Monday, September 29, 2014

An Anecdotal Study of the Impact of Humidity on Performance - Part 1: Newport Liberty Half Marathon 9/21/14, Jersey City NJ.

Photo from Anthony's (My Team Captain) Album
Anthony, Kim, and me.
I usually write my race reports the week of the race.  I just couldn’t bring myself to write up the Newport Liberty Half Marathon report last week because the race was just a horrible experience for me.  

Before I continue, I need to squash a few potential comments about how to judge performances.  First, I want to say I know my half marathon time was not a “bad” time.  I know that many people would love to run the time I ran... etc.  But I am not comparing my performance to others and making some judgement call about what is a “Good” or “Bad” half marathon time. In fact, in my opinion there is no Good or Bad times, instead there are specific runners with specific goals and specific times they are targeting for specific reasons. To set a realistic goal, to train for it and then to miss that mark simply feels bad and it is allowed to feel disappointing ... even if a ton of other people would “Love” to have run the time.

Ok, so with all that said. Last year, I ran a 1:31 a the Newport Liberty Half. I had run the Rock and Roll Philly half the week before also in 1:31.  I was racing a lot more last year and felt lean and fit and was riding a peak of a wave of good racing.  

This year, I have been focused more on marathon training. I have been skipping racing in exchange for getting out early every other weekend with Dave to run 21-23 mile Long Runs, successfully negative splittings these in hot/humid weather, starting easy but pulling the paces down into the 7‘s and then trying to break 7 minutes per mile in the last few tenths.  We have been hitting the track once per week for 6 minute (or sub-6) paced or better repeats of various fractions of a mile. We have been crushing those workouts.  I have been meeting Kim for challenging hill work where we warm up with 7.5 miles of a hilly XC course and end with up to 5 x 0.2 mile repeats of a very very very steep road incline. I was working hard.  I was getting enough recovery between runs.  

At the start of Newport, I did not expect a PR, but if the opportunity presented itself I would not turn it down. Based upon the weather, I did not expect to run the 1:31 that I ran last year.  But I was hoping to see something like a 1:33-1:34. The weather was simply OPPRESSIVE with humidity between 91-96%.  This humid day came after a week of cool mornings with exceptionally low humidity.  It was stifling even with a start temperature of 67 degrees.  

I personally only know of one person who actually PR’d at Newport (Congratulation Joe D. for beating all odds and doing amazing work!)  

Kim, John P., Enrique and I did about a 5 minute warm up at about a 10:30 pace, which resulted in massive and immediate sweating. I think we all knew it was not going to be a great day. 

Last year I started at 6:45... this year I hit M1 in 7:04 and it felt hard. Very Hard.  I readjusted my initial goal from trying to match last year to something slower. I felt 7:15’s were possible and I believed I could sneak in just under 1:35. This was not what I needed or wanted to see as a predictor race, but it was a realistic compromise. 

The next many miles were simply an exercise in trying to hang on until the half way mark where I planned to make a re-assessment. M2-7:13, M3-7:19, M4-7:19, M5-7:23, M6-7:17.

The only thing that gave me peace of mind that the difficulty I felt running this race was not a failure of my training was that I saw most of the runners I compete with nearby.  Collectively we were all suffering. Just past mile 6 I ran into a female runner who seems to leap frog with me in races.  As I pulled up along side of her we talked for a minute. She reported that she was just shutting it down and cruising it in, feeling she went out too hard. I was trying so hard to remain optimistic by reporting that humidity was supposed to be worse at the gun time and decreasing as time passed.  Maybe things would get better?  But they didn’t.  M7-7:21, M8-7:18. 

And at some point around M8.5 Sean passes me. He mentioned that I passed him there last year.  He is so upbeat and positive.  I tried to stick with him a bit. Maybe things could turn around.  M9-7:05

That little extra push was soul-crushing. I felt like my legs had the power but my lungs were just not getting enough air to fuel the effort.  I faded back and watched Sean speed away into the distance. M10-7:20, M11-7:22.

I was soaking wet and not sure how much was sweat and how much was water I was dumping on me.  I just wanted this to be over. I had no ability to find another gear.  I decided to minimize the suffering and just finish it off. I slowed my pace to what felt tolerable. M12-7:33, M13-7:45 with the Last .14 at 7:06 pace

UGH.  This is probably the first race in a long time where I just had 0 kick at all. But I also had 0 motivation to dig for it at that time.  I was just happy to get to stop the madness. 

Time: 1:36:26 (7:21 pace)
OA: 209 out of 2782
Gender: 37 out of 1327 
AG: 8 out of 217