Sunday, May 3, 2009

Cinco de Mayo Half Marathon Race Report

Back when I used to work at Andersen Consulting (now Accenture), we had a saying - "Plan the work, then work the plan." So, Saturday I laid out the plan. What did I do Sunday? Well, suffice it to say the best laid plans of mice and men aren't worth the keystrokes if not followed.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect since this was the inaugural running of this Half Marathon. But, I've been to a couple other races organized by Renegade Racing Series, so I had confidence that they would do the best they could. And they delivered. Tech shirt for Half Marathoners. Plenty of free parking just a short walk from the expo. Porta potties without long lines. Chip timing. Mile markers every mile with accurate clocks every two or three miles. Well staffed water tables with cups just the right size for a drink on the run. And some darn nice scenery along the way!

Everything started great. It was the *perfect* day for running. Temperature was in the low 60's and nice overcast (typical this time of year). I lined up in the starting chute. My best guess is there 500 or so runners for the Half.

Here's a shot of the runners in front of me at the start:

And those behind me:

When the gun went off, it took me about 30 seconds to get to the start mat. As Cindy (my running buddy from Cal Coast) and I ran past the start, we were warmly greeted by Charlie Prokop from the Runner's World California Forum (charliepro). He had driven up from San Diego to run the 10K. More on Charlie later. The start was downhill for the first mile. About three miles in , I still felt strong, so I started pushing a little harder per the plan. The only problem? I was running way too fast. I would end up paying later.

Mile 1: 9:02
Mile 2: 9:11
Mile 3: 9:18
Mile 4: 9:03

In no time, we were off the streets and onto the trail along San Diego Creek. A mile or two after that we hung a left and made our way along South Lake in Woodbridge. The scenery and weather were still outstanding. I still felt strong. Heart rate was a tad over goal (about 155 or so). Pace was still way too fast. I passed the six mile marker and looked at the clock. 54 minutes. Hmm. This could be trouble. I was essentially running at 10K pace. Oh well. My body was telling me to push on.

Up to this point, we had been on the old OC Half Marathon route. At mile 7, we turned into Mason Wilderness Park. More great scenery. We started a long uphill grade for the next mile. I slowed my pace as my legs started feeling some fatigue. The next thing that happened was almost comical in nature. All of a sudden, I started perspiring like someone was spraying me with a garden hose. And I started slowing. And slowing. My legs started feeling my earlier push. Fatigue. Lactate threshold reached! Woo hoo! I tried to push. My heart rate was a little higher than the plan (in the mid 160s at this point) and breathing was still okay. The only thing that was a problem were the legs.

Mile 5: 9:26 (Potty stop)
Mile 6: 9:18
Mile 7: 10:01 (uphill)
Mile 8: 10:29 (Lactate threshold reached!)
Mile 9: 9:59

I settled in and tried best I could to continue pushing forward. I stopped looking at my pace and watched my heart rate. The rest of the plan was just going to have to go by the wayside. I had no legs left! I was in serious pain at this point. I shuffled best I could through the final couple of miles toward the finish.

Mile 10: 10:29 (Pain begins)
Mile 11: 10:24

Remember my mention of the downhill start? Well guess what? We were back on the streets again. That meant a mile and a half uphill finish. Not too steep, but at this point I was drained. I passed the 12 mile marker and started my final push. I don't remember a whole lot past this point. I have no idea what my pace was. I have no idea what my heart rate was. I was hurting. I was well aware that my 2:00 goal was out the window. I was also aware that unless I ran a 5 minute mile, my 2:05 threshold was also gone. But, I wasn't disappointed. I felt that I had left everything I could out on the course and I was making my final push. Right here and right now.

Mile 12: 10:41 (Pain pain pain. Don't really remember much about this mile)

And then, like an angel from heaven, I noticed someone was running next to me. It was Charlie! He asked if he could run me into the finish chute! I gladly accepted and we picked up the pace. The amazing thing is I was able to manage to carry on a conversation! Now, Charlie is a fantastic runner. He is my age (51) and has been running for years. He had run the 10K. He was saying that it just wasn't his day today. All he did was finish 8th overall, 1st in our age group. 38 minutes and change. Wow. And he still had enough to find me and give me the push I needed to move into the finish. We dropped down into the 7:50s for the final 800 meters. Thanks Charlie! I needed that final push.

Mile 13: 10:01 (Final push begins)
Mile 13.1: 7:53 (Heck for a tenth of a mile anyone can do it)

I ran into the chute and followed blindly what I was being told to do. "Half marathon? To the left." "Here's your medal." "Let me remove your timing chip sir." At this point, my calves were cramping. I was only interested in two things. Water and a seat. I had no idea what my finish time was. I grabbed a couple bottles of water and made it back to the Cal Coast tent and collapsed into a plastic chair. It was only then that there were high fives all around. My time - 2:08.14 by Garmin, 2:09.07 officially by chip. Officially almost a 10 minute PR! Yeah - I missed my goal and my threshold, but I left everything I had out there. I was happy. I was tired!

