Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Sweet PR

This saturday was the Myrtle Beach marathon for 2011 and Kelley and I both ran the half. We left the kids with her dad and had a great weekend at the coast. I don't usually care for going to MB as there are much better beaches in the area. But as far as marathons and half marathons go, this event is tough to top. It just seems like there are things that go wrong at races, and nothing serious seems to go wrong at this one. It is very well organized; the volunteers and course are amazing.

My most important goal was to break 2 hours. The last half marathon was the duel in the dunes where the Snail smoked my 2:08 time with his own 1:54. I was informed he's dropped his half marathon PR to 1:52 now, so I knew my target. My actual expectation (based on recent training runs) was to finish somewhere between 1:45 and 1:55. Just set a reasonable pace and hold it, consistency is the key.

I put up a 1:47:59 for a PR by 20 minutes!

The race started at 6:30 in the morning. This seems kind of nuts to me. It's February, not a hot time of year. Last year, this race got snowed out. So they don't start early to avoid the heat. But this year, they were predicting high's in the 70's and it was supposed to be really sunny. Turns out they were right.

Well, not everything went right. I was all set to carry the small camera in a pocket so I could take pictures along the course. We got someone else at the start to take this shot, then the battery died. Then the camera was flopping my pocket around too much to leave in there, so I ended up carrying a dead camera in my hand for the entire race.

The full marathon had pace group flags, so I found a spot around the 1:50 pace area and started looking for my friend Jon. Kelley actually found him first and sent him my way. It was really good to just get to hang out with Jon at the start, he's been known in our circle of friends for years as the running badass. He had also earned that reputation.

I hit the lap button on the garmin at the mile markers that I could see, they were pretty consistent. Lap 1: 0.98 miles, 7:56, 8:04 per mile pace

Well this sounds familiar. I started the Tybee half marathon with the same time, under 8 minutes. Then tried to slow down and still burned out at mile 10. Is history going to repeat itself?

NO WAY! This time I'm 30 lbs lighter and have been training at a much faster pace. I started in a good spot with Jon. I did catch myself sometimes going too fast, and dropping back closer to an 8 minute pace. This was a huge race, it took me 2 minutes to get to the starting timers. After that I started passing people, maybe a hundred people or more. We were running on a wide 4 lane road with a median, and some of the other people just hopped up onto the sidewalk to pass a bunch of slower people. I was on the sidewalk and still passing people on the sidewalk. But it was un-crowded enough for me to still settle into my pace, pick off the groups of runners that I wanted to pass and get around them. This first mile was effortless and breezy.

Lap 2: 1.01 miles, 8:15, 8:12 per mile pace

It started before the sun came up, and by the end of the first mile we weren't running in the dark anymore. This turned out to be a beautiful day with a fantastic sunrise. I'm still feeling good, and the crowd is starting to thin out a bit. The runners that can't hold this pace are starting to slow down.

Lap 3: 1.01 miles, 8:20, 8:15 per mile pace

My target was to stay between 8:00 and 8:45 per mile, each mile. I was trying to be a little conservative here. It just didn't seem like I would be able to hold that pace for the whole race. Still feeling great, I just didn't trust it at this point.

Also, in this mile I got passed by a guy running with no shirt on, in a red kilt, and he was juggling. A kilted joggler? and my camera batter is dead? really??? Dang it.

Lap 4: 1 mile, 8:16
Lap 5: 1 mile, 8:07
Lap 6: 1.02 miles, 8:15, 8:06 per mile pace

Still feeling great. Cruising out near the airport at this point. They had water stations every 2 miles, so by this point I was 6 miles in, took in 2 cups of water at each of the first two aide stations. That's why laps 4 and 6 were a tad slower, I slowed down to drink. There was actually a marching band playing out near the airport which was really cool.

Jon and I had been playing leapfrog. I would stay in front of him for a good clip, then I'd slow down at the aide stations and he would pass me again. Then I'd catch up and pass him, and so forth. He was listening to tunes. I was talking too much to other people on the course. But when we saw the band out playing we were hanging together. Since we were both music majors in college this was really cool. Also on this last mile, the course started to turn around. So we could see the winners running back towards us and knew how far back we were.

