Saturday, March 29, 2008

Race Report: Sam Costa Half Marathon

ORN: 13.1 miles, Run, 1:58:27, 9:03/mile

Race Summary

A perfect day for running led to as satisfying a race as I have had in two years. A negative split, running at, but not over, the edge in a race that just “flowed” made for a terrific event.

Race Details

The race was part of a marvelous day. Gretchen went with me on this trip and we spent the entire day in Indianapolis. Out the door at 7, having marvelous conversation watching the sun slowly appear above the flat eastern horizon, we got to the start in plenty of time. The race attracted about 500 runners in both a half and an (unusual) quarter-marathon, so bib pick-up was a very simple issue. No timing chips, no goodie bag, just a simple long run.

I’d been watching the weather in Indy and the forecast was acurate. The day was sunny and cool, with temperatures in the mid 30s by the start of the race and it barely made 40 by the time we finished. After registration, I settled on which set of shirts I’d wear, Gretchen chuckling at my angst over such issues; I had already decided though to wear shorts (being part of a distinct minority with bare legs).

In mid-December, I wrote up Analyzing the Rocket City Marathon, the result of which was a new goal for races: “Run the Best Race Conditions Allow.” Today was my first application of that goal. What would these race conditions allow? The weather was near perfect; only a 15mph East wind marred the sunny, cool temperatures supporting a great race. I was fresh, uninjured. The pack was small, allowing a good rhythm. The course was quite flat and I knew it, this being the third time I’ve run it in four years. So, putting this all together, I decided it was quite reasonable my “best race” today would be a sub 2 hour run. I haven’t been under 2 since June, 2006 and was anxious to see if I could do it again. So, I made three decisions.

First, I chose to run rather than use the Run/Walk. Second, I opted to not wear my heavy Brooks Beast motion-control shoes and wore instead a pair of Brooks Adrenalines with only 60 miles on them. Even though they don’t control pronation like the Beast, I figured one race would not trigger a permanent problem. Third, I used the Virtual Trainer tool on my Garmin to keep me on pace and mentally prepared to hold back through the first 5+ miles in order to hold the pace steady at the end.

Goodness, after all that navel-gazing, it was great to finally start the race. (You were wondering if I was ever going to get to the actual race description…)

The course is a giant figure 8. The top loop is “Once Around the Gravel Pit,” a large excavation operation suppling much of Indianapolis. I took off easy and the first five miles clicked by in 9:10, 9:02, 9:19, 9:08 and 9:10. I felt very smooth and enjoyed the run. Even though the Brooks Adrenalines are a training shoe, they felt like racing flats compared to the clunky Beast. I felt light-footed.

Around mile 6, I fell in with a couple of ladies running near my pace but ever-so-slightly faster. I still felt good and pushed pace slightly; as a result, miles 6-9 came through at 9:04, 8:55, 9:16 and 8:50. The 15 mph wind was at our backs for miles 6-8 and it was a help. I still felt good and was feeling more and more confident a sub-2 was a possibility.

The second loop is “Parade of Beautiful Homes” as we then wound through the upscale, gracious, brick-faced homes of the Indianapolis suburb of Carmel. (Indiana note: We pronounce the town “CAR-mel,” as in corn, not like the trendy city just north of San Francisco of “car-MEL.” This is Indiana, of course). During this section, the miles really started clicking off, as I fell into a groove and just held the pace. Miles 10-12 popped in at 9:05, 8:53 and 9:04.

When I passed the 12 mile marker, I tried to push the pace up just a bit. I picked out a few runners ahead of me and gradually gained on them. With 0.4 to go, we turned up a hill, the east wind now directly in our face. I pushed it anyway, passed several folks, came around a corner to see the finish line and was thrilled to still see a “1” on the official race clock. Gretchen, my nephew and his two kids were there cheering and I motored across the line. The last 1.1 mile went at 9:28, an 8:37 pace, my watch said 1:58:27. The sub 2 was in the bank.

