Sunday, May 9, 2010

Eugene Half-Marathon Race Report

It was the best of times, it was ....well, hell, it was just the best of times.

Heading into Eugene I had one goal in mind: Beat my previous PR of 2:37:22 from the Eugene half in 2008. But as the months of training wore on I realized that a PR wasn't going to be enough to really satisfy me. I knew I was capable of more so I set my mind on a new goal: sub 2 hour 30 minute finish. By the time race day rolled around I had a sneaking suspicion that even that might be low-balling but I wasn't confident enough in what I could do so I kept my goal sub 2:30.

Bright and early Sunday morning, my friend Todd, my brother Matt and I left our hotel and walked the five minutes to the start line. Kevin was along with us but was acting as our race photographer and chief clothing holder for this race. Booking that hotel in November was one of the smartest things I have done. No dealing with shuttles to or from the race plus extra time to sleep in the morning. Score!!!

We milled around the start line for a while before all scooting off to our respective pace areas. I looked for The Cilley Girl but wasn't able to spot her in the big crowd to wish her happy first marathon. Having been at this race since it began four years ago I have seen it grow quite a bit and you could really tell that this was their biggest group yet. More people each year which is good for the race.

The weather was absolutely perfect. Sunny, temperatures in the 50's, no wind. Really, you couldn't ask for better conditions as far as I was concerned. It was a little chilly in short sleeves at the start line but by mile 2 I was warmed up and stayed the perfect temperature for the remainder of the race.

The gun is fired and we are off! And why, oh why, are there people walking in front of me right at the start line? Do the pace signs mean nothing to them? The first mile running is always hard for me. I need at least a mile to feel warmed up and get myself physically and mentally in the groove for running. In mile two I started to get that groove and was just cruising along and enjoying the run. Somewhere around mile four I realized that my pace was better than I thought it was going to be and that I had a really good chance of not only beating my PR but beating the 2 hour 30 minute mark. But it was only four miles in and I didn't want to get too cocky so I tried to slow it down a little just in case I needed some reserves later in the race.
The miles kept clicking by and I kept feeling strong. I kept looking at the Garmin and my pace was hanging out right about 10:45 the whole time so I felt pretty confident that I could, at the very least, hold my pace to a sub 11:00 if I just didn't try to push too fast and just let myself hold steady.

Mile 9 is where the only major hill is and I notched my slowest mile of the race but I ran the whole thing and passed people on the way up which is always a fabulous feeling. In fact, I didn't have to take a single walk break the entire race which means this was also the furthest I have ever run continuously. OK, I did walk briefly at water stops but that was a matter of a few steps and I don't count that.

After Mile 9 I saw Kevin, who was busy taking pictures. I told him at that time that I thought I might have gone out too fast because I was starting to feel tired. I could feel my pace slipping a little but I was pretty certain the wheels weren't going to come off or anything.

Mile 9 is also where they had a banana station set up. Now, bananas and running are a good thing nutrionally but banana peels on the racecourse just seemed like a bad cartoon moment waiting to happen. There was also a dancing sub sandwich at this particular stop which, had it been later in the race, might have made you think you were hallucinating.

The last few miles have you running in the beautiful Alton Baker Park but it looses some of its beauty at this point of the race. I am tired and have been running for a while and frankly would just like to get the hell out of the park and get to the finish line. I tried to increase my speed a little at this point but my legs were going about as fast as they could.  There wasn't anything left in the muscles to push the pace but there was plenty to just keep plugging along.  We cross back over the Willamette and start heading out of the park where you can hear the excitement of the finish line. I enter the gates of Hayward Field, and what a thrill to run on such a fabled track, and enjoy the crowd in the grandstands and the soft, cushy feel of the Hayward Field track and push to the finish line. I crossed in 2:21:56, which is a PR of over 15 minutes which even my non-running friends can figure out is pretty huge. Yes, the bar was set incredibly low but it was still a lot of time to cut off my total.

Here are the splits:
Mile 1   10:46
Mile 2   10:35
Mile 3   10:36
Mile 4   10:43
Mile 5   11:00
Mile 6   10:29
Mile 7   10:13
Mile 8   10:34
Mile 9   11:09
Mile 10  10:45
Mile 11  11:09
Mile 12  10:57
Mile 13  10:48
.10           9:39

I trained hard and really focused on performing the best I was capable of at this race and I believe I achieved that. Can I train harder? Absolutely. Can I pay more attention to cross training and nutrition? Absolutely. Can I improve my time? You bet. But even with those things I am satisfied with my time last weekend. I wanted to go to the starting line feeling ready and have a race I could be proud of and I did that. Also, I had to remind myself that when I began training back in January that I was my heaviest weight ever and was running about six miles a week. Considering how far I came in four months I am extra pleased.

By the way, the boys also had great races. Todd cut more than seven minutes off of his half-marathon PR and my brother lopped just over nine minutes off of his marathon PR.

Matt, Todd, statue of famed Oregon track coach Bill Bowerman and me

Bowerman and the "good job" fist bump

1 comment: said...

A week for the ages. YOu will remember this one literally the rest of your life. Way to work.