VA Beach half marathon race report

I guess I couldn’t be writing this race report any later (a whole 2 months later) but sometimes that’s just the way things go. The upside of this race report is that I’ve had PLENTY of time to digest, dissect and apply what happened in this race to the rest of my training over the past 2 months. I think that’s a pretty cool perspective to have on this report considering I had a solid PR in the race.

The big picture from this race is that I PR’d in training, without a taper, and with only 2 proper days of speed work prior to the race. And I PR’d pretty big too (for me). In the grand scheme of pro triathletes my 1:19 at this race is pretty weak. Lots of studs win 70.3s on sub 1:15 times with no problem. But for me this is a breakthrough. I’ve never been a sub 6 guy when it came to holding pace. I thought I couldn’t do it for a long time but what it turned out to be was a matter of work and time. I try to talk about patience all the time on my blog but I usually have a hard time practicing what I preach (and coach). This race was the fantastic result of patience in motion for me.

I’ll talk about the race for a moment. This half always seems to be on a crisp, windy day (and it has rained a few times). But the wind off the ocean is always a factor, especially on the back end of the race. This day was no different. If you look at the course maps you’ll know that this race is pancake flat too. The only things that fight you during this race are wind, your pacing strategy and your nutrition strategy (presuming you are properly trained). Thankfully I run a half fast enough that nutrition doesn’t play much of a part so it’s really about actually knowing what I’m capable of and running it into the wind on the way back.

I started this race running mid 5:50s for the first few miles. I felt good and comfortable with a slight wind at my back. My only issue was an elevated heart rate. As I previously mentioned I had only run 2 speed workouts prior to this race. I knew from those 2 speed days what my HR should look like in the first few miles. All the rest of my pacing was based on what I was running zone 1-2 workouts in. At the beginning of the race, for how my body was reacting this day, I went out too fast. I was probably only too fast by about 3-5 seconds per mile but I was too fast. Given a windless race course I think I could have sustained my pace for the entire race  but seeing as I needed to battle some solid headwinds for a few miles on my way back to the finish I hurt myself in the first few miles.

It was pretty exhilarating holding a sub 6 pace through the first half of the race. No lie there. The pace wasn’t easy and my HR was mid threshold the entire time but running that fast for 7 miles felt really cool. Then the wind hit. It hit hard. And I hurt very hard. My HR went to high threshold and then past it, and I would back of slightly to drop it by a beat or two then I’d hit threshold again and back off a beat or two, repeat, repeat, repeat… You get the picture. It was painful and agonizing but I was still running fast. Really low 6 pace to be exact. My goal had been to hold sub 6 all race but I know what my HR can handle and the burn in my legs told me it wasn’t my day to break through no matter how hard I held on.

I learned a lot from this race, chiefly how to suffer a bit better when facing a set of adverse circumstances in a race. I have a hard time mentally holding on when the going gets tough in races. I can knock out some killer numbers during my training but when the pressure is on in a race I tend to fold. I can’t quite put my finger on it yet but I always seem to convince myself that it’s not worth pushing any harder when I’m finishing 25th out of 33 in a pro tri field. Maybe if I was pushing for a top 10 I’d think differently. But that was the point of this running race. I’m not a ‘runner’. I want to be a ‘runner’ but I’m not there yet. When I suffer in a running race it’s only for me, not for a podium or money. I’m doing it to push myself. I needed to be able to push myself to expand my limits. I wanted to be able to do that. I wanted to be able to find a new part of me I’d never seen before. I wanted to be able to see what I was made of because it had been so long since I had an answer on that. I’d given up on myself so many times last year that I needed to just go out and push. And I did it.

I ended up holding my threshold HR for that solid, agonizing hour that you are technically able to do it, and then just a little bit more. And then I exploded with about 1 mile to go. I ran as hard as my training would allow me and my body was done that day. I was satisfied and happy. With only 2 speed workouts all winter I was able to PR my half time by a solid 4 minutes and run my first sub 1:20. Pretty darn cool.

Since the race, events and work and life has transpired against me so that I still haven’t gotten enough quality days but I now understand what kind of quantity my body needs to start to perform at the levels I want to reach. I can only imagine how I’ll perform when I start to get the quality days going again. And that patience approach I took this winter: starting at 25 miles a week I slowly built to maintain 60-65 miles of running every week for a few months. I had never run more than 50 miles in a week, in my life, and this year I’ve already logged a few months were I maintained over 60 miles every week. I think I might be able to run soon!

Patients is key in every. EVERYTHING.

And as always I need to thank my beautiful wife, my friends and family, and my coaching colleagues for helping me along in this journey. I didn’t get to where I am on my own, it has taken a village. With the support of all these awesome people I continue to improve and get better (and I don’t just mean in sports). A better me is only better for everyone else too 😉

Today is a good day.


One thought on “VA Beach half marathon race report

  1. Hey Nick, great to meet you at dinner tonight and all the talk about racing and bikes and stuff. Sorry we got interrupted. Best of luck at Eagleman on Sunday; you’re going to rock it.

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