ilanarama: me, The Other Half, Moab UT 2009 (marathon)
[personal profile] ilanarama
I am afraid that this report is longer than the race. Longwinded storytelling at the beginning, numbers and analysis at the end.

I've been fighting a tendinitis-type owie in my right ankle ever since the 5K I ran three weeks ago, and I have taken a lot of rest days, trying to let it heal. I almost considered not running this race, but I really wanted to do it; it has been a goal race for me just as much as the Boston Marathon, in another four weeks, is a goal race, and as it is a lottery entry there is no guarantee I will get in next year. Plus, it's a fast course, at lower elevation than where I live. Originally I had hoped to run something around 1:38; with my injury and abrupt fall-off in training, I wasn't sure that was feasible, but a PR was still likely and I still had a chance at sub-1:40. Plus, it would be a fun weekend with my friend Kazz, who lives 4 hours from me but who runs a lot of the same regional races.

Kazz and I got on the bus to the race start and stepped off at the staging area in the Colorado River canyon around 8:20 am. At that hour the canyon was completely in the shade, and it was just barely above 32F. Over my planned race clothes (short-sleeved tech shirt, arm warmers, and running skirt) I wore nylon track pants, sweatshirt, nylon windbreaker, gloves and a fleece headband; within two minutes my teeth were chattering and my toes were going numb. And we had almost 2 hours before the race even started!

We walked back and forth trying to stay warm, until a little after 9 am they announced that people could start heading up to the actual start, maybe 1/4 mile upcanyon from the staging area. The sweat trucks were between the staging area and the start, and we dithered for a while next to the further truck before gritting our teeth and stripping off our outer layers to send back to the finish. I decided to keep my ($3) gloves and my (thrift store) windbreaker and ditch them along the route, since the trucks were to leave at 9:30, still half an hour before the start, and it was still shady and not quite 36F. At this point, I was taking the presence of my fingers and toes on faith, as I wasn't really sure if they were still there; on the upside, my injured ankle was getting a very nice pre-icing and felt perfectly pain-free. Or maybe it was just that I just couldn't feel anything below the knees.

We made our final portapotty stop just before the lines got really long, and did a desultory warm-up, as the starting area was beginning to get crowded and we didn't have much room to actually run. Since awards are based on gun time, we decided to line up at the "optimistic realistic" pace sign of 7:00. I took off my jacket and dropped it by the side of the road at about 9:55; from a charity thrift store it came, and to a charity thrift store it shall return. I shivered. It was 37F. Finally, after about a billion years, the gun went off.

The course starts out sharply downhill, and we were in a pack of optimistic realists who took off like rabbits, so zoom, off we went. I glanced at my Garmin and saw something that started with 6 but didn't panic, as I know that it's generally unreliable in the first quarter mile of each lap, before the average really gets going. Of course, it's still relatively unreliable after that, but I had turned off the auto-lap and planned to manually lap at each mile mark, which turned out to be a smart thing to do, as you will see. I also did not panic at my HR which was something like 110% of max, again because I know that it usually takes a mile or so to settle down. As it happened, it took 4 miles before the HR gave reasonable readings.

I almost did panic when we passed the first mile mark and saw that I'd run it in 7:10. But I reminded myself that it had been a steep downhill, and that my breathing was easy and even, and since I didn't have useful HR at that point I just went by feel. And I felt pretty good.

The second mile was 7:21, still kind of fast, but my body was telling me it was just fine, thank you, other than stupid Mr. Right Ankle which was just starting to murmur. Fortunately, it never did anything more than a low-level ache - I'd say a 2 on the 0-10 pain scale - and it miraculously quit hurting at mile 12. (Sunday morning, on the other hand, it was not nearly so happy. But ice is working wonders, and I have another chiro appointment on Monday.)

It always seems to take me about 2 miles to get into the groove of any workout, and this race was no exception. Now I felt like I was settling into a good pace - "comfortably hard," as they say, which turned out to be in the neighborhood of 7:25. Somewhere around here I passed Kazz. I grabbed a cup of water at the first aid station, and then ditched my gloves. The sun had started to crest the canyon walls and it felt much warmer than the 38F which the Weather Underground says it was.

