Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Brief recap: The Wrightsville Beach Half Marathon

Last weekend I ran the race that was supposed to get me in to the New York Marathon. I've been trying to qualify for New York for years, not so much because I am obsessed with that particular race but because the NYQ time has consistently sat tantalizingly at the edge of my ability level for more than five years now. They have adjusted the qualifying times twice during that period, with the half-marathon qualifying time for my age group starting at 1:30 (when I managed a 1:31), tightening to 1:25 (when I PRed with a 1:26), then loosening again as I moved into a new age group to 1:32.

To hit a 1:32 I'd need to average exactly 7:00 per mile over 13.1 miles. I decided to try to start off at a 6:55 pace, to give myself a bit of a cushion in case my Garmin read the course wrong. On Saturday morning as I awaited the start with Joey and Dustin, the conditions seemed pretty good but not quite ideal. The temperature was about 54 and the dew point wasn't much cooler, which meant it was very humid. I wished Dustin and Joey well and then lined up at the start between the 1:30 half-marathon pace group and the 3:05 marathon pace group, about 6 rows back. At 6:40, in the still darkness, we started off. I was able to get up to pace quickly and checked my watch: 6:50/mile, just about perfect.

I passed the Mile 1 marker as my watch clicked 7:00, so I picked up my pace a bit, only to run Mile 2 in 6:40. Whoah boy, slow down! The next mile was 7:07, then 6:57. It seemed like each mile marker was just a bit off, as the pace on my watch didn't vary nearly as much. By Mile 5, however, I could tell that this probably wasn't going to be my day, regardless of how accurate the mile markers were. I completed the mile in 7:16 and didn't feel like I could possibly pick things up. Now it was a matter of hanging on. With 8 miles to go.

Each successive mile was just a touch slower. It didn't help that there was a 2.7-mile stretch with no aid stations from mile 4.1 to 6.8. I was definitely beginning to heat up, and when I finally reached the aid station at Mile 6.8, I dumped the first cup of water over my head before grabbing for another one to drink.

Mile 6-7: 7:19
Mile 8: 7:36
Mile 9: 7:55

During Mile 10 I saw my pace dip to slower than 8:00 and told myself enough was enough. I pushed harder. "Cmon Munger, there's less than 4 miles now. You are not running this mile slower than 8 minutes!" I managed a 7:34.

The next mile, I slowed even more, and registered a 7:53. Finally during Mile 12 I felt like I could pick up the pace, and saw my watch's pace indicator grind down to the 7:40s. I passed a friend from Wilmington, Drew Coombes, a very solid ultrarunner, and gave him a high-5. This buoyed me for a while, until I was passed by a little boy who hardly looked to be exerting an effort at all. He was running with a man, possibly his father, and a couple of other guys who probably just didn't want to get beaten by a 9-year-old. I was happy to be beaten by this kid, who clearly was headed for star status on whatever middle-school cross-country team landed him! I checked the results later and saw that Caden Livingston ended up running a 1:34, good enough for third place in the 18-and-under age group!

When I clicked my watch at the end of Mile 12, I had run an 8:06 for a mile my watch measured as 1.05 miles long. I had actually picked up the pace here according to my watch, and I felt good enough to pick it up even faster for the final mile. We were on the campus of UNC-Wilmington now and folks were telling us "you're almost there!" Somehow a half-mile still didn't feel like "almost," but I didn't slow down. I passed an official photographer and managed to look pretty good for the photo:

If only I was feeling as good as I look....

I chugged my way to the finish, logging a 7:22 pace for the final 1.1 miles. My official time was 1:37:15 on a course my watch measured at 13.3 miles long. This worked out to an average official pace of 7:27, good for 8th in my age group. My watch calculated an average pace of 7:18, which I felt very good about. I hadn't made my primary goal of qualifying for New York, but I was in the ballpark.

Soon Joey came across the finish line, followed by another DARTer who I didn't even know was at the race, Tracey DeForest. Here we are at the finish:

Tracey was disappointed in her time but actually snagged 3rd in age group!

Joey and I hung around until the marathoners finished; we were waiting for Dustin to complete his first marathon. In the end he cramped up, stopping for 30 minutes at Mile 22 to try and stretch out. But he willed himself to the finish in a time that was disappointing for him — but he still completed the race, which is more than 99 percent of Americans can say they did.

My 1:37:15 is actually my fastest half-marathon since I PRed with that 1:26 in 2013, more than four years ago. I feel like I've got the speed to do a 1:32, and just need to work on building the endurance to stretch that speed out for a full 13.1 miles. For now I'm going to take my time to recover from the race, then start to build up again and give it another shot. I'll get it one of these days!

Details of my race are below.

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