Sunday, December 11, 2011

Decker Challenge Half Marathon

This morning I raced the Decker Challenge Half Marathon, the third event in the Austin Distance Challenge (the first two being the IBM 10K and the Run for the Water), and while I didn't manage as quick of a pace as either of those races, I'm quite pleased with my 1:50:30, which smashes my previous half-marathon PR from 3M in January. It also significantly improves on the last time I did 13.1 miles on foot in that part of town (The Longhorn Half Iron). I didn't have much of a game plan going into this race, knowing it was going to be hilly, but not having done this race before (this course was not the same as the Longhorn run course, but included some of the bike course). My plan was pretty much to run an 8-minute pace in the flats, a little slower uphill, and a little faster downhill. There weren't many flats, and it seems the downhills didn't even out the uphills, as my average pace was 8:24 (by my watch). Also not helping my time was some pretty bad foot pain- my left ankle was hurting for the past two weeks, and my right foot developed a nasty blister. However, I was well within, and nearly exceeded my goal time of 1:50-2:00.

Two weeks ago, I ran my longest run ever after getting back from New York, 16 miles. I felt fine afterward, but in the days following, my left ankle started hurting. Last weekend I didn't go for a long run- one, because it rained the whole time, and two because my ankle hurt. I did do 30 minutes relatively easy on the treadmill on Sunday. It hurt so bad on Monday I swore off running for the week, and felt like Decker was questionable. The funny thing about is that at first, I couldn't even tell where the pain was coming from, my foot just hurt at certain angles. It eventually became more focused just below my medial malleolus (which I broke nearly four years ago). One evening after work I noticed swelling there, and applied some sport tape, which helped but didn't "fix" it. That did give me some hope that it might just be some tendonitis and not a stress fracture. I didn't see a doctor, because most likely he would have said not to run, and I didn't want that diagnosis before a scheduled race.

An 8am start time and a relatively small field (about a thousand half marathoners, a few "Double Decker" marathoners, plus some 5k runners) meant I got to sleep later than I often do for races. I got out to the Expo Center a little before 7, before the place really started filling up. It drizzled on the drive over, and was continued a light rain until about a quarter to 8. Fortunately, the rain stopped for good at that point, and other than a few puddles, it was pretty dry. The temperature was nice and cool, in the high 40s. The rain left it a little humid, but overall nearly ideal conditions. The sun never really came out, but that was kind of good since I decided not to wear my sunglasses.

I could feel my ankle from the first mile. I honestly wasn't sure I would make it past three miles. Quite fortunately, the pain never increased, it stayed consistently dull on every step. My right foot was really bothering my for the last few miles, though. It started maybe 6 miles in, as a feeling like I had a very small pebble in my shoe. I thought about stopping to take my shoe off, but didn't. I doubt that there was anything in it anyway, I have gotten a blister in the same spot on my left foot previously with these shoes, but I don't think it was ever this painful. Those were the only real problems I had on the course, but after finishing, in addition to the feet, my right knee started hurting as well. So, I've been kind of hobbling about all afternoon and evening.

I didn't bring any water with me, I relied on the water stops approximately every two miles. I drank a bunch on my way over, and one last cup before going to the start grid. I drank one cup from every stop. I had a gel shortly before the mile 6 stop, and another just before the mile 10 stop. I never felt particularly thirsty. The volunteers did a great job, I didn't really have to slow down and didn't run into anybody. Even at mile two, when people were still quite bunched up, it went smoothly.

My pace was not consistent at all. I tried to maintain my effort level more than my pace, but according the my heart rate that wasn't quite the case either. I probably started out a little harder than I should have- my first four mile times were 7:58, 8:11, 8:02, 8:10. I was definitely going slower in the second half, and it wasn't any hillier than the first. I managed to keep all my mile times under 9 minutes, but I didn't have enough left for a fast finish. The last two full miles, with the foot pain, and still going up and down hills, were 8:40 and 8:47. My watch shows my final 0.14 miles at only an 8:35 pace. On a different day, maybe I could have gone quicker, but this way I have room to improve during the 3M half next month ;).

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