I had several excuses lined up for not getting a personal record (PR) today at the 3M half marathon, but fortunately I didn't need them. Thanks to spectacular weather - cold, dry, and a tailwind - I knocked more than 10 minutes off my previous best (set over a year ago at Decker), for a new record of 1:38:43.
So, the excuses I had at the ready: Tendinitis, the same I have suffered off and on for more than a year; knee pain since climbing on Mt. Hood; a "knot" in my right calf; allergies. The ankle and knee strangely haven't really been bothering me while running, it's been more during general use and cycling. I felt them a little at one point, but weren't really a problem during the race. The calf started bothering me after a short run yesterday. It felt a little better when I put on compression socks this morning. Well, different anyway. Fortunately it never really bothered me during the race. The allergies picked up recently. The cedar pollen had been really low until we got a little rain and they perked up. During the race, I didn't really have any symptoms. In fact, my nose ran a little less than it usually does while running. Minutes after finishing, it hit me again and I was sneezing and my eyes were itching.
It was pretty cold at the start, in the high 30s, and not helped by the wind. I was rather reluctant to lose the little protection I had from a jacket and pants, but I certainly didn't want to run with them on or ditch them along the way. I waited until about 10 minutes before the start to drop off my dry clothes bag. It helped getting into the starting corral with lots of other bodies to block the wind and provide a little heat. The start was delayed a few minutes for some reason, so we started a 6:50. Initially we headed north, into the wind. It was quite chilly, but at least now I was generating some real heat.
I had lined up between the 1:35 and 1:40 pacers, since I was targeting a time around 1:40, hopefully under. I started at what felt like a comfortable, but soon realized I was going a little quicker than I should when I pulled even with the 1:35 pacers a half mile in. I backed off a little and finished the first mile in 7:13. I found the pace I wanted to go, and pretty much just cruised at 7:30 for the next 8 miles. The wind was sometimes a cross wind, when we heading east or west, but for the most part it was at our backs.
It was around mile 9 that the pace became a bit of a struggle. It still was going okay, but it was more effort for the same pace. At the same time, my strategy was to actually increase the pace around mile 10. While it was some effort, it was going well at first. Miles 10 and 11 were closer to 7:20 pace. Then came the cruel joke section of the course. While the overall course is a net downhill, most of the time it just feels flat. Mile 12, however, is pretty noticeably uphill. I probably could have pushed myself and maintained my pace up the hill, but I felt I'd already expended too much effort, particularly the shorter uphill section in mile 9. I knew not much short of collapse would keep me from finishing under 1:40, so I backed off the pace up the hill. I tried to snatch a bit back on the downhill on the other side. There was one last uphill stretch before the final turn, and I didn't bother to kick up the pace. The final flat stretch was only about 100 meters, so not enough to build my pace up for a true sprint finish, but I did at least pick it up a little.
Not all 6000+ runners were at the finish, so I actually managed to see and chat with a few people I know from the gym. Standing around, wet with sweat, on a windy low-40s morning isn't usually a good idea, but the mylar blanket helped. After a quick chat and a bit of food, I retrieved my clothes bag, changed my shirt, and put on my jacket and pants. That helped, but it was still too cold to just hang around all morning. I took the bus back to my car, and headed home, stopping for second breakfast along the way. I thought about getting lunch, but it was still only 9:15 at that point, so not many places open. Breakfast was pretty good, but a nice hot shower after getting home was even better.