Since the last time that my company competed in KC Corporate Challenge, they've added a half marathon. I don't consider myself very fit for a half marathon, but thinking that they might not have enough runners, I decided to add my name to the roster. When I found out that there were others signed up, I opted to be an alternate. I figured even though I might be the fastest guy in my age group for the company, it would be better if someone who really wants to run runs it. I've not run more than 8 miles at once since early March. So, I was somewhat relieved to not run. Then, one guy dropped out of the half due to army reserve duties. But, the other alternate won the coin toss. At the KCCC 5K, I met that guy and when he learned of my 5K time he sounded less inclined to run the half. I encouraged him to run, but I had a feeling that he might back out. I found out on Friday, the day before the half marathon that I would be running the half. I cannot say that I was disappointed. Though I am not well trained, I love to race and to be honest I was somewhat excited about it. The quad issue that I'd been struggling with at the 5K had cleared up, so I felt good to give 100%. We spent some time getting his number transferred to me and made plans for him to deliver the number to me near the starting line about 20 minutes before the start.
Race morning dawned fairly warm. I had gotten to bed late and opted to sleep in a bit more than normal before a race. It seems that most springs we're getting to bed late as we struggle to keep up with the gardens and such. I did not anticipate spending a lot of time in warm up, so I was not stressed about the late start. Still, I pulled into the parking lot about the time I was supposed to be picking up my number. That was a bit later than I would have liked. I found Jason, pinned my number to my singlet, posed for a group picture with the other runners from my company and then headed for a brief jog and to the starting line. I had looked at last year's results and I knew that there should be one or two fairly fast guys in my age group from Garmin. They ran in the low 1:20's last year. I thought that I might be competitive with them. I figured 1:23-1:24 was probably the most likely time for me and that 1:22 would be the best-case scenario.
At the start, I was looking around for the guys in Garmin singlets. I had the name of the guy from Garmin (Joe), but I had never met him. Garmin was fairly well represented, but I did not see anyone who appeared to be in my age group. I had not identified any likely suspects when the race started. Despite not warming up much, I stood at the start feeling relaxed and ready. And when the start sounded I got out well. Shortly into the race, I was running at the front of a small pack and there were two guys running together a little way ahead of me. One was a tall guy in a Garmin singlet that I had noticed earlier. I moved up to join them. As I pulled up just behind them and centered between them, the guy on the right looks over and says, "I'm 46 are you in my age group?" I said, "Yes, I am." We introduced ourselves. It turns out that he was the Joe from Garmin that I'd been looking for. He faced the challenge very directly saying, something to the effect of "Let's throw down." This was awesome and had the makings of a very fun race. During/after this interchange the pace picked up quite a bit and we soon caught the next small group. I was running without a watch, but the Garmin guys seemed to be well-armed with Garmin devices and at mile 2, Joe said, "I don't know that I'm ready for 1:18:36 pace." I said that I was glad to hear it. But, it did not seem that we slowed too much. At some point we dropped the younger Garmin guy. Though I was running fairly comfortably with Joe, I felt that the pace was a bit too quick for my current fitness -- especially knowing that there were some big hills coming. I tried to slow the pace some -- not sure if I hoped that Joe would slow too or not. He did not slow and as he pulled away, I had hopes that I might move to catch him after we left the hills on the way back. That was my plan and I just tried to stay close. There were two fairly big hills. I had run a 5K over part of this course at one time and had won my age group with a strategy of running my own race and then catching the two guys ahead of me in the flats after we passed the hills. But, in that instance, I had been stonger and I think that I had attacked the hill in my pursuit of them. In this case, I was not feeling strong on the hills and just hoped to survive them with enough energy to allow me to give chase in the last 2-3 miles. As far as it went, I think that my plan was not too bad except that Joe was too fit and I was not fit enough. I struggled in the hills and I think that I lost some more ground there, but as I came off of the hills, I began to give chase. Joe probably had at least 40 seconds on me. I caught glimpses sometimes when there were open spaces or longer straight aways. There were two runners between him and I as I gave chase. I caught the first one, Eric, whom I had mentioned in my 5K report. I had assumed that he would be well in front of me, but it turns out that he is also undertrained for a half marathon. I passed him and he offered some encouragement. I also caught the next guy around mile 12 but just after I caught him there was a very slight incline. It was so slight that I would not notice it under normal conditions, but I found it hard to push the pace any further. I think that I had made some progress in pursuit of Joe, but he still retained too much of his lead. At this point, I knew that I would not be catching him and just struggled to the finish. The guy whom I had caught pulled away and Eric caught me again soon after that. I just wanted to maintain my position. As we neared the finish, there was an open lot where I could see Joe, two turns ahead of me making the final turn to finish. He'd run a very good race. When I in turn approached the finish, I could see the clock ticking at 1:22 something.
I enjoyed the race. I wish that I'd been a bit more competitive, but overall, I felt that I took my best shot and had been beaten by a better runner that day.
The next KCCC races are the mile and the 800m on June 4th and June 6th respectively. I'm sure that I will see Joe there again. I'm looking forward to it. For the mile, I had been hoping to break 5:00. Now, I am just focusing on competing.