Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Bryce Canyon Half Marathon, a new shiny pr after months of struggles

Ok after doing a half marathon and or a marathon every single month from October to March I kind of hit a wall and was losing touch with racing. My races weren't getting better they had become stagnant and I had lost a little love of racing. So I stopped racing after my disastrous marathon in March and just went back to focusing on training. The idea was I wanted to try and run a sub 4 at STG marathon this October so I was going to try and be more focused in what I was doing. This meant adding speedwork once a week with the running club and focusing on my training. Well in May they announced that the local ironman was going to go from a full to a half next May. Now the Ironman has been a dream of mine since I started running but I knew that I was at least 3-4 years away from even contemplating one if not more. I knew I needed to master the marathon first as well as each of the disciplines before attempting one. But the half on the other hand I knew I could do in a years time.
Another worker at my job managed to get us sponsorships through my employer so it was on. This meant scrapping my goal of trying for a sub 4 as I knew I needed to start triathlon training right away. I had just purchased a road bike so I decide to alter my training completely. I was still going to train for the marathon in October but I was also going to spend at least one hard core week each 4 weeks doing some bike training and cutting back on the running. So I devised a 3/1 week 40/40-20-80 plan. This consisted of me running 3 weeks of 40+ mpw in addition too 40 miles biking for those three weeks. On the 4th week I cut back my running drastically to 20 miles and then upped my biking for those week to 80+. I also cut one of my 2 rest days and turned it into a swim day and then added a double in the middle of the week for another swim day (this has been my open water swim day). So not having raced in 4 months and completely altering my training I had no idea what kind of running shape I was in so I decided I needed a tune up half marathon to gauge myself and then set my marathon goal in accordance to that half. The idea was I would run a July or August half marathon then set my marathon goal as double plus 20 for goal A and double plus 30 for goal B.
Races dry up here during the summer as it is the desert and we get really hot. That left me with 3 options the Bryce Canyon half, the Parowan half and or the one I ran last year the Washington County fair half. Well I scrapped the County fair one instantly as it was the poorest planned half I ever run as it was set up as a relay. The Parowan half was an inaugural last year and I heard some negative things about it like them running out of water. So I decided on the Bryce Canyon half. I regretted this almost instantly as I had not looked into the logistics of it at all. I thought it was like the Parowan half which is an hour drive and starts at 8am meaning get up at 5 and hit the road by 6 easy piecy. No this half is a 2-2/12 hour drive with it starting at 6am and I have no clue how to get there. So last week I started to look for a hotel room hoping I could still get one but the only rooms I could find were more than a $150 for one night. I really didn't want to spend that much for a race so I was still just thinking about riding up in the morning and leaving at like 3am to get there (which would have been a disaster). Justin was doing it too and Tuesday he texted me asking me if I wanted to do some downhill warmups on marathon course for it Wednesday morning (Bryce Canyon is a fairly downhill race so we planned on running the most downhill portion of STG marathon from ledges to Bluff also it had a similar start to Bryce with the first mile being uphill then going into downhills). I had planned a mini taper for the week of 5-4-3 T-W-TH. He wanted to do 6-7 and I told him if I did it I would want to do 4-5. So we agreed on 5 (ended up being 5.4). So we go up on course and I think we ended up pushing each other and I ended up running the thing with a 8:08 pace way to quick during a taper week and he did it with a 7:52. So it ended up being a tempo run. Well Justin ended up offering to let me sleep in their tents up there as they had rented a camp site. I figured this was a good idea as then I could drive up Friday after work and be right at the start line for the race.
On Tuesday the summer cold hit our house (I got it, my wife got it and my son got it). I was mostly recovered by Friday but I was in that area where you are just worn out and really just need some sleep but then Friday the 13th came with lots of rain and during the middle of the night the AC unit went off in the computer room from all the lightening and power glitches heating the room up to 116. That meant I ended up at work several hours early on Friday still sick and now extra tired. I figured it would be ok as I could leave an hour early and go home and grab a nap before having to drive up. So we get home and we are laying down (family nap time is awesome) and the power goes off at our house. This meant no nap for anyone so we decided to just go pick up dinner and I would leave at like 6:45. I am glad I decided to leave early too as the drive nearly made me want to drink. My phone needed to download an upgrade for my GPS so I figured I could download it on the way and pull over in Parowan and load my maps there. Well I get to Parowan to load my maps and whammo zero cellular service like nothing at all. So luckily I had loaded some google maps and decided to follow those. Problem is driving with no voice GPS means you miss turns easily as I missed the turn off the freeway and had to backtrack down and was about to lose my mind. But in one of those small world moments my wife had found out that her boss at work was Justins sister in law and that she was too running the half. So I get a call as she called my wife for my work cell which is what I was using and they actually managed to guide me. By the time I get there it is pitch black though and raining. We decide to just hang it in and go to bed as it is nearly 10pm now. I had brought two sleeping bags one to use for cushioning which honestly did nothing at all as we were sleeping on the ground in a tent. A couple hours in I decided too double up the second sleeping bag which helped a little but is very odd as your hips are lower than your back so it hard to get comfortable. So another night of miserable sleep and with a back that is killing me dang the ground is hard I am glad we have beds and mattresses. We set out alarms for 4:30am which was ok as I was mostly awake anyways not having slept well at all. We do our morning business and head to the start line. For the race I had three goals, A sub 2 hours, B pr and C if I was up to it shoot for sub 1:50. I had talked to them last night and was told the best strategy for the race was to go out at the pace you wanted for the first 2 miles as it is mostly uphill for the start and then try and bank time the next 5 miles as you have some steep downhills before getting 5 miles of rollers to finish the race. I went up and talked the 1:50 pacer and he actually stated that was what he was going to do. They planned to run the first 2 at 8:30 then sub 8 for the next 2 and then settling into a pace of 8-15-8:30 depending on where they were in the rollers. I decided that was a good strategy and tucked in right behind them and said if I wasn't feeling it I would drop back with the 2 hour pacer. Well the first 2 miles hammered me, I am a notoriously slow starter and those 2 miles just hammered me. I let the pacers go somewhere in between miles 1 and 2 as I averaged an 8:36 for the first 2 miles. Justin passed me about a mile an half on his way to an awesome pr of 1:44xx 13 minutes faster than his February pr and 42 minutes faster than he ran Bryce in last year as his first half ever.
