The fall racing season. It’s something to look forward to. When the cooler weather arrives it’s time to get the results that all of those hot summer runs were supposed to produce. For those of you who are actually experiencing fall at the end of October, I’ll bet it’s a welcome change. For those of us in Florida, fall hasn’t gotten around to showing up yet. Just knowing that, I should have made a better decision at the start of the Lighthouse Loop half marathon.
This race started just before sunrise, about a tenth of a mile from the beach, 15 minutes or so south of Daytona Beach. With the slight breeze that was present this could have been the perfect race morning. That is where my thoughts were when they should have been focused on the more important details. The temperature was 70 degrees with 80%-plus humidity. And that breeze? It was a headwind for the first 6 miles of this race. Since I was ignoring those pesky details I was undecided on what pace to lock into even as the Star Spangled Banner was playing. Just in front of me in the corral was the 1:40 pacer, and just behind me was the 1:45 pacer. Instead of focusing on the conditions I was thinking that if I am going to have a real shot at a BQ (3:25) next month I need to be able to nail a 1:40 half. Decision made.
When the gun went off I was right behind the 1:40 pacer and watching how effortless his strides were. I was running the fastest pace I’ve ever attempted for a half and he appeared to be coasting. When my Garmin buzzed at the one mile mark I saw that we were 2 seconds ahead of projected pace at 7:36. Nice!! And I noticed that my heart rate was at 161. I’m going to need to keep an eye on that. Mile 2 was done in 7:37. This guy is good! Heart rate is now at 178. What? How can this be? I’ve run a 10k at 7:16 pace. I should be doing better than this. For mile three I was so focused on my heart rate that I managed to fall off the pace just a bit (7:44), but now my heart rate is 183. I’m at 95% of max at mile three. I don’t get it.
Sure the heat, humidity, and headwind probably had a lot to do with my high heart rate, but for the next 99 minutes my brain was racing faster than my legs. Maybe I didn’t train hard enough. Maybe I didn’t get enough sleep, ate the wrong foods, have too much stress, and a thousand other thoughts. I really know how to beat myself up.
Miles 4-7 were spent accepting the fact that I was pretty much spent at the end of 5k and my times slowly got worse. 8:06, 8:31, 8:32, 8:55. The eighth mile was where I started taking walk breaks. 9:46. In the ninth mile I even took my headphones out and never put them back in. 10:07. Miles 10-12 saw more walking and steadily slower times: 10:17, 10:32, 10:51. During these three miles I was picturing the mammoth bridge that would be waiting for me in mile 13. Almost 100 feet up and 100 feet down in about six-tenths of a mile. I actually handled the bridge pretty well, completing the 13th mile in 9:16. During that last full mile I realized that I was going to be close to the two hour mark. From the 1:40 pacer to 2:00??? I found something extra for that last tenth and covered it at a 7:19 pace, finishing in 1:59:00. On the bright side, the post-race meal was awesome, thanks to Aunt Catfish’s.
This race was hard for me to take not only because I missed my goal miserably, but because I missed last year’s time on this same course by over ten minutes. Last year I was hoping for a sub-2:00 time and finished in 1:48. I feel like I have so much that my legs are capable of accomplishing, but I can’t keep my heart rate down long enough to do it. My next race is a full marathon and it’s less than 5 weeks away. That race is going to be run with a better plan than this one was.