Sunday, October 9, 2011

Race Report: BAJA Half Marathon

This morning I ran the BAJA (Bone And Joint Awareness) Half Marathon in Festus, MO. My training schedule called for a test-run at the half marathon distance and I was lucky enough to find a race to run.

I was up at 5am and on the road by 5:45. (I'm slow to wake in the morning.) Unfortunately, my GPS was misleading so I did some extra driving around Festus. This was even more embarrassing when I realized the middle school I was looking for is right next to Festus High School and I ran plenty of track meets there in high school so I probably could have found it without the GPS.

By the time I found a place to park, I had less than 15 minutes before the start of the race. That left me enough time to pin on my bib number, put on my running shoes, stretch, and run a two-minute warm-up.

For a small race, there were a lot of competitive runners at the starting line. The race was timed by Fleet Feet so that drew a crowd, but I was still surprised by the level of competition.

For some reason, I had it in my head that this was going to be a fairly flat run. It wasn't. Most of the first mile was downhill so even though I was making a conscious effort to take it easy early, I ran the first mile at close to 6-minute pace. Then the rolling hills continued to wear us down for the rest of the race.

I settled into 4th place pretty early and it wasn't long before we were stretched out a bit and I might as well have been running a time trial by myself in Eureka. The guy in 3rd place steadily ran away from me and I didn't see much of him after mile 5.

My right shoe also came untied just after mile 5 so I had to stop briefly to take care of it. About a half-mile later, I was weaving my way in and out of the hilly neighborhoods of Crystal City, MO. Then I started up a hill just before mile 8. And it kept going... and going... and going. This hill didn't level out until just before mile 9. Over a mile of non-stop incline. Ugh.

A pack of three runners, including the first-place woman, caught me just as we topped the hill. Finally, I had someone to run with. They all passed me and I tucked in behind them as we made a quick loop and then enjoyed a long run back down the giant hill we had just conquered.

Two of them continued to gap me but I stuck with the third. I had dropped from 4th to 7th.  When we hit the bottom of the hill around mile 10, I tried to take advantage of the 'free speed' and keep my pace up. Between miles 10 and 11, I was able to pass the guy in front of me and hoped to hang on with 2 miles to go.

I expected us to run back up the mile-long hill that started the race so I was dreading the last mile. But about 200 meters up the hill, we turned onto a side road and took a mercifully less hilly path back to the finish line.

I still felt like I was fading some and I thought the guy I had passed might have been saving some energy for a push in the last mile so I tried my best to make him work for it. The course ended at the high school track and we ran the final 100 meters down the home stretch. It was cool entering the stadium with the runners' family and friends in the stands to cheer people in.

I wasn't passed in the last mile and crossed the finish line in 6th place. More importantly, I checked my watch and found out I had run a 1:27:30. That means I ran my second-fastest time on the hardest half-marathon course I've ever run. I feel good about what that says about my fitness and it's an encouraging sign for New York.

The guy that won ran a blistering 1:10:59. That's an average of 5:25 per mile. I don't know if I could run one mile that fast and he averaged that pace over 13.1 miles of those hills. He might be a cyborg from the future.

I stuck around and congratulated some friends/coworkers that also ran the race. (Congrats, Leigh and Tracy!!!) The temperature climbed quickly and it felt good to sit in the bleachers in the sun while we cheered runners across the finish line.

I finished first in my age group and got a plaque to match my finisher's medal!

My friend/co-worker/boss, Tracy, also won his age group!

It was a challenging course but a fun race and I'm sure it'll grow quickly in the next few years.

Goal For The Day: Race!
Distance: 13.10 Miles.
Time: 1:27:30. 6:41 Avg. (5:57, 6:31, 6:32, 6:43, 6:34, 7:06, 6:52, 7:14, 7:05, 6:37, 6:33, 6:46, 7:00).
Conditions: 50 degrees at the start. 7:00am.
6th out of 231 Overall (5th male).
1st out of 12 Males 30-34.

Notes: I let myself go out too fast on that mile-long downhill start. I reigned it in after that, but it still probably affected my race. You can tell by the fluctuation in my times when I was hitting bigger hills. I felt good and recovered quickly on the flats though. Now I just have to get through one more tough week of peak mileage and I'll be ready to taper.

Daily Miles: 13.10 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 438.06 Miles.
  Bike - 144.45 Miles.
  Swim - 11,050+ meters.

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