athlete!  ...with lots of grueling work ahead of me.

I was one of few athletes on my Valor Triathlon Project team who got a complete rest day on Saturday before the race.  Muahahahahaha!!  I admit that it was odd having a complete day off, especially a Saturday, but if you haven't read about how I spent my Saturday morning at a free dental clinic, you might want to check that out HERE.  It wasn't exactly the picture perfect rest day.  haha


The night before the race, I got the race plan from my coach.  She likes to keep things very simple.  My goal was this...

Just run.

Prophetic words consider this is a ROAD RACE.  I later found out that she then turned to her husband and said...

Kurt is going to wig out.  I took away his HR.

I swear she's sadistic!  Haha.  But to be honest, as much as I didn't want to admit it, I had already strongly considered doing this race sans data.  As we agreed, this is my last road race test and we both like the idea of data as a secondary measure.  I love the idea of racing by feel.  I've just run into trouble with it in the past.  So now that I've had a couple very successful races WITH HR, we'll try taking it away to see what happens. 

On race morning, I woke up at 7am and was bouncing with energy.  I had my typical breakfast; 4 eggs over easy, a banana with pb, and 2 pieces of toast.  I took down the address for the race start, packed my bags, and was out the door by 8am.  There was a bit of traffic right before the school (parking REALLY is limited at this race), but I arrived and parked by 8:35am, having woofed down a Picky Bar as I was waiting in traffic.  I walked over to the expo area which was half mud and picked up my packet and race shirt; yet another shirt to add to the pile.  I got back to my car about 9:10a and quickly got changed.  The weather was in the 40s and cloudy.

I took a Clif Razz gel and headed back over towards the start.  I stopped for a 2nd trip to the bathroom per my ritual (you don't want to carry that extra weight with you during the race) and then started my warm up.  The roads were still packed with cars, so I ran around in the parking lot.  I got maybe 5-7 minutes in with a few 20s striders and felt ready.  My HR was definitely up, I felt warm, and loose.  I was ready.  I got in line a few people behind the front and waited.

AAAAAaaaaannd GO!


As soon as the gun, bell, announcer...  whatever it was, went off, I took off.  I started 3-4 deep and apparently that was a mistake.  I spent the first tenth of a mile making my way around people before I settled into a pace.  I did my best to keep it calm, to stay relaxed, not to push myself just yet, but if I had to guess, I would have said that I was going a BIIIIIIIIT faster than normal.

Photo thanks to Kristen out on course!

Somewhere early on in Mile 1, we passed a band playing a type of classical jazz out in their front yard.  I laughed and turned to the other guys around me.  "Oh great!  Elevator music."  No one said anything.  Apparently it was not time for jokes.

As we approached the Mile 1 marker, the timer confirmed my feeling about the pace. 

Mile 1 - 5:53

This was the first and only time I looked down at my watch in an attempt to catch the autolap; I had silenced the notices.  "Yup, I just ran a 5:53.  I'm going to pay for that later" I thought to myself. 

Remember that I have no data to go by.  I am running by feel.  I did feel like I was pushing a bit more than at the Savin Rock Half Marathon, but I was still comfortable.  I did my best to ease up a bit and relax.

Just past mile 2, the lead female caught up to me.  I recognized her from the Colchester Half Marathon.  We were near each other later on in that race though, so while I was definitely running faster today, she was also running much better.  I turned and asked her "You ran Colchester, didn't you?"  She gave a quick laugh and said she had.  "I recognize the purple.  Nice job!"  She kept on running and I never caught her again.  SPEEDY!!

Before the mile 3 marker, we turned onto the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail.  This is one of the rails to trails, so it is very flat and easy to keep clear of traffic.  Even at this time of day, there were only a handful of other people out on bikes or walking.  Not 400m into the trail, I passed the mile 3 marker and they called out my time.

Mile 3 - 18:30

"Ok...  So that means...  18...  3...  That's 6 minutes plus 30 seconds...  That's 6:10 pace."  I was slowing down a bit, but not much and I did feel like I was running more comfortably than at the mile 1 marker.  So I made a mental note of the effort and kept on going.  I wasn't sure if I'd be able to kick it up at mile 8 or 10, but if I was simply able to hold this pace, I'd PR easily.

