On Saturday May 2nd I ran the Grand Island Half Marathon. Once again John and I drove out to Grand Island for a very well managed race on a flat out-and-back course along the Niagara River. My race last year blew my mind and this year I think it was blown even more.John and I drove out the morning of the race. This year it wasn’t convenient for Mary and Cassie to come so we went alone. We had plenty of time so we took our time getting our race bibs and doing the usual race prep. When it got closer to the race I shed most of my clothing and downed a gel. I don’t usually have a gel prior to a race but I did this on my recent “best run ever” and so it seemed like a good thing. Another new thing, at least for the half marathon distance, was that John and I ran about a mile or so warm up. We just did a nice easy lap or two around the parking lot.
Just prior to the start of the race we spoke with a guy lined up next to us. He said he was trying to qualify for New York. I was puzzled because a) I thought the NYC marathon was a lottery system, and b) this was a half marathon. I didn’t ask because I’m sure he knew what he was talking about. He wanted to pace a 7-7:15 and that was about what I wanted to do. My hope was to break 7 minutes per mile but I anything near there would have been fine. He and I ran together for the first few miles while we left John behind to run his own race. After about 3 miles I never saw the guy I was running with again. I hope I didn’t ruin his chances by running too fast in the beginning.
The first mile was too fast — a 6:45. For anyone pacing a 7:00 or 7:15 that’s way too fast. I made an effort to slow down and succeeded by running exactly 7 minutes for the next mile. The third mile I clocked a 7:07. Even though that was technically in my target range I wasn’t happy with that so I sped up and ran a 6:57 for the next mile.
The weather was a nearly in the low 50s with lots of sunshine. I think many people thought I was nuts running shirtless but I knew I’d be warm during a race in that weather. I was the only one to start the race shirtless but not the only one to finish shirtless. The course was excellent. My favorite thing about this race is that they have signs for “water stop approaching.” If you are planning on having a gel this is ideal as it allows you time to get your gel out and open it up so that you can wash it down with water.
I ran a good race. My splits were kind of all over the place and I dropped my gel but I was still turning in a great performance. The muscles in my ankles were on fire for the first three miles but loosened up after that. I didn’t even slip on the large fish that on the side of the road (yay me!). I reached the half-way point and the clock said 45:06. I knew at that point that I could break 1:30. When I started the race I hoped to come in under 1:31 but I didn’t really think breaking 1:30 was a possibility. I know 1 minute doesn’t seem like a lot in a race of that distance but it really is a decent amount of time.
My splits on the second half kept getting better an better it seemed. I was pushing a bit but I kept surprising myself at every mile split. Even into the wind I was starting to pass people as they tired out. I got faster as they got slower. I’m sure there were others getting faster but they were either very far in front of me or behind me so I couldn’t see them.
For the last 3.1 miles (5k) I pushed pretty hard. I was running at what I call the “V threshold pace” which is the vomit threshold pace. My stomach was letting me know that it was there though it wasn’t being very urgent so I kept at my pace. I came through the finish line after a good final kick and had a huge smile. I achieved a new PR. I broke a 7 minute mile pace, I broke 1:30, I broke my previous PR by 5 minutes, I earned a gold finishers medal, I ran a negative split into the wind, and I beat last years time by 10 minutes! My time was 1:28:44, a 6:46 average pace!
After reviewing my split data it turns out that I actually ran a 5k PR for the last 5k. I ran the last 5k in 20:13 which is 20 seconds faster than my best 5k time. I don’t count this as a true PR but I think I have my goal of running a sub-20 minute 5k pretty much in the bag. I probably ran a 10k PR in the second half of the race too.
John had a rough time last year but this year was better. He earned a PR too – by an entire second! We had a great time at this race, just like we always do. We were chatting so much on the way home that I nearly missed our exit.