Race Recap: Lighthouse Loop Half

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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.

LLoop medal

This race started just before sunrise, about a tenth of a mile from the beach, 15 minutes or so south of Daytona Beach. With theĀ  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.

LLoop 2

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.

LLoop finish

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.

LLoop food

Breakfast: an orange, cooked apples, omelets, sausage, OJ, and Bud light!

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.

LLoop1

Sometimes less is more.

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There are some of us who run because we like to run and it helps us with our fitness goals. If that sounds like you then I offer kudos for finding something that you like that’s healthy at the same time. I am not one of those people. Yes I like to run and yes it keeps me healthy. I’m probably in the best shape that I’ve ever been in. Still, being in top shape is not my motivation for running. I’m a competitor. Just a couple of days ago a good Twitter friend called me Mr. Crazy Racer Man. Yeah, I’m motivated by racing and a chance to do better than I’ve done before.

My first 5k, November 2013

My first 5k, November 2013

Maybe better means a faster time, maybe it means more miles than I’ve run before on consecutive days or in a week, or doing something that someone else might think is just plain crazy. I’ve run two races in the same day three times. I’ve run a half and a 10-miler on consecutive days. I completed the Dopey Challenge by running a 5k, 10k, half and marathon in 4 days. I set 19 PRs in 2014, including 9 races in a row because I am competitive. Sounds like everything is good, right? Mostly.

Six medals for completing Dopey!

Six medals for completing Dopey!

In 2014 I managed to injure myself twice. Once by breaking in a new pair of shoes with an 18-mile training run (guess you can’t do that) and once by simply trying to do too much. The second time I injured both Achilles tendons as I was going into the busiest part of my race schedule. And I kept racing. I’ll bet you can figure out that I stayed injured for quite a while. I was more willing to take a bad time for several races than I was to sit any of them out. Eventually I sat out a couple of races and missed a lot of training runs so that I could fully recover.

Mile 1 of Peace Love Cure 5k

That time on the sidelines was unpleasant not only because I wasn’t running but because I had too much time to think about what I had done, as well as what I hadn’t been able to do. I set some lofty goals and I made the commitment to run fewer races in 2015 and do more training. Races are the fun part, but the training was going to make those races more fun because reaching goals is why I do this.

Since making these decisions in February I have run only 6 races, and three of those were in March, before I could start my training cycle. By comparison, in 2014 I ran 28 races. Three races since April 1st makes it feel like it’s years between races. But I have been able to make a lot of progress as well as learn some things that I need to change in my next training cycle. I’m pretty sure that my BQ goal for this year may need some more time as I have not been able to run with a low enough heart rate to make this seem attainable. On the other hand, the cool weather is almost here and with three marathons on the schedule by mid-January anything is possible.

The start of my medal wall

The start of my medal wall

Either way I’m looking forward to running fewer races this fall/winter but making more of them count. I’m also looking forward to running with no injuries. My first race was a little less than two years ago and I absolutely love to race. I love to improve too, even if it means less racing. Hopefully I will have some shiny new PRs this season, starting with this weekend’s race, the Lighthouse Loop half marathon.

Lighthouse Loop Half Finisher's Medal

2014 Lighthouse Loop Half Finisher’s Medal

Race recap: Marine Corps Half Marathon Jacksonville

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The long dry spell with no races has finally ended. It seemed like a year since my last race, but it’s only been 3 months. I purposely gaveĀ  myself extra training time with no races in order to focus on my goals for this fall, and actually just added this race a couple of weeks ago. I wanted to improve on my half marathon PR in order to get a better starting corral in January for Disney Marathon weekend.

Marine Corps Howitzer

Howitzers at the finish line!

The day before the Marine Corps Half, my daughter and I jumped in the car for the three hour drive up to Jacksonville. I spent a little time in town picking up my race packet and finding the area where the race was to be held. Then another hour drive back to my dad’s house where we were spending the night. At 4:30am race morning I was up and was out the door before 5:00, heading back up I-95 to Jax. Parking was set up at the stadium where the Jacksonville Jaguars play and the start line was right across the street. I was parked and geared up by 6:15, leaving plenty of time for a bathroom stop and a short warm-up run. At 6:30 I took my Generation U-CAN and reviewed my plan for the day – it’s so nice to have a little extra time before the start! Race day was also just a tad cooler than it has been around here. Only 67 degrees!

Marine Corps start

Just before 7am we got the announcements, the presentation of the Colors, and National Anthem. We were also introduced to one of the runners in the half marathon who, two years ago suffered a heart attack in this same race. He was back to finish what he had started. The wheelchair participants started off and about a minute later the sound of heavy artillery had the rest of us on our way. The first mile of the race included 1181 5k runners as well as 1743 half marathoners! Near the end of the first mile the 5k group continued straight and the half marathoners turned left over the John T. Alsop Jr bridge, took a couple of side streets, then crossed the Acosta bridge. These bridges cross the St. John’s River and each one had more elevation change than I am used to seeing in a full marathon. My time after two miles was 16:03, right on the pace that I wanted, but perhaps a little too quick considering those bridges.

Now that we’ve completed two miles, the course took us parallel to the river for about 4.5 miles where we made a mile-long turnaround through a quiet neighborhood. When I reached 5.3 miles into the race I was passed (in the opposite direction) by the leader, Fredison Costa. The same Fredison Costa that is making a habit of winning the Disney Marathon and has won several races that I have been in. He was at 8.3 miles when I passed him, already 3 miles ahead of me! By the time I returned to that spot, 8.3 miles into the race, I was still holding an 8:06 pace, within striking distance of the 1:45 finish time that was my secondary goal (primary goal was a PR). Mile 9 completed in 8:10. Mile 10 was done in 8:18. Only 5k to go but I was feeling like my best miles were behind me.

Marine Corps Done

Over the last 5k I used every trick I could think of to keep myself as close to my goal pace as I could. I was slowly catching people in front of me. I couldn’t let the spectators see me struggle. That quarter mile was 2:00, right on target, one more quarter mile, keep going. In the 11th mile we were running on the waterfront path and climbed a section that went over the water and a set of railroad tracks. I would guess we were about 40-50 feet up, but my Garmin registered zero elevation change. 11th mile complete in 8:39. Now my heart rate was up over 180 and my quads were screaming. I finished the 12th mile in 8:57. At this point I knew I had to pick up the pace some or I would miss my PR. I had just under 10 minutes left to finish if I was going to see that PR.

Marine Corps finish

Definitely a cool sight!

Mile 13 was a little better at 8:36 and then I took the final turn and used everything that I had left. The “finish” line sign was held up by two Howitzers with their guns pointed to the sky, a nice touch and great reminder of the strength of the Marines. My official time was 1:48:19, beating my 11-month-old PR by 38 seconds. Most likely this isn’t enough of an improvement to change my starting corral for Disney, but it felt good to get a PR, especially since the temperature was only about 5 degrees cooler than most of my summer outdoor runs. When it cools off and I get on a flatter course…. look out!

Marine Corps Bling

Officially, I placed 211th out of 1743 finishers, 167th of 846 men, and 22nd of 94 in my age group with an 8:16 pace. Not quite what I was hoping for but a PR serves as motivation to keep improving. Oh, and Fredison Costa? Yeah, he finished the half first in 1:08:30, an average of 5:14 per mile. Dude’s got wheels! A big thank you to the organizers and volunteers for this race. As far as I could tell everything went off without a hitch. I’m sure I’ll be back someday, but I’ll get some hill training in first!

Marine Corps