I had a bad week of preparation. I knew it would be. I had to be at work early and work late on Monday and Tuesday. I had to travel on Thursday and Friday. I just viewed the packed schedule as an excuse to "mini-taper" for the half marathon. I had a very good short tempo run (6:19 avg pace for 3+ miles) on Tuesday and a very comfortable 11-12 miler on Wednesday. I took Thursday off and ran an easy treadmill 5 on Friday. Reducing the mileage was the only way to survive the added fatigue and stress of the work week.
I rode over with Lance, one of the regulars for the Athens Sunday morning 10 miler. This was his first half marathon, and I'm proud of his hard work in preparation and his effort today. Nice job buddy!
My stomach was all out of sorts, as usual. I just couldn't go to the bathroom enough before the race. But somehow, I was able to overcome that discomfort. I enjoyed the pre-race pep talks and visits. That's one of my favorite parts of racing! I worked my way to near the front of the starting line just in time for some pre-race announcements and the start.
The First 5k
For some reason, I had a lot of adrenaline for this race. In spite of the bad week and stomach troubles, I was as mentally ready for this race as any I remember. I wanted to GO! I was pretty pumped. I started really quick and constantly had to rein myself in during the first mile. It's a rolling first mile and I kept peeking at my instantaneous pace and it was sub 6:00! Then I'd purposely slow down and then I'd be running fast again. I just couldn't help it. I clocked the first mile in 6:21.
I knew that I still had to pull the reins in some to last. Mile 2 is a much easier mile, but I was able to hold back the excitement and run it in 6:30 flat. The split caller said 12:51. Nice! I'm on pace, feeling great, and have some time in the bank! Greg Reynolds blew past me as we passed the mile marker. I did not even entertain the thought of chasing him. He's faster than me. Period.
Mile 3 is pancake flat and I was still trying to hold back. 6:31. The split caller said 19:22. Nice.
I didn't remember that Mile 4 was so uphill. It's a long, continuous uphill. It's not that steep, but it's uphill. And today, it was into the wind. I was struggling up this hill! I was working maybe a little harder than on the previous miles. I hit this mile in 6:38. The split caller said 26:02, so I was off just a bit.
Near the top of this hill I caught up with Robert Whitaker. We ran together for a a few minutes. I know that he has run the 10 miler at about 6:30 overall pace, so I figured we were looking for about the same pace. I could tell that he was working harder than me for this same pace, so I dropped the pace a bit to pull ahead. From here I could see some bodies in the distance to go after.
I also wanted to make up some of the 8 seconds that I lost in the fourth mile, but I didn't want to do it all at once. I ran the 5th mile in 6:27. Nice. Do that a few more times and I'm back on pace. It's a downhill mile and I took some advantage. I probably should have run it a bit faster, but it was still nice.
Mile 6 is also flat, and I had a person picked out to pass. I passed him (did not know him) at about 5.75 or so and ran the mile in 6:29.
I can't really describe how good I was feeling. 6:30 pace seemed like 7:30 pace. My breathing was controlled. The stomach issues were gone. I was feeling great. It just seemed like it would be my day.
I was cruising along and had another unknown runner picked out to pass. And I did just after the 6 mile marker. I had to make a bit of a move to pass him, and dropped to below 6:15 temporarily to get by. After that I settled back to the 6:30 that was I was feeling.
Then, I noticed a pain in my left hamstring. It was toward the outside, near where the tendon attaches at the knee in the back, but inside such that it couldn't be IT band. And the pain was clearly muscular. It wasn't that bad for a few steps. I thought I could handle it. Then it got worse. Then I couldn't run without limping. So I stopped to try to shake it out. I started again. No. I walked. I tried to run about an 8:00 pace to see if I could do that. No. I was limping. NOOOOO!! What do I do? I started walking again. The guy I just passed ran by. He checked on me and I told him I was fine and that I would make it to the aid station just ahead. I appreciate his checking on me. Then, I tried an easy jog. My gait was affected. No go. Ugh. This was about 3/4 mile from the aid station, so I just walked there and dropped out.
Humiliating. Disappointing. Frustrating. Embarrassing.
I noticed the hamstring soreness the week before last while I was doing some strides. On about the second or third acceleration, it tightened, so I just quit the strides and jogged home. It was sore the next day, but it never bothered me again. Today's pain was just a little worse than a couple of weeks ago, but it doesn't seem that bad. It just seemed like continuing, and especially continuing to push the pace, would risk real injury.
Hopefully, today was just discretion being the better part of valor. I probably could have limped to the finish. But why? If it had happened at mile 10 or 11, I definitely would have considered finishing through the pain. But with 6.1 miles to go, it just seemed silly and pointless and risky.
Thanks to Madelyn Patton for her kindness and encouragement when I dropped out. Also thanks to Mark York for giving me a ride back to the start.