Sunday, February 20, 2011

Race Review - A1A Half Marathon

My second half marathon, a few weeks ago I ran my first and wasn't happy with my time so I immediately signed up for the next one.

The Training
After the ING race I took 4 straight days off, then only rounded the week off with 11 miles over three days. I was really taking it easy. I had some mild IT band pain, and I was trying to figure out good stretches. Since there were only three weeks between races, the next two weeks were pretty easy going. I was able to finally do some full speed runs by the end of the second week, and by the time the race was coming up my pain was gone. The other thing I did was get a new pair of shoes. My others had a few hundred miles on them and had a hole in the side.

The goal was 2 hours, or less. At one point I had convinced myself I might be able to go 1:50 - but I didn't want to get ahead of myself, 16 minutes would be a ton of time to drop :)

Packet Pickup
The expo was at a mall in what was apparently a spare store. It was easy to find, and much smaller than the IGN one. One sort of odd thing was there was no email about what our bib numbers were, but you were supposed to ask for your packet by number. They solved this problem by posting the bib number/name list on the wall outside the expo... not a big deal, but sort of odd.

I got in, got my packet, got my shirt and goodie bag. We took a spin or two around the expo, nothing special and we left. In the packet was the race number and a chip to put on my shoe. There weren't instructions on how to install the chip, and I didn't have any safety pins. No big deal, I think I got spoiled by the ING race that was pretty well put together comparatively

Race Morning
Up at 4 - my sister picked me up at 4:45, and we found parking a little after 5:20. We headed down to the race, there were far fewer people. I think 4,000 or so. We stopped at the bathrooms, medium lines, took some time to stretch. We watched the rollers start, then walked into the start area. There were no corrals, just signs that represented your estimated pace. So what did I learn last time? I didn't want to get stuck behind a bunch of slow runners, and neither did my sister. We situated ourselves just ahead of the 2 hour pace people.

The Start
The group started moving, we didn't hear the start but everyone lunged forward, and then we slowed to a walk until we got to the actual start. The whole process took 30 seconds, that was nice :) I had my ipod along, iPods are allowed for this race, plus I wanted to track my race using Runkeeper. Runkeeper died almost exactly at mile two... That program is losing favor with me. I feel like the starting position was good, some people to pass, some people passing us. The 1:50 pacer came running by, so I decided to try to settle in behind her, it got my legs moving, but I knew I couldn't hold that pace long, I lost her shortly after runkeeper died.

The Run
The course was pretty decent, most of it is along A1A in Ft. Lauderdale, so it's an out and back. I have to admit, the scenery is great, but that setup isn't that awesome. There were plenty of water stops, with water on both sides. The people giving it out were usually pretty good about yelling out where the sport drink or water was. So by mile 3 I was already happier with this race than the last one. Again I don't have splits, but basically I popped out pretty fast, and then settled into about a 9 minute pace until around mile 10. During 10 and 11 I think I did roughly 9:45s. I was starting to doubt my 2 hour goal, up until then I was pretty sure I was going to make it no problem. I hit another water stop and then decided I needed to pick the pace back up. The last two miles I basically kept right around nine minutes.

So there were a couple of things I didn't like about the out and back. First is that it's boring. It's not all on the same street, but most of it is. The other thing is that the half marathon and full marathon overlap substantially at the end of the race. What that means is that the fast marathoners and marathon hand bikers come tearing down the course past average speed half marathoners. I felt bad for those guys, they basically spend the last four miles (or more) of their race yelling at people to move to the right. Mix in people listening to their iPods (allowed in this race) and you get some pretty dangerous situations.

The Finish
The finish seemed to never come, this race really kicked my butt. I knew when I got to the 13th mile I was going to make 2 hours no problem, I was pretty happy. I saw my wife and kids really close to the line and that made me smile the rest of the way in. I picked up a medal, took off my own chip to avoid the relatively slow (but not really annoyingly slow) line to have someone else do it. Picked up some water and headed back to see if I could see my sister finish. The finish is at the beach, so then we hung out in the sand, and talked about the race. Eventually we went back for some food, there was plenty of everything, and decent music playing. Overall the finish was great, it's the highlight of the race for sure.

The Results
Clock Time1:58:31
Chip Time1:57:32
Overall Place788 / 2783
Gender Place517 / 1233
Division Place49 / 133
5K Time26:49
5K Pace8:38
6 55M Time57:44
6 55M Pace8:49

It's clear here that I just kept slowing down throughout the race, but I did make my goal!

Closing Comments
This was a much better race than ING. Far fewer people, better start position, better water stops, better finish line. While I may never actually run this race again, I'd recommend it to people. The only real complaint I have is that the out and back course is pretty frustrating, if there was a way to accomplish the same course without have the last five miles of both courses overlapping that'd probably make it great.

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