Weather: 46 degrees; Thin overcast; NO WIND
I have never raced in better weather...period. It was absolutely perfect.
Woke up at 6am after a pretty good night's sleep. I brought my two boys and my dad along for the ride. My oldest son has the amazing ability of not falling asleep before 11pm, but once he was asleep, we all slept great.
By 6:20 I was out the door walking over to the NCAA Headquarters which was the Elite staging area. The race organizers were great and all the pre-race stuff went perfectly.
I felt slow, bloated and heavy during my warmup. This is very typical though so I didn't think much of it.
The start countdown was done by soldiers in Kuwait via cell phone. Kind of cool. As seems to always be the case, this race had its own "Michael Wardian" jumping out to an early lead for some good camera time. By Mile 2 we caught him.
The biggest surprise of the first mile was how slow the Kenyans went out. Paul and I were right together as we crossed Mile 1 in a very slow 5:23. That was really disappointing since it was a full 13 seconds slower than my desired mile pace. Even with 12 miles to go, that's a lot of time to make up. So I spent Mile 2 focused on hitting the desired split time. I wasn't going to try and get back any of my lost time, just get back on race pace. Mile 2 came in at 5:09. Much better. At this point, I think the "chase" pack was me, Paul and some young dude with floppy hair. I will refer to him as floppy from here on out.
The Mile 2 water stationn was staffed by well over 100 LDS missionaries. That was cool to see. They were probably very glad the weather was so cool.
The lead pack was still in sight at this point but they did begin to pick up the pace. I commented to Paul though that 1:02 wasn't going to happen based on the first two mile splits.
Mile 3 I still was feeling heavy and bloated. I had taken a few sips of water but was concerned I wasn't getting enough. Temps were low but the half is just long enough that hydration can be a concern especially with humidity. Mile 3 was 5:08. Perfect.
5k time -- 16:12
Mile 4. Don't remember anything exciting happening here. Me, Paul and floppy were still together. Floppy and I swapped the lead a few times but he seemed willing to take it back each time so I felt willing to let him. :-) Mile 4 5:08. Nice.
Mile 5..the last mile before entering the Speedway. We slowed a touch to 5:11. This was my first (and only) full swig of water and I tend to slow a bit when i take water. Maybe that was why. Who knows.
The Mile 6 marker is inside the Speedway just before you actually get on the race track. I had no idea how incredibly massive the Speedway was. A 400 meter track will forever seem very short. Mile 6 was in 5:07. I was starting to feel a little bit better about things although I was reserving judgment until Mile 10 which is 5k to go.
The 10k marker was on the back straightaway of the Speedway. Crossed in 32:15. It wasn't too long ago that this would have been a 10k PR. Mile 7 was inside the Speedway as well. I commented to Paul afterward about how slow this mile was. We did it in 5:16. By this time Paul had dropped back but me and Floppy were still together. We were both wondering what happened.
Mile 8 was almost entirely on the final straightaway of the Speedway and this was the only time during the race I felt anything resembling wind. Despite the slow Mile 7, I was content to let Floppy bear the brunt of the wind. Mile 8 was in 5:14. Slow but not too bad.
As we left the track it was good riddance from my standpoint. It's such an enourmous facility that it felt at times like we weren't covering any ground. So the Mile 9 marker was back out on the streets of Indianapolis. Crossed Mile 9 in 5:11. A smidgen slower than I wanted but I was just happy to be feeling good. At this point I was in 9th place and I think Paul was still in 10th. There was a Kenyan that me and Floppy were reeling in which was particularly motivating. Nothing quite like beating a Kenyan.
Mile 10 -- 5:12. Still slower than I wanted but the beauty of Mile 10 is that mentally, it becomes a very manageable race. 5k to go. I can get my head around 5k and I have a good idea of what i have left in the tank and how much to push it with 5k to go. It was right about at Mile 10 that Floppy and I passed the Kenyan. He put up a fight for about a 1/4 mile but we gapped him hard after that.
Mile 11 -- The biggest challenge which this mile is that you can see the Mile 11 marker from the Mile 10 marker. It's a really long straight stretch that felt like it went on forever. Crossed Mile 11 in 5:08. Beautiful. I was back to running my pace.
Mile 12 had us finally leave 10th St. and turn on to White River Parkway. I could see the marker early on and at this point, it was me and Floppy battling for 7th place. There was a slight breeze, but at this point, I wasn't even thinking about it. 5:12 was the time for Mile 12. 1/10 of a mile later you make the turn onto the New York Street bridge. They call it the Miracle Mile. At this point I had passed Floppy with the intention of never seeing the back of his head again. One of the great things of this course was they marked every final 1/4 mile. As I made the turn onto NY Street for the final mile, I made my move. I knew a sub 1:08 was still possible but it was going to take some real effort. I also knew there was money and pride on the line and I didn't want to let Floppy pass me. BTW...Floppy couldn't be older than 22 or 23.
With 3/4 to go, I was going to look back but decided not to. I told myself that I don't "get" to look back unless I hit the 1/2 to go mark on pace for a sub 1:08. So with 1/2 to go, I was on pace and looked back. I had gapped Floppy by about 100 meters. I kicked it into a higher gear telling myself I had only two laps to go. With a 1/4 mile to go I looked back again. Floppy had not closed at all. So I focused on trying to hit a 75 second quarter to the finish line. Crossed the 13 mile mark in 5:03! Wow...the extra effort really paid off.
The final 1/10 was awesome. I was really running hard and I could see the clock the whole way. One final look back and Floppy hadn't made any progress. 7th place was mine.
Finishing time: 1:07:53 (official)...a pace of 5:10.5.
In January I had set my 1/2 goal at 1:07:30. But that was a bit unrealistic. This past week I adjusted it to sub 1:08 which I did. Mission accomplished. That said, I do feel like a 1:07:30 is within reach.
The winning time was a high 1:03:55 by Festus Langat. The Kenyans really wasted an opportunity to take advantage of perfect weather. Joseph Mutinda was second in 1:04:28, just two weeks after winning the Salt Lake Marathon.
A couple of observations/learnings:
- I continue to be astounded by how many elite runners do NOT run the tangents. This course had numerous opportunities to be lured off the tangents making the course longer than it needs to be. I just don't get it.
- Improvement? The first mile was ridiculously slow. I'm terrible at gauging pace off the track but my watch said we were at 80 seconds at the quarter which turned out to be about right. I could have easily had 10-15 seconds back if I had run that correctly. I also want to start pushing it even sooner. I have never died at the end of a race, something I always have feared. So I almost need it to happen so that I know my limits better.
- This is such a weird distance. It's only my fourth half and I feel like I have so much experience to still gain. Hydration is a fuzzy area. Pace wise it feels more like a 10k. It's just a weird distance.