Sunday, November 15, 2009

Huntsville Half - More Details

Huntsville Half Marathon results have been posted. Overall results and Age Group results are at the HTC Website.

This was a very difficult week for me. I was travelling for business all week and had 5 hours or less of sleep almost every night. I put up my first goose egg in over six weeks on Tuesday, and I was forced into another bagel on Friday. Perhaps the reduced mileage gave my legs some extra spring, but that was more than made up for by the mental and over physical fatigue from the work stress and the lack of sleep. I wasn't as ready for this race as I wanted to be.

I was not in my own bed Friday night, and I woke up every hour on the hour. Even fatigued, I was able to wake up and get my system worked out before the race. I rode over with Jeff Mooneyham (Congrats on smashing your 5k PR, Jeff!) and Jon Smith (Congrats on your first half, Jon!). We got there in plenty of time for Mark and I to do about a 2.5 mile warm up. With the delayed start (15 minutes), though, I pretty much cooled back down before the race start!

The First 5k
The first 5k heads north and loops through the neighborhoods near the start. Mark ran this with me. I had forgotten how rolling those were! My real goal for this race was to break 1:30. I believe I'm in better shape than that, but I was fatigued. I was just going to go out at 6:45 and see what happened. That would give me some wiggle room for a 1:30, and wouldn't be too aggressive. I really believe that 6:30-6:35 is where I should have been running. I hit those miles in 6:42, 6:49, and 6:43. Spot on target. It really felt easy.

On to the Greenway
After the first 5k, Mark backed off and wished me well. He's been battling a cold this week, and just didn't quite have his air back from that. I'll be glad when he's over this crud. We were in a spot between a few packs. When he backed off, I started picking out packs to join and pass.

First was a pack of 5 or so running together about 15 seconds ahead of us. As I joined them, there was no conversation. I could tell by how everyone in this pack was breathing that I wouldn't be with them long. I passed them one by one and I was ahead of this pack by the 4 mile split.

I had a sizable distance to cover to reach the next pack. I didn't join them until about the 5.25 mile mark. There were 3 runners in this pack. Everyone seemed to be working a little harder than I was, so I figured I'd leave this pack, too. There was some nice conversation in this pack. In this pack was Brett Wilks. I didn't know him, but he introduced himself, and we ended up leaving the other two runners behind before turning on the greenway . I really enjoyed the visit with him during this stretch.

6:50, 6:39, and 6:47.

Out the Greenway and Back
Brett and I stayed together along the greenway. After passing Mile 6, I noticed that we were catching a couple of Fleet Feet racers. I was worried that I must be running too fast! Brett recognized one of them as Conrad Meyer. We passed by before mile 7.

Approaching the aid station, I heard several people cheering for me! I recognized Madelyn Patton and Joey Butler working the aid station. Just beyond the aid station I saw a friend from work, Doug Fravel and his son Matthew, cheering me on. Brett took aid and I didn't, so I opened up a bit of a lead on him here. It seemed like forever to the turnaround from here!

After the turnaround, I saw so many people cheering for me by name. So many reached out and gave me high fives along the way. This really encouraged me and I started to increase the effort a little and picked off at least 3 people on the way back. I remember seeing Mark F., Glen, Ronnie, Phillip, Eric C. (pacing), Linda S. (pacing), Tim Murray (congrats on your first half!), Ragnar teammate Eric Fritz and his wife Casey, Ragnar teammates Shawn, Christie, and Elle, former manager Bob Vasse, and sometimes Sunday running buddy Mark York.

6:49, 6:43, 6:42, and 6:40

The Last 5k
I knew that I felt way too good to only have a 5k left. I should have dropped the pace about now, but I still lack the courage. I had a pack of two picked out. I caught them on Cheney Thompson and passed by fairly quickly. there was another pack of two ahead. Catching them would take a little more effort, but I did before the 11 mile split. With a significant lead on us was a guy in red. I told these guys that I thought we could catch him. One said, "I'm tired!" I said, "You should be. It's mile 11!" I said that I was going after him and he said go ahead and didn't come with me.

I later learned that this guy in red was Patrick Fagerman racing for 1st Place Athletics. I knew it would be a challenge to catch him because he was not coming back to me. I took a little aid that barely slowed me down, but set my eyes on Patrick. Up ahead, I saw another pack of 2 faltering. I passed them. Before the 12 mile split, I saw Marty Clarke struggling. I'm not sure what went wrong with him today, because he is MUCH faster than me. I tried to encourage him to join me to the end, but he encouraged me to go ahead and finish fast up the hill. Thanks for the encouragement!

The guy who was running with Conrad Meyer on the greenway came zooming by me just after I passed Marty. I think it may have been Dennis Fuchsberger, but I'm not sure.

There was one more guy between me and Patrick. I later met him. His name was Luca Massetti and he was on business from Rome, Italy and ran this race while in town! He was a super nice guy and I enjoyed chatting with him. I passed Luca en route to Patrick. Patrick did not let me go. He stayed on my right shoulder. He's clearly a more experienced racer than me, and it showed. Luca gave a little chase, too. Patrick and I could see Dennis (?) ahead and he said, "I think we can get him." He passed by me, and I gave chase, too. This last mile battle among Dennis, Patrick, Luca, and me was the most exciting that I've ever been in. Patrick truly almost caught Dennis. I gave it all I had, but Patrick had more. While I was gaining on him, he was recovering. When Patrick and I gave chase to Dennis, Luca stayed a little behind. I came in third in this 4 way battle, and I now have a taste of racing others instead of just racing the clock.

I was truly giving it all I had in this battle, and I need to work on my pure speed and my ability to ignore fatigue with the end in sight. With experience, I'll perform better in those battles, but it was FUN!!!

6:37, 6:44 (uphill), 6:13 (!?!?!, see what a chase will do!), and 1:07 (0.18 by my watch, a 6:10 pace).

I'm pleased with the finish time. One thing I know is that I have a lot of room to improve in my racing skill. I'm working hard and getting faster, but I need to race smarter. I should have run 6:35 miles early. I really believe I could have held that pace. I may not have had as fast a finishing mile, but I would have had a better overall time.

With a quality diet and quality rest the week before, I'm feeling pretty good about my ability to Boston qualify at Rocket City Marathon this year.

Again, thanks to all the volunteers and HTC for putting on this quality event!

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