Not much to say about the middle miles of the race; when I started getting real HR numbers I felt a bit more reassured that this wasn't going to be the best 10K of my life followed by a 7-mile trudge, but I really didn't look at my HR or my pace much, except when I punched the lap button at each mile mark. I just ran. The few hills seemed quite gentle to me, but I found that I passed a lot of people every time the grade increased even a little bit. I got a gel at the 6-mile aid station. At some point I took off my arm warmers and stuffed them into my waistband. I entirely missed the photographers until I was right in front of them, so I didn't get to do my traditional geeky smile-and-wave.

At mile 8 the road makes a big, sweeping curve right up against a cliff which towers above to the south. I lost GPS signal here, and a minute or so later glanced at my Garmin and saw that it thought I was running 12-minute miles. A few minutes later I was up to 18-minute miles, and it read something north of 26-minute miles for a while. I was vastly reassured when I saw the big 9 by the side of the road, hit the button, and discovered it had been another 7:25 mile.

Just before the mile 10 aid station a woman went past me like a shot and then slowed to a stop in front of the porta-potty. She looked like she might have been in my AG, so I was at first nervous, then relieved...then nervous again when she trotted past me just as the canyon road ended not quite a mile later. There we were directed onto a rec path, under a highway bridge, and then out onto the shoulder of the busy, noisy highway that connects Moab with I-70. This was the least pleasant bit of the course, and my slowest mile at 7:34, but I kept that other woman in sight, and although I never managed to pass her she was a great rabbit for me, and I am sure that chasing her helped keep my pace up.

It was yucky to run along the road with traffic whizzing past on the other side of the orange cones, but as consolation, this is where we started to get spectators. Just past the 11 mile mark were a flock of ten or so kids in a line, holding out their hands for high-fives, and I thought, uh-oh, it'll slow me down, but the woman in front of me held out her hand and slapped them all so I did the same, and I think it gave me a boost, instead! At mile 12 the highway swung left at a Denny's that Kazz had pointed out on the bus ride - the Canyonlands version of the famous Boston Marathon Citgo sign - and my ankle miraculously stopped hurting. Or maybe it was just that the rest of my body had caught up with it and hurt just as much, because this is where I started really pushing hard toward the finish line. I passed a guy who was, unbelievably, wearing black tights and long sleeves, as by now even though it was only 39F the sun was bright and hot and I was feeling quite warm. I passed a younger woman. She passed me. I passed her again. I turned left at the last corner and I could see the finish line at the end of a long block lined with cheering people.

"You can catch her!" I heard, and that got me kind of angry, because the woman I was chasing was out of sight, so I knew they meant that someone could catch ME, and I accelerated, or at least I tried to, as my stomach suddenly informed me that I was flirting with the Puke Zone. I didn't want that younger woman to pass me again! Then I felt a presence at my left and it was an older man, motoring past me, and everyone cheered and I politely refrained from giving the crowd the finger, because yay him, but, hmmph!

Finally I could see the clock, and although I had been doing the math in my head and come up with 1:37:xx, it was still pretty shocking to me to actually see the numbers, and see that the xx was very low. There had been a guy counting out times at the mile 1 marker so I knew I was around 15 seconds behind the gun, and if I really hammered, 1:36:59 was a possibility. I gave it a final, crazy burst, crossed the finish line, and nearly passed out. I fell into the arms of one of the volunteers and she let me lean on her as far as the table of water, where I grabbed first the edge of the table, then a cup of water, and breathed deeply. I was done.

Final results: 1:37:17 gun time, 1:37:01 chip time. This is a PR for me by 4:43! 3rd in age group (45-49F) out of 172, 37th woman out of 1942, 213 human being out of 3282. I am still a very long way behind #1 and #2 (at 1:27:55, and OMG she is 49!, and 1:32:57) but #4 was 1:39:21 so I had a comfortable lead on her. The Runworks calculator spits out 1:33:40 for a sea level equivalent half, which, yeah, right. For a half at 6600 ft. I have to interpolate but it suggests about 1:39, which makes sense as that's a 7:35 pace, what I was aiming for in my training.

I attribute this great race to six things:
1) I had a really solid marathon training cycle up to 2 weeks ago, with 3 weeks in the 65 mpw range.
2) I was slightly injured - not enough to interfere with my racing, but enough that I took quite a bit of time off before this race, so all my training fatigue was gone.
3) The altitude advantage of living and training at 6600 feet and racing at 4000 feet.
4) Perfect weather; I run better in the cold.
5) A fast course, very gently rolling with a slight net downhill.
6) I am pretty well attuned to my body for pacing longer races without blowing up, even when the splits are faster than expected. So I didn't hold back out of fear - I knew (or at least, was fairly sure) that I could maintain pace.

