Saturday, October 22, 2011


This morning I got up at 4:45AM. My race destination  is about one hour away. I prepared all my logistics and was ready to go by 5:30AM.

It took me a little longer than one hour to get there. There were not that many people when I got there and it was still dark. I had to wait a few minutes before they would set up the tables so I could pick up my bib number and timing chip.The half marathon should start by 8AM. There were two other distances races, a 5K and a 10K that would start a few minutes after the half marathon. I have never raced in this area before. Actually I did not even know that this national park existed before this race. By looking at the elevation change, I could have a fair idea of what to expect from this race. Almost 4,000 ft of elevation gain.

We started the race by 8AM. This race attracted some fast runner and even a 2:10 top marathoner and eventually winner of this race.  I guess it was because of the prize money of $ 1,000  for the first place, $ 500 for second and $ 250 for third. But back to the race, I started in the middle of the pack, and after the first mile, I already had an idea that this would not be my day. I was feeling slow and tired attacking the hills. I passed the first mile in 7:09 in a pack of fifteen runners.

The second mile I started to feel the pace and my plans changed to survival mode. There was a nice incline right at the second mile that I passed in 17:20.

The hills would keep coming and to make things worse the downhills were quite steep. I was almost putting the breaks on the downhills. The terrain was not very friendly either, being very steep. I passed the third mile mark in 23:45. My fast mile so far, 6:25.

By the mile four, we got a break from the hills, and I ran a 6:11 mile. But things were not looking good at all. I passed the four mile mark in 29:57.

At mile five we faced a few short inclines and the paced slowed again. I passed the five mile mark in 7:20, or a 7:22 mile.

I was feeling the hills. My legs were very tired. By mile six there was a steep downhill. I was able to increase the pace, but not enough to make much difference. I ran the mile six in 6:24, passing the mile six mark in 43:47.

The mile seven was the slowest one so far. I ran the mile seven in 10:03. It had a very steep hill where some runners were power walking. I passed the mile seven mark in 53:47.

Things got really ugly by mile eight. There was the steepest hill on the course. Lots runners had to walk part of this hill including myself. I would never walk going up a hill but this morning it was an exception. I passed the mile eight mark in 1h 9min22secs, a slug pace of 15:37 mile.

We got a little break from the inclines, and I ran the mile nine in 9:21, passing the mile nine mark in 1h18min44secs.

The mile ten had  a steep hill, I ran it in 12:02. My legs were cooked. I passed the ten miles mark in a slug pace of 1hr30min50secs.

The hills would keep coming and the mile 11 was a little better, 9:22.  I passed the eleven mile mark in 1h40min13secs. I was passing and being passed by the some runners since the start.

I think mile 12 and 13 were misplaced or I missed the mile 12 split. But I passed the mile 13 mark in 1h57min17secs. After I saw the mile 13 mark, I should be only 200 to 400 meters from the finish line, but it took me 5:16 to reach the finish line. That tells me that some of the mile marks were misplaced. I passed unofficially the finish line in 2hr2min27secs, good for 14th place and second in my age group.

No reason to smile!

I was  very disappointed with this race. I decided to do this race about two weeks ago. My training was more directed to short distance. I was lacking the hill training, but above all  I was a little over trained. I should have backed off in my intense speed sessions a couple weeks before this race. My work got in the way as usual and I had to do some heavy work standing on ladders during the entire week. After work I was feeling my calves very sore and some signs of plantar fasciitis. I know I can run this course easily under two hours if I am well prepared and rested. The winner of this race was a 2:10 marathoner that represented the USA in the World Championships in Daegu this year. He could not run this course faster than 1hour and 37minutes. It is for far the hardest  half marathon that I have ever done. I hope I learned a few lessons from this experience, and come back strong next year.

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