Before the start of the race, I told myself "Have fun today Kurt."  As I approached the first cross roads on the trail (mile 3.8), they had The Anthem by Good Charlotte playing on the stereo.  I let myself get a little carried away and played some air guitar while I ran through; my HR spiked for sure!  Haha.  I recovered quickly and laughed at myself. 

As we passed the mile 4 marker, I pulled out my Clif Strawberry gel and started picking away at it.  I went with caffeinated gels this time around to see if it would make a difference.  While my performance may show a difference, I didn't feel any different.

We went past another cross roads with PLENTY of people there to cheer us on and then we hit mile 5 where they were calling out our times again.

Mile 5 - 30:55

"Ok, so 30...  That's 6 minutes plus, say a minute...  4 would be 15, 6 would be 10, so let's say 13.  I'm at 6:13 average pace."  I was still able to do mental math; I hadn't acquired a Running Induced Disability (R.I.D.) yet, so I knew I wasn't at a KILLER intensity.  More on R.I.D.s here

At this point, I was trying to remember the course map.

I know we go south on the trail for a ways and then loop back around, catch back up on the trail for a mile or two and then head back to the high school.  But how far is the first trail section.  I had been on the trail for 2 miles and thought maybe one more.  Then we passed mile 6.  Well, maybe it was 2 more instead.  This was, of course, the intensity talking.  I was pushing harder than usual, trying to stay relaxed, but the groove I had sat into was starting to take a toll.

Thankfully, this course was PACKED with spectators.  They had 10-20 people at every cross roads of the trail, music blaring there and at every aid station, there were a couple bands or sound systems set up at random places along the course.  While I was certainly running at a new level - well beyond PR pace - the course support was greatly welcomed and helpful.

And somewhere in mile 6, there was a family with a little girl - maybe 3 or 4 - standing on the left side of the path jumping up and down and cheering.  She was so cute, I made my way to the left side of the path and stuck my hand out.  She paused and backed away.  As I went by her mom told her "Put your hand out.  It's a high five!"  She wasn't having it.  DENIED!!  Haha  I laughed and kept on running.  No power up for me.  

Mile 7 came up just before we turned off of the trail.

Mile 7 - 45:18

"45...  Ok...  6 minutes would be 42.  Two minutes is 120...  plus 20 is 140.  I'm at 6:20 pace."  At this point, I was still relatively relaxed.  I still had no plans to kick it up at mile 8, but at a 6:20 pace, I was blowing my previous PR out of the water!

As we turned off the trail, we hit a number of small rollers.  I do love rollers because they change up your stride, cadence, effort, etc.  I hate straight aways.  But on the other side, I hate hills this late in the game.  Haha.  It did, however, help a right side stitch that I had been dealing with since maybe mile 2 or 3. 

As we hit a couple hills, I was passed by 4 or 5 people.  I kept to my intensity and let them do their thing.  I caught back up to a couple on the downhills, but they would get ahead on the uphills.

Around Mile 8, we could watch the mid-pack runners on the trail.  It was cool watching the sea of runners in a rainbow of bright colors head past in the opposite direction, albeit chasing us.  It was a nice distraction as I tried to maintain my pace.  I pulled out my 2nd gel and started picking at it, but to be honest, I didn't feel my stomach could take much of it. 

Mile 9 - 57:30

"57...  That's 6 minutes.  30 is 10...  I'm at 6:10??  No!  57.... 6... Oh, wait.  That's 54.  ...right?  36, 45, 54, 63...  Yup, 54.  So that's 3 minutes...  180 plus 30... 210.  So 20+  Let's say 6:22 pace."  This was the first math indication that I was starting to get down on mental faculties, which accounts for why I don't remember much of the subsequent miles.

I could feel myself slowing a bit at times.  I pushed on, slowed up down some small hills, sped up down the other side.  And I spent some time (who knows how long) calculating what I expected the 10 mile split to be.

Mile 10 - 1:04:30

I cringed.  I knew it felt slow, but I had hoped it wasn't THAT slow.  Keep on running!

