When Griff, Sarah, and I arrived in Houston on Friday in advance of the USA Half Marathon Championships I was ready for the opportunity. Last year, I got my Olympic Trials qualifier out of the way in my first attempt (1:04:36) but was cautious and didn’t really run to potential based on my training. This year, I was intent on being more aggressive. As Pete often does, he said my time range given my current fitness should be anywhere between 1:02.50 and 1:04.10. We both thought running between 4:50 and 4:52 through about 9 or 10 miles was smart and then try to close from there over the last few miles. Also, I decided I would NOT wear a watch during the race because the elite field was huge (80+ entered) so I knew I would have plenty of good guys to roll with.
As expected, I found myself with a group of about 15 to 20 guys after a mile or so and because most of the guys had on watches I knew we were steadily clicking off 4:50-51 miles. I felt great and was excited to be with such a strong group. After 10k we started to pick off some stragglers that went with the front pack and I readied myself for the push home. There were several points after 10k that I questioned whether I should go for it and start to push but after going back and forth with myself I decided the group was the right place to be.
I was very even for my first three 5k splits (15:03, 15:01, 15:06), felt great, and had tons of help by my side. When we hit 10 miles, I asked Team USA Minnesota’s Eric Finan what we were at time-wise and he said, “48:27, we are perfect, just relax.” His calming statement was needed as I could tell I was getting a little antsy knowing the hard push to the finish was close. By the way, 48:27 for 10 miles is 1:03:30 pace on the nose.
Unfortunately, in that next half mile the wheels inexplicably fell off and I was spit out the back of the group losing large chunks of time over the last 2.5 miles. By the time I reached 11 miles the group was already 7 to 8 seconds away from me. I put my head down and tried to salvage what had been a great day so far, but as a few more guys blew by me between 11 miles and the finish I cursed my legs for being tired and my brain for allowing me to give in.
As I sprinted into the finish, I could see the clock rolling over from 63:58,59… and although I knew I had finished buried well back place-wise, I then realized I had also barely missed breaking the 64 minute barrier. In the end, I struggled to the finish line in 1:04.06.
All of the group I was with broke 64 minutes with the front of that pack, Nick Hilton and Dan Kremske, finishing in 1:03.23 in 13th and 14th place respectively. All told, places 13 through 31 all ran between 1:03.23 and 1:03.59. In fact, our strong group was gobbling up many of the casualties of that lead group as 10th place was Gabe Proctor in 1:03.13.
After staggering to a barricade to rest for a bit, I saw teammate Griff Graves and asked him what he finished in. When he said 63:27 it hit me how much I had cratered the last few miles. Griff had a great day and I was very proud of him, but also felt strangely sad over a missed opportunity. All told I went from potentially being just outside of the top 10 to 33rd place. Let me repeat: 33rd place! A hollow PR to say the least.
When I saw Pete after the race he was very honest with me and said that I had not run to expectations. He said he was getting text updates on his phone and was marveling at how perfect my first 15k were. He agreed that I had underperformed but was glad I was healthy and excited about the next 8 weeks leading into the LA Marathon.
Here are my opening 10 mile splits (courtesy of Eric Finan):
-4:51, 4:50, 4:51, 4:50, 4:51, 4:50, 4:49, 4:51, 4:51, 4:56 (48:27, 4:50 avg.)
-Last 5k: 15:31 (5:01 avg.)
Thanks for reading and I hope that I wasn’t whining too much in my recap. I, like many runners, always strive for more and sometimes even PR’s are hard to swallow when you know you should have done more. This inability to feel even remotely satisfied with a decent performance is an ugly side of running I loathe. I don’t like being ungrateful and I’m well aware I live a charmed life, yet it is still easy to get blindsided with all the times, paces, and places we all obsess over.
Here’s to a more healthy outlook on a wonderful, if often frustrating, sport.
Here is my last week of training (1/11-1/17):
Sunday: AM: 16 miles (8×1 min surges during run)
Monday: AM: 8 miles
Tuesday: AM: 11 miles (2k, 6x 2:30 downcycles) PM: 5 miles
Wednesday: AM: 10.5 miles
Thursday: AM: 11.5 miles (2×60-45-30 surges during run)
Friday: AM: 7 miles PM: 4 miles
Saturday: AM: 8 miles (4×200 post run)
Total: 81 miles, 9 runs