I had long ago filed my half marathon PR of 1:23:53 in my "Unbreakable PR" folder. In a single race in May 2010, I annihilated my half PR by taking 14 minutes off of my previous time of 1:37:29. I have vivid memories of running the last mile of the 2010 Indy Mini with my legs feeling fresh and flying down the long final stretch. In fact, that moment was so euphoric - it's my favorite running memory ever. It was one of those rare moments in life when the impossible became possible.
|Celebrating my impending PR|
at the Indy Mini 2010 (1:23:53)
For the past six years, I've been chasing a new PR, but come up short in the 20 subsequent slower half marathons since.
Before my 21st PR attempt at the 2016 Rock n Roll Half, my chances of a PR were looking good. Coming into the race I had trained more than ever before, and I knew from the race conversion tables that a PR was within reach. In fact, the McMillan site predicted a 1:22:00 half based on my most recent 10k time. So, I knew I needed to just arrive to the starting line rested and in one piece, and if I played the pacing game correctly, I could likely cross the finish line and do what I hadn't done in six years and 20 attempts at the distance.
It didn't hurt things that the course is my favorite half marathon course which I look forward to tackling. The main drawback to RnR Chicago is that it usually takes place on one of the hottest days of the year. However, it does start at 6:30 a.m., so the first 45 minutes are usually in the shade. Luckily, this year the forecast called lower than normal temps - it was "only" 70 degrees at the start.
Time goal: First and foremost I wanted to PR so I knew I'd need to run a 6:21/mile pace at the slowest. I also knew the McMillan predicted time might also be in reach so I could allow myself to run 6:14/mile at the fastest.
I woke up at 3:45. After breakfast, I packed my race bag and drove down to "my" parking lot about 1/4 mile from Grant Park. I used SpotHero for the first time and only paid $10 for a parking space. Anyway, once I walked over to the race, I used the more-than-ample facilities, got a start line picture...
...and then checked my bag. I did a 3/4 mile shakeout run on the sidewalk along Lake Shore Drive. As race start time got closer, I headed over to the first corral for the race to start. The "wheels start" went off a few minutes before the general 6:30 start and I noticed there was a woman pushing a baby stroller in the wheels group! I would see her later on during the race.
A few minutes later our corral started and we were off!
Age Group goal: I noticed that a sub-1:28:00 would have gotten me first place in my age group in last year's RnR Half, so I thought that if things played out like last year, I might have a shot at at least a top 3 AG placement.
|At the start line before the race|
|Start of the race (I'm at the tip of the red arrow with the green hat) (src)|
Miles 1 through 3: My goal was to start the race at a 6:40/mile clip. However, this year there were 10k runners mixed in with the half marathoners, so loads of people shot out in front of me. It was tempting to speed up and join the fun, and I probably did a little bit of that as my first mile was around a 6:20. I was carrying a water bottle - that way I could blow through the aid stations early on and drink whenever I wanted. 6:19/mile
Miles 4 through 6: This was the western-most portion of the race which leads down Madison Street, over the bridge a couple of blocks there and back. There were lots of spectators cheering us on as we headed down State Street, but once we veered onto Lake Street under the Green Line tracks, it became pretty quiet. I was enjoying the relative silence since I never experience the Loop without noise (except for this race). 6:13/mile
Mile 2 over the State St. Bridge
carrying my water bottle
Miles 13 and 13.17 I was trying to figure out how I was doing relative to my goals, but my math skills were mostly out the window at this point so I focused on maintaining a decent pace. I felt like I could fade at any moment, so as a confidence boost, I thought back to the 100 mile week that I ran 14 days before and told myself that the fitness gains from that week would help me maintain my pace over the final stretch. In fact as we crested the last on-ramp to get back onto the downhill straightaway on Columbus Drive, I started to really speed up. The woman who was in front of me also turned on the jets and we both flew down the final stretch, although she continue to maintain her 20 yard lead.
|Totally serious as I run the last few yards...|
|finally starting to celebrate...|
Elated after six years and 20 attempts -
a new half PR!
I threw my arms overhead and was finished! 5:53/mile
Official Time: 1:21:54
Official Pace: 6:15/mile
Garmin Pace: 6:13/mile
Place Age Group: 3rd out of 480 (AG Goal accomplished!)
Place Overall: 46 out of 11,016
Analysis: PR by two minutes! My "unbreakable PR" has finally been broken! The McMillan table was almost spot on again. There was only a six second difference between their predicted time and my actual time! Here are some other stats I cobbled together:
- First 6.55 miles were run in 41:15
- Final 6.55 miles were run in 40:39 (sweet negative splits, how I love thee)
- First mile was a 6:20
- Final mile was a 5:57
- First 5k was run in 19:51
- Final 5k was run in 18:36
All-in-all I think I ran as fast as I could given the conditions and my one week taper. If I had tapered longer or it had been 10 degrees cooler, maybe I could have run 30 seconds faster, but that's about it.
After exiting the finisher's chute and getting my bag at gear check, I changed into dry clothes. Soon thereafter, I bumped into Annabelle and we walked over to the beer garden. Not more than a few minutes after getting our beers from the bar, the band on stage announced lightning was headed our way, so instead of pressing my luck with possible electrocution just to drink a can of Michelob Ultra, I decided to leave and offered Annabelle a ride home. We got into the garage just in time, because as soon as we drove out onto Lake Shore Drive, it started to rain cats and dogs.
Now it's time to focus solely on training to set myself up for a great Chicago Marathon. I just need to keep doing what I'm doing and I should be able to do well there. So, Grant Park - I'll see you again in October!