The next mile felt a little faster.  There weren't as many hills this time and some random person yelled out "Go Newington!"  I used to race in a Newington Bike kit, but I was in my Moxie Multisport kit.  Whoever it was knew me, but I didn't know them.  Thanks random not-so-much-a-stranger!!

This time I tried to cushion myself for the blow.  "If that was 7 minutes again, it'll be 1:11:30."

Mile 11 - 1:11:17

I was secretly hoping for a sub-1:11, but I'll still take a sub-7 mile.

This was the entrance back onto the trail.  It was bitter sweet.  We avoided hills, but it became monotonous again; even despite being less than a mile long stretch.  Haha  You know I'm running down when I get frustrated with a flat course over a quarter mile stretch!

I had taken out my 2nd gel around mile 8/9, but had only taken a couple small "bites."  It was sitting just fine, but my stomach wasn't feeling up to par and I felt fine as is.  So as I turned back off the trail, they had a garbage bag for the spectators.  I tossed the almost full gel into it and kept running.

As we came up to the mile 12 marker, I started to feel GREAT and I stuck to my intensity, kicking up the pace as we leveled out over a hill.  I passed a couple of the people that had passed me before and then mentally checked myself before we hit mile 12.  "I'm going to red line this last mile.  I feel good, I held back my surge because of the higher intensity.  I can suffer for a mile."

Mile 12 - 1:18:05

"Alright!  Still sub-7 and I'm feeling GOOD!  Let's go!!"

I took off leaving another person behind me and fading.  I felt GREAT.  My legs were feeling the push, but felt good to be stretched a little longer.  That only lasted about a quarter mile though.  The legs may have felt relatively good after that still, but my cardiovascular system finally caught up and I was choking down air in the final stretch.

We went back past the start line area and turned into the school.  We ran along the fence, did a 180 and ran onto the track.  We did about 300m on the track to the finish line on the other side.  I was red lining and I knew it, but I could hold it for 300m more.  I rounded the track and saw the numbers ticking away.  I was going to be just over 1:25.  I took off the headband, tried to put on a smile (which is always just a less negative looking grimace), and enjoyed the moment knowing I had PR'd.

That's my "racing smile."


When I got home, I pulled up the race data and immediately looked it over.  I am able to run without data when I know I should, but it doesn't mean I can't spend hours looking at it later!

Mile 01    5:53/mile    171 bpm
Mile 02    6:07/mile    177 bpm
Mile 03    6:11/mile    176 bpm
Mile 04    6:15/mile    176 bpm
Mile 05    6:22/mile    176 bpm
Mile 06    6:26/mile    175 bpm
Mile 07    6:29/mile    175 bpm
Mile 08    6:43/mile    175 bpm
Mile 09    6:50/mile    175 bpm
Mile 10    6:59/mile    174 bpm
Mile 11    6:37/mile    174 bpm
Mile 12    6:46/mile    176 bpm
Mile 13    6:14/mile    180 bpm

FINISH = 1:25:06
6:30 / mile
176 bpm 

Some things jumped out at me...
  1. I took that race out FAST.  There was no way I was going to negative split that one.  But on the bright side, the faster start may have helped lock me into the higher intensity.
  2. My average HR was 4 bpm higher than the  Savin Rock Half Marathon.  I'm getting a much better idea of what I can run and where my ceiling is.
  3. Speaking of HR, look at the HR averages.  Miles 2 through 12 were only off by 3 bpm.  Talk about consistency!!  I find a groove and I sit in it.  
  4. Not only did I PR, but I ran 13+ miles ALL sub-7.  Not that this matters, but I enjoyed that fact. 
  5. Finally, this race was run without data.  Despite having felt better negatively splitting the Savin Rock Half Marathon, this was a better time by over 3 minutes!  My body knows how to race as long as I let it. 

1.  Do you run with hard set data?  Can you go without?
I haven't had pace on my watch all year.  I go by HR though I've gotten good about knowing it by feel for the run.  My bike is iffy as we'll probably see soon.  

2.  Have you ever had an in race slip up (ex: my first mile going WAY too fast for my predictions) end up being a good change?

3.  Do you ever feel like no matter how hard you try, you just can never actually get a good running race photo?
My "race smile" is always a grimace!  I should just accept it.


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