Thursday, October 27, 2011

Race Report: Adams Mill Covered Bridge Half Marathon

ORN: 13.1 miles, 1:51:35, 8:32/mile


On a perfect fall day for running last Saturday, another PR flowed in this small, local half marathon on the nearby countryside.  Better still, an enjoyable day with three work colleagues.

Below, I have some photos of the day, many thanks to Half Fanatics pal Mike Hoyt.  Following that is a painfully detailed write up of the race which I sent to my nephew John.  So, whether you like photos or excessive levels of textual details, you'll have something to like here :-)  .

The Pix

Every race has a theme.  This one evolved into an outing with three work colleagues.  And it was ultimately a really good day for the home team.

Post Race: Mike, Joe, Cara, Wendy
From Adams Mill HM

I am really lucky to work with some terrific people at a company doing some neat things.  And some of these fine folks enjoy running as well!!  With this half marathon in the small town of Flora, about 20 minutes from us, on a quiet weekend in late October, all four of us decided independently to take it on for different reasons and ultimately helped each other achieve much more than we thought possible.

Race day came with perfect conditions, at least for me.  A big blue sky, temperatures in the low 40s, no wind and a mostly flat course.  It turned out to be a small field, as well, with only 81 runners showing up.

We started on time, heading straight south for 4.5 miles across the dead-flat farm country of our part of Indiana.  

From Adams Mill HM
I hope this incredible flatness, here at mile 2, does not create a phobic reaction for any of you from hillier locales.  But this is pretty typical of how our area looks, particularly once the corn is harvested.  And look at the blue sky!!  Horizon to horizon...spectacular on the prairie.

Before we got to mile 5, we took a turn to the races namesake, the Adams Mill Covered Bridge.  The curves and bridge were surprisingly motivating.

Covered Bridge

From Adams Mill HM

Just before the turn around, the road flattened out and we enjoyed running next to Indiana's top cash crop, ready for picking.

Running next to cornfield
From Adams Mill HM

We retraced our route.  With one mile to go, I knew I'd have to hustle to get to my 1:52:00 goal.

One mile to go

From Adams Mill HM
And so it was a welcome sight to me to see Mike, who had already finished, coming back to meet me.  He pushed me in the last 250 meters, and helped me get the goal!

Mike pacing Joe at end
From Adams Mill HM

Our work team did well!  Mike finished his first ever half marathon in 1:39, taking sixth overall.  Cara finished her third HM, 21 minutes better than ever.  Wendy finished her first HM, meeting her goal of feeling strong at the end.  So strong, she was able to happily hold her 1 year-old daughter just a couple of minutes after crossing the finish line!  And I was pleased, setting a PR by almost 2 minutes.

Wendy with Hannah
From Adams Mill HM

And now a wordy description of mileage, distance and other numeric detritus

Well, we got to the site with plenty of time.  I have learned  I need to warm up if I want to run hard.  So, I ran about 1.6 miles and stretched well.  We lined up and took off just past 9am.  I had set my Garmin for even splits (8:33) and had a pace chart to boot.  Miles 1-4 were flat and straight south from Flora.  They went in 8:30, :33, :52 (one more pit stop) and :41.  So I was 24 seconds behind pace at 4 miles.  

At mile 4.5 ish, we made a left turn and had some scenery.  We did a cool sweep down a curvy road to a covered bridge (thus the name of the race) and an old corn mill, now a museum.  We then climbed up out of this made a right, ran about a half mile into the tiny town of Cutler, Indiana.  Population of maybe 100.  Tiny little town and we did a nice loop of about 4 blocks and headed back from whence we came.  Miles 5-8 were 8:22 (w/ downhill), :38, :38, and :25.  I really enjoyed this part of the course...the relief, the very visually appealing curves and slopes and turns, the nice little loop through Cutler.  Also saw a lot of folks coming and going, since Cutler had the half-way mark.  And, at mile 8, I was only 15 seconds behind target pace.  

