Within the first mile, you know how your race will go, how you are feeling, what kind of time you have in the tank, and that is exactly the way I felt during Mile 1 of the DRC Half Marathon Sunday.
I'd tapered for two days. I ate right. I slept more than 7 hours with the Daylight Savings Time change. I couldn't wait to run.
I left my apartment near downtown Fort Worth at about 6:15 a.m. and got to White Rock Lake in Dallas just before 7, leaving me an hour to get my bib, use the porta-potties, and warm-up. Before the race, I saw many of my friends from Lukes Locker and I saw Susan from Runnersusan.com. She got someone to snap our picture and I won't put it on my blog because I had bad morning hair, but its on her site if you wanna take a look.
Just before 8, everyone crammed into the starting chute for the start. They said it was 60 degrees at the start, but it had to be 10 degrees hotter at the starting chute with all those bodies crammed together.
Anyway, the gun goes off and its a start that is so typical of many other starts. You spend the first half mile or so dodging the 12- and 13-minute milers who lined up front near the elites. It can be a bother, but honestly, in a race this long, those slow runners help you stay honest during the first mile. My goal was to do 7:40 miles and with all the traffic I had to manuver through, I was very pleased that my first mile was a 7:48.
I was feeling so good by the end of this first mile, legs springy, lungs full of oxygen, mind clear. I knew I'd break my previous PR of 1:48 in Austin back in January. The question was: by how much.
It was getting hot, though, and I made sure to take water at every stop. And still I was flying. 7:13 for Mile 2; 7:38 for Mile 3;
The first big hill, as we get out of the lake area and through the neighborhoods, came near the end of Mile 4. An incline of at least 1/4 mile. It took me 7:32 to get through that mile, my slowest mile (other than the warm up during Mile 1) of the first half of the race.
Most of the hills were between Miles 3 and 8. And it was during this stretch, oddly, that I adjusted my goal to go faster. I mean, I knew out the gate I could keep a 7:40 mile. But when I finished Mile 5 in 7:14, Mile 6 in 7:25, Mile 7 in 7:16, and Mile 8 in 7:23, I had a realization: A 7:30 MINUTE MILE PACE FOR THE ENTIRE RACE SEEMED DOABLE.
I finished Mile 9 in 7:25 and got to the 15k mark in about 1:09, a pace of about 7:26 a mile.
"I'm going to make it," I thought.
But Mother Nature still had something to say about this. The heat, by now in the 70s, was starting to take its toll and I could feel my right hamstring tightening, having wrenched it a little on one of the hills in the neighborhood. It felt like I was just swinging my legs, not really running.
Mile 10 was a 7:35, my slowest mile since Mile 1. Mile 11 (7:42) and Mile 12 (7:43 ) were even slower. I stopped twice to drink water and gatorade. By this time, I was giving up on the 7:30 mile pace thing, but still held out hope of finishing under 1:40. So at each mile marker, I'd do this conversation in my head that would go like this, ("Ok, I've got X miles to go, Whats the slowest pace I can average to still get under 1:40")
It was getting harder and harder to pick people off and people were starting to pass me. Not a lot of runners, mind you, but enough to remind you that your pace was slowing. Still, with one mile to go, I decided to tough it out. I'm nothing if not a sprinter, I thought.
My heart rate was near 90 percent now, I was sweating like crazy but I just kept counting down the distance. 3/4ths of a mile to go. 1/2. 1/4. I finished Mile 13 in 7:26 and then sprinted as fast as I could the final 10th of a mile to cross the finish line.
As I rounded the corner (and tried not to look like I was in too much pain for the cameras) I could hear the announcer say my name over the public address system.
Then I looked at the time: 1:39:15
Knowing it took me a while to cross the start line, I knew my official finish time would be a little faster. My official time of 1:38:59 gave me a pace of 7:33 minutes/mile.
I finished 219th out of 3,285 runners and 29th out of 247 men in my age group.
I probably should have held back just a bit over the first 8 miles, but I am by no means disappointed. This is a PR by more than 10 minutes, breaking the 1:48:43 I ran in Austin, in January, on a mostly downhill course. And besides, my garmin had the course at 13.29 miles, which is a 7:26 pace.
I've got sore feet (which includes the weird and painful sensation that I'm running with a rock in my left shoe) and a wonky right hamstring, but I don't think I overdid it. If I can stay healthy these last three weeks before the marathon taper, I think I may nail a really special time at the White Rock Marathon.