The 2016 race season started off kind of slow for me. I signed up for the Miami Marathon, along with the K-LOVE Cruise 2016 but #blizzard2016 also known as Jonas took care of that. Flights were cancelled up and down the east coast forcing us to hop a rental car and drive from Virginia to Florida. We arrived safely in Miami just as they were tearing down the marathon finish line. Turning the page I set my sights on warmer weather, no snow and the Tobacco Road Marathon in March. For a tune up race and to gauge my fitness I signed up for the Heart & Sole half marathon in Greensboro, NC.
The Heart & Sole Half Marathon and 5k is a small town race and one with a lot of charm. Arriving with my wife Michele at the race site on a crisp and cool Saturday morning I was not sure what to expect. The half marathon field was small, around 150 runners, the 5k saw another 50 or so. What we did find was great parking near the start/finish line and a simple race day package pick up process. We were also greeted by friendly smiles and a cheerful crowd as we all tried to keep warm.
J&A racing beanie
Pearl Izumi champions high tech t-shirt
Race Dots “Don’t be a pin head”
Injnji toe socks
Garmin GPS forerunner 201
Pearl Izumi road N2 shoes
Nike fleece gloves
Nathan hand held filled with a mix of Gatoraide and GU gel
The race started off with a simple but effective race brief and a wonderful singing of the national anthem. I do not know who the girl was but she rivaled the singers I’ve heard at national sporting events. Great Job… With the brief out of the way it was just a few minutes before we were off.
The half marathon course was simple and easy to follow, a few out and back legs connected together in and amongst the housing community of Walnut Creek, NC. Running thru this housing area nestled among mature trees and a lake provided plenty of diversions to keep my eyes and mind busy while pounding out the miles. The course had a number of gently rolling hills and inclines typical of a North Carolina town but nothing to really compromise your legs.
When the gun went off the pack did not make haste getting on down the road. Following the crowd I started off at a pretty fast pace (for me). Normally I start at a conservative pace during the opening miles of a race to ensure success at the finish, but today I decided to test myself and let it roll. During the first out and back section around mile two I caught a glimpse of the race leaders and decided to count off the lead runners to figure where I was in the line up. I’ll admit I lost count but figured I was around 33rd or so.
As we made our way out to the four mile post I fell in line with another guy I reasoned to be about the same age who was running about the same pace. I figured I would latch on to his bumper and let him do the hard work of busting up the little bit of wind we were facing. For the next few miles I put be drafting off him NASCAR style with my eyes locked onto his blue shirt and the local scenery passing us bye. My mind was occupied with keeping up the pace, staying in line with the blue shirt guy in front of me and wondering how many bass were in the lake.
As we made our way to mile five the fellow in the blue shirt and I linked up with another pair of runners. In this group was a younger kid in his teens and a guy with much longer legs. Our little group of four made good time rolling along miles six, seven and into eight. For the most part I found it easy to run in this pack. A few times I felt the need to pull to the front as it seemed the pace might be falling off just a touch but before long the guy in the blue shirt would reel me back in and take over his spot in front. I figured why fight it and was happy to let the blue guy shirt go back on point and lead the way.
The section between miles seven and eight were a bit confusing, or maybe it was the lack of oxygenated blood flowing to my brain. This section was made up of two out and backs around a central roundabout. The sign posting here got me a bit concerned that my pace had fallen off. I noticed a posted sign for mile seven but it seemed I then ran forever before I got to mile eight. In retrospect I think I saw the the seven mile sign out of the corner of my eye early on while making my way around the out and back near mile six. This early sighting made it feel like I ran forever to get to the eight mile point. One good outcome of this was that I pushed the gas pedal down in fear that I had lost some time and broke free from the pack putting some distance between the guy in the blue shirt, the kid and the long legged runner. Once free of the pack I did a little race math. I came to the conclusion that on the pace I was running a new half PR was on the table and if I could pick it up some a sub 1:40 finish might be a real possibility.
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: I do not recommend doing public math during a race. In the course of trying to predict a finishing time I’ve ran off course, fallen down and turned the wrong way while trying to carry the one, subtract the two and put the decimal point in the right place.
Once the high level math was behind me, mile nine featured a nice climb right after the turn around and led us out onto the what felt like the two longest miles of the day. I kept reviewing the math in my head as I ran solo down what would be the longest straight sections of the course. A sub 1:40 was real possibility and to motivate me to keep the hammer down I focused on the runners in front of me. I tried to reel them in one by one. Mile 12 found us back in the housing section with slight turns, a few inclines and a rambling route to mile 13 and the push for home. Glancing at my GPS watch I knew I was target I just had to keep it up. My legs were getting a bit tired as I climbed a few rollers and made the final right turn for home. I my wife was positioned at that final turn and was cheering me on. Seeing her there after she finished her 5k gave me an extra push to get back up on my toes and gun it home.
Rolling into the finish line a PR was in the bag, but I was a lousy 25 seconds short of a sub 1:40 finish.
1:40:25 a new Personal Record by nearly 3 minutes, placing 22rd overall, 3rd in my age group but 26 seconds to slow for a 1:39:59………….I’m happy with that.
Have you ever missed a PR by seconds?