The Rock n Roll Half is always a fun race – well organized, entertaining with bands every mile or so during the race, lots of fans, cheerleaders (believe it or not), great logistics, and pretty good concerts in the evenings (Steve Miller and INXS this year). The weather was absolutely perfect – mid-60s at the start and probably no more than low 70s with low humidity at the finish. A gentle wind from the east, just enough to cool you down. The start just after 7 a.m. is beautiful (if you have sunglasses) because you run towards the rising sun for a mile before turning south.
The race is huge – about 20,000 registered runners of which 17,000 finished. The organizers impose good discipline at the start – you start in a corral according to your predicted time. They release a corral every 45 seconds or so, so it minimizes obstructions. The race attracts a lot of world class talent – plenty of Kenyans. The winning time for the men was 1:02+ and for the women, 1:11+. Both winners were Kenyan.
This year, we got child care and my wife came down for the race. We stayed two nights and had a very pleasant weekend. Saturday night, we had dinner at Aldo’s – an Italian place on Laskin Road about 2 miles from the Beach. (I strongly recommend it if you run or visit there – great pasta, great menu.) Then, I went to bed and she went to the Beach to listen to the Steve Miller Band (the concert stage was set up near the finish line for the race).
The race was a mixed bag for me this year. I had planned for it to be one my peak races, but it turned into more of a training run due to an injury in August. After CdA IM, I took a week off then started cranking up the miles, peaking at about 75 miles in mid-August. I added speed work too soon though (Yasso 800s) while the mileage was still high – and pulled a calf muscle in a 5K exactly two weeks before the Rock n Roll Half. After running 60-75 miles a week for 5-6 weeks, I wasn’t able to run at all for a week – then logged only twenty in the week before the race – and even then at a slow pace and no more than 6 to 10 miles at a time. I did a lot of water running, but it’s not the same.
So, I simply had no idea what to expect from this forced, premature, screwed-up semi-taper – I thought I'd be either well-rested or sluggish, and it turns out I was both well-rested and sluggish. I think I gained a few pounds…water running doesn't do much for weight control.
Race morning logistics went as planned – up at 3 a.m. (my wife thinks this is nuts and she balked when the third alarm went off). The unhappy surprise for me was waking up with a scratchy throat and congestion. I walked the 2 miles to the start, rather than take the shuttle. The walk loosened up the calf and I had plenty of time at the start to get settled in.
I had originally planned on 6:30 pace (which is about 15-20 seconds faster than my marathon goal pace) and decided to try it anyway with the plan to throttle back at the first sign of calf backtalk. The 5K split was close to my target at 20:04. By mile 4, I was only 2 seconds off at about 26:02, but I was working harder than I should have been. The 10K split was still OK at 40:43, but I was feeling it—both in the lungs and the calf—so I started to throttle back. I maintained about a 6:45 pace as near as I could tell through ten miles (split: 1:07:18), but sagged from 11-13 miles to about 7:30 pace. (I totally lost focus -- the first victim when you lose peak conditioning). I finished in 1:30:09 with an overall pace of 6:53.
The last two miles are along the boardwalk – lots of fan support – you can see the finish all the way…but it doesn’t seem like it ever gets any closer! When you do finally get there, the finish is great—they always have cold, wet towels in addition to the standard fare.
Under the circumstances, I’m satisfied with a 1:30:09. I figure I need to be able to do comfortable 1:28:00 splits to assure me of a sub-three hour marathon, and this race showed me that I have a lot of work left to do this fall before Baltimore in October and NYC Marathon in November.