SLO Half-Marathon RecapWriten by: Hank Wethington
Posted on 09 April 2013
You know, 13.1 miles is pretty far to run. Yeah, I know people are running ultra-marathons now, but 13 miles is still a long way. I was reminded of just how far 13 miles is on Sunday during the SLO Half-Marathon. When I originally schedule this race, I thought I had three weeks between the MTS Olympic Triathlon and this Half-Marathon. While still not a long time, I thought it would give me time for recovery and a good mileage week followed by taper. I didn’t do my math right. There was only two weeks between the events. Oh well.
Between MTS and SLO Half-Marathon
After MTS (read my race recap), I took a few days off, then hit a short run and some pool time. On the Saturday between events, I got in one long, 10 mile, run just to make sure that my feet and legs were up for the distance. I knew I had the cardio. Heck, I just did 3 hours in MTS, so a two-hour run shouldn’t be a cardio issue. I haven’t written about it here, but my left knee has been bugging me, so I was concerned about the turn around. Any run over 2 miles has been causing some serious pain in my left knee (yes, I will get it checked out, no I don’t think I’m doing any permanent damage), making it harder to train just for running. To finish out taper week, I did a 4 miler on Tuesday and a treadmill 2.6 miles on Friday. Every run left me with some knee pain, but it was manageable with RICE post run.
When Saturday rolled around, I was focused on all my normal pre-race routines. The race started very early at 6:30a, so I was in bed by 10p, up at 3:45a for breakfast and out the door by 5:10a. Right on schedule. I was surprised by how many people were standing around or warming up in the staging area. While small compared to races like LA, Boston or New York, the SLO Marathon was the largest race I’ve been around, with about 3500 runners. When the marathoners took off at 6a, I turned in my sweat bag and walked over to my pace corral and started warming up.
There were two other runners from my office participating in the half, which meant not only were we wearing our Rosetta race shirts, but we spent a few minutes having fun and being silly. This really kept the butterflies at bay. At 6:15a I took my Gu, prepped my playlist and finished my warm ups. Let’s do this!
When I planned out the race, my goal was to run a 2:10, so I joined the 2 hour pace group. I thought if I could stay comfortably with the group then not only would I finish ahead of my goal, but I would make sure to keep a consistent pace. Every race is a mental battle at the start so as not to get out too fast and end up with nothing left at the end. I was wearing my heart rate (HR) monitor and kept an eye on my it to make sure I wasn’t pushing too hard. I felt good and my HR wasn’t high, so I ran comfortably, which actually put me ahead of the 2 hour group. Mile 1 ended with an 8:20 pace. Solid. Some time around mile two, my knee already began to hurt and I realized it was going to be a long run. As we ran through downtown, mile 2 finished with an 8:17 mile. What’s the key? Consistency.
During mile 3, we hit our first hill of the run, Johnson Hill. I’ve run it many times on lunch breaks, so it didn’t scare me, but controlled pace and HR and not getting caught up with the energy of people rushing up the hill was my goal. Mile 3 finished on a down hill with an 8:27. I slowed a little on the extended downhill as my knee wasn’t happy, but hit mile 4 at 9:05. The course winds itself around the eastern edge of the city with all the wineries and ranches along the rolling hills. Mile 5 was nice and flat, maybe even a little decline, but the end of mile 6 begins the uphill climb into mile 7 for the turn around. Considering the terrain, the times were pretty stead at 8:15 (5), 8:52 (6) and 9:03 (7). I was pretty excited at my 6 mile time and as I took my Gu, I considered the possibility of a sub-2 hour finish.
Heading back into town I realized there was still a lot of running left and reminded myself to control my pace and HR. Mile 8 was great at a 8:38 mile pace due to much of it being down hill. While my knee wasn’t happy, I was starting to pick out people to pass, which made me very happy. Mile 9 and 10 had a slight incline and I wasn’t paying much attention to my HR, I was just running. Looking at my times now, I’m a little disappointed, but overall it wasn’t bad at 8:52 (9) and 9:03 (10).
Heading through mile 11, I saw some friends which encouraged me to pick up the pace, and picking people off one by one, was encouraging. Many people were starting to slow down and I didn’t want to be one of them. I finished mile 11 at a nice 8:30. However, even picking off runners and knowing the end was near, wasn’t enough to keep from slowing down some, I finished mile 12 at 8:54.
When I finished mile 12, I knew it was time to leave it all out on the course. This was the moment I was waiting for, when everyone was just trying to make it to the end, it was my time to finish strong. I picked out a runner and set off to run him down. Sliding into my groove, I attacked the last hill before the home stretch along the Madonna Inn bike trail. I finished mile 13 with an 8:07. Now, you’d like to think there was only 1/10th of a mile left to go, but ever since mile 2, my phone reported a different distance than did the signs on the road, and I wasn’t the only one. Two other racers concurred with me that the course was about 13.3+ miles. Oh well.
I barely saw my son, Harrison on the side yelling for me as I kicked to finish. I never did pass the guy I picked out, but I passed a number of runners trying to. The last third of a mile I ran a 7:22 pace, finishing the race with a total time of 1:55:30!
Over all I was extremely pleased with my race time. I was shooting for 2:10 and ended with a 1:55. This was a huge improvement over my previous half-marathon at City to Sea of 2:36. Jamba Juice provided some nice Oatmeal and a smothie as a post race food, which was awesome and hit the spot. I also had an opportunity to enjoy some Ice/Compression treatment! It felt amazing. Finally, I hooked up with my family, enjoyed the expo and headed home. Happy, healthy and goals achieved.