Finish Strong Half Iron Relay
13.1M in 1:38:54 (7:33)
After withdrawing from the 70.3, my friend Crit asked me if I'd take her spot on a relay team since she hasn't been able to run lately. Not one to turn down an opportunity to race, I obviously said yes! I went out to Vista Point at 6am to get body marked, chatted with some friends who were racing, watched a beautiful sunrise, and watched the race get underway at 7:10.
Danielle and Trine did great on the swim and bike, and I headed out on the run at 10:50. My plan was to try to stay a little under goal marathon pace, so I set out shooting for 7:30-7:40s. The race was a double out and back, basically up and over a hill, turn around, go back, and then do it again. I am not a fan of hills and rarely run them, so I knew it would be really tough for me. I always feel a little bad in relays, passing people who've been working hard while I was just sitting around waiting, so I was sure to offer encouragement to everyone I saw and point out that I was just starting.
After a fairly flat first mile (on target at 7:30), the second mile was all uphill and I slowed a bit deciding even effort might be a better strategy than even pace given the course. Made it up and over around 2.4, and then turned onto a gravel road for the much-anticipated downhill section. Hit the turnaround and then had to go back up the gravel hill, and this was about as fun as I expected. At mile 4.7 I started going back down toward the start/finish, and tried to make up some time with the help of gravity. I ran by Monte and my teammates and felt pretty good as I made the second turnaround, so I decided I should try to run a bit faster this time around. That was pretty short-lived, and my pace slowed considerably when I hit the first hill. Though I did luck out with the weather, by this point it was almost noon and temps in the 70s felt a lot warmer when running uphill with full sun on my face. The second lap was much like the first, and just what you'd expect... slower up, faster down, slower up, faster down, and a little sprint at the finish.
Checking the garmin, the uphill splits were mostly in the 7:40s, with an 8:07 at mile 11, which was entirely uphill and on gravel. On the bright side (and only good side of hills), the downhills ranged from 7:05-7:19 even though I took them as an opportunity to run easy, get my heart rate and breathing under control, and remind myself why I enjoy running...
This race was a good wake-up call for a number of reasons. First, while reminding me how much I hate hills, I also realize I need to work on hill running more. Second, the June half ironman is going to be incredibly hard. The run today was tough, and I hadn't even done anything yet! Despite marathon training, 13.1 is still a pretty long way to run, and mid-day sun is probably unavoidable so in addition to tired legs there is heat to contend with. Seeing miserable looking people walking up hills did not make me super excited! Finally, I think it was a good indicator of where I am fitness-wise. I would like to run closer to 7:20 pace in the Hartford half next month. Hopefully cooler temps and a flatter course will make this feasible, but it's going to be tough. As for the marathon, I am not sure if 7:45 is a reasonable pace goal... I have a lot of work to do over the next 6 weeks!