Saturday was an extremely beautiful day in Kansas City. The weather was perfect for a great run. I got down to the course early and sat and listened to an audio book for awhile. My GI tract was not especially cooperative that morning and had to make an extra stop at the porta-potties which cut short my warmup. I ended up arriving at the starting line after the wheel chair racers were underway and with less than 5 minutes to go. I felt optimistic despite still having a bit of congestion from my illness two weeks ago. Last year, I had finished around 1:19 flat while competing in a fairly tight race with another local runner which I eventually lost as his greater endurance from marathon training carried the day. I feel fitter this year and hoped to improve on my 1:19 from last year.
The start was good. I got away from the line cleanly and comfortably. One runner took off by himself, but he was later reeled in. I am not sure how he finished, but I know that he wasn't the winner. The first part of the course has several large hills. I tried to maintain consistent effort rather than maintaining pace and I lost some ground relative to the other runners on those hills. In hindsight, I have to wonder if I shouldn't have pushed harder on the hills in order to maintain contact with some other runners. I ended up running most of the race alone about a minute behind those ahead and about a minute ahead of those behind. There were a couple of places where I lost sight of those ahead and I wasn't sure of the route until I got close enough to the corner to see the arrows.
Between mile 7 and mile 8, I was passed by two runners who had made a wrong turn. One of them flew by me like he was running a 5K. I think that he followed the marathon route when the course split at about mile 8. The other was going closer to my pace. Again, I wish that I'd tried to hang with him longer -- he ended up catching the group ahead of me. At one point between mile 8 and 11, I suddenly became aware of where I was and did not remember the last minute or so of running. I struggled with maintaining focus and intensity.
In the end, I finished 10th overall in 1:19:17. The good is that I won my age group. Another guy in the 45-49 age group won overall masters -- the same guy who won last year. Though it is not a bad time, I am slightly disappointed that I didn't get under 1:19. I cannot help but think that if I had tried to compete and stay with some other runners instead of just doing my own thing that I might have run faster. That is one of the things that helped me last year when I am sure that I was less fit. On the other hand, I know that my training is probably much more suited to 5K running. If I really want to run well at a half marathon, I think that I need to do more miles. I think that more miles would likely help my 5K and 10K times as well. That will be one of my focal points this winter.
I seem to have a knack for finding a gap in the stream of runners where I am running by myself. I've seen it happen in 5K's as well though longer distances are even more common. Though I know that sometimes it must happen that there will be significant gaps between myself and the next fastest and next slowest runners, it does not seem that that can be so consistently the case. I am thinking that perhaps I need to fight more to stick with or at least maintain contact with those ahead of me. Looking back, I see that when I have done that I have been more happy with my performances. That is something to keep in mind. Perhaps I will visualize sticking with the guy who passes me and struggling through the discomfort.
Other good news is that I've now locked up a win in a grand prix competition which guarantees that I will receive 4-6 free race entries for 2012.
Overall, things are positive. I just want to stay focused on getting faster and more competitive in 2012.