I ran this race last year and dropped my half-marathon PR from 1:20:07 to an outstanding 1:17:43, a time I haven't really come close to since. My race report from last year is here but reflecting on some of those splits after this weekend's race makes them seem slow.
|Baby Tigers at the Expo|
Saturday morning rolled around and I awoke from a surprisingly restful 5 hour sleep at 4:15 am. After a quick breakfast (my tried and true pre-race meal of rice krispies and 2% milk), we drove to the start and had a little bit of time to kill. Partly to help us relax, and partly for the fun of it, we decided to "warm up" by dancing in the parking spot next to the car, much to the enjoyment of some passers by.
Thirty minutes before the start we wandered over to the bag check area and made our final preparations for the race. Although it always pays off later on, I can never get used to stripping down to a singlet and shorts 15 minutes prior to a race in 40 degree weather. Nevertheless, it must be done and after a little bit the temperature doesn't seem quite so bad. After wishing each other good luck Meredith and I ventured off to our respective places in the mass of people at the start. It was time to focus on the 13.1 miles ahead.
Before the race I knew I had a very good chance to run fast. I've been joking since I ran 1:27:19 in Miami (3:12 faster than 2012) a few weeks ago that I could do the same in Myrtle Beach and run 1:14:31. I had no idea how close that would be to reality 13.1 miles later. As with last year's race, I had a modest goal of running 6:00 miles to start out and see how I felt.
The race's partnership with the Rare Species Fund provided possibly the weirdest start command I've ever heard. Instead of a gun, flare, horn, car, or verbal command we were sent on our way by an elephant trumpeting into a microphone. I quickly found myself in about 10th place and felt extremely comfortable. I recall last year's start being far more chaotic, but I settled into a nice rhythm and came through the first mile in just 5:47, 8 seconds slower than last year and slower than many of my previous half-marathons. I felt great and just kept the legs turning, though, and rolled through mile 2 with a 5:50 split (11:37 for 2 miles). I dropped to 5:49 (17:26) for mile 3 and cruised through mile 4 in 5:54 (23:20). Unbeknownst to me at the time, that 5:54 would end up being my slowest mile of the race. A surge in pace from my first half running companion pushed mile 5 to 5:45 (29:05) and I reclaimed pacing duties for mile 6 in a steady effort to pull away from a pack closing down on us. Mile 6 came by in 5:48 (34:53) and I hit the 10k mark in 36:06; just off my PR of 36:02. Winding through Market Commons I began to string out the pack and used my natural ability to run fast on twisty courses to my advantage. I threw down a 5:41 mile 7 (40:34) before stringing off a 5k stretch a mere 5 seconds shy of my 17:21 PR. Heading away from Market Commons in mile 8 (5:40, 46:14) 15 year old Jack Ratterree caught up to me. At first I thought he was certainly in my age group, but when I asked he revealed that he was only 15! Regardless, I was happy to have someone to push the pace with down Ocean Drive and we clocked an 11:11 next two miles (5:35 & 5:36) to hit the 10 mile mark in 57:24! I knew I had run faster from 5k-15k than my previous 10k best (I estimated about 35:40) but I was still going strong and had just 5 kilometers to go to a certain half-marathon PR. Jack mentioned that 1:15 was within reach and while I calculated having to run another blazing 5k to achieve that, I knew sub-1:16 was very reasonable. I told Jack that he ought to watch out if I stayed with him, though, because I have utter confidence in my finishing kick ever since my sub-6:00 pace final quarter mile at the Kiawah Island Marathon. He pulled away slightly in mile 11 as my pace dropped to 5:43 (1:03:07) and my 12th mile turning back inland to the finish did little to close the gap going through in 5:52 (1:08:59). With the final few turns in sight I somehow found another gear to close the gap down and overtake Jack. A 5:38 split for mile 13 (1:14:38) and a final 0.16 according to my Garmin at 5:14 pace (58 seconds) brought me to the line in 1:15:36 for another huge PR!!
TrainingPeaks outputs the following times as my fastest (unofficial) splits during the race:
400m - 1:22 in the penultimate quarter-mile
800m - 2:45 last half-mile
1k - 3:27 last 1000m
1 mile - 5:35 starting at 15k
5k - 17:26 starting at 7 miles (5s off PR)
5 miles - 28:14 starting at 5.68 miles (PR by 41 seconds)
10k - 35:17 starting at 4 miles (PR by 45 seconds)
15k - 53:08 final 15k (huge PR)
10 miles - 57:10 final 10 miles (2 minute PR)
It's hard to argue that this weekend's race was the best I've ever run. I may not have improved on my 3rd place in the 20-24 AG from last year, but I did come 11 places higher overall in 12th!
My next race is the Cary Short Course Duathlon on March 9th where I will certainly by fighting for the overall win. Knowing that I should be able to have a pair of stellar 4k run splits to bookend the 17.6 mile bike will certainly help! A week after that I'll be looking to run another fast half-marathon at the NYC Half before trying to qualify for the World Duathlon Championship at the Double Oak Duathlon (April 6th) and chasing my marathon PR (and a Fukuoka Marathon qualifying time of 2:42?) in Boston on April 15th!
Thank you to The Sport Factory, my coach Eric Limkemann, my family for their continued support, and to Meredith and her parents for a great weekend! The next couple of months look like they could be incredible!