As in previous years, this race wasn’t my A-race but did fall into my training plan. My Shamrock Marathon spreadsheet called for 12 easy miles as a long run for the weekend. 13.1 about 30-45 seconds faster than easy seemed to be a good compromise.
My cheering squad deposited me at the start line, then found their way to the a spot in the early miles of the race. I found the porta-potty, then the 4:15 pace group and began to mentally prepare my strategy. I wanted to keep the early miles slow and easy
I’ve never had luck with the pace groups for this race. I attempted a sub 2 hour half in 2013, so I joined up with the 4:00 marathon pace group. Despite being well within goal for the first few miles, they lost me.
While I managed to stay with them for most of last year, the 4:15 took the first lap of the race quicker than the 9:40 average needed to complete the marathon at goal. I suppose the strategy is to bank time in the early miles, given the elevation change on the course. However I have never had luck with positive splits, and had planned to do the first 10 miles at an easy-push effort and go from there.
I stayed with the pace group, checking myself on the down hill during the first mile. During the mile 2 climb into the residential neighborhood, I lost them. The coming miles were rolling, and I could have probably caught them but I didn’t want to trash my legs early on.
I fell into a steady pace and found a group of 3 runners going my same pace. I introduced myself, and we stayed together for the next few miles.
Mike, Sheri, and Pre were each running the full, and were trying to set a nice, easy pace for the first of their 2-loop course. Talking to them helped distract me from the steady climb up Trentham, which has kicked my booty in years past.
I also chatting with a 70+ dude who had on a “run for Christ” shirt on. His shirt prompted me to reflect on my memory verse, and I told him as much. Once the commitment is clear, you do what you can, not what you can’t. The heart regulates the hands. 2 Corinthians 8:12. He thanked me for the reminder of why he was out there, then told me about his racing plans. This was his 2nd half marathon, and he was hoping for a full marathon by the fall.
As we crested the top and turned onto Gervais, I said my goodbyes and pushed on ahead. They still had 16 miles to go, and weren’t ready to pick it up. I flew on the downhill approach to the steep hill ahead of me, then kept the legs moving as I tackled both parts of the doozy.
Wearing my heart rate monitor helped me with a strategy on pace. I’ve got no shame in walking a hill like that, but on this day it wasn’t needed. I kept my turnover as steady as possible to the top.
The race is, or at least feels, all downhill from there. Looking at my splits over the years and it would appear that Mile 12 has a bit more elevation gain, than 11 and 13, but only slightly affecting my pace.
The cops at this race were catching a lot of flack from the cars (and from some runners who didn’t want to stay in the cones, as reported by my cheerleaders) so I made a special point to thank them at each intersection. The closer to downtown, the more I passed. In the final mile, however, I was pushing too hard to do any more than grunt and flash a thumbs up.
I finished this race about a minute slower than my time last year, but my last mile had more kick! I think I took it easier on the run for the most part, and am glad for it. I am in taper mode, after all.
Because I know what is important in racing, I posed for post race photos, grabbed a bagel and enjoyed the sunshine on the steps of the state house. While the weather felt balmy by Tennessee winter weather (traveled through sleet to get to my destination on Thursday), the 44* was still a bit cool for my cheering crowd.