Saturday, April 21, 2012
Salt Lake Half Marathon, 2012 edition
This is the 6th time I've done this race. It was my first half marathon in 2007, and I've done it every year since. In 2009, I didn't have a time, as I was coaching for Team in Training and actually did a marathon that day, all on the half marathon course. I have not raced it hard every year; I did in 2007 and this year, but the last couple years I've done it as a training walk. Anyway, I love the course, and so I do it every year. I always see people I know out there too. Today I saw a former Team in Training friend, Stephanie, and at race end I saw Megan from work, my Team in Training friend Cara (who now lives in Nebraska!), and my former Masters swimming coach, Malaika, who took 3rd in the women's race with a time of 1:24:xx (a PR for her). Malaika is an amazing pro triathlete whose blog I follow.
The weather was picture-perfect for a race, though a little warm by the finish for someone who has been training in sub-50F (sub-10C) temps all spring. The temperature at the start was about 51F (10C) and it was probably 62-64ish by the finish. My face and body were crusted with salt from sweat at the end of the race. It was sunny and clear, and not windy at all - just lovely. I didn't even have to check any gear.
Pre-race, I drove to the university, where the start is, and parked in a garage near work. I had a little stuff to do in the lab for about 20 min, and then I warmed up with a nice brisk racewalk to the start (probably 1km?). I didn't warm up as much as I usually would because I didn't want to overtax my hip. By the way, the hip gave me just a twinge here and there, so I think it's fine; my left quad had some tightness/minor pain during the first mile but otherwise was fine.
I was to meet some friends pre-race, but couldn't find them in the crowd. Oh well. It was still great being out there in the race atmosphere. I really enjoy it, all the more so since I usually train alone.
The gun went off and I took a nice moderate pace down the hill for the first couple miles. I felt decent but not great. I was able to keep a fast pace on the downhill but not as fast as I would have liked with a moderate effort. The first mile was fine - an 8:45. The second mile is flatter, but still...only a 9:10. The third mile was 8:57, which was good, but I knew I'd have to be faster on this first part if I wanted to go sub-2:00. Not that I was disappointed with my time so far overall - I reached 5K (by my watch, not the course) in 27:40, which is actually a PR for 5K by a few seconds. Downhill helps though - my average heart rate was just 146 for the first mile, 153 for the second mile, and 154 for the third mile (normally in a fast 5K my HR would be in the upper 170s at the finish). Still, I knew that I wasn't feeling good enough to go sub-2:00, so I tried to ease up and save a bit of energy; I figured I could get a PR anyway.
I had trouble with the aid stations today for some reason. They were much better organized than in past years (thanks to the new race director), so that was fine, but I just had trouble drinking out of the paper cups today. I think I've been spoiled by the bottles you can use in racewalking races. Perhaps I should have carried my own water. Anyway, I had to walk more slowly through the aid stations and lost some time there, starting about mile 5ish. I still made it to 10K pretty fast, in 56:45 (by my watch, not by the course markers) which was 29:05 for the second 5K AND a PR for 10K (EDIT: nope, close, but not quite a 10K PR - had 56:31 last summer in a downhill race). Funny...it wasn't that hard to go 10K that fast downhill :). The 2nd 5K was slower, but it was flatter with probably 1km slightly uphill in the section in SugarHouse Park. They changed the course here, so there was a bit more uphill here than in past years (though it's very slight). By my watch, I got to the halfway point in 1 hour exactly. While the first half of the course is 118m downhill (by my watch), the second half is only a net 53m downhill, with a tough hill in the last mile. I figured 2:02 was the fastest I'd go, but I doubted that would be possible as I was pretty tired despite keeping my heart rate and effort moderate through 10K.
I knew the last hour would just be holding on, since I was already tired. Each time I reached a mile marker I was a bit disappointed with my mile splits, but I knew if I pushed harder it would cost me more in the end. Last year when I did this race at 85% effort, I did 1:02:45 for the first half and then 1:04:52 for the second half - much better pacing than today. I guess I should not have tried to go out at a sub-2:00 pace today, because that cost me at least a minute off of my final time. Well, if I'd been feeling good I might have kept the pace, so it was worth a shot, especially in a race that was inexpensive (local, entered early for $45) and not a goal race.
The last half is a bit of a blur now. I got to 15K in another PR time (by my watch, not the course markers - they didn't have any km markers) in 1:26:20, faster than my goal race pace for the 15K in Riverside in May, but only 29:35 for the third 5K; I was slowing down. The Riverside race is flat which will be much more challenging than this course, but I'm encouraged that I can do my goal time on a downhill in a half marathon. I think that bodes well for May, and last year I did about 1:30 for the same and then went on to do 1:29:03 in Riverside.
The last 6K was tough. I grimaced at the photographers in Liberty Park (one of them actually cheered me on using the word "racewalker!") and pushed as hard as I dared, knowing that the hill on State Street was still to come. I made it to 20K just before the hill, in 1:56:50 (yet another PR!). The way the course was re-jiggered meant that the hill came about mile 12.5 instead of mile 12, and it was tough as usual. But I knew there wasn't far to go, and managed to do the last 1.1 miles in 10:34, 5:57/km pace despite the hill. My average heart rate for that last 1.1 was a whopping 169! I guess I did give it my all there at the end.
Total time was 2:03:50, with ave HR 158.
Oh, one more thing - the comments from runners were more numerous than usual this year. They seemed really impressed by my pace, especially early on when everyone was feeling pretty good. Several of them asked me how long I thought it would take me to do the race. They were all quite respectful, though, and seemed genuinely interested in racewalking. Some of them even knew that it is an Olympic sport.
Garmin data here.
Here are all my pictures.