Well just as you get to the top of the hill at mile 2 you see a sign that says %8 grade coming up. They weren't kidding about the downhills from miles 3 and 4 were they. So I just start flying down the hills and actually banking time like planned. Next thing I know my average pace has gone from a 8:36 to a 8:10 and there is the 1:50 pacers all over again. At mile 3.5 I had one of my best moments ever. I have constantly got comments and accolades for being the former fatman running but never gotten many as a runner. Well this lady at mile 3.5 asks me hey you ran Dogtown half right I was trying to beat you the entire time and you just kept managing to stay in front of me and I could never catch you well I was determined to beat you next race. Made my entire race to get recognized as a runner not a former fatman (oh and I beat her by a minute today haha) So I tuck back in behind the 1:50 pacers again as we take the next 3 less steep downhills. I wish I had looked at my watch at this point as I am sure I set a 10k pr as when i did look I was at 52:10 in 6.4 miles and my 10k pr is 51:11. I decided I didn't want to give back any of the time I had banked by walking the water stations. So I decided to run the water stations and man I think I spilled as much gatorade on myself as I actually managed to get in me but it was working and I was staying with the 1:50 pacers. Well about mile 7 the downhills end and the rollers begin and this is when I first start feeling the effects of being sick all week and the lack of sleep the previous two days. My back is killing me from sleeping on the ground and I am like suck it up buttercup if you don't get a sub 2 half I will freaking stab you. I mean I could run 10 minute miles at this point and still get a sub 2. This is my thought process through much of the rest of the race. Shut up you run you sorry sack of sh!t run or I will beat you with a baseball bat. I did decide there is no way I am going to make the pr if I don't allow myself to walk the water stations and I make the decision I am going to sacrifice my chance at the sub 1:50 for a pr instead. I am flagging a little and I just need that little boost and to get some gatorade in me rather than on me. So I decide from aid station 8 on that I will walk them and get some gatorade. I actually still keep the 1:50 pacer in sight until mile 9 but at this point I feel like I have been beat head to toe with a baseball bat. At this point I think I ended up running the gutsiest 4 miles I have ever ran in my life. I was hurting, I was tired, I was flagging but by god and baby Jesus was I going to pr if it killed me. My thought process became a math problem to distract me from the pain I was in. It was ok I can run 11 minute miles and still run sub 2 and 10 minute miles and get a pr. Ok now I can run 12 minutes for sub 2 and 11 minutes for a pr. It was a constant math equation just to keep myself moving (oh and I never went much above the low 9's all the way in anyways). The same lady I saw at 3.5 asks me where we are at 1:30 in as she wanted a sub 2 and I am like we could walk it at this point and still likely get a sub 2 we got 2.3 miles to go in 30 minutes. Those last miles were me just gutting it out refusing to quit, refusing to not pr no matter how tired I was no matter how much I hurt. I wasn't going to walk eventually I got to the point where I am like listen here I don't care about a sub 2 I don't care about even a sub 1:55 your time is going to say something like 1:51 or I will beat you to death while you sleep now start picking it up and running faster you sorry sack of sh!t. Finish time was 1:51:52 completely spent and but I still manged the last .1 in a 7:36. I just walked around in a daze after that I was completely and utterly spent and then it began to rain in earnest and now I am shivering and cold and wet as we stayed around to cheer on the others of our group. Justin's father in law came in at 1:52 (he used to be a former high school teacher of mine another small world moment), his brother came in at 2:31 and then we waited for my wives boss who finished in 2:50 (I thought she did great as this was her first half and she wanted sub 3 as she had never run one in training faster than 3:15). So we are all soaking wet and freezing cold and they have a hot tub on the camp site so we all went and soaked in the hot tub so awesome and then my friends father in law cooked us brunch before we drove home (didn't get home until 2pm). I mean it was an awesome race and I don't think I could have done a single thing better than I did. For the conditions I think I may have run the best race I have ever run in my life and I gutted it out not letting myself quit when I wanted to. Plus I made smart decisions I think if I had tried to hold onto the sub 1:50 I would have ended up missing my pr I was still far enough ahead that I would have gotten a sub 2 but not the pr. They tried talking me into parowan in 3 weeks not sure if I want to do it but it was so nice to go out there and run fast and I would like to see what another day brings me crap now I am contemplating it. my splits 8:27 8:48 (the second uphill mile took a toll on me) 7:36 (start of the 2 steepest downhills) 7:51 8:13 8:06 8:22 8:38 (start of the rollers) 9:14 (first walked through aid station, I lost about 30 seconds a mile by walking through the aid stations and they were like 1.5 miles apart) 9:01 8:57 9:30 (toughest of the last rollers and my slowest mile of the day) 8:41 (told myself to suck it up buttercup you got a mile to go and you better get a 1:51xx) last .1 7:36 Final time: 1:51:52

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