Monday, May 4, 2015

Indianapolis 500 Festival Mini Marathon 2015 Race Recap

This was my seventh time running the Indianapolis Mini Marathon. It's the largest half marathon in the country and to say the town of Indianapolis loves this race is a huge understatement. The race is actually televised live by a local tv station for four hours on race day. They had tv reporters broadcasting at the packet pickup and there were also three, yes three news helicopters hovering overhead on race day morning! 

Based on my PR Ravenswood Run 5k finishing time from last week, the McMillan calculator put my fitness at just above a 1 hour 24 minutes for a half marathon. So a 1:23:52 PR was not too unrealistic.

Using Excel, a printer and some packing tape, I made a "PR" pace wristband. The mile splits on the wristband accounted for a slow start and then a slow progression to a fast finish. I knew I needed to relax the first few miles because my best half marathons have been where I held back early on, then let it fly over the last few miles.
The pace wristband for my PR goal
In Minis past, I would run about 13.25 miles for the race, so I would need to get close to a 6:19 average mile pace to go sub-1:23:53. I had a second set of numbers in mind (let's call it my plan "B") that would allow me to at least break 1:26, which would be a second best half time as well as automatically qualify me for the 2016 New York City Marathon by over two minutes.

Indianapolis is less than a three hour drive from Chicago, but it is in the Eastern time zone, which is an hour ahead of Chicago time. So, waking up at the hotel at 5:30 ET am to get ready for the race meant that my body thought it was 4:30 am. I downed a cup of coffee, along with a peanut butter bagel. I packed my race bag and drove from the hotel to the race. I found a $5 spot about four blocks from the start line. I used the ample facilities, and checked my bag. I did about 3 minutes of strides and realized my legs felt pretty quick.

I made my way to corral "A" at 7:30, then had to wait about 18 minutes for the race to start. I was pretty much near the front of the race, maybe only six rows back. The National Anthem was sung, the wheelchairs started, and finally we were off to the roar of the engines (over the loudspeakers)!

Time once again to play: "WHERE'S PETE B?"
Picture of me crossing the line at the start of the race.
(Hint: I'm one of the guys holding up his arms near the middle with a dark hat).

The Race:
Miles 1 through 3:  Since I was in corral A, most everyone around me sped quickly out of the gates (see above picture). As I mentioned, I wanted to start slowly, then gradually increase my pace. However, after a quarter mile looked at my watch and saw that I was running at about a 6:00/mile pace. As much as I tried to slow down, I could not get my average pace back to around 7:00/mile. I finished the first mile way too fast at 6:39/mile. I was not too happy, but the damage was done, so I just tried to stay positive and fresh through these early miles. 6:41/mile

Miles 4 through 6: These are some laid back miles through industrial areas. I was focusing on my wrist band goal times, and tried to tell myself to relax a little because I had "banked" time in the initial miles. I knew I would have to speed up later once I got on to the race track! 6:25/mile

Miles 7 through 9: We entered the Indianapolis Motor Speedway by running down then up a steep ramp. This is the coolest part of the course - needless to say. I was realizing at the time that the super fast finishing paces that I had planned for the last half of the race were not going to happen, so I reverted to my "Plan B" and slowed down a little. Some people kissed the "Yard of Bricks" as they made their way toward Turn One. After we left the race track, I started to feel like I was fading and that I might have to slow way down or risk crashing and burning before the finish line. 6:25/mile
Running over the "Yard of Bricks" on the
 Indianapolis Motor Speedway race track
Miles 10 through 12: This part is just a long, straight shot back into the city. I focused on form and just hanging on to my pace for as long as I could. I think all of the tough conditioning over the winter helped me hold my pace, although at the time I was sure at any moment my race goals would slip away. The sun was high in the sky and it was gradually getting warm outside - so in order to stay cool - I ran under sprinklers and drank lots of water. 6:28/mile

Miles 13 and 13.25 There was a long up-hill over a bridge, then a nice long downhill to flat ground which starts the mile long sprint to the finish. I was really starting to hurt (and thought I might get sick). It felt like I was slowing down considerably, but no one was passing me. In fact I was passing passing other runners. Over the loudspeakers they played Jim McKay announcing the end of a Indy 500 race from circa 1969: "He's going around the last turn and Andretti will win the 500 mile race!" With a last burst of energy, I staged a small kick and crossed the finish line! 6:26/mile
Painfully trying to kick at the finish
I stopped my Garmin after I crossed the finish line. A few seconds later, a man handed me a "500 Club" medal for being one of the top 500 finishers. Very cool!

Official Time: 1:25:52  (NYC marathon qualifying time)
Official Pace: 6:33/mile
Garmin Pace: 6:29/mile

Place Age Group: 8 out of 1,231
Place Overall: 185 out of 22,431

Analysis: Plan "B" accomplished, and I ran my second fastest half marathon ever. I even managed to run a negative split (which is hard to believe since I struggled near the end). I did not nail my "A" plan (i.e. I was 2 minutes from my PR), and my first mile was way too fast, per the plan. However, maybe this is the best I could have done anyway given my fitness and the weather conditions. I'm still trying to figure out how I was even able to hold a "second best pace" over the last six miles. It was probably due to the many, many miles I've run over the past year. 

Post Race: 
I walked down the finishers' chute and collected my second "regular" medal (i.e. the one everyone gets for finishing). I grabbed some snacks and got a couple of photos:

Two medals!
Me and an Indy Car
The Future: Post-race, my legs feel like they have rebounded nicely, however this week I may not run at all or just do a handful of miles. I have been running non-stop all winter and probably need a break before I shift my focus to Chicago Marathon training. It would be nice to have another shot at a half marathon PR or even to try and run a sub-18 5k, but I will have to weigh if it is worth it, considering my over-arching running goal is to run a quality PR marathon.

Next Up: A short running break, then who knows? Next scheduled race is the Chicago Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon in July.