Of my last three running events, two were terrible. Long Beach Half Marathon was run as I was recovering from a stomach bug and I had the opportunity to meet the medical staff as I nearly passed out after the race. Then, my performance at the Santa Barbara Marathon was dismal after having to skip the marathon that I had wanted to run the week before (Santa Clarita) due to a sinus infection. I rarely get sick, so to get derailed from two races back to back was unexpected and disheartening. Boney Mountain Half Marathon was a good race for me, but as I had never done a trail race before, I had nothing to compare it to.
So, heading into Pasadena Rock N Roll Half-Marathon this weekend, I was a bit apprehensive. Having decided to dedicate the coming year to becoming a stronger runner, I wanted to prove that in a race I really have gotten better. In order to run faster, I have been following Coach Gerardo's running plan, got back to my track workouts with the Los Feliz Flyers on Wednesday evenings, and have accelerated my usual winter weight loss of excess pounds that I tend to gain in the Fall "off-season".
So, better trained and leaner, I approached the start line. I started with my friend Tom, who I've done several long runs with. But, knowing he's a faster runner, I let him go at the beginning.
One of the runners in front of me had a shirt with a picture of a pork sandwich and the words "Runs on Bacon". At that point, I had two thoughts: 1) It's a shame I don't carry business cards with me when I run because this is a man who just might need me in the future, and 2) I cannot let a man who gloats about his love of bacon to beat me. So I passed him. :)
Coach Gerardo gave me a plan of what paces to keep, to gradually get faster throughout the race. This was going to be tough to stick to since there are so many hills in Pasadena. However, it became a moot point when somewhere in the first mile my watch broke and for my pace displayed "3:00" per mile. I was a bit panicked by this, but I thought back to my track workout this past Wednesday, where as a pre-race workout I ran three 8:30 miles with a short rest in between, to give me an idea of how I would feel on race day.
Miles 1-2 had some significant uphills. I started feeling good around mile 3, which is where I spotted my Dad on the course. It's rare that someone comes out to a race just to support me, so it felt good to see a familiar face. Miles 4-6 were a little too fast, averaging 8:30 per mile, but I felt good. I slowed a bit during miles 7-9, maybe to 9:00/mile. Then I picked it up a bit, and as we ran the last loop around the Rose Bowl and the golf course, I charged it into full gear, huffing and puffing.
Ten more minutes of pain for the confidence gained from a well-run race.
Finishing time: 1:55:18. My best half marathon time ever. And on a hilly, challenging course. Average mile splits -- 8:48 per mile.
What is coolest is that this race put into perspective for me how far I've come. When I first came to LA almost 5 years ago, I remember posting to LA Tri Club's web page my big goal, to "Finish a 5k at a pace faster than 9 minutes per mile." I have just finished a half marathon at a pace faster than 9 minutes per mile. Wow!!!
This is exactly what I needed to give me confidence heading into the LA Marathon next month.
Me and Tom Ackerman, friend and long-run training partner.