I rode down with Charles to New Orleans Saturday afternoon. Scott, Charles’s step son went with us – he is 27 and came along for the ride – more interested in New Orleans than a race. We met up with Jim and his wife. We stayed in a house that is for sale down in New Orleans so we all brought air mattresses. The Saints were playing Saturday night and USM was playing Sunday night – both games would be in the Superdome.
We went to a sports bar not far from the house. Jim’s wife would be doing some Christmas shopping. I was preparing for a PR race and only drank diet coke – all night – about 20 of them. From the kickoff the Saints were in trouble. Jim was sure that Charles had brought bad mojo down to Nawlins – and this would be proven correct. The sports bar was packed and the negative vibe was locked in – we had a good time but the game was rough.
I woke up early to a flat air mattress – yes it leaked – and took a shower and grabbed a small bite – I had a granola bar in my race bag. We stopped for coffee on the way to the race. Eric and Terry had gotten to the race venue early – real early and had great parking spots – we had to walk a little ways.
Race packet pick up went quick and we ditched our outer layers in Eric’s car. The weather was perfect. I wore shorts, a short sleeved shirt, some old tube socks that I cut the end out off (temporary – disposable arm skins if you will) and white compression socks. Gloves would not be needed. This was just about perfect. I was not shivering or shaking like in Baton Rouge two weeks ago.
I had a lot more nervious tension for this race. I knew I could get a PR. I knew that I needed to execute well. I set the ‘virtual trainer’ on the GPS for 7 minute miles. This would be a challenge. As we started to gather for the race start I saw a few more local runner friends. Neil was there with a couple of other guys. I had used Neil to pace off of at a couple of 5K’s last year. I asked him what pace he would be running – he said 7 minute miles. Neil’s half PR was a 1:33 something. I decided to try and follow Neil – big mistake.
There was a lot of congestion at the race start and although the race is chip timed it is gun started. It took a few seconds to get going. I was standing next to Terry and Neil at the start but Terry just simply disappeared. I was able to follow Neil even though he was weaving in and out of traffic like a race car driver. I was about 3 strides behind Neil and hurting when we passed the first mile marker – 6:37. Damn, I was not running my own race. I was going out too hard. My heart rate was sky high but I tried to keep the pace up – I was a 400 feet in front of my ‘virtual trainer’ on the watch – I was going to just try and hold this number steady. I backed off of the pace and watched Neil power on.
However, I was not able to hold that 7 minute pace. The 400 feet dropped to 300 feet in the next mile. I was running this half marathon like a 5k – out of the gate too fast and just trying to hold on. That can work for a 5K but trying to hold on for 11.5 mile – this was hurting. I had to slow down but I still NEEDED a PR. I was not going to let up but at the same time I just could not hold the pace. I would be demoralized if I did not beat my last half marathon time – considering those conditions. I just kept at it.
Mile 1 – 6:37 - Ave HR 172 – Max HR 184
Mile 2 – 6:55 - Ave HR 179 – Max HR 180
Mile 3 – 7:09 - Ave HR 176 – Max HR 179
I had slowed considerably by this time – there was no way to hold 7 minutes a mile and I had already pushed into my red zone - HARD. Once your heart rate is up there – you do not get that back – it is just spent and there is not much recovery that will take place without slowing to a crawl. I had blown up in the first mile and a half! I hunkered down – it was tough being passed and watching people pull away. That does not normally happen in these races. I usually am able to pick a pace and hold it for most of the race and then put together a hard kick at the end. But people were passing me and there was nothing I could do – I definitely was not chatting during this race. My breathing was labored and I was in pain. These next few miles were the slowest of the race. I was burning up and I ditched the sock arm warmers at mile six. I was determined to try to keep up a respectable pace.
Mile 4 – 7:20 - Ave HR 175 – Max HR 178
Mile 5 – 7:24 - Ave HR 173 – Max HR 174
Mile 6 – 7:20 - Ave HR 174 – Max HR 175
I had recovered from the initial shock and was actually starting to be able to push a little bit and race MY race. I passed a couple of guys but it was not with any kind of authority. One of these guys came with me. I could hear him right behind me and we ended up racing side by side for a lot of the race. It was at this point that I passed the guy running backwards. He was trying to set a Guinness Book of World Records for the fastest half marathon time running backwards. He had two spotters with him on either side and a guy filming the race on a tricycle. I was just relieved that I was not going to be beat by the backwards guy. In hind sight he must have been given a head start – Terry was flying on the course and did not pass backwards guy until several mile into the race and I am sure this guy was not running anywhere close to 6 minute miles. I was still pushing hard but feeling better – I was just getting to the half way point.
Mile 7 – 7:15 - Ave HR 173 – Max HR 176
Mile 8 – 7:15 - Ave HR 173 – Max HR 177
Mile 9 – 7:15 - Ave HR 175 – Max HR 177
At this point I was running with two guys – not talking just putting out some consistent miles – working hard but running well – then we heard someone coming up. We were getting passed by a couple of boys. This was the back portion of the out and back course and the people still going out were shutting encouragement to the kids. The boys looked like they were about 8 years old! (In reality they were 13 – they were running strong. I could not hang with them - my mind wandered at this point and I was thinking that I was getting my race handed to me my some little kids – but if I pushed on and tried to out kick them then I would be the jerk - …
At mile ten the pace picked up a little and one of the guys that was running with me fell off – the other guy - well, I just tried to keep his shoulder. He was pushing hard and struggling. I was doing the same. One of the little kids started to crash a little bit and was fading. I passed him up at about mile 11. The other kid was also starting to fade now but was still strong. I also ended up passing this kid at about mile 11.5. And then there was another kid – this one was maybe 16 years old and caught up with the one kid and really started to lift him up. It was pretty awesome! These kids, the 13 and 16 year old ended up passing me in the last half mile or so – I was just done. I even had to stop at the last water station – just for a freaking break – I was so gone. This was the hardest race that I have done!
Mile 10 – 7:06 - Ave HR 177 – Max HR 179
Mile 11 – 7:05 - Ave HR 180 – Max HR 184
Mile 12 – 7:07 - Ave HR 181 – Max HR 184
Mile 13 – 7:00 - Ave HR 183 – Max HR 186
Mile 13.15 – 6:46 – Ave HR – 183 – Max HR 184
I did get my PR by over 3 minutes and I learned a LOT about racing and myself. This was not a smart race but I did push myself HARD – and I did not give up. I will count this as a major BREAKTHROUGH training session!
Terry ended up with a HUGE PR - 1:23:XX and won his age group (15th overall). Neil PR’d with a 1:29:59 and won his age group. I ended up with 3rd in my age group (by 40 seconds – 7:09 pace) with a 1:33:53 but the awards are only 2 deep – oh well.
I had wanted to push hard in this race and I did that - I just pushed too hard at the beginning (my average heart rate was 8 beats higher than Baton Rouge) . I believe that with a smarter race I can bring this time down a little more.