Monday, November 16, 2009

Rutledge Half Marathon Race Report

On Saturday I ran the Rutledge Half Marathon in 1:54:06 (average pace 8:42). I was 2nd female, and 7th overall in this very small race. But if it sounds like I'm happy about it, read on.

If my race were a headline, it would say:
"Wrong Race Strategy, Pace, Results in Sub Par Performance"

If it were a book, you could call it:
"How To Do Everything Wrong and Still Get An Award"

On the upside, I learned a LOT from this experience, some of which applies directly to my upcoming marathon.

So, before I get in to all the things I did wrong, let me just tell you about the race. Here's how it all unfolded:

We left Asheville to drive to Morristown, TN on Friday afternoon. We took the "back roads" way to avoid all the hassles with the I-40. Besides the annoying GPS lady's incessant pleas ("Recalculating!") to get us back on to the 40, and besides enduring a bit of car sickness from all the windy turns, it wasn't too bad a drive. About 2 hours.

As we approached our final destination (hotel), we decides to stop at a Japanese restaurant for dinner. We had dinner Beni Hana style, which was a lot of fun. Leopold had never seen this before, so it was a kick to watch him.

Waaay too early the next morning, we had our free breakfast at the hotel, then headed out for the 35 minute drive to Rutledge.

The sky was so pretty on the way to Rutledge.

So, we get to Ritter Farm, sign me up, and I go about warming up.

The race started a few minutes after 8:00. The course started in front of the Farm House and wound down the highway towards Rutledge Middle School for the turn around. My first thoughts at the start of this race were, "oh no, I'm running 8:30 pace and it feels like I'm breathing too hard - UGH!!!" But after the first mile, my breathing settled down and felt right. My plan was to run miles 1-2 @ 8:31 pace, miles 3-9 @ 8:23 pace, miles 10-12 @ 8:16 pace, and run as fast as I could for the last mile. Because in theory, and on a relatively flat course, this is what I believe I'm currently capable of: 8:22 average pace. (Even though my shorter race times and McMillan's calculator say I could run 8:17 pace).

I was soon to find out the course was not even remotely flat (the elevation chart from Garmin -pbtn- shows an elevation differential of more than 700 ft. over the course). The first mile was fairly flat while the second mile was mostly down (I didn't remember this while I was trying to pick up the pace on mile 12...where did this uphill come from?). Mile 3 presented two short, steep uphills that were so steep I chose to walk up and work the downhill.

My main concern was keeping my breathing under control and following the pace guidelinesi had set up so I could run faster on the second half. Even if I ran a 1:49 or 1:50 today, if I did it with a negative split, I could have pride in the fact that I ran a smart race.

My first 2 miles were run at 8:23 average pace. I was on target pace, averaging 8:23's up until the turnaround point. Although I knew I had 6.5 more miles to go, at the turnaround I felt confident that I could pick up the pace to 8:16's. I started to turn it up a notch and started to pass many of the runners who had passed me in the opening miles.

Unfortunately, miles 8-12 were nothing if not a giant, solid wall of uphill. The elevation gain from mile 8 to 12 was nearly 300 feet. No way could I speed up to 8:16's here. Mile 8 was something like 8:49, and this was just the beginning of the hell which was mile 9, 10, 11, and 12. When I hit the 10 mile marker, I saw that I was at 1:25 and change. I knew then that 1:48 was off the table. I'd be lucky at this point to finish in under 2 hours. I had NOTHING left in the gas tank, and my legs and lungs hurt.

Many, many combinations of 'F' words later, I passed the clock at the finish line, and it said 1:55:38 (or something like that...results still aren't posted). Garmin time was 1:54:06. Believe it or not, they said I was second female when I came through.

What I'd do differently:

First, let's look at how I approached this thing. I did NOT approach this as a race, that is for sure. All I wanted was a time (1:48 - 1:49) that would confirm I was still on pace to attempt a 3:50 marathon next month. So, when things changed, and I discovered the hills, course and weather were not going to allow for optimal times, I was destined to be disappointed. Because i ran as if it were a time trial, I wasn't even IN the race when it counted. I had nothing left when the race actually started at mile 10.

Lessons Learned:

1. Every race is a race. Or...race the race and your times will follow.

2. The couse matters.

3. Weather matters.

4. Better have an arsenal full of mental toughness for when the race actually begins.

5. The race actually begins at Mile 10 for a Half Marathon (Mile 20 for a Marathon).

1 comment:

  1. I ran the Rutledge half last year. I used many renditions of the f-word myself in the last 3 miles. I won't be going back. From the results on, the marathon itself shrunk by half and it didn't look like there was lots of local support/runners. Hmmm...I think the locals are wiser this year.