Saturday, April 05, 2008

Chesebro Half Marathon Race Report - PR

This race was one of the most enjoyable of the races I've done recently. And I realized that the primary reason it was enjoyable was not because of the very challenging course, nor because I got a half marathon personal record (PR), nor of the after-race yummy blueberry crêpes, but of the camaraderie of my friends. I just love hanging out with them. Sure, we enjoy the great outdoors, we love being healthy and fit, but our friendship is the most important to me and what keeps me running. I'm truly blessed.

Another thing: I appeared briefly, not just once, but twice, on the official race video; once near the beginning and once near the end. How cool was that? This almost never happens to me.



Having been warned about parking, or the lack there of, our carpool embarked on our journey to the "Valley" very early in the morning. Upon arrival, being the bright eyed, bushy tail, super energized morning person that I am, I wanted to jump out of the car for I could hardly keep a lid on my excitement about running the race. However, my carpool mates had different ideas; and since they out numbered me four to one, we just parked and took a nap. I, reluctantly, followed along. But, inside the car, I think I did a very poor job of hiding my reluctance. Sorry, carpool mates

Once out of the car, I went and found the other carpool. Fortunately, they were parked very close to us. We took a group photo and walked toward the finish line and expo area for a restroom stop. Then we walked a half mile up the the road to the start, where we will run back down once the race starts.


I huddled near the pace car to keep warm. The engine had been running and it was still giving off heat. I lined up on the second row on the starting line. Once the horn went off, I bolted down the hill like being shot out of a canon. While I was breaking out of the pack I was in, I heard a voice behind me, it was Dean. I didn't know Dean was running the race too. I've trained with Dean briefly last year, and Dean had done the race before; so I knew at least I can gauge his pace to determine mine.

The course went downhill for the first mile and then followed a gradual incline until mile 7. The first three or so miles were on pavement until it entered the park and the world of dirt and wild flowers took over. From mile 7, it tilted up and reached the highest point at mile 8, from where it went down for a mile before hitting another, and final, steep climb out of the trail section. Once on the road, it descended gradually to the finish line. The trail section was very well groomed compared to what we are used to in the San Gabriel Mountains. There were a few rocks and stream crossings, but all were very runnable.


I really had no strategy coming into this race. I had not done a half marathon for so long, and the last one I did was on the road and relatively flat. I just knew that I felt stronger and had more endurance now than ever before. I did have one goal, and that was to leave no reserve; I wanted to "empty" the tank and give it all I had while out on the course. I decided to not purposely save my energy in the beginning and just keep running at a pace I can sustain for as long as I can. I did this because I wanted to see just how much endurance I had to sustain a near maximal effort. I guess I ran this half marathon like most people would run a 5k or 10k.

The first mile went by and my watch read 0:06:05. Wow, I did the first mile in 6 minutes. But, this pace didn't last long; I gradually settled down to a more sustainable 6:30 pace. Dean passed me back soon after the first mile, then on a slightly inclined stretch of straight pavement, before the dirt, I reeled him back in and passed him. At one time, I even saw the VW Bug pace car up ahead, as the road went gradually up and you can see a long way. That was kind of cool!

Soon after I entered the trail section, I passed this seemingly overweight guy. I though that he just went out too hard to be up near the front pack. But, this same guy passed me back around mile 5 and never looked back. It just goes to teach me a lesson to not judge a person by his or her appearance. I should respect all runners for simply being out there without regards to gender, race, age, or physical size. Running is an equal opportunity sport :)

I kept my place pretty much during the gradual incline section from mile 2 to 7. I settled to a consistent pace and the pack sorted out. Dean passed me back on this section and looked to be pretty comfortable. Way to go Dean. I would almost catch him again at the end, but I never did. The narrow trails were never a problem for us as we were out in front. I heard from other ATBers that the middle-of-the-packers would cause a huge traffic jam later.



Once we hit the steep climb from mile 7 to 8, I had to slow down. Here, four or five guys passed me; but once over the top, I quickly passed them back. I'm much more adapt at running downhill than uphill. This back-and-forth race action continued through the very hilly sections.

On the final steep climb out of the trail section; I was getting very tired. But, I held on and pushed through it. Once over the top and on the road, I picked up the pace again. I kept speeding downhill until I saw Dean about 30 feet in front of me, with about two miles to go. But, just then, the road went gradually up again. I was beginning to cramp so I dialed back my pace. The last mile was a real struggle. I gave it everything I had and my legs were screaming at the end. It was great; this was awesome for my preparations. I don't think I would have ever push myself this hard in a training run. I ended up 36th overall out of 1,256, and 4th in my age group out of 99, with a 1:34:26 chip time. Yes, it was a PR; but by only 24 seconds.

As I stood over the barricades and cheered on the rest of the ATBers, they all did awesome, as usual. Rich got third in his age group. Sachiko got first in her age group. They didn't credit her time because somehow her chip did not register when she crossed the line; but, in my book, she came in first :). I like to think that the Mt. Zion loop training run I lead the weekend before had helped to prepare for the race. Way to go! You guys rock. I want to be like them when I grow up.

The after race party was great. We hung out and got to eat yummy food and picked up a bunch of freebies. What a way to spend a saturday morning.

Until the next adventure, happy trails!

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