This past Sunday I ran the Covered Bridges Half Marathon. It’s a point to point race with a net elevation loss – which is something when you live some place that calls the rest of the world ‘Flatlanders.’ The first time I ran this I set a massive PR of near seven minutes. It was the first time I realized I could really run fast and in the front of some packs. The following year I bombed, hard; naturally this year I wanted to get back to where I was. The difference this year lied mostly in my training – I hadn’t. I’ve been trying to gear up for the VT100 in July and I
haven’t done any real workouts with a half marathon focus. Top that off with a cranky Achilles tendon, and I wasn’t really sure what was in store for this past Sunday. In my mind, it could have gone either way.
Sunday morning came and my wife and kids piled in the car. I sucked down my cup of coffee and half a bowl of oatmeal in the car. The day before my AT had felt pretty good and I didn’t really notice it, Sunday morning was a different story. It didn’t hurt, but definitely let me know it was there, and was some how anticipating the abuse it would soon receive. My family dropped me off a the start and I wandered over to the check-in. I took my time putting my bib on, and lacing up my SKORA Core. I had 30 minutes before the start of the race, and wasn’t ready to start warming up yet. Eventually 8:00 rolled around and I headed out for my warm-up. Typically, I’m not a big stretcher, but lately I’ve really been working on my hips and calves as it seems to help the AT. I got back to the start line feeling okay, and two minutes later, we were off.
I didn’t really have much strategy for this. Part of me wanted to go out just under 6:00 and warm-up from there, but the other part wanted to stick with the front pack and hang on. Last year the leaders went out around 5:50, but it was much hotter. As it turned out, I sat at the back of the front and ended up going through the first mile in a 5:38 – a little too fast. The front pack consisted of maybe seven runners, a couple I knew were capable of holding that pace. Over the second and third mile a couple guys dropped back and the pace slowed down as we rolled through mile 3 just over 17 minutes. After mile 3, the spectators start to fade, and the race starts to string out. By mile 4 there were 5 of us still running. We came to the 6 mile mark right around 34 minutes and it was hear that the leaders left us. I think they picked it up a bit, and my pace flagged a bit. I kept trucking but my pace dropped a couple of seconds, and by mile 7 I was slowed to a 6:15 (I’m fairly certain mile 6 is short, and 7 is long).
With the two guys in front long gone, 3-5 slugged through the 8 mile mark. Seeing how slow it was, I picked up the pace – probably a bit too much – and dropped another 5:43 with another runner. And then the pace started to yo-yo and the other guy I was with left me behind. I’m not sure if it’s a mental thing at this point in the race, or a true physical inability, but when things get spread out, and I don’t really have anyone in site, I start to slow, then speed up when I realize I’m slowing, then slow down again and the back and forth continues until the end.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve developed a nasty side stitch whenever I drink Gatorade mid-run. I’ve since turned to HoneyMaxx which causes no problems, I can’t really bring a hydration system with me on a half marathon. Anyway, I’ve learned to just rinse the mouth out with the Gatorade and dump some water on my head. Unfortunately, at mile 10, a bit of Gatorade snuck down the pipe and by mile 11 I was picking up some nasty stitches. It wasn’t enough to totally stop me, but it definitely slowed the pace a bit. I went through mile 10 in 57:30 and finished in a 1:16:26 – it took me near 19 minutes to run the last 5k. I’m not blaming the last 5k on the stitch, but it certainly didn’t help.
I’ve been training in my Core, and this was my first race in them. So far, they’ve been a delight in training. Nice and roomy, exceedingly comfortable. They proved to be just as delightful to race in as well. Though I think I might have to stick with the Phase (what I wore for my 50 miler) for shorter races as they’re just a bit snugger and I appreciate that in a racing flat.
All in all, I’d say things were a success. While I was 5 seconds off my PR, I still managed to pick up 3rd. My wife and I had made a decision that I wouldn’t have to shave my moustache if I won. It was farcical and I was planning on shaving, but my wife has decided to give in on the grounds that I was the first VT’er. She said I can keep it through the VT100 if I can pull out a ‘W’, ha!