Monday, May 2, 2011

2011 Eugene Half Marathon

Third time's a charm?

Or three strikes, you're out?

I love this race, now three yeas in a row. Eugene is such a great place to run, superb organization, great logistics, insanely motivated volunteers. And a (mostly) flat course.

Got a late start this year; my daughter had a concert on Saturday afternoon and did her dance recital debut to "The Bear Necessities." Not exactly Swan Lake, but you gotta start somewhere.

So I didn't leave home until after 5pm, and the pre-race packet pickup (t-shirt, number, other swag) ended at 6pm. I'm fast, but I'm not doing 130 miles in 45 minutes without Mr. Boeing. But this time, we could pay a couple of bucks and pick up the swag at 0515 Sunday morning before the race. Deal.

None of this would have worked without the generosity of fellow track umpire Dr. Nate, who graciously allowed me to camp at his house. Nice to have a place 10 blocks from Hayward Field. Much appreciated, Nate. I arrive at 8pm, stretch a bit, then crash.

Then wake at 0100. Ugh. 2 hrs later, I finally fall asleep again, just in time to hit REM status prior to my planned 0400 wakeup. Wasn't nerves, upset stomach, or anything. Just couldn't convince the bod to slow down. At least I brought the French press and espresso blend.

Factoid: it's not the night before that's important. It's the night before the night before. Anyone can gut out a race (or a workday) on a lousy night's sleep.

Pre-race was chilly, maybe 40 degrees and perfectly clear. It'll warm up soon enough.

Plan of the Day: start ssssslllllloooooowwww for 5 miles, then do a brisk 8 mile tempo run. I have no more than 30 miles in my legs this year, a ridiculously low amount going into a half marathon. And only 7 of those miles were in one shot, hence my caution. Way too early in the year to destroy myself, and as much as I love Eugene, I'm not willing to risk injury so soon.

Basically, I'm writing off this race and hoping just to get a good workout. In the week or so prior, my knee had been making very slight noises. Nothing huge, didn't hurt, more a signal than anything else. But I told myself that I can drop out without repercussion at any time, and the course goes close to Nate's house: I'll walk in if need be.

First 5 miles, really casual. Not breathing hard at all. Top of the hill at the turnaround, time to start working. Pace comes down, heart rate comes up. Get comfortable. Make the turn at South Eugene High and see the 19th Street Hill. Don't maintain pace and blow up; instead, slow down and maintain effort. That advice was courtesy of Max King, world champion trail runner and near-Olympic steeplechaser.

Max knows what he's talking about: it works. Coming down the hill, I pick up the pace while recovering. Past Hayward, 4 miles to go. Now it's going to get tough.

Spectator to foreign-born goalie: "Were you in pain?"
French goalie: "No, it hurt like hell."
(from the movie "Slapshot")

It hurt just enough to make it interesting, and about an inch short of making me wish I liked checkers or crossword puzzles. Use the arms, keep the hands loose, drive. Into the last mile, it's almost done. Now the track is in view, so it's time to pull back for a few hundred yards and let the nitwit collect his wits.

Then it's onto the track and time for the explosion, like last year. Hayward Field demands nothing less than a smoking finish. I don't know what it is about that track, but it makes me go.

Remember I said this was a training run? Sure was. Except it was also 4 minutes faster than I've ever run the distance before.

Things I did right:
  1. Started slow
  2. Recategorized the race from a 'must-have' to a 'nice to have' and gave myself permission to bail out if needed.
  3. Absolutely nailed my splits once I picked it up; except for the hill, those last 8 miles were within 10 seconds of each other
  4. Post-race: went to the medical tent and iced my knee just in case
  5. Got a massage next day
  6. Traded winter running for Nordic skiing and built big cardio while adding zero orthopedic damage
  7. Blew off the pre-race festivities in order to catch Zoe's dance moves.
Things I did wrong:
  1. Thought I grabbed my Body Glide (anti-chafe gel) and instead applied liquid Right Guard to my inner thighs. Didn't chafe, and my legs didn't stink, either.
  2. Nothing else comes to mind
That was one good weekend.

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