The next step of my marathon training was to determine exactly where I was fitness-wise. I chose the Run for the Border Half Marathon as the test. Luckily, I had the best race crew in the world at my side.
D and I packed up the Little Lady and headed for Rye, NH. I only took an hour and a half to reach Wallis Sands State Beach, so we had an hour to kill. Thankfully, the little girlie was in a great mood and was psyched to chill in the car with us. And, staying in the car was the right call because it was windy. Really windy. This would be the theme for the day. With so much time to kill and really long lines at the porta-johns, I decided to go for a short jog. I didn't really see the need to warm up because I figured I had enough miles to do that. My plan for the day was to run 8 miles at marathon pace (7:27 per mile), then really push the last 5. With the way my week went, I was skeptical this plan would go well.
Eventually, it was time to start the race. Or so I thought. Along with my fellow runners, I headed toward what I thought was the start line. We all milled around the registration tent, until eventually the crowd started to cross the parking lot. Apparently, the start line was on the other side, but no one had any idea what was going on. Because of the chaos, the race started at least 5 minutes late, and at that, it barely started. Someone must have said, "Go," because everyone started running. It was very odd.
Once I started moving, I knew that in .1 miles, I'd come to the 7-mile mark. Yeah, this race was a little weird because the half marathon course is the final 13.1 miles of the 20-mile race. Since you need the extra .1 for the half marathon, we started at 6.9 miles into the 20-mile race. Follow that? Trust me, it works out. All that being said, I never saw the 7-mile mark. No big deal, I'll get the 8-mile mark. Well, I never saw the 8-mile mark, either. I was expecting signs, but they were just painted on the road.
Throughout this first mile, I kept dropping back. As D said to me later as she watched the start, "Wow, Ryan's in 11th place!" Somewhere in my head, I knew I was going a bit too fast, but I was behind three guys that were breaking the wind nicely. But, then I dropped back behind another pair, and back again, and back again. Eventually, I decided that I needed to run my own race, so I resolved to run alone. I fell in with a group, and we actually did a fair amount of chatting. At some point, we crossed over the 9-mile mark, aka the 2.1 mile mark. I didn't hit my watch because I didn't realize it until the group decided that that was indeed the mile marker. I'll get the next one, but I recall something in the 14:50ish range.
Did I mention the wind? Yeah, it was windy, and it was mostly coming straight at us/from our left. You see, the course follows Route 1A south, which is right along the ocean...literally. The road did curve on a few occasions, but only briefly, and it wasn't much of a reprieve. The wind was also messing with my mind as I really having trouble gauging my pace. And, admittedly, it became clear that I hadn't done enough marathon pace runs to really have my internal clocked dialed. That being said, I was feeling pretty comfortable. D passed me, and I was waiting for me at the 10-mile mark.
"How you doing?"
"Great, but I sprinted the first half mile!"
"Because I'm an idiot."
I grabbed my 3.1 mile split: 22:33. That averages out to 7:17 per mile. Faster than I wanted. Not ideal, but not horrific. But at this point, I was starting to feel my pace.
Mile 4: 7:27. Nice. Still windy.
Mile 5: 7:38. Less nice. Still windy. This mile split makes sense because I was feeling a bit not so great here.
Mile 6: 7:28. Nice. Slightly less windy. Feeling much better.
The regular finish line for the race is in Salisbury, MA, but due to bridge construction the race finished at Hampton Beach this year. So, mercifully, this change took the race course inland off of Route 1A. Off Route 1A, meant out of the wind. As soon as we turned, not only were we out of the wind, but the terrain changed: hills! OK, minor little bumps, but this change felt terrific. The timing was perfect, and I felt relaxed and great.
Miles 7 & 8: 14:39.
Obviously, I missed a split, but I did get the 8-mile split, which was key. So, after all that craziness and inconsistency my 8-mile split was 59:46. My goal was 59:36. Time to roll.
Miles 9 & 10: 14:03
I passed a few people, and I was rolling. Felt really, really good. I was cheering at the spectators. Good times.
Mile 11: 7:07
Still good...except for the last 1/4 mile of that mile.
"What happened that last 1/4 mile?" you ask. I turned right. I turned back on 1A, back along the ocean, back into the wind. Did I mention it was windy? What followed were the hardest flat—completely flat—two miles I have ever run. In theory, you could run close to the seawall, which lessened the wind by about 5%, but increased the nasty, salty sea spray in your face.
Mile 12: 7:38
Are kidding me? It felt more like 5:38. It was so windy, I had to flip my hat backwards, Over the Top style, for fear of loosing it. Unfortunately, it wasn't like flipping a switch, and it was still really, really windy.
Mile 13: 7:11
It felt like I should have been timed with a calendar. Either that, or they kept pushing the finish line back on me. It was ugly, but I held it together. D, the Little Lady and my parents were at the finish—that's a great way to end a race.
Final time: 1:35:48
22nd place out of 215 finishers. RESULTS
Overall, I'm really happy with how this went. I ran the final 5 miles in 35:59. If I hit the 8 mile split, I had set a reach goal of 1:35. So, to come that close with the wind, I'll certainly take it. I executed my plan, and it added up to a good result. Also, it's technically a half marathon PR...since I've never run a half marathon. I think I like this distance.
Again, the whole reason for running this race was to get a gauge for the marathon. And, the good news is that I ran well and it told me exactly where I am. It's clear to me that I'm not ready to run a 3:15. It's just not realistic right now. 3:25? Absolutely. But, I'm not interested in 3:25. Even though that would be a significant PR, that won't get me to Boston. So, I'm not going to go through the hassle, stress and expense of trucking the family up to Sugarloaf, so I can run the marathon. Plus, at around mile 6 yesterday, I decided that running a full marathon just, frankly, wouldn't be fun. I am stoked with this decision. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted. And, I'm ready to kick some serious ass at the Pineland 25k!