Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tobacco Road Half Marathon

I'd originally signed up for this with the intention of running at marathon goal pace (7:45), but my coach recommended that I try to run a bit faster, so my plan of semi-leisurely miles was out the window.  The race is on the Tobacco Trail, where I have probably run thousands of miles, so I know the course enough to know that despite the race description of a flat course, there are actually very few flat sections.  Granted, there are no real hills, with the exception of a couple small ones on the road section between the start/finish and the trail access, but the majority of the course in slight incline or decline, which really is quite different from flat.

With this in mind, the plan was to try to run mostly even effort, pushing a little harder on the incline sections to prevent my pace from falling way below the target.

The first mile was pretty crowded, and I felt like we were going really slow.  I was contemplating speeding up a bit until I saw the 1:30 pace group in front of me and realized that under no circumstances should I be passing them, so I just settled in.  My knee started to hurt around mile 2, which had be worried, but thankfully that went away when we turned on to the trail.

Miles 1-2: On the road, small rolling hills, out to the ATT access.  7:15-7:10

Once we were on the trail, I just concentrated on keeping my perceived effort around "comfortably hard" and was less concerned with pace than I normally would be in a race.  The weather was perfect (40s, partly cloudy), I had plenty of space, and other than the aid stations and occasional spectators, I felt like I was just out on a regular Sunday run.

Miles 3-5: Packed dirt/gravel, mostly decline. 7:07-7:05-7:09

It's an out and back course, so as I approached the turn around the leaders were coming back on the field.  I cheered for the leaders and focused on counting how many women were ahead of me as we headed up to the turn around point, and then looked for friends as I headed back.  This was a great distraction, especially as my the pain in my foot worsened (I'm still telling myself it's a bruise on the bottom of my foot and nothing more serious), but sadly I often didn't see people until they yelled "Go, Kara!" and by the time I realized who it was they had passed. (To all of my friends who cheered as I went by - I didn't mean to ignore you and your encouragement was very much appreciated!)

Miles 6-8: Up, down, hairpin around a cone, up and down again. 7:24-7:22-7:18

Showing of my Bull City Running Co temporary tattoo at mile 8
Thanks to my hubby for coming out to cheer and take pics!
Running up, even at a low grade, is definitely not my favorite, and I knew from experience that miles 9-11 were just a slow, steady incline.  I did work a little harder through this section, but was ok with slowing down a little and not letting my heart rate or level of exertion skyrocket.  My foot was definitely not happy, but I told myself I needed to stay at least below MGP.

Miles 9-11: Not uphill, but all at an incline.  7:28-7:40-7:31

Once we turned back onto the road, it was back to the rolling hills leading to the finish line.  I had had my sights on a woman in a blue shirt for quite a while, so I worked on closing the gap between us.  Ultimately, I was successful in this, but once I moved up next to her, she picked it up a notch and pulled away heading to the finish.  Once we turned into the park, I tried to push a little harder and finish strong, and ended up crossing the line in 1:36:13, which was not far off my time from Phoenix a couple of weeks ago, despite this being a more challenging course.  Overall, I was pretty satisfied with the run, but I could really do without the foot pain.

Miles 12-13.2: Back on pavement.  7:14-7:05-6:41

After crossing the line, I waited for Brittany, who had been right behind me at the turn and had a great race to finish with a 4 minute PR.  We headed to the car, changed, stopped by the beer tent, and then went back to cheer on friends who were running the full.  I jogged down to the bottom of the hill at mile 24.5 and ran for a bit with Anne Marie, who also had a great race a huge PR.  Once she was off to the finish, I went back down to meet Lora, and ran back up the hill and to mile 26 before calling it a day.  I joined the group of DC runners who were in town for the race and we cheered on a few more of their friends as they finished the marathon, took a few photos, and then headed home.  Just as well pulled out of the park, it started to rain, so thank you to Mother Nature, who apparently hates us this winter but was nice enough to let us stay dry on this particular day.

With the great contingent of DC runners who came down for the weekend

Ring that PR Bell!  Congratulations, friends!

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