Saturday, February 16, 2013

Race Recap: Myrtle Beach Half Marathon

As the Myrtle Beach Half Marathon approached, everything seemed to be converging to make this a special day. The weather looked to be a perfect 43 degrees with very light winds. Myrtle Beach is a flat, fast course. I finally seemed to be recovering my speed after taking some time off in December. While I had been waffling on whether I would be able to attain my ambitious goal of a 1:25 half-marathon, which would qualify me for guaranteed entry into the New York Marathon, with everything looking like this was going to be a fast day, I had to give it a shot.

Let's put this into perspective. A 1:25 half requires an average pace of 6:28 per mile. My previous half-marathon PR was 1:31, just over a year ago in Mississippi. That's a pace of 6:57 per mile, almost a half-minute per mile slower. I've only barely done better than a 6:28 pace for a 10K. While I'm in better shape than I was a month ago, I'm still not quite as fit as I was last fall, when I weighed 8 pounds less and was coming off a summer working out at high elevation in Colorado.

But still, I was committed to giving this a shot, and so I decided to keep my splits at 6:28 or below for as long as I could. While the weather was perfect, there was one small hitch in our routine. As Bobby Aswell and I drove to the starting line at 6 a.m., we were stopped by police, who had already blocked off the roads in anticipation of a 6:30 start. We quickly parked on a side-street, but now instead of leaving our gear in the car, we'd have to carry it with us and check it in at the start line.

We arrived at the start at about 6:10, and headed straight for the bathroom lines. After a nervous wait, I finished at 6:18, and then headed to check my backpack, and was again confronted by a long line. As the clock ticked later and later, I thought about just leaving my backpack, with my wallet and a $500 phone in it, but finally at about 6:23 they took my bag and I was off to find a place at the start. I tried to be nice as I pushed my way through the crowd to get closer to the line. I ended up stopping about 30 rows back.

At the start gun, I weaved my way through the traffic looking for clear space. I looked at my watch and was already running below my planned pace, just 7:00 per mile. Finally things opened up a bit and I was able to start picking things up, just in time to hear fellow DARTer Ashley Naelon yell "That's some 6:30 pace, Munger!" She estimated my pace at that point at 6:15, and that sounds about right, but by the end of Mile 1, I clocked in at 6:26, right where I needed to be.

In Mile 2, I caught up with Adam Mayes, who I had talked with before the race. He was running the full marathon and shooting for a 2:50, which meshed nicely with my plans to run a 1:25 half. We didn't have much of a chance to talk during the race though, because at this pace, I'm not really able to put more than two or three words together.

The next 3 miles went well, and I was able to maintain a sub-6:30 pace without much difficulty:

Mile 2: 6:23
Mile 3: 6:28
Mile 4: 6:25

But on Mile 5, despite my watch reading a 6:27 pace, the Garmin measured it at 1.04 miles, so my total time for the mile was 6:41! This was, naturally, rather frustrating, and between that and having to eat a GU over the next mile, my Garmin pace ended up slowing to a 6:34 pace for that mile. Fortunately this one was a bit short, so I completed it in 6:25. Here I am with Adam around Mile 6:

Adam is so fast he's blurry! (Peter Asciutto photo)

During Mile 6 and 7, the course loops back on itself in a sort of lollipop, so at the start of Mile 7, you are running opposite the other runners who are still heading out. I saw Roberta Villneff, Stefanie Rodsater, and Rebecca Roquemore Bocker, all of whom were on their way to great performances. Roberta ended up with a 1:41 PR, good for second in her age group!

This cheered me up and I picked up the pace. Before I knew it I was running a 6:15 pace. I decided to dial it back but ended up dialing back a bit too much:

Mile 7: 6:33
Mile 8: 6:33
Mile 9: 6:35

Up until now I had been able to keep fairly close to Adam. We weren't running side by side, but I had always been within 10 yards or so of him. Now he started to pull away, and there wasn't much I could do about it. We were heading north on Ocean Boulevard, a block from the beach, and a chill wind was hitting us head-on. It wasn't enough wind to slow us down, but it was definitely making me cold. I could feel each vibration in my legs down to the icy bones as I tried to keep the pace up. But it wasn't to be:

Mile 10: 6:51
Mile 11: 6:47
Mile 12: 6:56

Three slow miles in a row meant there was no no chance of breaking 1:25. But I still was set to get a decent PR, as long as I could hold on for a little more than a mile. I tried to pick it up for Mile 13. Soon I could see the baseball stadium near the finish line. We were turning off the road and into the entrance to the stadium parking area. I saw a mile marker and hit my "lap" button, but oddly, someone said "just .2 miles left." Uh, wouldn't it only be .1 miles? Then I saw the 13-mile marker ahead. What's up with that? It wasn't until later that I realized I had seen the 26-mile marker for the marathoners. Oops.

I completed mile 13-ish (actually .91 miles) in a 6:43 pace, and the last 0.22 miles at a 5:58 pace, for a final finishing time of...


Although I didn't qualify for New York, I did manage to take 4 minutes and 23 seconds off my PR for a half, and averaged a 6:36 pace for the race.

As a bonus, I chalked up a victory in my friendly rivalry with Chas Willimon. Each time one of us beats the other's PR in an event, the runner whose record was just eclipsed has to buy a beer. I beat his PR in the half by exactly ONE second!

[update: Corrected to reflect the fact that both me and Chas had our times wrong. Fortunately for me, we were both wrong in the same direction, and I still have his PR beat by one second]

As it now stands, he's got me in the 8K, 10K, and full marathon, while I have him in the 5K and half. Quite a rivalry! I'll be looking forward to that beer!

Here I am at the end of the race:


And, in case I haven't given you enough numbers in this post, below is my GPS record of the race.

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