Friday, November 7, 2014

Running Free - PHX10K Half

Since I've been following the Maffetone Method, where I've been running at or below my maximum heart rate (MHR) of 132 bpm as prescribed, its been a few weeks since I've been able to let it rip. Having been eying the weather late in the week, I knew conditions were going to be near perfect, 60°, 40% humidity and partly cloudy, for the 7 am start.  
The day started off well as I got up and out with plenty of time to make the 45 minute drive into the city, park and get loose. Always a bonus.

After a light warm-up of lunges I took an easy 1.3 mile shakeout run through downtown. Feeling great in the ideal conditions I new that all systems were go and I had no reason not to challenge my 1:39:12 PR. As I settled in about 15 deep from the line, the 1:30 pacer got right in front of me and I entertained the the thought of keeping up since that is my ultimate 13.1 goal and the course is relatively flat with the last 5 being a slight downhill.

When the gun sounded and the race began, thoughts of keeping up with the pacer quickly ended. A 6:50 pace was much too fast and I stuck to my plan of turning 7:30's. Keeping my pace in check at the start is getting easier as runners go past me but I still have the urge to go with them. Experience tells me that if I stick to the plan, it won't be too long before they burn out and I see them again.

The first 3 miles is a bit of an out and back through the high-rises so it wasn't until I made the turn north that I realized there was a bit of a crossing headwind out of the NW that we'd be contending for the next 5 miles until we hit the turnaround at mile 8.

As the miles progressed, I had nothing to concern myself with other than maintaining my 7:25ish pace (although my Garmin was a bit off as I was getting mile notifications about .1 before I hit the markers so my pace was actually a tad slower) and keeping with an easy 2:3 breathing rate.

After passing the 6 mile mark, I noticed footsteps behind me and after a few tenths realized I was being used as a wind-block. Soon the other runner pulled beside me and we chatted for a mile or so.

This was a new experience for me since I have never had a runner with the same pace around me during a race and had a chance to talk. My new bud's name was Derek and like me he had the goal of a sub-1:40 race too.

For the time were running together, we discussed the beautiful weather, past and present races as well as running in general. Although it was a pleasant distraction, I noticed I had slowed down off my pace and also had lost the focus on my breathing so I began to increase my speed. This change in pace was a little too much for my new friend so we parted ways just before we reached the turnaround. I would later see that he came in well below his goal and finished in the low 1:38's.

Well done Derek!

As I hit the turn down Central the wind was now to my back, I was feeling strong and with the last 5 being pretty much downhill, it was go time. The race was really going quite well, almost too well, but that was soon to change. I began to notice a slight irritation on my left foot at the base if my toes and knew a blister was forming.

Oddly, I only seem to get blisters during races even though I feel like I take every precaution. I later found out via some post-race research that blisters are more likely to be caused by internal forces.


While I tried to put this out of my mind as I hit mile 10, I shifted into another gear. It was now down to a 5K and that's where the race really begins.

The best way I have found to finish strong is to try to catch and pass the runner in front of me. Once I catch him or her, it's on to the next. This not only provides me with some added motivation but it also serves to distract me from any issues like the one that is growing in my shoe. Unfortunately, I began to feel more discomfort which caused me to alter my form and throw off my mechanics. As I hit the last little hill with 2 miles to go, the mental game had begun. I was just me and BBW an I was determined this was not going to be his day.

The great thing about experience is that even the bad ones can be beneficial and can be great tools down the road. Wanting to ease up as my legs began to feel the effects of the pace I was keeping, I only had to remind myself that by coasting at the end of a previous 5K when fatigue set in, that I missed a top 3 in my AG by less than 5 seconds and lost out on a pretty cool prize. I knew there was going to be no AG award on this day but there was going to be no slowing down either, blister or not.

I was in the home stretch now, determined to stay strong as I made the final turn to the finish line. With a burst of speed in the last 25 yards, I crossed the line as the clock turned 1:37:50. Knowing that I had started off a little deep, I knew I had a fresh PR to be proud of. I would soon learn that the new 13.1 time for me to beat will be 1:37:45.

Post-race, after grabbing a water and banana, I wanted to head over to the Run3rd5K booth where I thought some local tweeps would be holding down the fort.

I turned out to be correct and got to meet local runners Kris and Mindy. Not only are they great people but as it turns out, they are good friends of the president of the company I work for. After hanging with them for a few at the Run3rd5K booth, I began my trek home, medal and PR in hand.

So, what did I learn from this race?

For one, I found I still have some work to do before my next half in January and a long way to go before I tackle my first full in February. More important however, I have confirmation that the Maffetone Method works. Looking over the data, I see that my pace was a 7 seconds/mile slower compared to the 10K I ran 3 weeks prior but my average HR was 8 bpm lower. However it needs to be taken into consideration that a pace/distance calculator adjusts that 7:20 10K pace to be 7:45 for a half which is well above the 7:28 I finished with.

This shows me that you can get faster by running slow which supports the fact that I am making progress and with only the possibility of one more race in 2014, I need to stay the course and keep with what is working.