Monday, May 2, 2011

Lake Minnetonka Half Marathon 2011

This was the first time I've run the Lake Minnetonka Half Marathon.

I know several people that have run it in the past and they all thought it was a great race. It was a Sunday race which worked great with my family schedule this year so I signed up several months ago. When I signed up, I also set my goal time. For 50 year old men, a sub-1:40 half marathon is a New York City marathon qualifying time. I probably won't run the NYC marathon, primarily due to cost, but I still want to meet the qualifying goal. Also, I have a heck of a time qualifying in a marathon (I'm batting a zero) as I can't quite run fast enough for that long. I'm better in shorter races.

So, I have my goal, and my race picked out. Fast forward to the end of April. The weather is looking really bad for race day. Cold and windy. The day before my half was the Get in Gear race series at Minnehaha park. Cold and rainy and windy too. I was happy that the forecast for May 1st was just showing cold and windy with NO rain! I planned my clothes - Race Ready long distance short shorts, TCM '09 long sleeved shirt, souvenir Boston Marathon cotton gloves that my running friends game me, Afton Trail Run cap, my Nike dry-fit socks, and my new favorite shoes, the ASICs Gel Landreth 6's.

Race day was here and I picked up my packet and changed into my racing clothes. I was happy that I wasn't the only one wearing shorts. There were other fools there too! I run best when I'm on the edge of freezing so this seemed to be perfect weather for me. I met my friend Julie and her friend Michelle before the race. They would be running together. I waited for the race to start mostly in porti-potty lines. I drank maybe a little too much water that morning so I waited in a line 4 times - once inside and three times outside. While waiting outside I knew for sure that I was not going to overheat in the race.

After my last porti-potty visit, it was 5 minutes to race time. I was carrying 2 half-packs of 3 shot-bloks and 4 S!Caps. I also had spares of both in case I dropped some. I figured to take 3 shot-bloks and 2 S!Caps at mile 7.5 and again at 10.5. I planned to also take just water at the two earlier water stops. Knew for me, I decided this would be my FIRST TIME using a pace group. Pacer Dave was the 1:40 guy and I lined up near him, but not close to him. I was maybe 30 feet behind. I figured that I'd have time to catch him soon enough.

The race started and off we went! After maybe 100 feet we ran between two race start signs. Where was timing mat? There was none but I started my Garmin anyways. We had some type of timing chips built into the race bibs and I didn't know whether or not signals were picked-up near the start markers. I was wrong. Some time later we crossed the timing mat. What the heck! Everyone around me was ticked because we all started our watches too soon. I heard a guy near me say we were 26 seconds off. Oh well. Pacer Dave was ahead of me and he would keep me on track. That was my plan.

Well, I was not running as fast as Pacer Dave. He was getting away from me. I thought: "This sucks. We're about a minute into the race and I can't keep up with the pacer." I usually warm up for a few miles a slower pace and then pick it up. That is not how Pacer Dave was doing things. He was starting out at goal pace from the first footsteps. And, the biggest hill of the entire race was within the first mile. I got myself together and picked up my pace. I caught Pacer Dave and kept with him up the big hill. I wasn't warmed up but I'm pretty good with hills and I was very happy that I didn't let him slip away. Over the hill I caught my breath a bit but it would be another mile or so before I was running comfortably.

We were moving right along at a 7:30 pace. 7:30 up the hills, 7:30 down the hills. Seemed like we had no breaks. I like to slow down up the hills and run like the wind going down. Today it was all running into the wind. 30 mile per hour wind. The wind was blowing so hard I had to keep my head down most of the time so I wouldn't lose my hat. I think the scenery would have been beautiful in warmer and gentler weather, but I was watching my step the entire race, and making sure my hat stayed on. I didn't look at any scenery.

Pacer Dave also doesn't slow down at water stops. I was wondering how I was going to keep up with him through the stops. I always run around to the end of a table, stop and drink two cups of water and then take off. So, as we approached the first water stop, I ran like heck to get some distance ahead of the group. Then I got my water and didn't have as far to catch them. This strategy seemed to work well.

The rest of the race was really just more of the same. Run like heck and count down the miles. I tried to stick right beside and behind Pacer Dave. One disadvantage of being with a pace group is the close proximity to other runners. There were four times that I felt someones foot hit the bottom of my back foot as I was lifting it off the ground. I am so happy that I was never tripped or fell down. I did exchange some accidental elbows bumps with a gal but if she wanted to run on the other side of me, she should say something instead of pushing. Ugh.

I also kept to my nutrition schedule. Around mile 7 I felt like I needed a little energy boost but I hung in there until 7.5 as planned, and I knew I would be energized by 8.5. Yup! Good plan. Not once did fatigue or heaviness set into my legs. I felt good the whole way and stuck to my plan of keeping with Pacer Dave. At mile 12 Pacer Dave told us that we could take off if we wanted to. I thanked him and off I went.

Mile and pace
1 7:30
2 7:34
3 7:28
4 7:31
5 7:27
6 7:27
7 7:32
8 7:30
9 7:28
10 7:29
11 7:36
12 7:37
13 7:26
last 0.33 in 2:16 (6:56 pace)

My Garmin data is here. Ignore my heart rate at the beginning - it's not correct.

You can see that Pacer Dave did a great job holding pace and after I took off at mile 12, I ran my fastest mile and then the last 1/3 mile in under 7's. My finishing time was 1:39:08.4! Could I have run a faster race without a pacer? I don't know. All I know is that I met my goal while running at a hard, but not too hard, effort.

I enjoyed running this race and hope to run it again another year.



Beth said...

Congrats on a great race, Mark! I agree that running in the cold is better but I did not enjoy the wind and snowflakes. By the time I got to the finish it was too muddy, too. Maybe next year we will be able to enjoy the scenery! Qualifying for NY is a big deal- congrats!

Matthew said...

Great race, Mark--some remarkably consistent splits. I still don't have any idea what they were doing with the timing mats--weirdest thing considering the race has been going for 31 years & they had professional timers.

Nice race & I enjoyed your report.