Thursday, August 25, 2016

Bald Eagle Half Marathon, Callicoon, NY, 8/20/16

We (Kim and I, as usual) planned to run the Half Full in Philly on August 14th, but the race director canceled the Half due to excessive heat. I searched for another half, but in August longer races (unless you are looking for an ultra) become hard to find. On my first pass of the calendar I dismissed the Bald Eagle Half believing Callicoon, NY must be in the middle of nowhere and likely too many hours away to make it realistic. But when I looked again, I realized it was only 2 hrs and 20 minutes away with an 8:00 am start. We could drive there race day morning and that is what we did. 

I found the Certified course map and plugged it in to "Map My Run" and got an idea of the elevation chart. It looked good, like it could be a fast course (mostly incline out to turn around, decline back). Even with this chart, it was difficult to guesstimate how much incline we would face, so I wrote the RD. I was told it was a "false flat"on the way out. I assumed that meant the incline was not very steep and would not really be that noticeable.  

I looked at NOAA to see what the weather would be like in Callicoon, NY. I found out it would be a little better than what we were getting in NJ. This was great news!  The Universe want us to go to this race! 

Unfortunately, on Friday, once I arrived at the park to meet Alanna I noticed I was breaking out in a pressure rash. I wasn't sure how this was going to impact my running.  I decided to cut my training run short at 5.5 miles to get home to take some Benadryl.  I was really looking forward to racing and now something is really going wrong. 

If I had not convinced Kim that we HAD to go to this race, I would have never gone. She had to get up at 3.30am to get to my house by 4:55. We had hoped to arrive by 7:15 for the 8:00 am start. With three GPS's on to be safe :), but with all saying different things it is amazing we got there at all. We drove part of the course on our way to the start and I can say with confidence that "false flat" is another term for rolling inclines.  It wasn't mountainous by any means, but I have run much flatter courses. Some of the inclines would be steep enough to impact pace.

We arrived with 12 minutes to spare, (12 MINUTES, LOL!) and parked right next to the start/finish. We got our bibs, found a bathroom, and literally jogged a 1 minute to warm up before we lined up to start.   I was concerned about my pressure race, but I had to put it out of my mind. No turning back now. 

This race was tiny. Somewhere between 30-40 people only. No one wanted to line up near the front. I decided to move up and when the go signal was given I ended up taking the pace (out a little fast). I settled down. There were just two people with me. We quickly pulled away from the rest. 

We 3 ended up taking top 3 spots.

By the first mile, the woman took over the lead and pulled ahead. The guy eventually moved ahead of me too. I let them go. There would be value in having company to make it feel more like a race and less like a solo tempo, but they were moving too fast for my pace plan. I wanted to just run my own race.

After my recent PR 5k, I set my goal half pace at 6:50. I wanted to sit 10 seconds plus or minus that pace. M1- 6:42. 

The first two miles had most of the elevation changes and turns but after M2 we just settled in for a mildly rolling climb to all the way out to the 6.55M turn around. It wasn't steep but I knew I was climbing. I could feel it in my thighs. I watched the lead lady pull further and further away.  M2- 6:36

In the third mile I passed the guy and ran the rest of the race alone. Small races are mentally challenging. We need to find a reason to keep the pace up when no other runner are even in sight. M3- 6:50

As I start mile 4 I question myself. I was falling to the slower side of my pace plan and my legs were feeling so very heavy. Oh boy, this is way too soon for this to happen. I had a gel pinned to the waist band of my shorts and it was irritating me so I pulled of off, opened the tab. I planned to take it somewhere between 6.5M and 8M. Mile 4 was too soon, but I needed to try anything if I wanted a chance at a good race. I sipped a little and then folded over the top. I carried it until just before the turn around. M4- 6:49

M5 and M6 were steadily inclining and I struggled to stay sub-7. But I stayed positive, knowing this was temporary and I would get a better course on the way home.M5- 6:56. 

At the start at Mile 6 my watch read 7:27. This lit a fire under me. And that was the moment I knew that I need to try my heart out to break 1:30 today.  

The only chance I had to run PR was to use all the descents, run with fluid form, and push hard on the way back. I repeated to myself. "Every downhill is a gift" and "Fast Form."

