Friday, December 23, 2016

Sometimes the Race is Not the Thing

Back in June on "National Running Day", some friends from my track group talked me into signing up for the Los Angeles Rock N Roll Half. Mainly because of the 1-day sale price of $55. And the fact that they were three pretty young women. And at my age,when three pretty young women invite you somewhere, you go.
So I added it to my busy race calendar and continued to focus on speed instead of endurance all summer. Apparently 30 miles a week is not enough to train for a good half. But I was still hoping to run under 7:30 pace and feel stronger than I did at the ten miler two weeks ago. The course was hilly, but there were as many ups as downs, so it should balance out, right?

Not so much.

Anyway, it was a Halloween race, so I discovered I had an orange shirt with matching shoes, and talked my DW into turning it into a jack-o-lantern. So I made a little effort to have a costume, without sacrificing any speed.

My saintly wife agreed to get up before 5AM and escort me and the three girls that we carpooled with. And take pictures and hang around for a few hours while we ran. Here we are arriving downtown before dawn for the 6:45 start.

My goal for the race was 7:30 pace, but I was not confident, so my realistic goal was sub 1:40 (7:38 pace). But I was worried about the hills too, so I wanted to just go out slow, maybe 8:00 pace and work it down. Save some for the hills from miles 7-13. Here is the elevation. One nasty hill at mile 7, then a nice long downhill, but then a long gradual up from 10-13.

It was crowded, and I didn't really have time or room to warm up, so I had to start cold. Just a little jogging in place in the corral. There were about 10,000 people at the start, and no one monitoring the corrals, so although I was close to the front, I had to do a lot of dodging of joggers for the first few minutes. So after a 1/4 mile I was still over 8:00 pace and grumpy, and ended up speeding up too much to go around people. By the time I got to mile one, I was down to 7:28. Which meant I was really running even faster than that. Dammit. I tried to relax and slow down, but, well, you know how that goes...

The three girls were all out ahead of me too, and only one should have been. So I was working on catching them. For the next few miles the crowds had thinned and I got into a racing groove. But it felt like 10K racing groove. And this was 13 miles. Over hills. And I hadn't gone over 12 miles in 5 months. So it felt too hard. And yet the splits were 7:30, 7:28, 7:32. Right where they were supposed to be. But instead of relaxed and cruising, it felt like work.
But it was fun to run around the LA Coliseum, inside the fence. A few people jumped into the rest rooms there. There were bands playing and I tried to enjoy the atmosphere. It was out and back for 6 miles, and then out and back another way for seven miles, so I got to look at all the thousands of people behind me, many of whom were in costumes. That was kind of fun and distracting.

One fun part of the race was a group of zombies that were in the middle of the course, with Hollywood quality makeup and costumes, just shambling along looking like they might take a bite out of you if you didn't hurry along.

Mile 5 was 7:37, proving that this was not going to be my day. I already wanted to give up and jog. Thought about maybe taking a walk break on the big hill. Started to think what I needed to stay under 1:40. At this point I caught two of the girls who had gone out too fast. They were dying worse than me, so I had that going for me. Which was nice.

Got to look for DW in mile 6, so that kept me moving at 7:33. She got some artistic shots.
Then it was time for the big hill, which was an overpass to get over the freeway. I just gutted it out and tried not to walk. It sucked. And by the time I got over it, my legs were trashed and they never recovered.
I tried to pick up some momentum on the downhills, but it was just enough to keep me moving. After hilly mile 7 in 8:15, I could only manage 7:44, 7:45, 7:42 on the three downhill miles. Oh dear. My goose was now cooked. I started to bargain with myself on where I could take a walk break. Started to calculate what I could do and still stay under 1:45.

So with the towel thrown in, I just told myself to keep plugging. Get to the finish and call it a training run. A lot of others were suffering with me, as not that many people were passing me. We suffered together. Couldn't blame the weather either, as it was cool and cloudy. Mid 50's.

The last three were mainly uphill in 8:23, 9:06 (with a walking water stop) and 8:06 which included a nice downhill at the end, in which I just let gravity bring me home. Found a little effort for 7:14 pace for the last bit and finished in 1:43:32.

Good for 383rd and 30th AG of almost 8,000.

Soon afterward, I met up with the girls and life started to brighten up. E in pink ran 1:34. The other two were 1:45 and 1:48. We shared our stories of woe and commiserated. I got to be Bosley.
But it was fun to hang with them, and talk running, and take pictures and eat all the food. Being part of a group made this a memorable event, and not just another race. And by the time I got home I was glad I ran, and didn't care so much about the time.

What can you do? Am I right?
So Half Marathon #38 is in the books. #39 is coming up in three weeks in Philly, where again it will be about the people I'm hanging out with and having fun with, so I'm telling myself the time won't matter. (Because even breaking 1:40 now seems like it will be hard.) Maybe I can start slower...

Life is good.

And then I ate this.


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