Tuesday, February 24, 2015

USAT&F NC State Age Group Record Holder

Over New Years, I started plotting out my race schedule for ’15. Along with it, I wanted to choose my races such that it gave me an opportunity to go after the USAT&F NC Half Marathon State record for 50-54 year old males

The Race 13.1 guys were putting on a half marathon in Wilmington, NC which fit perfectly in to my training plan. Their race was roughly 6 weeks after my Disney Dopy Challenge which meant that I should be adequately recovered and ready to run.

Fast forward to this past Sunday morning, my attempt at the half marathon state record was mere minutes away.

Needless to say, I had more than a few butterflies in stomach. I had watched their video of the course for like the 1000th time so the course was pretty much ingrain into my brain. When every extra second counts, taking a wrong turn would end my attempt pretty quickly.

Not to mention, race morning had arrived with a temperature 30 degrees warmer than the past 3 weeks. Then looking around the starting line, I didn’t know anyone (okay, I kind of expected this) but I worried about being solo for my entire effort. I always run well when I have a little peer pressure.

They announced that I am going to for the state record. This drew several guys over to ask me about it. They also ask about my time goals. The record was 1:20:02 so I tell them anything better than 1:20 and I will be delighted.

We get the 30 second warning and then we are off. The overnight rain left Wilmington with moisture basically hanging in the air along with patchy fog floating by.

Within 200 meters, I have already settled into 2nd place. My brain is scanning every inch of body trying to determine if I am feeling good or bad. The first 2 miles are straight line along Rt 74. My first mile is 6:04 which worries me a bit. My game plan was to run the race as controlled as possible with a goal of 60 minutes for 10 miles. I was already 4 seconds over that goal pace.

I was also keeping a careful eye on the leader. He seemed to be extending his lead as we went through the mile. My hope was to maintain eye contact because chasing is always easier than being chased.  Just past 2 miles, I realized that he was coming back to me or maybe I was picking it up. I was 11:58 at 2 miles. Before we hit the first of 3 hairpin turnarounds, I passed him. Would he go with me? No, he just let me slip away.

At the turnaround, I had a good 50 meters on him and several hundred meters on the next set of guys.

Now, I had the pressure leading the race and hoping that I didn’t blow up as well as trying to break the record and having to do it with a solo effort.

I turned on the cross-city greenway for a few miles. Then it was out on the city streets before heading back to the greenway again. The greenway led me into UNC-Wilmington’s Campus where I hit the second hairpin turn around.

Out and back courses have their good and bad points. On the bright side, I knew exactly how big of a lead that I had. On the dark side, I knew just how big of a lead that I had which was now several minutes.  I really needed the extra incentive to keep pushing.

The miles were slowly being clicked off. My Garmin was starting to gap the mile marks by a few seconds, but I wouldn’t check my Garmin until I hit the mile mark.

Heading back I got lots of “good jobs” and “looking strong” comments. I did my best to reciprocate their kindness. Although, I knew that I probably didn’t look like I was “looking strong”.

I crossed the 10 mile mark and checked my Garmin 60 minutes. I couldn’t have been more excited. I was right on the pace that I wanted and I knew if I just ran 20 minute for the next 5k, I would have the record. I told myself “I can do this”.

I made a left turn and headed out for the 3rd hairpin turn around. Ok, the first hairpin turn wasn’t all that bad at 2 ½ miles. The second hairpin at 7+ miles had been more challenging. At this 3rd one, my legs didn’t like this stopping, turning, and starting again. I just had “will” them forward.

The temperature at the start had been about 53 degrees. Over the course of the an hour, the clouds had cleared and the sun was making its presence known.

As I headed back the last 2 ½ miles, the sun was staring me right in my face and was making me feel a lot warmer than I wanted.

Mile 11 went by in 6:04. Then, mile 12 passed in 6:02. Roughly, I needed to run that last 1.1 in less than 8 minutes to get the record. The sun wasn’t helping. I was definitely running “hot”.

Mile 13 passed by in 6:00 minutes. Just keep pushing, I couldn’t think of anything else. I was passing some of the 10k runners. All the while, I was trying to not sway from the tangents. I made the final right hand turn and sprinted for the finish line.

I was going to break the record. I could see the clock counting down to 1:19 and I wanted to go under 1:19. I surged across the line in 1:18:56.

Breaking the 50-54 year old NC state record felt awesome. All of the cold days of running, the endless core workouts, extra effort that went into it now all seemed worthwhile.

Winning the race out right was just an extra bonus.

I cannot thank the Races 13.1 guys for their willingness to help me with my record breaking effort. Also want to thank all of the racers that cheered me on during the race. The emotional support definitely spurred me to keep pushing.
If you are interested, the Races 13.1 Series is coming to Charlotte in September of this year.  

Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner


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