The week leading up to the Hospital Hill Half Marathon was a hot week after an especially cool May.
Going into the race, I was excited that perhaps I could break 1:20 again like I'd done in the Kansas City Marathon weekend half marathon last fall. I had been running more consistently, but still probably not as many miles as I would prefer for a half. Last fall, I was running less consistently, but doing more quality work when I did run. I knew heat would be a factor. I had heard of people wearing cooling vests before a race, so I hung out in the air conditioned mall until I was ready to warm up and kept my warm up relatively short.
At the start, I saw Ken, a guy who has been beating me consistently over the past several years but who placed behind me at a 10K last month. I was hoping to continue the trend, so I kept an eye on him. At the line, I was lined up to the left of him and a couple of rows to the side, but I lost track of him when they took down a barrier and everyone stepped up to the starting line. After the start, I couldn't see Ken and was concerned he was still out of sight ahead of me -- that might have led to a slightly faster start than would have been best, but I went through 2 miles in just under 12:00 -- a little fast, but not too bad. They had clocks mounted at various points throughout the race, but I only remember the one. They also had mats down at a couple of points. Almost from the very start of the race, I felt that I was struggling. Then, late in the race, I went through several stretches where everything started clicking and I was cruising for awhile and then I began to struggle again. It is a hilly course, but my struggles did not seem to correspond to the hills. The struggles seemed most consistent following the aid stations. I drank part of a cup of water at each station except for the last which was too crowded with the tail end of the 10K for me to bother with. It would have been very interesting to have run with a GPS at this race to see what my splits were like and perhaps figure out where and why I struggled. I was passed by the top four women and a couple of men during the race. In the last few miles, I caught the two men. I might have caught the second man sooner, but I postponed it a bit so that I wouldn't have to push hard for so long if he put up a fight. It turned out that he was spent. I never really gave any thought to those behind me during the race except when I could hear their footsteps. A couple of times, it did occur to me that Ken might be behind me rather than out of sight ahead of me, but I did not think about that as I neared the finish. I finished in 1:23:20, placing 40th overall, and the 3rd master's runner.
They had mats down at 10K and 15K. I ran the first 10K in 40:15 (6:29 pace) and the next 5K in 18:56 (6:06 pace) and the last 3.8 in 24:09 (6:21 pace). I'm not sure if I had more good stretches in that 5K section or if it was all down hill or what happened there.
It turns out that Ken was behind me the whole race -- able to see me, but never able to reel me in. It is nice to finish ahead of him, but I know that I have work to do if I want to keep up the trend. He had some injuries earlier this year and it may be that he is still recovering.
After the race, I am slightly disappointed, but not especially so. I feel that I have unfinished business at this event and I look forward to returning. I feel that some good things happened, but also some disappointing things. It would be nice to learn how to capture that good feeling that I found sporadically in this race. I don't feel like I was just recovering and then pushing hard -- though that might have been it. It was almost like I was two different runners. When things were going well, running actually felt easier -- not like I was pushing very hard at all. Then a minute or two later, I would realize that I was struggling again. I would not always notice the transition from one state to another I would just realize that I was running better or worse. I don't remember any races like this one.