MESA-PHOENIX HALF MARATHON
My goal for the spring is to run a fast half marathon time on an honest course. I've been building toward that goal since late-November and Ben, Bryant, and I have laid the foundation necessary to really ramp up our training and attack a good half marathon (under the tutelage of Stazza himself aka Irish Homer Simpson). We're really just starting into the more specific phase of the training block, but Ben and I wanted to run a half marathon before the end of the block to shake off some rust and stay race ready. Phoenix is awesome this time of year and we figured it'd be a great race to start the year off with. Also, I haven't run faster than 1:07.30 on a half marathon course that is "olympic-trials qualifier" eligible. With having a goal of running sub-1:05 (and maybe even sub-1:04) later this spring I figured it was a tall task to skip steps if you will in between 1:07:30 and sub-1:05. What I mean is the fitness may be there, but mentally it is difficult to convince yourself you can make that big of a leap and have the confidence to run the faster pace early in a race. So, I figured if I hit a good time (I was thinking 1:06) at Phoenix on an eligible course, it would give me additional confidence moving forward that I can run 1:04.
So, Ben, Ken, and I headed to Phoenix. Ken was there to hang out and have fun. He's had some back issues and hasn't been able to run, but I think this weekend motivated him to take the necessary steps to be able to get back out training again. Ken drove us to the start line and warmed up with us. We were able to give him our warm clothes at the last moment to stay warm, which was nice as it was only 39 degrees, which for Mesa is a bit on the cooler side. My goal was to start around 5:05/mile pace and see how I feel and judge and go off of that. At the start I saw Mike Hardy and Ben Bruce. So, I knew it was going to be a tough race to win.
Bruce took off fast right off the line. I moved into second after 400 meters or so and Mike was just behind me. During mile 2 Mike suggested we take turns leading/drafting. It seemed that the wind should've been a slight tailwind or at least crosswind, but for some reason it did feel a tad windy and I figured every second we can shave off will matter. So we traded leads and you did notice a difference in effort when you were drafting opposed to leading.
I wasn't sure of how fit Mike was. He certainly wasn't in 65/66 minute shape last September at Huntsville Half, so it took me a turn or two drafting before I stopped worrying about making sure he was hitting pace when he led and trusting not only his pacing but his fitness. It was clear after a few turns he was every bit as fit as me and this was going to be very beneficial to work together.
Around 10k in we noticed we were reeling in Ben Bruce. We got to within 5-6 seconds of him by mile 8. At mile 10 he looked back, saw us close, and then proceeded to run basically a 14:40 closing 5k! Haha. It was impressive to see.
Throughout the race I kept checking my breathing and tried to stay in tune with how my body was feeling. Each mile that went by with another mile at 5:00/mile pace was encouraging, but also a bit of unchartered territory. My mind kept saying "Ok, ok this is fine, but let's make sure we can handle this pace before thinking of doing anything that might make us blow up". So I was pretty content to keep rolling off low 5:00s/high 4:50s. Then at 10.5 miles Mike started moving. It was as if he mentally thought to himself that it was now or never if he was going to break 65 and get the time bonus. It took me a few seconds to respond. He got a gap, and I luckily made the decision quick enough, before my body made it for me and slowed down, to respond and go after 64:xx. What was there to lose? I had never been this close and it was worth it to give it a shot.
Mike and I both closed very well with him keeping that 4 second gap essentially the rest of the way. I looked up toward the end and saw the finish line, looked at my watch and saw 64:30, I pushed hard, looked again and the line looked still 30-40 seconds away and my watch now read 1:04:40. I pushed for another few seconds and then realized it just wasn't quite going to happen. I crossed in 1:05:11, a new PR (and faster than any downhill Utah course I've run). Ben Bruce won in 1:04:33 and Mike Hardy was 2nd in 1:05:07. I was pretty happy with the result, it was on the very high end of what I thought was possible on the day (I had thought 1:05-1:07 was the range the race could fall in, as it was hard to determine my fitness). Ben finished 6th in 1:09:40, a good strong race for him and it bodes well for his half marathon times moving forward.
Splits: 5:02, 5:01, 5:00, 4:58, 4:57, 4:59, 5:01, 4:57, 4:56, 5:04 (49:58 at ten miles), 4:54, and 10:18 for the last 2.1 which is 4:51/mile pace.