Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Running Milestone

Since my schedule doesn't allow for a lot of cycling (or timely blogging), I have been running.  I also decided to use this time to attempt to scratch some accomplishments off the exercise bucket list as well as build the confidence to do the ultimate on my bucket list, complete a Kona Ironman someday.  So the running portion of the exercise bucket list consisted of a half-marathon and then a full marathon.  I tackled the first part of that about a week ago at the Austin Livestrong Half Marathon.  I ran the half marathon distance twice in the training leading up to the race so I was confident that I could run the full length.  I also wanted to run a sub 1:45 half marathon but I was nervous because I had heard the Austin course was somewhat difficult for a first timer and I had never run with any sort of group, let alone 18,000 people.

My beautiful wife drove me down and dropped me off as close as she could get me about 20 minutes before the start of the race.  I made my way into the start area and found the area for my "pace".  The race was set up so the fastest people start in the front and everyone lines up by pace behind them.  The weather was beautiful and soon we were off.  The first mile was hectic to say the least.  I quickly learned that a lot of people lined up near the front but had no intention of running a fast pace.  I also started out much faster then planned so the first mile or two was weaving up through the crowd.  It was still a large group at the first mile marker and I was serenaded by the sound of hundreds of fitness devices beeping the notification.  My pace continued to be higher then planned but I felt good so I tried to keep it steady.  The first four miles are slightly uphill before turning around and heading back down towards downtown.  The run was largely uneventful till about mile three when a spectator exclaimed loudly "it's him!!" as I passed.  I turned to look over my right shoulder at the spectator only to see Lance Armstrong catch and pass me.  He was followed by ten to fifteen runners pacing themselves on him.  I picked up the pace slightly and kept the gap close for a quarter mile before thinking better of it and backing down.  Apparently the pace had taken it's tole on the fifteen or so runners that had been following him as they dropped off and fell behind even me.  I followed Lance at a slight distance for the next two-three miles as he unassumingly ran through the crowd of runners.  He finally pulled away and disappeared a little before we approached downtown.

We turned west about mile eight to loop away from downtown before coming back to the finish.  At this point I realized my time was close to 1:30 pace but I was starting to slow.  Hitting 1:30 on my first half marathon would have been my ultimate accomplishment so I tried to pick the pace backup.  I continued to feel decent and catch runners as we hit the end of the loop and headed back towards downtown.  About mile eleven, my pace was good and I felt strong running down Enfield road when we came upon a big hill I had forgotten about.  The road dips down to a bridge over Shoal Creek before rising back up at about a 10% grade.  The hill killed my pace and took a lot out of my legs.  I spent the next mile trying to find my legs as well as running and breathing rhythm again.  I finally felt somewhat normal going into the last mile but I didn't have the pop I had hoped for to finish fast.  I ended up running a 1:31:48 which I can be proud of but to be that close to 1:30 and miss it was disappointing.

The biggest takeaway was the difference in running and cycling.  I read about the same time a thread on a triathlon forum about how running and triathlons are very much an individual competition as much as they are a group competition.  Even if you don't have a chance to place, you can still set a personal best and/or attempt to finish higher within your age group.  Cycling however is an all or nothing sport.  You either finish in the top or it doesn't matter.  There aren't any personal best or break outs.  I can see how cycling can be discouraging once you reach a category where your physical make-up or the time allowed for training in your life cause you to hit a performance ceiling.  At that point you can be relegated to mediocrity and pack finishes.   These aren't all bad and there is still the joy of racing but when you recognize your physical limitations and work/school severely limits your training, running and triathlon (or duathalons if you can't swim well like me) certainly hold a lot of appeal and can seem more rewarding.  I think I will probably focus more competitive energy towards running and duathalons at least till I can finish school and get that item off my plate.  That's my plan right now but we will see how it all works out.  In case you were interested, I provided a link to the Strava of my half marathon.