I have been working a lot on trying to remember to carry my upper body with better form. Less hunching. Less high arms. Less scrunching at the shoulders. It feels unnatural to me to run with better form, but this is really Running 101 stuff. By running smoother my back feels better and even though I feel like I am moving slower because it takes a lot of focus, I am really moving faster. I take off after the turn-around and think. "Ok. 3 miles of tempo. Then 3 miles of progression and I am done." I don't think I can catch the leader. She is so far out in the distance I can't tell which is her and which are runners coming towards me. M6 - 6:59

I pass Kim as she runs towards the turn around while I am on my way back. She looks awesome. In the split second we pass she says "40 seconds!" and I know exactly what she is telling me. I also knew by her upbeat tone that she believes I have a chance to catch her. However, I was not so sure. I was running as fast as I could and it didn't seem like I was making up pavement. M7 - 6:56

I took the race mile-by-mile. We ran passed all the mile markers, so I would multiple the mileage that remained by 7 minutes and add that to my total (to allow for some fade if it happened). At M8, I was happy to see that add up to 1:29:xx (but this is still too close to 1:30 to feel confident I was going under it). M8 - 6:26

As I look ahead at the leader, I swear she is starting to get bigger. But that may just be wishful thinking. I just ran a 6:26, possibly made up some ground, but not even enough to be sure. It seems this may be her day to win the race. But I want a PR so I am not letting up. 

Every downhill is a gift. 
Fast form. 
Watch the arms. 

I hit M9 and I am right at my Red Line, but not really suffering. My feet are starting to get torn up a little from my super light racing flats (NB RC500s) that I have only worn once. But I don't care. I can't let up. I feel like I have invested a lot of effort to set myself up to go sub-1:30 so it has to happen today. I hit mile 9 and my split looks good. M9 - 6:31

Less than a minute later I pass the 4 mile mark and add 28 minutes (7:00 x 4M) to my time at the 9.1M mark (61 minutes) and see I am still sub1:30. But I am not running 7:00s. I am running 6:30s and I feel like I can hold the pace. I also notice the leader has gotten a little bigger. I am reeling her in. This was like a shot of adrenaline! 

I make up a narrative to motivate me. I imagine that she has been running he entire race under stress about losing the lead. I decide she must be exhausted from being out there alone wondering if she will get passed. I think about Desi in the Olympics, running so many miles solo trying to reel in the leaders. I feel like Desi. Working alone. Running as fast as I can with no one nearby, but not letting up. I push the pace. She gets bigger still. It is getting hot. Where there is shade I am happy to have it. M10 6:32

I get lost in internal dialogue for the last 5k.

... I feel strong!  
... Fast form. Dont Forget this. 
... Drop the arms. 
... Feet hurt... badly. Really badly!  Serious hot spots!
... Forget the feet, they will be fine
... Don't think. Just run. 
... You're making up ground. You have a chance. Believe in you, like Kim does. 
... "40 seconds!!!" meant she thought I had a shot... But I didn't believe her then. But now I do. I can do this! 

M11 6:24

When to pass? Not too soon. Don't give her time to regroup and come back hard. Don't plan to hold the lead for any longer than needed. Don't pass too soon and not be able to do it with authority.  Never look back. Pass with a burst. But how long can I burst for. A quarter mile?  Half mile?  The rest of the way in? Can I get far enough away to win even if I fade?  ... Forget all that. There she is. Just pass now. Dont... Look... Back..

 11.9M I pass and drop my pace hoping she does not come with me. 12M - 6.25

Dig! Lift the legs. Push! Is she coming? Don't look back. Don't you dare even think about looking back right now. Can I hold her off? Feet are burning. Just Run. Omg which way do I go? I have no idea how to run this fast and not have someone to follow. What if I miss a turn?  Phew, I have a police escort. The Sherif is leading me. He is leading ME! This is amazing!  I hope I can do this. I don't want to lose this now.  

I glance at my watch. Lap pace. 6:09. Nice! Keep pushing. I don't hear her. I need to cross the street. It is not closed to traffic. This is my chance to check where she is because I have to look back anyway.  I know she isn't on my heels. I see cars letting me pass. I don't she her. 

Only .3 to go. Come on finish line. Where are you?! 

M13 - 6:07

I have not checked my watch since I passed her. I know I am breaking 1:30 but not by how much. I turn the corner. I can see the finish. I can see the clock. 1:27. 

Omg. O.M.G. There is the finish mat. I did it. I broke 1:30... I broke 1:29 and 1:28 too!

And I won the whole thing! I don't care that this race was tiny. Really tiny. I didn't win a tiny race with a slow time. I raced my heart out against competition who pushed me so hard I set a new half marathon PR by over 3 minutes. I ran more than a 2:00 minute negative split.  My last mile was a 6:07. My last .1 (.17 on my watch) was at 5:52 pace. I ran a sub-20 5k for the last 5k. I worked for this. 

I still can't believe this is my new half PR. 


1:27:21 (6:39 pace)

First place Overall 

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