Monday, October 13, 2014

Race Report: Hokie Half Marathon (PR!)

The second annual Hokie Half Marathon was yesterday, the day after Mirinda Carfrae's amazing comeback win yesterday at the Kona IRONMAN World Championship.

If you didn't follow that race, after the swim and bike, Rinny found herself 14 minutes behind the leader at the start of the marathon. It was a seemingly insurmountable deficit. Yet she steadily worked her way to the front, building to a 2 minute lead, by maintaining efficient and beautiful run form, strength, and focus as the commentators noted her "attention to detail" in terms of fueling and hydration. Watching her was mesmerizing.

I thought often of Rinny's determination and performance as I raced to a PR at the Hokie Half with a 1:39:55 finish. (I've only run two other half marathons though, both in 2008 in my first year of running.) That was 94th out of 1290, 18th woman, and top of the 45-49'ers. I was very happy and as with each and every race, I learned a few things along the way.

Lesson Learned #1 - Rough weather races are best shared with friends! Unlike Rinny's day in Kona, our race day began cold (50F) and rainy. Sigh! I talked my friend Krista into doing this race and the rainy Claytor Lake Sprint Tri. Nearly all of our shared races have been in challenging weather, and we have several pre-race "staying warm in the minivan" pictures like this one:

Lesson Learned #2 - It really is better to race without an iPod. I generally train with an iPod (but ignore it when I'm focused) and run most road races with it. And as we know, they are not allowed in triathlons. With Krista's encouragement I raced without and discovered I didn't need it, didn't miss it, and I'm sure I raced better without it. Thinking about it afterward, with swimming this year I have discovered just how much energy and effort is required to maintain technique when fatigue sets in. With minimal distractions I could better focus on maintaining run form. As Rinny demonstrated in her run, every detail counts!

Lesson Learned #3 - Third-person race commentary and coaching can really help! I heard this story recently on NPR Why Saying Is Believing — The Science Of Self-Talk, and how we are more encouraging when our self-talk is in the third person. I tried it out with some third-person coaching and race commentary in my head. For instance, I could hear Greg Welch from IRONMAN saying, as he did about Rinny, "look as she climbs that hill, her stride does not change!" Or I would say, "Cortney you are doing a great job here, feel how strong you are!"

Lesson Learned #4 - It pays to be patient early. We planned for me to run the first 5 miles fairly conservatively, and I stayed true to that, keeping effort and heart rate low. At that time I watched two fast local women (35-39'ers) pass by me, but I stuck to the race plan and let them go. Later I passed them decisively between miles 10 and 11. I ended up with a nice negative split on this course, which is tough considering the first few miles are mainly downhill. As Coach Jim points out, the benefits of the patient race and negative split are not only physiological, but motivational too as I spent the second half of the race just chasing down the next runner and the next and the next! (Listen to Coach Jim Vance's interview on Babbittville Radio about the Kona Pros who go out too hard/fast on the marathon and pay!)

Lesson Learned #5 - Running in the rain is fun. Volunteering in the rain is far less fun. Most of us had a pretty good time running in the rain! If you are dressed right (hat to keep rain out of eyes, light wicking clothes) it's a blast! We dodged puddles we could avoid, ran through the ones we could not, and kept moving! Volunteering is a lot of standing around - at aid stations, at intersections - and that does not keep you very warm, and certainly not dry. I did my best to say thank yous to all the volunteers, bands, and law enforcement, as I ran. Thank you!!!

This was a GREAT race and I would highly recommend it. I was extremely impressed by the organization and support for the runners!

Today is a day off, then a bit more training for the week before entering the "taper zone" for PPD Beach2Battleship on October 25!

P.S. Why is it called the "Hokie" Half you might ask? This is the long story of the Hokie Bird and Virginia Tech!