After a fantastic race time at Richmond, I had visions of adding more speed work and improving on it at a spring race. One thing that got me through the longer tempo runs was the possibility of serendipitously crossing the finish line together with my wife as she finishes the half marathon.
After doing the Myrtle Beach relay last year, my wife signed up for the half marathon race. My training partner, also announced she was planning Myrtle Beach for marathon number 20. How could I refuse?
Getting back going after Richmond was a bumpy ride. I rushed back in with an easy run on Wednesday after the race after the muscle soreness was gone, however a tight IT band led to some patella problems led to ankle problems and then foot problems. In mid December, A week went by when even walking was painful and I decided to take a few weeks off to “reboot.” That weekend, I did 3 hours on the trainer with my body screaming at me most of the way, a two hour ride outdoors Sunday, then an hour on the trainer Monday. Amazingly, after the each workout on the bike everything felt progressively better. By wednesday, it was back to game on!
Since we were doing the same race, I was following my training partner’s plan, however circumstances meant that I missed most of the long runs. I missed one because of the foot & knee injuries in December, another one because of being on vacation, another when the weather was bad. The remaining runs we did together were 10-13 mile pace intervals. I cobbled together a “run less, run faster” plan of sorts by making up the difference by adding back-to-back hard runs on Sunday and another hard run on Thursdays. Joining speedy Laura and Jessica for a couple runs kept me at a challenging pace!
The last few miles of Richmond were difficult because of calf cramps. I tried to plan for it this time around with medium-length runs at marathon minus 20-30 second pace. The final days before the race I drank extra water, got extra sleep. I packed some salt tablets to take each hour during the race. In spite of everything, I didn’t feel comfortably prepared without a 20 mile run before the race.
The weather report for race day predicted mid/upper 20’s for temperature and winds out of the west building throughout the day. Luckily this meant a cross/tailwind on the long Ocean Blvd stretch of the race. My plan was to stick in one of the faster packs early in the race and bank time on Ocean Blvd, then slow down and grind through the wind during the last 8 miles.
I lined up behind the 3:05 pacer when the race started maybe 40 feet back from the starting line. The cannon went off and the pacer swept through the few dozen people in front of us. I weaved through traffic closing the gap. After the first mile, the half and full races merged and I worked up to the next big group. Once I was in, I noticed the 1:30 half pacer was leading the group meanwhile, the 3:05 pacer was disappearing over the horizon.
Around mile 3-4, the 1:30 pacer began to accelerate to get back on time and my bladder was feeling the effect of all the hydration. I stopped at a porta-john and let the group go. I stepped out and resumed the 7 minute pace. Luckily the crowd was thin and passing was easy.
I stuck with my plan of energy gels every 4 miles and salt tablets every 8. I held the 7 minute pace to the mile 13.1 timing gate leading to a new half marathon PR of about 1:33.
Around mile 15-16, Anj and Tara came out to see me run, luckily there was enough energy to look like I was still running well!
Around mile 17, I had the beginnings of calf cramps, which was much earlier than Richmond! I backed off the pace more and stopped to stretch for the first time. Passing the 18 mile timing gate, I was having to stretch every quarter mile or so, beginning a long 8 mile jog to the finish. I was carrying one extra salt tablet, I waited until the mile 20 aid station to take it, just in case the capsule ruptured in my mouth (horrors!).
Around mile 21 there was another trip to the rest room, this time at a gas station off the course (I was SURELY getting enough water!). The break gave me about a half mile of running before the next stop to stretch plus a little bit of comedy relief hearing the locals complain about the race! The rest of the race was uneventful. Oh yeah, there may have been yet another trip to the portajohn.
Coming up on the finish somebody yelled to a runner behind me, “Go! You can catch him!”. After an hour of people steadily passing me, that was my “OH HELL NO!” moment! I locked up my ankles stretching my sore calves as best I could and took off down the long chute holding off the last runner! All the finish line photos were very blurry, so I didn’t feel so bad!
Miraculously, I looked to the left at the half marathon chute and saw my wife and Rebecca who finished the half marathon seconds before me! What a treat for our 16th anniversary!