Lap 7: 2.03 miles, 16:43, 8:15 per mile pace

After the airport, there was a little retail area that I never knew existed out there. This brought the halfway point in the course, and there was a timing chip reader giving us a split time.

We turned around out there, and headed back down past the airport where the throngs of runners were heading to the halfway point. Finally Kelley came running past, and she spotted me before I found her. But I was watching for her and missed hitting the lap button for the 7 mile marker. So I had another aide station, the halfway point, and we're 8 miles in now.

Lap 8: 0.99 miles, 7:59, 8:02 per mile pace

After clearing the airport, the course came down to Ocean Blvd and we were running straight into the sun (and a nasty headwind!). Most people blew through this mile just to get out of the wind. Of course Ocean Blvd is right next to the ocean, but there is a row of buildings between road and water. And this being Myrtle Beach, they are high rises. So once they started providing a bit of shade and wind break everything calmed down.

Lap 9: 1.04 miles, 8:43, 8:22 per mile pace

Miles 9 and 10 were pretty uneventful. I found a few guys that were talking about the Krispy Kreme challenge, so we conversed. They had not done it, but lived in a nearby town and heard about it. One of them ended up hanging with me through the finish line. I was joking around asking people if they had three more of those 8 minute miles left in the tank, and could I borrow them.

Lap 10: 1.92 miles, 15:53, 8:17 per mile pace

Around mile 11 is where the full and half marathon routes split, and I was paying attention to the directional signs and missed the mile marker. This is where the rubber meets the road as they say. Believe it or not, I was still feeling good through the mile 12 marker. Jon and I were still playing leap frog. I hit the last aide station feeling ok, heart not really racing but I could tell that I was giving it the business.

Lap 11: 1.16 miles, 9:26, 8:09 per mile pace

I looked down at the Garmin at one point, and saw I was hitting a 7:38 pace. I was feeling very labored at this point. That was a good explanation of where that labored feeling was coming from. I figured I would keep Jon in sight and try to chick him near the end. Later he told me that he was saving a big push starting around 11.5 miles. This is why I couldn't pass him, and why I was running so fast in the last mile. The mental game had to take over here. I knew there was no way I was going to be right around 8 minute miles for the entire race only to lose it at the end. One of the Greensboro guys was still talking me through this part. Turns out it was his first half marathon.

Once we rounded the corner into the finishing chute I got passed by 4 other people kicking it at the end. It was a really long finishing chute. Really long. But I knew I had it then. I knew I had a sub-1:50 time on the boards. Jon wasn't even in sight anymore. But the finish line was!

Overall: 13.15 miles, 1:47:59, 8:13 per mile pace, 7.3 mph average speed

What's amazing about this is the consistency of my speed. Every single mile was right around 8 minutes. I thought they were going to be around 8:30 to 8:45. Looking at the Garmin splits, the slowest split was a 7.2 speed and the fastest split was a 7.5 mph. These numbers are very relative to all of the treadmill training I've been doing.

aside: In fact, the treadmills at my gym limit you to 99 minutes, unlike the 60 minute limit on most gym treadmills. That means if I can hold an 8.0 speed for 13.1 miles, I can complete a half marathon on the treadmill in 1:39. So super secretly I've been monitoring my endurance at that speed and watching it grow. The method seems to be working.

I screamed after crossing the finish line. I know the Greensboro guy thought I was crazy, and I was making Jon laugh. But I just couldn't believe it. A 1:47? ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? 1:47? This is bananas. Then it started really sinking in. I knew Jon's wife was trying to break 2 hours. Kim has run the MB half every year that they have done the MB half. She finished in 2:00:37. I had to get back to the hotel 2 blocks away, grab the big camera, and get back in time to get a great finish line pic of Kelley. So I grabbed some food/water quickly (there was no line yet. 3115 half marathon racers and there was no line at the food tent. That's how fast I was!) and hoofed it back to the hotel. Grabbed the big camera, threw down the race belt and changed my shoes quickly, then headed back to the finish line.

