On Saturday, I ran the Kansas City Half Marathon. As it has each of the past several weeks, my knee acted up during the week and I took a day off on Thursday to promote recovery. On Friday I ran two miles before work just to get my legs moving a bit. I feel like I've been on a two-month taper. My training pretty much began in June when a change in work locations resulted in me being able to run to and from work. Initially, I did little more than run to and from work getting rides on some days from my wife and running only intermittently on weekends. I didn't do long runs. By the end of July, I felt pretty good. I was running more consistently and in August I started doing a few long runs and my mileage climbed into the 40's and 50's. In July and August, I began incorporating some trail running into my routine.
I had two disappointing races in July -- two 5K's over 18 minutes. I felt that it was more of a mental breakdown than physical and in August I ran a breakthrough 17:21 5K. Since then I've run 16:42, 17:30, and 17:20 for 5K. The week before the 16:42, I felt myself starting to breakdown and I backed off. That taper likely contributed to the fast time. I've been struggling with trying to avoid injury since that time and my mileage has dropped from the low 40's in early September to the 20's in the last couple of weeks. Given that, I didn't have high hopes for the half marathon. I wouldn't have been surprised by a time in the low 1:20's -- though I hoped to break 1:20.
I left early for the race this year after feeling rushed last year. It was a cool morning. I found a surprisingly good parking space, visited the porta-potty and then returned to my car to read a little until I felt that it was time to warm up. After I finished a chapter, I noticed it was about time to warm up. I wanted to visit the porta-potty one more time, but when I got there, the lines were long. I continued running and found some others with equally long lines. I ended up just watering the pavement near the rear tire of our van. The run in search of the porta-potty served as the bulk of my warm up. I took a small drink, stripped off my warm-up pants and jacket and then ran down to the start to complete my warm up. I didn't do any strides today, but I felt ready enough.
At the start, I saw my age-group rival, Ken. Though I have been frustrated by having to watch his back so much in recent years, the more I talk to him, the more I like him. While I was there, another guy, Ron introduced himself to me. He's 39 and I have seen his name in local race results. He said that his goal was 1:17-1:18. At the start, I wasn't sure if he might have had a recent birthday. He's another good guy. I think that runners tend to be good people.
For the first mile, I tucked in behind Ken, but on a downhill section on the second mile, I let gravity take me past him. Even in these opening miles, my legs didn't feel especially good, and I worried briefly about my chances for lasting the whole race, but for now, I felt fairly relaxed and I stayed with it. There were some hills in the first four miles. I just shortened my stride a bit and tried to maintain cadence. In the third mile, I was passing a guy and he struggled to stay with me. I could tell that he was struggling and thought that it did not bode well for his race. In the fourth mile, Ken caught me up and I ran next to him. A short time later, four other guys came up on us and we had a pack of six. I fell off the back on the next hill. I told myself that I needed to get in that pack and I gradually caught up with them on the next long downhill. I was back in the pack before we headed into the Plaza. In the plaza a band was playing -- one of several on the course. I liked the tune and might have picked up the pace if I had not been in the back of the pack. We had six in our pack -- three younger guys in front doing the marathon and three masters guys including myself and Ken running the half. About a mile after the plaza, the marathon and half-marathon split. Just after (or maybe just before) the split, Ron caught us and said, "Come on old people." We picked up the pace and we went to a pack of three -- Ken, Ron, and myself. Shortly, I fell off the back of the pack again and again I struggled to regroup. By the time I caught Ron, Ken had put a gap on him as well and I continued after Ken. Near mile 11, Ken came to a nearly complete stop for water. I skipped that water stop and caught Ken shortly after. Though I only intended to catch Ken, I let my momentum carry me on past him. As he didn't stay with me, I thought that I might have a chance of pulling this race out. But Ken pulled even with me with about a mile to go and I just didn't have much in the tank. I stayed with him for a few strides and then hoped that I might stay close enough to challenge with a kick at the end. But, I didn't. We finished 5th and 6th overall -- he in 1:18:47 and me in 1:19:00. The winning time was 1:09:20. I think that we both thought that Ken was the first master's runner, but as we approached the line, the race announcer was saying that the guy finishing ahead of us was 46. Though I was slightly disappointed that I finished just out of the money (they gave cash awards to the top 5), I am extremely happy with my race and it was the most fun race that I've run in a long time. It was the most competitive race for me in a long time and I enjoyed that competition -- especially in the last half of the race.
They captured splits at 3.3 and 8 miles. My pace the first 3.3 was 6:07, from 3.3 to 8 my pace was 6:03 and from 8 to the finish, my pace was 5:57. Historically, I am not known to run negative splits. I am pretty sure that without the competition, I might have slowed in the closing miles.
After the race, I talked more with Ken and Ron. I learned that Ron is a miler who has recently run 4:17 for 1500m. But, he hasn't been able to get under 17:00 for 5K, and so he is doing some longer running this fall to improve his 5K times. Ken ran the Twin Cities marathon a couple of weeks ago where he ran 2:44.
I scored some additional points for the grand prix series that I'm running and locked up the win. I would feel a little better about that if I had beaten Ken at least once this year. Basically I will win because I've run more races than he did, but if he'd wanted to, he could have locked it up before July if he'd run some races in the spring when I was taking some time off. I'll get one last shot to try to win one in a couple of weeks.
Technically, I believe my 16:42 5K ranks as a better performance, but I am more excited about this race. I feel like I only started to get in some good training this summer and that I still have a lot of room for improvement. The training that I have done I feel is more suited to the 5K, so I felt that this performance was almost in spite of my training. If I can get my training going right over the winter, I am looking forward to a very good 2011.
My knee held up very well this weekend. I was somewhat concerned about the half marathon distance. This isn't even my only race report for the weekend. I also ran a low-key seven mile trail race on Sunday. That may not have been a good idea, but the race was held on the trails where I've done my trail running and I almost feel that it's my home course. So, I went and fortunately, no harm came of it. I'll write something about that in another post.