For those of you not familiar with the New Prague Half Marathon, it basically starts in a small town before heading out into the country for a rolling square-shaped course that is often the windiest spring race around. The main question each year is usually, will you have a first half headwind or a second half headwind. On Saturday, Mother Nature had second half headwind penciled in. Personally, I’d prefer to have it the other way around because there are more people around at the start to help block the wind. Plus, a second half headwind makes it more difficult to gauge how hard you should be pushing the pace early on.
My one main goal for this race was to keep the momentum that I’ve been building this spring going. Typically, I like to use the McMillan Calculator after each race in hopes of seeing better performances. And so far this year, each of my 3 races has been better than the last. I also like to use the calculator to give me a ball park idea of what kind of time to expect for upcoming races. My recent 8K and 10K performances predicted a 1:28:23 and 1:26:49 half marathon, respectively. Pace-wise, that’s anywhere between 6:38 and 6:45. Given the conditions and my goal, I thought it’d be wise to go out easy and try to reel people in. When I saw 6:27 for the first mile I was a little concerned. However, I felt in control and decided to take the rest of my splits, but not look at them.
This was really a pretty uneventful race. Just before the 3 mile mark, the only person to pass me all day came by. There happened to be a race clock at mile three where I saw 19:54. That’s 6:38 pace, so I felt better about that quick first mile.
I must have passed 4 guys between miles 4 and 6. One guy was breathing like it was a 5K and another one looked to be a teenager and he was going backwards quickly. Keep in mind we still had a tailwind at this point. I felt sorry for these guys once they turned into the wind. Mile 6 had another race clock and I passed in 39:20 or 6:33 pace. That means the last 3 miles were sub-6:30. I know I’m having a pretty good race, but I also know we’re about to turn into the wind. I have no idea how hard it will be, but I know there’s not going to be any relief for a long time.
Just after mile 6 we turn west and are immediately greeted with head/cross wind. This lasts just passed mile 8, when we turn north into the teeth of the wind for 3 more miles. I look forward to each clump of trees because they provide a little shelter. If there’s one thing about the Jack Daniels threshold workouts I’ve been doing, it’s that they definitely have a grind-it-out aspect to them. After you’ve done something like 4 x 10 minutes with a 2 minute jog in between, it’s easier to put your head down and just run.
It also helped having Omar in front of me. Omar is one of those people I come across from time to time that I only know from looking at the results. He’s one of those guys that seems to run a lot of the same races that I do and we’re usually near one another. He went out hard in this race, but I finally caught up at mile 9. Since we were going into the wind and I didn’t want him to draft off of me, I went by pretty hard. Given his fast early pace, I thought I dropped him. So I was a little surprised when he caught me around mile 11. We ran together until mile 12. When he went for water, I took off. Again, I thought I dropped him. Instead, I think I just made him mad. He caught me and put 20 seconds on me during the last mile.
By this point I had no idea what my time was going to be. I thought perhaps I’d give back 10 seconds per mile over the second half and finish in the 1:27s. So I was a little surprised to see 1:26:08 as I crossed the line.
The momentum continues…
As for splits, sometimes I find it easier to look at 2-mile segments. It takes some of the terrain out of play, for example, if one mile has a large up or downhill section. It also helps if mile markers are in the wrong place. My 2-mile splits were;
6:44 (missed mile 12)
:32 for last .1
According to the results, I placed 18th out of 610 runners. If you take a closer look, you’ll see that 12 of the top 25 runners were 40+ years old. Nice job by the old farts.
If you believe the calculators out there, my last 4 races convert to the following marathon times; 3:10, 3:06, 3:03, and 3:01. It looks like Grandma's could be another marathon where I'm very close to 3 hours.