I missed Kelley's finish by 2 minutes. We still grabbed these post-finish shots:

Overall, I finished 491 out of 3115 people running the half, 50 out of 199 in my age group. 1:47:59 official time, my half split was 53:09. That's top 25% in everything, so I am quite happy with that. Jon finished in 1:47:25, 422nd overall and 41st / 141 in his age group. He's a few years younger than I am. I'm still surprised at his finish time, we were right together through 12.8 miles. Kelley finished in 2:24:31, number 1991 overall and 221 out of 338 women in her age group (that shall not be revealed).

One other cool thing to note about the race. This year, for the first time in the 14 year history of the event, the winner was female. A woman put up a 2:40 full marathon, breaking the course record and winning the whole thing. The male winner was 3 minutes behind her. I think this is pretty remarkable. She qualified for the olympic trials with the victory.

So how did I reward myself for this feat of endurance? Well the only appropriate way I could think of was Kenneth Cole. I did recently profess my enduring romance with Kenneth. Since I was thin, and fast, and near an outlet store.... well it just seemed appropriate. Four shirts and a pair of shoes might have been pushing the limits a bit, but can you really have too much Kenneth Cole? I think not. So here's to a great race, fun weekend with my sweet wife, and fabulous fashion rewards. I lived every mile of this race with speed and passion.


Amber said...

OK 1. You are looking svelte!! Great job on the weight loss. You should write more about it and what's working so well for you!

2. AMAZING PR. That is such a quick time!! Wowza! I am hoping to break 2 hours in my half-marathon on May 1 but I bet I will JUST break 2 hours. Can't believe you broke 1:50 as well!

Georgia Snail said...

Big Props CJ! I was stoked to get that text from you Saturday morning as I was headed out for a run!

FYI-did you know you can set an auto-lap on your Garmin?

(Oh, btw-I am running the Berry College 1/2 Mary in 2 weeks. Game. On.)

Wes said...

Way to put the pressure on Teh Snail! and congratulations! magnificent!!

Heather @ Side of Sneakers said...

Congrats on a such a great race!!

Sun Runner said...

Way to crush your PR!!

Amy said...

I am so impressed! 20 minute PR! You are AMAZE-BALLS!

I, too, would've rewarded myself with Kenneth Cole. That is a perfectly appropriate response.

Again - congratulations. So freaking awesome. You are getting so fast!

Al's CL Reviews said...

That is so awesome! Congrats!

Anonymous said...

Wow you kicked the race in the FACE!! GREAT JOB and love how you and your wife race together! Holla!

Jess said...

Wow CJ major major congratulations! Seriously you have worked so hard and have kicked so much ass with you training! You deserved that sub-1:40. Way to gut it out and get it done!

I've loved following along!

it's all about pace said...

huge PR! congrats!

Kim said...


Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

20 minutes?

Schweet! Congratulations! You totally deserve those new skirts you bought yourself!

IronMin said...

Congratulations! That is so awesome!

I think it's fun that you talk to people on the course...I can't talk at all when I run and to read about you laughing and joking with people is so cool.

Also love that you rewarded your effort with Kenneth Cole. Some people go for fried food, or lots of celebratory go for fashion. Very classy!

What a great race report. Congrats again! I'm sure it is still sinking in. Enjoy it!

joyRuN said...

Dangit, CJ! You're leaving me in the dust over here.

Haven't seen any pics in a while - you've really dropped weight - nice job!

hebba said...

congrats on the PR! Awesome! (and I heard a gal won the marathon this year! another good thing)

Unknown said...

Holy smokes, that awesome!!!!!! Congrats on a huge PR.

And you look tiny! All that weight loss means extra speed! Great job!

Being Robinson said...

NICE PR! that's fantastic. i'm aiming for almost the same PR in a few months (1:48). congrats!