Eugene Half Marathon
May 1, 2011
1:54:20 13.1 miles
Do any of you remember me from 3 years ago? When I was in the worst shape of my life? When I couldn't run 50 yards continuous? When I couldn't climb a flight of stairs without feeling like I was going to pass out? When I made every excuse I could think of when my sister tried to get me off the couch and get to moving? Or simply couldn't play with my kids because I was so uncomfortable? Well, that guy doesn't live here anymore and since October of 2008, I have logged close to 3000 miles of swimming, biking and running, became an Ironman, climbed Mt. St. Helens, I can keep up with my kids and I have made exercise an important component to my life style. In addition, I continue to set lofty goals for my physical performance and today I accomplished a huge milestone that I never thought possible.
When I made my goals for 2011 I listed finishing a half-marathon in less than 2 hours as one of them. To finish a 13.1 mile course in less than 2 hours requires an average pace of about 9 minutes per mile. That is fast for me, since I typically run at 10 minutes per mile. My previous half-marathon time was 2:07 and that was coming off of training for a full marathon and i was in great shape. Running at a 9 minute pace is pretty easy for me to do at distances of 3 miles or less, but a full 13.1? Eegads!
I hooked up with a new marathon training coach and program. Just happened to be the same coach I had for my Ironman training in 2010. They have a little different philosophy than my previous training group and I can see now the amazing results. I have been training since January and it has involved lots of intervals, tempo runs, hill work and long runs. I did a half-marathon in February and finished 2:03, setting a new PR, but I hadn't busted through that 2 hour mark.
I set my sights on the Eugene event because of the prestige and history behind the running program at the University of Oregon. I didn't know it until recently, but Eugene is known as Track Town, USA. Athletes from all over the country come thru Eugene for the NCAA Track & Field championships and the Olympic Trials. Eugene is also home to many running legends over the past 3 decades. We would start and finish at Hayward Field, the home of where all of these legends got their start.
The day was epic. Crystal clear sunshine and warm temperatures (well, once it warmed up). Wendy and I arrived at the event site about an hour before the start. We checked a few things out and then she kissed me for good luck and I went off to do my warm ups. I tried to cede myself with the 2:00 pace group, but there were so many people I was closer to the 2:08 group. I would have to work my way through the field to catch up and the race hadn't even started yet.
There were about 8,000 runners between the half and full marathons. The streets were relatively narrow and it was packed pretty good the first mile. I took off and tried to settle into a comfortable pace, but still stay close to the 8:47/mile pace I had set as my goal to project a 1:55 finish. This would give me 5 mins of breathing room for bathroom breaks, shoe tieing, high-fiving and other delays along the course. Mile 1's time was 9:37! Oh crud!
I started picking up the pace a little, but I also needed to develop some patience. 13.1 miles is a long ways and I could easily blow myself up going out too fast and too hard. The second mile was right on pace at 8:46 and then once I started feeling comfortable, I picked it up even more. Miles 3, 4 and 5 were around 8:30 and then mile 6 was 8:05! Wow! I was feeling good. I cruised into the timing mats at the 10K mark at 54:22!!! This is a very respectable time for me if I were doing just a 10K!
The vibe was great at this event. Lots of cheering fans and great support. Lots of entertainment and an aid station about every mile or so. I loved it. Lots of nice people I got to chat with along the way, too. Met one person who was from Spokane and actually knew where Milton Street was where I was a kid!
I sucked down a gel at about the one hour mark, which is about what I had planned to do. I was feeling pretty good. I turned on my iPod at about mile 4 and cranked the tunes up to keep me motivated. The sun was shining, the air was warm, I was feeling great and cranking out a great pace and I was happy to be in this amazing event.
Just before mile 9 we ran back by the Start/Finish line and I saw Wendy. Stopped and gave her a kiss and told her I was doing great. So nice to see her and know she was there cheering me on. The next 2 miles were where things got really hard. I started bonking and was feeling depleted. I hadn't drank as much Gatorade as I wanted and I was needing another gel. I sucked down a bunch of G2 and then followed it with a gel. My pace had slowed to about 9:10 for these 2 miles and I even had to walk for 50 yards as I crested the top of one hill. But I kept plugging along.
From miles 11 til 13 I knew it was time to crank it up. I wasn't going to leave anything in the tank. I was going for broke. By now I knew I was going to make the 2 hour mark, but I wanted to see how much I could smash it. I was teetering on the 1:55 time and I wanted to see if I could beat 1:54. I dug my heels in and pressed on. Next mile was 8:31. I was really getting tired. My heart rate had been at threshold for several miles and my calves were really sore. But with 1 mile to go, I knew I couldn't slow up and cranked out a 8:29 the final 1.1 miles. We rounded the corner and entered historic Hayward Field and right onto the track. Wow! Nice cushy track surface and the huge stadium with people everywhere and our tired faces on the huge Jumbo-tron. I could see the finish and kept pumping. I looked down at my watch, it had already clicked over to 1:54 but I kept pumping anyway! I heard the announcer announce my name as I finished. Yay!
1:54:20 was my official time! I smashed my previous PR by 9 minutes! That is incredible! I was feeling it though. I was rather dizzy and I certainly felt depleted afterwards. I needed some food and some chocolate milk. Mmmm, my favorite post-race recovery drink. I loitered in the recovery/food section for a bit and then proceeded to the exit where I saw Wendy gretting me with a huge beaming smile. Yay!
So there you have it folks! I finished 13.1 miles in 1:54:20 for an overall pace of 8:42/mile. Incredible. So what is next? You know something else has to be in the works, right? Well, my ultimate goal is to finish a full 26.2 mile marathon in less than 4 hours! So stay tuned for June 19th when I will try to break that barrier at the Vancouver USA Marathon! Woot, woot!
Thanks for your support