Monday, June 6, 2011

Un - Bee - Lee - Va - Bul: Fontana Pikermi RR

I came into this race shooting for a PR. It is all downhill, 2100 feet drop, so it should be a PR course. But last year on the same course I crashed and died in the heat, and missed by 90 seconds. Here are last year's splits for future reference:
7:00, 7:07, 7:01, 7:20, 7:17; 7:18, 7:17, 7:56, 7:26, 7:59, 8:29, 9:11, 9:00 Total: 1:41:10
This year, the weather cooperated, and it was overcast at the start and for about ten miles, and it was about 15 degrees cooler at the finish. 50's and 60's.
My plan was to go out slower than last year, 7:30 pace for the first 6, and then hold 7:40 for the last 7 where the downhill is less noticeable. That would put me in just under my PR of 1:39:28. I told myself not to go under 7:20 in the first 3 steepest miles.
I was up at 4AM and drove the hour plus to the race with my friend J, who was also my competition since she beat me last year. We were on the bus from the finish to the start by 6:15, and we met up with Alice near the start line. I managed to time the potty line just right and hit it about two minutes before the start. No warmup really, and then we were off.
Mile 1: First quarter I was at 7:33 pace. Good. Take it easy. 1/2 mile, still 7:33. Hmm. Feels kind of slow. Maybe I'll just let myself go a little. The plan to run with J lasted about 1/2 a mile as I sped up and left her behind. Running downhill is fun! 7:21
Mile 2: First peek at G says I am at 7:02 pace. Hell. Relax, dummy! I try to cruise at little to no effort, but gravity has a strong effect. 7:04
Mile 3: The road is very curvy for 6 miles, so I am having fun focusing on running the tangents. This helps me pass lots of people because 80-90% of people don't do it. G had me under a mile frequently and had the whole race at 13.09 miles, so no extra distance! Feeling good and cruising. 7:04
Mile 4: OK, so my plan is already blown, and I seem to be repeating last year's race. I put my faith in the lower temps, and the fact that I am carrying my own water, so I should be better hydrated. I am still trying to go slower, but...7:15
Mile 5: I am mostly passing people, but a few go by me slowly and I track on to them to keep me going. I am in full racing mode. Feeling confident and strong, working hard, but not hurting. 7:10
Mile 6: Still feel good. I've decided to just maintain this pace as long as I can. 7:05
Mile 7: We come out of the hills and into the desert. The last 7 miles are literally one dead straight line to the finish. The beauty of the hills and the fun of the curves are gone. Now it is all about maintaining the speed, getting in a zone and just keep on going. I take my one GU and drink some water. 7:03
Mile 8: G starts to show me times under 7. This whole time I am kind of in shock at the times. I feel good, and I worry about the rest of the race and dying, but not really. I'm really feeling confident. Still passing people. Feel like I have some reserve. 6:52 (Wha?!?!)
Mile 9: By this time I know a PR is inevitable, barring a major cramp attack or collapse. I am in a groove. 6:53
Mile 10: OK, finally I start to feel like I am running out of steam. My form falters. My breathing increases. My confidence lowers. I start to look forward to the next mile marker. I also start doing the math and realize I am going to kill my PR. If I can keep this up, I should be under 1:34 easy. What?!? This is beyond my comprehension. I am kind of in shock. But it also motivates me. I realize this is the race of a lifetime so I might as well make it as fast as I can and post a time that will live forever. 7:03
Mile 11: I hit a water stop and douse my head for the first time. It seems to wake me up, and I get a new burst of energy. 6:56
Mile 12: OK, now I'm hitting the wall. My hams and calves are giving mini-cramp feelings. My breathing is at full racing level. But I am holding my place, not getting passed, focusing on the guy ahead of me and hanging on. I imagine how far away the finish is by comparing it with my home routes. Surely you can hang on that far. 7:10
Mile 13: OK, one mile to go. A little adrenaline comes, but my body rejects it. No speeding up will be tolerated. I am just hanging on one step at a time. Keep it going. 7:08
Finish: I throw up a BP with real emotion behind it. YES!!!  1:32:42!!! Are you fricking kidding me!?!?!
Some perspective: The 2nd 10K were at 7:00 pace and beat my 10K PR from February (which about killed me). The first mile was my slowest (last year it was my fastest). Here are my half marathon times for the last 5 years:
1:49, 1:45, 1:52, 1:39, 1:41, 1:42, 1:42, 1:50, 1:44
1:32? What the hell? This is my fastest half since 1991 when I was 28 and ran 1:31. Twenty years ago!! Sure the downhill counts for some of it. But still. I really worked hard and ran a smart race. Well, it turned out that way anyway.
So, obviously, I am in a rather excited state, and kind of in shock. This really boosts my confidence and tells me I can do more than I think I can. Next up, pushing the limits on a 5K.
By the way, I beat J by 4 minutes, but she crushed her PR too and got 2nd in her AG with 1:37:06.
Today, I am good and sore, but not too bad. I jogged a mile in the sand before I did an ocean swim of about 1000 meters. Life is good!