Man, where to start with this race report? I guess I’ll start with my goal. The only thing I really had to go off of was my recent 19:14 5K. According to McMillan’s calculator, that projects to a 1:29-flat half or 6:48 pace, so I wanted to at least run sub-1:29.
I love the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon, but since it’s held in conjunction with Grandma’s Marathon, I’ve only run the half three times; 1996, 2002 and 2013. Given that it’s been 11 years since the last time I ran this race, I had forgotten how much different it is than most half marathons that I run. With an expo, pre-race pasta dinner, bus ride to the start, drop bags, long lines to the biff and not much opportunity to warm up, it felt more like a marathon than a half. I had to keep reminding myself that I was only running 13.1 miles.
Before I jump into the race itself, I should mention that conditions were perfect. The temp was 50 degrees and foggy with a slight tailwind. For those that don’t know this course, it’s basically a straight line for 12 miles and then the last mile has a bunch of turns. So a tailwind at the start means a tailwind for the majority of the race.
Because my goal pace was 6:48s, I wanted to my first mile to be closer to 6:50 than 6:30. After the gun, I thought I settled in pretty quickly and was running very comfortably. The first mile passed in 6:40 and I settled in with Kim, one of my Saturday morning training partners. We stuck together for two more miles and I felt really comfortable. I remember another training partner, Scott, running a 1:28 half marathon last month and mentioning that at mile 3 he wasn’t sure he could hold his pace. He did hold it, but his thoughts on his perceived effort stuck with me. My race effort wasn’t feeling like that at all, so I was really pleased because I was still running low 6:40s.
Unfortunately, the memory on my watch is full, so it didn’t store my splits, so I’ll have to post based on memory and the results website. After my first mile, I didn’t look at my watch until mile 5. Leading up to that split, I told myself I wanted to see anything from 33:20 – 34:00 on my watch because that’s between 6:40 (my first mile) and 6:48 (my goal) pace. When I saw 33:28 I was really please. I was at the lower end of the range and I was feeling really good. Post-race results show that I ran the first 5K and second 5K BOTH in 20:46.
This was turning into one of those races where each mile marker seems to pass very quickly - and where no matter how much you pick up the pace, you never seem to get tired.
The only thing I remember during the third 5K is really trying to take advantage of the down hills on the course. That, and I started to focus on catching people.
Lemon Drop Hill is right around the 9-mile mark and that came and went quickly. As I approached mile 10, I tried to predict the time I wanted to see based on doubling my 5-mile split. Again, I had been hit my lap split at every mile, but not looking at my splits. Based on my 5-mile split of 33:28, I wanted to at least be at mile 10 in 1:07. I was pretty confident that I picked up the pace and was eager to see how much under that time I’d be. I ended up crossing that mile marker in 1:06:27, meaning I ran than 5-mile stretch in about 33-flat or 6:36 pace.
I also happened to glance at my mile split and saw that I ran up Lemon Drop (and down the other side) in 6:30. By now I’m doing some quick math in my head and I figured if I can run three 6:40s I’d be right around 1:27.
Miles 11 and 12 are both sub-6:30 by a second or two and now I know I’ll run sub-1:27. Not sure if that caused me to let up a little bit or if turning into the wind slowed me down, but my last mile was back around 6:40 pace. I ended up crossing the line in 1:26:38. That was good enough for 130th place out of 6,626 runners and 11th out of 323 in the 40-44 age-group.
Afterwards someone asked me if this was a PR. I said it wasn’t, but it was probably my fastest time in like 5 years. Of course, that got me thinking about my recent half marathon performances and how this ranks. It actually turned out to be my fast half in 3 years. Back in 2010 I ran 30 seconds faster than this race. Prior to that, in 2007, when I was racing really well leading up to my marathon PR, I ran 1:21:49. I also ran a 1:20, right after college, and a bunch of 1:23-1:25’s prior to turning 40. So this isn’t my best time ever, but based on age-grading it ranks up near the top.
It also means that my goal pace for TCM is creeping closer and closer to 3 hours.