About 1 and half years ago I met Andy on the group rides. He was coming back to riding after a hiatus of a few years. His riding style was interesting because he rode like he was fast even though he wasn’t (at the time).
He told me he had recently run a half marathon PR of 1 hour 22 minutes. That is fast – it is equivalent to a 6 minute 15 second pace over 13.1 miles. To give you some idea of relativity – my PR on a much shorter distances prior to 2013 was 19.53 5k or 3.1 miles equivalent to a 6 min 23. My PR for the Carlsbad half marathon 2013 was 1hour 28 minutes (6 minute 42 second pace). A 1 hour 22 pace would put a runner in about the top 50 of runners in the Carlsbad Half Marathon which features ~7,000 people.
My goal for the Carlsbad Half Marathon 2014 was 1 hour 22 minutes.
Susan is my BFF, my partner, my Baby Momma, my dietician, my stylist and my wife. Her half marathon PR was 2 hours 10 minutes which she did on Staten island circa 2006/2007. I remember that race because at the time I worked late on a Saturday (I was in NYC working in investment banking), hung out with my friends until 3am or so and then got up at 6am to go to the race with Susan. My attendance of the race was a testament to my love for Susan. After she was done, she was a little unhappy with her performance in the second half of the race where she faded principally due to having gone out too hard in the first half. At the time, I weighed about 50 lbs more than I do today, the longest run I did was ~3 miles in 25 minutes (8 minute 2 second pace), about 3 days a week and I worked about 80 hours+ a week.
Susan and I signed up for the Carlsbad Half Marathon 2014 and we developed a training program (checkout our Strava if interested) that we started together in August 2013. With her training she was on track to break 2 hours in the half which is a major goal for a lot of runners. In December, she strained her calf and her race was in jeopardy as for a week she could barely run. The biggest mistake we had made was not massaging and foam rolling Susan’s legs after every hard effort. Having Susan finish the race became the most important part of the race for me.
The race itself:
Was over at mile 1 (I thought). I met 2 guys and they told me they were going to run 1 hour 22. Perfect I said, I’ll run with you guys. They run with Prado Racing a.k.a PRT (a San Diego running club that I’ll probably join) and they ran at a smooth pace. On the first half of the run they backed off a little on the hills as I planned and then upped the pace a little on the downhills. We were able to converse as we ran. We continued to pick up runners who we were passing so that around Tamarack (saw Jackie at that point!) we were about 6 runners with PRT at the front. As we went on the slight ascent past the NRG power plant (great to see my work-mates!), we dropped the other runners one by one. As we approached the halfway point, a spectator shouted, “come on guys it’s not a jog-a-thon, there are 4 women ahead of you”. My response, they’re probably pros so I’m ok with that…
After cresting the NRG hill we passed a water stop and after sipping a little water I had to accelerate a bit to catch back onto the PRT crew. That acceleration was expensive and I waited for my body to recover as I was forced to breathe deep. I heard my neighbor Tim yell at this point which was awesome. We caught girl 4 just before the halfway point (thanks for yelling John D!) and then turned round and caught girl 3.
Just after the halfway point I felt a bit of cramp in my stomach which was a little disconcerting. I am fortunate to never get stomach cramps but today I guess my body was telling me we were going fast! I was a little worried as I thought it may get to debilitating pain. We approached the little hill up to the hotel (a.k.a. AM 101 hill for my fellow Swamis bike-riders) and I had intended to run this at a 6.45 pace. My PRT homies went up it at 5.55 slowing to 600 as we crested the hill. I was ok until I looked at my watch which made me panick a little bit as I thought we were going too fast. I think we may have had a little bit of a tail-wind or a lot of adrenalin as I felt ok after doing a check of my mental and physical internal computers (hamstrings ok, breathing ok, stomach cramp => forgotten…).
We passed my neighbor Tim again (thanks for yelling Tim!), came up to the Power Plant where my work-mate Jennifer had brought our kids (Jennifer = tres awesome!!!) and I looked out for them. As we had practiced they had their hands out and I moved close to them and high-fived them. That was an amazing feeling.
All of a sudden we were now on the last incline up to Carlsbad. I knew this was going to be rough and with my original plan I was going to have pushed on this segment. Thanks to Team PRT I was ahead of my pace time though AND one of the PRT guys, unbeknownst to me at the time was feeling good and he decided to “up the pace” which he did by holding a 6 minute mile as we went UP the INCLINE. I thought about dropping off and recovering but decided to stay with them. I used my jedi mind trick of focusing on PRT #2′s shoulders and just running. Unfortunately PRT runner #2 was feeling it too and he waved me forward to get behind PRT #1. I stayed behind PRT #1 for maybe 30 seconds then I let him go.
We had about 2.5 miles to go, I was completely finished and I slowed it down a little bit. I went down to about 6.45 and then was able to get my pace back to about 6.15 between Tamarack and Carlsbad town. PRT #2 stayed right behind me and I paced him for that distance. Around Carlsbad town he moved forward to take over the pacing. At this point, I was again in distress and I couldn’t stay with PRT #2 and let him go ahead. I looked at my watch. I had around 2 miles to go and I was in danger of missing my goal as my pace was now down to 6.40 to 6.45 and I was struggling to keep it there. I was beginning to do math in my head – how fast did I need to run the last couple miles to survive….
In another sign that I was in distress,girl #3 caught me, we told each other good job, and she went by me. I had nothing left to keep after her and I’m usually good at chasing girls AND I’m usually a negative split runner (passing people later in the race) I looked at my shadow and I looked like I was literally plodding along and looked at my watch and it said 6.40 pace. I thought wow surprised I’m running that fast because my shadow was running at about a 8.30 pace.
To make matters worse I felt a twinge in my left calf – that knowing feeling when your leg is about to cramp and I thought uh…oh! Again I’m fortunate in that I rarely cramp. Everyone who saw me at this point could see the pain in my face and they kept saying, almost there, just a mile to go, almost there!!! This was going to be the toughest 1.5 miles of my life. I came to the last water stop and considered drinking water (Pro: slow down rest, water always helps Con: loose 10 seconds, Decision: better to recover than to completely bonk which I was in danger of doing). The water guys yelled at me to keep going after I slowed almost to a walk. I know the last mile is mostly downhill and I was able to get my pace back up to ~6.15 for the mile. I pushed thru and finally got to the finish line.
1 hour 22 minutes 7 seconds.
Susan finished about 30 minutes later. She was crestfallen because she had fallen. It takes a lot to make Susan sad but she had tears in her eyes when I saw her from the pain. I took her to the first aid folks and we got some ice on her chin which was bloody. She had been running comfortably with the 1hr 50 group when the fall happened around mile 9 and she had been on track to hit 1 hr 50. I was glad a) she had finished and b) her time was definitely better than 2 hours despite the fall. She had also shown a lot of grit by taking a serious fall (bloody chin + bruised quads) and then gotten up and finished. Weren’t we pleased when we checked online later and her time was 1 hour 50 minutes 48 seconds!!!!
Shout out to all the people who encouraged us all, came to the race, sent us text messages and emails. A special thank you to my workmate Jennifer who, of her own accord, came to our house at 615am and brought our kids to an unforgettable race!!!