Monday, April 12, 2010

The Streak is – kind of – over.

Followers of this blog know that I've had quite a streak going. Basically, a PR every time I race. To be more specific, I've had a distance-specific PR on every road race I've done, and a course-specific PR on every trail race I've done. That ended – kind of – on Sunday.

The race in question was the Bucks County Half Marathon.
This was my fourth road half marathon, after 2 Caesar Rodneys (08, 09), and last fall's PDR. I don't know the seconds, but my times had gone 1:29, 1:26, 1:25.

Going into the race, I thought that I had a decent chance of breaking 1:25, but not a good chance – probably around 40%. But I don't have a good sense, really, of where I am. I did manage to take a minute off my Tyler time, from '09 to '10. But I know I'm not where I'd like to be. A winter full of snow running of just miles, no real speed work, and 7-8 pounds that I didn't have at the marathon can't have helped matters. That said, I did put in the miles. So, yeah, I didn't really know.

And, having run a half-marathon yesterday, I still don't.

This was an inaugural race, and I expected some hiccups. It started around 20 minutes late, but ok. So be it. It had the feel of a fun local race. It was easy enough to get to, and it was right near Helen's mom's house. And the course was beautiful. Shaded roads, most of them with no vehicle traffic.

If it seems like there's a 'but' coming, it's because there is. A big one.

This was the most disorganized course I've ever been on.. The RD was a 17 year old who'd never directed a race before, and it showed. There was no way to know the course, short of having studied it ahead of time and memorized it, or even come out and practiced it. Which, of course, I didn't. I suppose that I could have studied the course map on the website, but that didn't really occur to me.

In any case, I was off course – kind of – by mile 4. I know that because I passed the mile 4 marker in around 15 minutes. Except that it turned out I wasn't "off" course, I was just doing that particular loop backwards. Which would have made sense, if they had a) described the course during the 20 extra minutes before the start, or b) had a map of the course at the start. But they didn't do either.

There was one T-intersection – literally, a full-on T, a dead-end, you turn right or left, with no signs and no volunteers. Helen was there the first time through, thank god – but she didn't know the course, since there was no map at the start. The course I ran was just guesswork.

So, yes, very frustrating.

One more thing to add, was that the website had said that there would be gatorade every other mile. There was only water. It's hard not to sound whiny when writing that, but it's a big deal. If I know ahead of time that there's only water, fine – I'll pack a gel and eat it half way through. But nutrition is a big part of race strategy. And I was counting on the extra calories from the gatorade for the second half. Not having them hurt.

In the end, it's very possible that I ran 13.1 miles. I ran most of the run with three other guys, one of whom had a gps. They had it at 13.3, but they had gone off route – kind of - and doubled back. They'd started the loop in the wrong direction, like I had, but they doubled back. (They still managed to drop me in the final mile, but I was glad to get to run with them for much of the race).

My time was just under 1:27. So, yeah, an end to the streak.

With a good course and calories to sustain me, could I have broken 1:25?

I think so. I'm not sure; but I think so. I spent a lot of energy mentally that I could have spent physically. That said, I do wonder if the days of smashing earlier PRs is gone. I was hoping on having a better spring season than this; but it turns out that the time to start planning your spring season is in the middle of the winter, and I didn't do that.

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