Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Report: Inland Trail Half Marathon

Finishing MMT in May was my Superbowl for the year. I didn't make other plans to race long, marathon or otherwise, for the rest of the year. I took a pass at a fall marathon/ultra effort and decided to save it for Boston 2010. Over the summer, I maintained a loose training plan but trained often with locals and raced a couple times in September and early October. While my two September races returned dull results, a 17:37 five-km on October 3 provided confidence to take a big swing at the half-marathon. A distance I have less experience with.

Witnessing many friends run terrific fall marathons, including my sweetheart Andrea, provided my motivation and inspiration to take a shot at another PR. Having run a 1:23:38 last November, the peripheral goal of earning a lottery bypass to the NYC Marathon (for my age, sub-1:23) guided my training. I ran couple long tempo workouts in the final weeks, culminating 11 days out with a 4x 2 mile effort at T-pace that gave me confidence.

The Inland Trail is an old railroad bed converted to a 10' wide paved path through Lorain country. The marathon course is certified out-and-back 13.1 miles. The half marathoners started at the far-end turn-around in Kipton at about the same time the marathoners started at the finish line in Elyria. Lorain county is generally flat and there is no dirt on this trail. This course is a flat bike path and a rhythm-runner's delight.

Before the race I made a game plan to run the necessary 6:20 pace, which nets a perfect 1:22:58. I focused on three numbers:

19-flat at three miles,
31:30 at five miles, and
63-flat at ten miles which would leave 20 minutes for the final 5-km.

Andrea drove Angie and I out the start line with plenty of time. With 40 minutes to gun, we ran together for an easy two mile warm-up. I added a few gentle strides at perceived race-pace and prepared for the start. In years past, 1:23 might have won this race. At the start, seeing the local super-fast olympic trials qualifier Fred K. in the race, which took my mind off racing others and staying focused on my goals. (He finished in 1:09.) Except for the lack of competition to pull me along, the conditions were ideal with temps in the low-40s and overcast skies.

The first mile of the race is a short loop and after the initial quarter-mile I found my spot in fourth position. I passed mile one too fast in 6:05 and eased off, finding my way in the next two with 6:26 & 6:14. I passed three miles in 18:45 and fifteen seconds in the bank.

Since the course is so flat and straight through the countryside, there's not much to report on the scenery. Most of the leaves are down now. The leaves that remained were at its brilliant peak color. The course was scenic, lonely, and perfect for a time-trial.

Since us half-marathoners started exactly at the turn-around point for the marathon race, our HM mile markers were placed a perfect 0.1 mile after those of the marathoners. Since I don't wear a GPS device (stopwatch only), this situation provided me with an additional reference point to gauge my pace. I would get feedback at the 0.9 and 1.0 of every mile. I used the situation to my advantage.

The next two miles come and go in 6:23 & 6:12, passing mile five in 31:21. I concentrated on even breathing and start thinking mile-by-mile. In this section of the course we run through the college town of Oberlin.

As it turned out, we started about 20 minutes after the marathoners. By mile six I started passing the outbound marathoners and without trying my effort surged. Miles 6, 7, & 8 went by in 6:08, 6:15, & 6:06. I knew I was having a good day but wondered if I was biting off more than I could chew. Five miles remained. Seeing Andrea between miles 7 and 8 gave me a lift.

Throughout the race so far, I could see the 2nd and 3rd place runners about 400 meters ahead. I wasn't gaining ground but they gave me something to look at. Never did I look back. My attention turned to the 10-mile split. Miles 9-10 pass by in 6:18 & 6:16, which put me at 1:02:34 with 5-km to go. I did the mental calculation and knowing I had nearly 20.5 minutes gave me a boost. I dug in and went for it.

Mile 11: 6:10
Mile 12: 6:03

In my last big tempo workout (11 days prior) I saved a little kick, running 6:02 and 2:55 for my final mile and 800. Now I reached back and delivered a similar feeling kick, fueled by opportunity to crush my PR. My math might have been fuzzy, but I aimed my effort towards the possibility of sub-1:22 and perhaps a closer to 1:21. It felt amazing to have a little left in the tank in the final stretch.

As it turned out, something with the course markings were off. Mile 13 was 6:22 and the last 0.1 in 56 seconds. I cross the line in fourth place 1:21:53 yet wondered why the splits in the final 1.1 miles were so off. I was flying! The last 5-km covered in 19:18.

Regardless of all that, I can't complain with the final result which was a PR by 1 minute and 45 seconds along with a guaranteed entry to NYCM. After thinking about it all and checking the course certification document, I figure the total distance was accurate and that the mile markers were inconsistent.

After watching the rest of the half marathoners and some of the marathoners (two of my co-workers/friends, Kyle B. and Vince R., finished 1-2 in the marathon), Andrea and I arrived home in time to watch the NBC broadcast of the NYC Marathon. The combination of watching Meb win and running my own personal best on the same day has me pumped to get back to the marathon!

Thanks for reading.

RESULTS

Between miles 7-8 of the Inland Trail Half Marathon

4 Comments:

Blogger Mike said...

Dude...awesome report and run! Really impressive!

4:11 AM  
Blogger The Salty One said...

Nice run, Lloyd! I'm betting on a big pr in Boston :)

9:21 AM  
Blogger E-Speed said...

congrats on a fantastic run Lloyd!

2:28 PM  
Blogger Mark Carroll said...

Great run Lloyd!!

9:48 AM  

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