I should comment on hydration and calories.  I carried no water on this race, having decided aid stations were going to be adequate and the coolness would not make water a big deal.  There were 3 aid stations, so we had 6 opportunities to grab a drink.  I took something at 4 of the 6 and only had about a three gulps at each.  And that worked real thirst issues.  As for calories, I had a small squeeze bottle of JoeGu and I used it 3 times.  Probably the equivalent of one Gu pack but spread out.  It gave me a small boost, seemed to work.

We climbed up out of the valley, turned right and were back, headed straight north, back to Flora.  Mile 9 was uphill for an 8:42 but mile 10, back on the flat, was 8:42 as well, putting me 33 seconds off the pace after 10.  I was surprised to see the 8:42 there.  I had a straight shot into Flora and this became a bit of a mental search.  How badly did I want the 1:52?  Not like it was a world record or anything.  Yet, I really did want to see if I could pull it off and I felt OK.  The legs felt good.  But I was fully by myself...with only 80ish runners, we were royally spread out, I hadn't passed or been passed since mile 5.  So I settled on just to amp up the pace a bit, knowing I needed to feel like I was pushing it.  I checked the Garmin (which I had set on training mode, so my indication of pace was whether or not I was gaining on the imaginary competitor...I started to steadily gain).  But I was startled to go through mile 11 with a split of 9:08.  What??  I really didn't stress much... I knew I was running faster and experience says this had to be a mis-measured mile.  I kept pushing.  When I got to mile 12, the split was 7:56.  I knew I wasn't that quick!!  So, mile 11 was long, mile 12 was short, I was OK with that.  Yet, I was still 30 seconds off my target.  I had only recovered 3 seconds in 2 miles...not enough.  Could I push hard enough to do an 8:00 mile in mile 13 and carry that thru the last tenth? 

I tried to dial it up.  We had a long straight run towards the finish, interrupted by a short 4 block jog in and out of suburban Flora  (I'm sure necessary to get the distances right).  I was trying to catch a guy I had been chasing for 6 miles and was slowly closing on him.  Further, I saw my work colleague Mike who had run a 1:39, getting 6th overall, and had come back out to help me run in.  He saw me coming towards the last turn to home, with about 250 meters to go.  I turned the corner where he was standing, looked at my watch, which said 1:50:30.  I told Mike "I have 90 seconds to get across the line...take me in!!!"  

He relished that job and off we went.  Mike right in front of me, making me stay up with him.  Mike ran varsity cross country at U of Toledo, and quickly got into the "coach" was really cool.  I've never had this happen before.  I locked in on staying with Mike, listening to him urge me to get my knees higher, pushing off stronger on each stride.  We blew past the guy I had been trailing and pushed really hard for the end.  I was thinking we'd be close to 1:52.  I saw the official clock as we got close and it was only at 51:30!!  And, so, when I crossed, hit my watch, and I had it in 1:51:37.  I went from 30 seconds behind the pace at mile 12 to 23 seconds to the good at 13.1.  I'm still stunned it happened.  Just did the math...8:30 for 1.1 miles, which is a 7:44 pace for that distance.  Wow.  Mike's help was huge...and I think he had fun helping the old guy hustle to the end.  

Well, a long post for a mere half marathon.  Hope you enjoyed it.  Thanks for persevering. 



Sarah said...

Congrats on your PR! You just keep getting speedier and speedier. Looks like a fun, small town half!

Darrell said...

so cool to read the full report. I hadn't realized from FB just how close you were to reaching your goal and how hard you'd worked those last few miles. Congrats on a race run well and how cool to have you own coach for those last few yards. My friend Jesse did that for me a few years back to get me under 22:00 at 5K, so I know how sweet it is.

My own running is going slow and steady and the heels seems to be responding well.

Wes said...

nice job, Joe! That's the way to finish strong!! Very cool that your work-mates where there to share and spur you on to great things!!