Subsequent analysis was encouraging. The overall pace was 9:03. While it is hard to be specific about negative splits without a measured midway point in a half marathon, I did figure this. The first 6 miles took me 54:51, or 9:09/mile. The next six miles took me 54:07, or 9:02/mile. The last 1.1 was at an 8:37 pace, so I’ll call it a negative split. I’ve never run a negative split before; I now know the appeal…what a rush. Not a single person passed me in the last 5 miles. My slowest mile was 9:19 and that included a quick trip to the porta-potty in mile 3. My quickest mile was #13 at 8:44.

Subjectively, I hit the elusive “sweet spot” of running in this race. I truly don’t think I could have run this race much faster. The entire effort was out there on the course; no regrets at all. I held the pace as hard as I felt I could for the entire distance. It felt under control…I was pushing it but not over the top. Scrapping the run/walk on race day worked just fine. The shoe change worked and I think had a role. While I felt my feet hurting a bit around mile 11, there seemed to be no damage afterwards. I have no idea when or if I’ll next find such a perfect combination of weather, course and preparation…so I’m glad I took advantage of it today.

I got a hot shower at my nephew’s house, four blocks from the finish line; it was also a treat to see his two sons, John and TJ, above. Gretchen and I then had a 2 hour lunch with old friends, did some shopping and had a marvelous day together in the city; she’s a gem.

Does it get much better? No, it doesn’t. Thanks for savoring a wonderful day with me.

Persevere. No matter what the day holds.


IronWaddler said...

Wow and woohoo!!!!! It was the perfect race. The best part is when you said you left everything out there on the course. That rocks. Sound like you had a super Saturday also,

Great kickoff to your 2008 season!

Wes said...

Congrats on a great effort. You are bit larger than I am, but I loved to race in my Adrenalines. They are a fine shoe. Definitely more of a stability shoe than motion control.

I like the idea of using the Garmin to pace yourself. Again, great job on the race Joe! That's the kind of result that lasts in our memories for a long time...

Charlie Byrne said...

Hey, great post. I've been running in Beasts for about 8 years now. I've often thought about trying something lighter on race day but feared that could be Rx for disaster. Maybe now I will try that... of course I would try them out on a FEW training runs beforehand. - Charlie in Delray Beach, FL

Anonymous said... is a good feeling when all the elements of training, weather, and preparation come together on race day.

John said...

Great job, Joe! These race reports are really helpful.

The change of shoe can make a difference sometimes. I switched to a wider New Balance a few weeks ago and the results have been great.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like an awesome day. In the words of the infamous 80's hit series - "A-Team" - "I love it when a plan comes together!"

Backofpack said...

Congrats Joe - it all came together for you in one race. Nice! The loop around the gravel pit doesn't sound like much fun, but the tour of homes does. I love running by fabulous homes and yards. Glad you had such a good weekend!

Unknown said...

I couldn't think of a more deserving guy to have a great race. You planned and executed and it all came together. Way to go, Joe!

Sarah said...

Negative splits are sweet! I'm glad running the best race conditions allowed worked so well for you. Congrats!

crossn81 said...

Excellent Job Joe!! That is a great way to start off the 2008 season!

Darrell said...

How very cool that "the best race conditions allowed" was perfect running conditions and a sub 2:00.

I love all the prerace analyzing and having Grethen there at the finish line had to have been an extra special bonus.

I may be the only Californian that's actually been in Carmel and knows how to pronounce it. There sure are some big beautiful homes there.

David said...

It DOES NOT getter any better than that! Awesome. I know that feeling and I think all your decisions were wise and fruitful. Now don't over think the ext one. Go with the flow.

boilermat said...

Wow, Joe. Way to go! I've been using Galloway's R/W ever since we talked. It's working well...still injury free. Matter of fact, I told Christina the other day that I don't think I could run a 5K without walking, let alone a HM. Your race gives me hope. I'm looking forward to the Geist HM.