Monday, May 16, 2011

A rough day at the Chicago Spring Half Marathon

Well that was the toughest half marathon I have ever done. I'm not thrilled with my performance but I'm a strong believer that you learn more from a bad day than a good day.

Last year, I had probably the best day of my racing career at this race. I went out front in the first quarter mile just to get a good picture and then never looked back and won my first large race. I also set a half marathon PR by 2 minutes. Additionally, the weather was near perfect, I had two months of very solid run focused training in my legs, and I was coming off of a PR marathon in Boston.

This year was different in just about every way.

The weather was less than ideal with a feels like temp of 35, rain, and steady wind of 25mph from the North East.  The course is a straight out and back along the lake so this ment 6.5 miles of running straight into the wind.

Off the start we pretty quickly separated into a small lead pack. I actually lead the way for most of the first mile and a half, but then a guy passed me. I kicked it up and went a little faster than I should have to hang with him for a bit and then dropped back into the pack of about 5. Until about mile 4 that guy lead the race and the small pack I was in pretty much stayed together. We caught up to the first guy and then the pace picked up and there were a few changes in the leader. At this point I knew I was going just a little too fast, maybe 5 sec/mile, but there was going to be a really bad headwind on the way back so I wanted to be in a group. Around mile 5, the two guys leading the race pulled off and stopped, they didn't have numbers and were just bandits that were talking to two of the guys in the pack. I don't know the rules in running races but I know in triathlons outside assistance and having people pace you is definitely against the rules. Not that it mattered in the outcome of the race but it was the principle of it that bugged me.

Anyway, the 4 of us stayed in a pack until the turn around at mile 6.5 and we met the wall of wind we would have to fight all the way back. I held on for about a half mile and then we split into two groups of two. The guy that dropped back with me and I slowly lost ground on the leaders but we stayed right next to each other until about mile 11. At that point he picked it up and I had nothing and couldn't answer.

In the end, I was dropped by 3 better runners and came in 4th. Congrats to each of those guys for staying strong into the worst headwind I have ever raced into, especially Kevin who put 4 minutes into me in the last 6 miles. As far as time goes, I was over 5 minutes slower than last year, which I'm sure a few minutes of was due to the conditions and I believe the others were a combination of a different training focus, no taper, and poor execution (i.e. I went out too fast).

So, what did I learn?

  • This year Phil is training me to be a long course triathlete, this worked very well in Oceanside where I had a great run and actually ran a faster 13.1 off the bike than I ran open today. In the past I trained myself like a runner, had great running race results, but had trouble running off the bike in a tri.
  • Don't get over confident. Since I won this race last year, I thought I could hang out up front. I ran at least 5 seconds too fast (maybe 10) per mile for the first 6 miles. Because of this I had nothing left when we turned into the wind and fell apart at the end.
  • Don't chase guys that don't have bibs on. I was being naive and figured it was under his long sleeve shirt when we went by me and I chased… nope.
  • Don't underestimate the impact of the weather. It was tough out there and I went out and tried to run the same as I would have in perfect conditions, which obviously didn't work so well.
  • The Zoot Ultra Speeds are awesome for running in soaking wet conditions as they were light and didn't hold any water.  They are going to be my race shoes for the rest of the year.
As usual Theresa and Abigail where there to cheer me on, but luckily they were able to hang out instead for most of the race and avoid the weather.  Here is Abigail and me getting ready to go to the race.

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