Splits (all manual, meaningful HR data beginning mile 4, first maxes kind of spiky):
1. 7:10 (downhill)
2. 7:21
3. 7:26
4. 7:29 avg WHR 78% max WHR 95%
5. 7:23 avg WHR 84% max WHR 96%
6. 7:17 avg WHR 85% max WHR 94%
7. 7:25 avg WHR 86% max WHR 90%
8. 7:25 avg WHR 86% max WHR 90%
9. 7:26 avg WHR 86% max WHR 90%
10. 7:27 avg WHR 88% max WHR 93%
11. 7:34 avg WHR 87% max WHR 91%
12. 7:25 avg WHR 88% max WHR 93%
13.1 8:05 (7:29 pace) avg WHR 90% max WHR 94%

It's possible that the HR data in terms of WHR is a little skewed due to the altitude difference. I noticed while waiting for the race to start that my HR was in the 56-60 bpm range while standing still; ordinarily while I'm standing outside waiting for my Garmin to acquire my HR is in the 66-72 range. (My resting HR is around 58, but that's when I'm horizontal in the morning.)

Finally, I want to point out that as usual, I raced much faster than I ran in training, for the most part. It occurred to me that it might be interesting to do a little analysis for this race and for the 5K I ran at the end of February (which was local and therefore at my training altitude).

Beginning after my marathon in mid-November, I ran a total of 834 miles before the half marathon. Of these miles, only 20.8 (3%) were run at or faster than 7:30 pace. (This doesn't mean I didn't run tempos - just that most of the tempo miles were slower than 7:30.) Other than the 5K which averaged 7:09 pace for 3.1 miles, the longest string of sub-7:30 miles in a row was...two. Most of the time spent at or under my actual HMP were in mile or shorter intervals.

I also split out the sub-7:15 running (not including strides) I did before the 5K, which almost all came in bits of .5 miles or less. The longest stretch of sub-7:15 running before the race was a .75 mile interval at 7:14. This came out to a total of 7.2 out of 723.2 miles, or 1%.

ETA: If you want to be amused by the sight of me gasping like a landed trout as I race toward the finish line, here are the official pictures. Some of them (from the middle portion of the race) aren't too bad, but mostly? I look like a fish.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-03-22 09:07 pm (UTC)
libitina: snake across an open book (Default)
From: [personal profile] libitina
You are so awesome! And, yeah, you totally should have given the crowd the finger.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-03-23 06:57 am (UTC)
blnchflr: Captain America Civil War (Runner-in-spe)
From: [personal profile] blnchflr
Good read - I liked the kids giving you high-fives, though yeah, if there'd been a lot more of them, it probably would have slowed you down. Boo on guy for passing you at the finish line (but it's great to be the one passing, isn't it)!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-03-25 10:21 am (UTC)
blnchflr: Captain America Civil War (Default)
From: [personal profile] blnchflr
Btw, this guy wants to give you a high-five, too.


Date: 2010-03-23 02:59 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
great race report - The analysis at the end is the best part. Long slow (hilly) miles seem to make for the best training whatever the distance. I am slightly jealous of your PR, I've been struggling to get below 1:40, but marathon training makes that tricky. So I'm glad to hear it was almost-puke-hard. I haven't raced at that level in awhile. And when I do, you've given me the confidence to know that its worth it, because I can/will go sub 1:40! Congrats on an awesome race!!! (Rach649)

Great RR

Date: 2010-03-25 01:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
ilana - Terrific RR. I like the battles as you neared the finish line. PS You altitude "people" always seen to doubt your sea level expected times. Don't. As hopefully, Boston will show you

(no subject)

Date: 2010-03-27 01:42 am (UTC)
gnomad: Squid wants to marry you (Squid-Marry Me)
From: [personal profile] gnomad
Woot! Congrats on the PR!

I love your long race reports. It's all the fun of being there, only without the exhaustion and sore legs at the end.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-03-27 02:32 am (UTC)
gnomad: Orange stick figures doing triathlon (Triathlon)
From: [personal profile] gnomad
I will! (And 85 days until the first one OMG.)


ilanarama: me, The Other Half, Moab UT 2009 (Default)

August 2017

131415 16171819
20212223 242526

My running PRs:

5K: 21:03 (downhill) 21:43 (loop)
10K: 43:06 (downhill)
10M: 1:12:59
13.1M: 1:35:55
26.2M: 3:23:31

You can reach me by email at heyheyilana @


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