After a couple of bottles of water, I hobbled around the expo for a while. There was something for everyone. I hadn't noticed, but somewhere along the line the Sun had made it out and it was a prime, beautiful Southern California day. Petting zoo. Rock wall. Kiddie rides. Free Taco Bell. Free recovery drinks. Jamba juice. Beer garden. There were several thousand people enjoying the post race festivities. Well done Renegade Racing!

So, what did I learn yesterday? A few things:
  1. Plan the work then work the plan. I went out way too fast. I ended up paying for it.
  2. Lactate threshold is a reality. Almost on queue. 8 miles in I went from an average pace of 9:14 to a 10:30 mile. I ended up at a 9:50 pace for the duration.
  3. I need to run more miles. My last training cycle I averaged around 32 miles a week. I need to ramp up and build some extra strength and conditioning. 45 mpw here I come!
  4. A well organized race makes running it a lot of fun. You can bet I'll be back for this one next year!
I'm now going to take a couple days off. Run today? Heck, I can barely walk!


  1. OK-- I have been waiting for your post all weekend!!! I was wondering how it went for you. You should be very proud-- I know, you didn't make your goal-- but you still did great!

    How are you feeling these couple of days after the race? Where does it still hurt?

    I have already taken off the day after my half.. I can only assume I will need some rest-- I even booked a massage for that day!

    I will take your advice for my half and not start fast out of the gate-- For me that will be a challenge.


  2. That always happens to me. Well, not always, but many of my races start out with me feeling great at a sub 11 (maybe even a sub 10:30) pace only to pay for it at the end.

    congrats on the PR!

  3. Great job Glenn! :) Sad I couldn't come out but it was for the best, I don't think my legs have recovered from my quick workout on Friday yet. I know what it feels like to PR and not be at your goal, but you'll get there soon! :) Great job again!

  4. Great race report! I have had those races of going out too fast. That was nice of Charlie to find you and finish the race with you! Congrats on the PR and a great race!

  5. I had a great time and finished a little behind you. I'm actually in one of your photos at the starting line....the balding guy on the left with the dark glasses! I'm not as serious as I look! I too went out too fast averaging 9:00 the first four miles and then really losing it at 8 or so. Congrats on a great race!!

  6. Congrats on the PR, Glenn. What an excellent description of hitting your lactate threshold! Your lack of memory during mile 12 reminds me of my half marathon in January. I remember cresting a hill and passing the 11 mile sign near a water station. Then, I remember passing the 12 mile sign just before entering Epcot. I have little memory of what happened in between. I was possibly abducted by aliens, LOL.

    Congrats again and keep plugging away!

  7. Congrats on the big PR Glenn. And glad you got to run with Charlie - he rocks!

  8. Glenn, way to go on the new PR! That is fantastic! And it sure sounded like that was a great, well organized race. You obviously ran well to shatter your previous PR, and you took home some valuable data for future races. Congratulations, and nicely done! :)

  9. You did great! Congratulations on your PR. I hope you're feeling better today after pushing so hard yesterday.

    I like the pictures! It looks like a nice route... and great weather for the race!!

    Again, congrats to you!

  10. What a great race report!! I was thinking of you on my run today - wondering how it went for you!
    Nice PR - I'll have to remember this story for those times I feel like starting out too fast. Nevertheless, you pushed through (you inspire me, if I haven't told you that before).

  11. Sounds like you did wonderfully -- I know you didn't hit the under two-hour mark, as you wanted. It's nice to read the detail!

  12. Wow! Congrats on the PR Glenn...I know how it is...I have a tendency to go out too fast and pay for it's hard to not do that.

    But still, a PR is a PR...and by 10 minutes? woot!

    The last .10 mile split made me laugh!

    Congrats and take a few days off. You earned it!

  13. Didn't I remember you had another race with the perspiration? The one with the USC alums? I can't remember, but maybe these two races can give you something to work with on your next race.

    You did a great job. You DID leave it out there. Maybe you can go back and get it next year!!!

  14. I'd say you definitely deserve the day off! Maybe even a few days off? What about keeping your running at the same distance per week but doing more cross-training? That could keep your legs moving at a fast cadence but wouldn't be too much on the joints. At least it worked for me last year but then again i was not then, nor will I ever be, a speed demon!

    Shaving 10 minutes off of your time is pretty awesome, by the way.

  15. whoa! 10 minute pr!! congrats on a great race! that is awesome dude. way to push through the pain in those tough late-miles and gut it out. enjoy some rest til you are back at it again, you deserve it!

  16. Great job on the race! A PR too! It's so hard to hold back those first few miles, but 13 miles ain't chicken feed and you will feel it somewhere along the way. But I love that sprint at the end! I forgot, did you fuel during the race? A gel or sport drink may have eased the pain at the 8 mile mark.