The inexperience runner and the Half


Since the last 5K event where I was able to watch the start of a half marathon, a few weeks of training including a “successful” 14 mile training run that included minimal walking and with the encouragement of friends from work, I decided to sign up for a Half Marathon. Yes I know, I am not even going to try a 10K 1st, just going to jump to the Half Marathon and write it off the accomplishment from my mental small running to do list.

After looking for what was available, there were two options coming up that I considered for my 1st try at a half,

1) A race sponsored by the NCRRC at a State Park.
2) An event near downtown area.

After reading about the rules, information and details the time cut-off was an element that it was important to me. Because I did not know how I was going to perform and based on the pace and time I spend in a couple long runs, it seems that a 3:30 hours cut-off it was going to be plenty for me to finish and both had the same cut-off. The only main difference was the no head-set, MP3 player rule for the NCRRC sponsored event. So I picked the Downtown area event at a target for June. (And I am glad I did for many other reasons that will covered in future post). Now keep in mind that I barely looked a the route and it did not even crossed my mind to compare the both. Hey, 13.1 miles are 13.1 miles so no need to dwell on that.
June weather is a hot and humid affair here in midtown_seriesNorth Carolina it does not matters the time of the day it feels like you are in an oven or sauna. So, another thing that I did was not to consider any other month. Anyway, nothing beats commitment better than paying the entry fee and sign up for the event.

For training I have been running on a paved trail near where I live. I have completed three runs over 10 miles and my favorite the 14 miles run. Checking my sugars at the beginning of my run either with a glucose meter or with my continuous glucose monitoring system (CGMS). Although not paying or recording much details, I did notice that when I start running with just slightly close to upper limit after a snack, my runs felt better from end to end. While doing some reading that I needed to take some food in for these longer runs. So, I have been trying different gel for fueling, different brands, different flavors. At this moment I was settle with Cliff Shot (Razz) and GU (Tri-Berry or Banana-Strawberry). When taking the gels I also needed to adjust the insulin take by providing a bolus adjustment that was close to half of the recommended carb ratios. I was starting to get concerns that by running for more that 2 hours I could run the risk of my sugar to go low. So, to err on the high side of the spectrum seems ok. Basically, one gel per long run. (About 100 calories intake with 22 to 24 grams of carbs.)

Day of the event my wife and daughter woke up early to provide me company and support during today’s event, my 1st Half Marathon. There were many more runners in this event than the previous events that I have attended. Little nervous but feeling good. Little bit warm but there are plenty of clouds in the sky providing good coverage from the sun. You can hear the music, see the faces of the other participants, ranging from serious, happy, joy and nervousness. Plenty of spectators, families members and many kids, all ages. As we lined up at the single corral and before the start of the event, a few announcements and then I start hearing some familiar melody. It was a great feeling standing at the start line and listening to the National Anthem play. It kind of making it official because this is a serious thing. This is a serious distance. After few additional minors announcements that I was unable to comprehend, may be due to the nervousness the count down begin. Did they say that water will be served first at the aid stations or was it gatorade? Wait! I really need to know!!! And like a “sorry dude, next time pay more attention.” they sounded the start of the race.

It felt really great the first couple miles, downhill and then a flat paved trail. The tall trees provided even more coverage from the little sun that was escaping between the clouds. But as I as getting comfortable and getting into a pacing groove, around mile 3, after a sharp turn to the left, again my calf, another cramp big time. This time to the point that I had to skip for a bit and move to the side and stop. Very acute pain for a few seconds then turned into a dull constant pain. I started to walk a little trying to stretch it a bit with every step. All kind of things went trough my mind, why?, how am I going to finish this? I have 10 more miles to go, WHY?!!!. Suddenly, I went from frustration to getting mad to the that point in my mind that makes me really mad and start the thought process of “Now I will show you” and “You say what? I will prove you wrong”, deciding to power thru. That proved to be the right thing to do. After couple more miles the dull pain subside allowing me to start push harder and faster.
Going at a faster pace was good and I started to gain my confidence, but going to fast, although it felt good, near the turn around point there was a steep hill. I did not know how long it was, or how far the turn around point was. Looking up, it seemed that I was able to see the crest of the hill, but not sure what was after that. I power through the hill and it was too much. After reaching what I though it was the crest, it was a turn towards more uphill. Even after the down hill that followed I was not ready for that, so I started to slow a bit. Half mile of flat in and back when I have to tackle the hill again. That is when I first started the walking sessions. After walking some, it was on and off running and walking. Lots of runners passing you. Yes the ones I passed earlier, all the way during the flat 4 or so miles. Specially at the last up hill (Lasseter Hill). Remember earlier I mentioned how great was the first two miles that were down hill and flat. Well, coming back the the route it was not so great. I tackle the hill but it was too much for me. Mostly a walking hill for me. That last hill is famous for the ability to destroy runners and their personal records (PR) hopes. They even sell shirts with the slogan “I conquer Lasseter Hill”, now I know why.Midtown_Elev_2012
It was great to get to the top of the hill, from which not far from there my family awaited there, cheering me up and encouraging me for a good strong finish. My daughter joined me in the race for the last 150 meters and we crossed the finish line together. A nice shinny medal, water and goodies. A PR for me since it was my first Half. It felt great to finish under 2 1/2 hours and specially having my wife and daughter with me to share the moment.

                        Will I do this again,…                                       …of course!


[vtftable cols=”{0}0-4:c9daf8;{/}”] {f1}Month/Year;;;{f1}Event;;;{f1}Location;;;{f1}Type;;;{f1}Time;nn;
Jun-12;;;Midtown races series;;;NC;;;Half Marathon;;;2:25:58;nn;
[/vtftable] [vtftable cols=”{0}0:c9daf8;{/}”] Event Highlight & Learning Points;nn;


Course:    Street course. Nice initial downhill, need to be careful not to over do it, pace wise. Mid portion is flat, with a steep hill near the turn around.Very nice paved trail, wide enough. There are couple wooden bridges that are some what narrow for a race traffic, causing some choke points.

Weather:  Cloudy, humid & very warm.

and Expo: Excellent Technical Shirt, No Expo

T1D:       Within normal range at the start of the event. Not paying much attention at this time.

Learning Points:

  1. Need to understand elevation charts. How they differ from a 5k to a Half.
  2. All kinds of people finishing a Half Marathon
  3. It is a long event
  4. Need to figure out more about how to better train for this.