Today I ran the City of Wellington Half Marathon with my friend C. The goal was was to help her break 2:00, but she wasn't feeling up for it, so my personal goal was to help her run a good race, and a smart race. I have run this course twice before- my first time was my second ever half, and I PR'd by 4 minutes, doing it in 1:50:35. The second time was a few months after my half PR in 2005 (1:42) and came in the midst of my first bout of marathon training. I rabbited off, lost it early on and finished, incredibly disappointed in 1:49:xx. Needless to say, today was my slowest run on this course!
C and I started the run slow, and hit the first k in 5:35 (about 9:00 pace). I have always felt that that first k marker is a bit short- I've hit it in 4:30 and 4:20 before, and I haven't been rabbiting THAT much! We kept an easy pace, chatting and enjoying the weather, and I kept a close eye on my HRM. I knew that if my rate started sneaking out of my aerobic zone, C's would have been at the "too high" level, and I wanted us to run an easy first half and a hard second. It's an interesting experience at the back of the pack. I sort of expected people to be friendlier, to enjoy it more, but they were generally just the same as the mid-pack runners. Serious, working hard. The only guy who was overtly friendly was the triathlete C knew who was trying to pace his wife to a sub2:00 (they failed too). There were some walk-breakers who we leapfrogged with for awhile. I took a bathroom break at about 2 miles in, and had fun running at race pace + to catch up, though I felt like a complete poser!
We hit the 5k at 29:43. I was OK with this, as I thought we would be able to make up for it later on. Just before the 10k, you run up the only hill in the race. We passed a number of people on the way up, and although we joked about getting passed back on the way down we didn't. So I said to C at the 10k mark "from now on I'm not talking to you- I want you to run. We probably can't break 2:00 [we were at about 1:00], but we may be able to get you a pb [her current is 2:03]" She seemed happy with that and we pushed on. The next half of the race was so much fun. It was hot, but it was still easy running for me, so I was having a high old time. We passed tons of people (ok-probably about 5, but this race is so small that those 5 people were covering about 500m). Then I got scared that I was running too aggressively for her, so when we approached a line of about 5 people (including our target, "white singlet woman") I held back. But C was feeling strong, and was rather psyched on the idea of passing people, so before I knew it, we were passing the next queue. For the rest of the race we continued like this. At one point I was leading a wee pace group, which was so fun! I think I will investigate being a 2:00 or 2:10 pacer for a race sometime.
We shared part of the course with a triathlon (the scorching series that P and I have competed in before). It was fun checking out the bikes and enjoying the atmosphere but I felt a little sad at times. My last chance for an oly race was today, and it was a beaut day for it- NO wind and not tooo hot. But I had a great time doing this race. And while we were watching the racers, I thought about how glad I am that I haven't had to kill myself on the bike for the last few weeks- I want to go sub 1:30 on my first Oly ride and I'm not ready for that yet (the Oly course has a loong hill and tends to attract maaajor wind). Instead, I'm looking forward to sorting out that cycling after the marathon, and avoiding any extra stress on my ITB. By half-IM day (I need to make some serious decisions on the details soon!) I want to be able to ride 90km in sub-3:00. I don't expect to do that on the day, but I want to work hard and keep a 30kph average.
Anyway, back to the race at hand. We hit 15km in 1:29. I knew 2:00 was gone but thought that 2:03 was within our sights. However, it was not to be. Although we kept running hard, I could feel C pulling back when I pushed her. We were picking up the pace for the home stretch when we got to a sign- 1 k to go. WHAT?? Completely threw me, and C too I think. This race has some of the dodgiest markers ever- I've thought so every time. It was hard to motivate C for that last k, and green top girl (the only one of our wee pace group who had kept with us) took off ahead of us. I actually think she owed us some thanks! She'd been drafting for quite some time. Ah well, sensible strategy! In fact, I think she would have run a better time if she'd lost us earlier.
When we got to the grass at the end I told C it was time to race. "You've got a sprint in there- come on!" It wasn't much of a sprint but she took off, and crossed the finish line just in front of me, in 2:07:30(ish).
Maybe I could have helped C break 2:00, or maybe she did have a pb in her, but maybe if I hadn't been there she'd have gone over 2:10. If we'd gone harder early on, we could have found those lost minutes, but we could have burned out, or we could have had less fun. I really hope that the race was a positive one for her anyway- maybe not the best number, but hopefully a good experience.
It was definitely a good experience for me. I liked running an easy half. I liked running 9:42 pace and averaging 160 bpm (not too far out of my aerobic zone). I liked crossing the finish line as fresh as when I started (well kinda- 13.1 miles hurts your legs a bit no matter how easy you take it). I don't know if I should say this, but I think I have a sub-4 marathon in me. It might not come out in Rotorua- I know the first marathon adds an extra 20 minutes (or whatever) and the Rotorua course has a couple of major hills- but I think it could well happen this year.
PS: So it turns out that running a(n albeit slow) half, hitting the pool for 500m before Masters then swimming short sets for an hour makes your legs really tired. Even if you do 45 minutes of yoga to stretch them out in between! I think my am spin tomorrow will be done at home with Coach Troy and the recovery dvd, and not at the gym!