The 50,000 Foot View:
Typical California morning in February - 49 degrees at the start
Beautiful setting at the Rose Bowl and surrounding area
Advertised as 70% on trails
Finished in 2:03:28 - off pace, but satisfying
The Fine Print:
The plan offered up a 13 mile run at PMP, so what better way to get that done than to take part in an organized Half Marathon. The last time the plan called for 13 miles I ran the LA County Holiday Half. This time around it was the Rose Bowl Half. I was excited about this race because it gave me the opportunity to run my planned marathon pace (PMP). This program has me running all kinds of other speeds. The tempo runs that I was supposed to do at PMP, all happened at a pace faster than that. My skepticism continued on how I'd be able to pull off 26.2 miles at 9:09 pace when I'd never actually done it. All these years of training I've run most of my long runs at or near what I actually end up doing in the races that follow.
I was able to pick up my bib and chip an hour before the race started and sit in my car until 10 minutes before the start. The starting line was on Arroyo Blvd. in front of the Rose Bowl. The actual start was very low-key. The starter announced 60 second to start; 30 seconds to start, and a simple GO! and we were off. No fanfare, no music, no air horn, just GO!
The race was advertised as 70% trails. I decided to wear my Adrenaline ASR's to take advantage of the little extra traction on the trail sections. Within the first half mile we left pavement and began the first trail section. Their was a bit of a bottle neck there but nothing too serious. I was happy to see that I'd managed Mile 1 in 9:03, right on target.
The horse trail we were on paralleled a flood control channel on either side. Before we to to Mile 2 we could see the leaders on their back the other side. Mile 2 - 8:43, Mile 3 - 8:49, Mile 4 - 9:26. Not sure what happened there. The pack had thinned considerably, but I decided not to worry too much at this point.
Soon after Mile 4 we were back on to pavement headed towards the Rose Bowl. The Rose Bowl has really nice paved running path that circles both it and the Brookside Golf Club. Mile 5 and 6 were on this path on the east side of the Bowl. Mile 5 - 9:15, Mile 6 - 8:59. This section was a very gentle uphill grade, but I seem to do well on that.
Soon we were back on trail headed out toward JPL. When I reached Mile 7, I saw the leaders again heading back. They were somewhere between Mile 10 and 11; already. Mile 7 - 9:42; the trails were slowing me down.
Right after Mile 7 we headed up the steepest rockiest hill on the course. Most of us were reduced to walking up. The hill took us to the top of the appropriately named Devil's Gate Dam. The worst part was knowing that we had to go back down that thing later. During this mile I also had to take a short biology break. Mile 8 - 10:47.
The next few miles wound around the Devil's Gate Reservoir and adjacent to the grounds of the Jet Propulsion Labs (JPL). It would be great to work there and to have access to these trails at lunch or right after work. Mile 9 - 9:37, Mile 10 - 4:18. I was slowing down and that last mile was obviously mismarked.
The next mile took us on a really nice single track through some oak forests and then dropped us back out onto the paved path around the golf course. Mile 11 - 15:17. Combine that with the short mile 10 and the pace was 9:45 for the 2 mile segment. I'd slowed down beyond what I'd hoped for but I attributed much of it to the hills. I've mentioned that this plan has not included hills at all. Another contributing factor might have been the leg workout I did yesterday at the gym and the 5 easy miles I ran on the hill of Bonelli right after that. Worst case scenario if my legs were feeling any negative effects from those two workouts, it would help to simulate running tired at the end of a marathon. Or at least I hoped.
The gentle down slope of the paved running path back towards the Rose Bowl rewarded me with my third fastest mile of the day. Mile 12 - 8:51.
I tried to keep the momentum going as we rounded the perimeter of the parking lot and headed back up Arroyo Blvd towards the Rose Bowl. The last little decline to get into the Rose Bowl hurt way more than it should have but it is always fun to enter a sports stadium at field level and to get to finish there. I wished I'd have had my camera with me. Mile 13.1 - 10:39 (9:40 pace).
Final time was 2:03:28 (9:26 pace). It was off what I'd hoped for, but realistically what I felt I was capable of. It is a little disconcerting that I ran a faster half 2 months ago when I started this training cycle. Getting slower is not exactly the desired effect you hope for from a training plan. But....I still satisfied because its the fasted pace I've kept up for that many miles in a really long time, which is still a positive achievement.
The only negative was a darn blister. I haven't had one in a long time. I could feel it coming on around mile 8. It is probably caused by the ASR's. I rarely wear them for anything longer than 5 miles. The one on my right foot felt like I should snug it up a bit but I never stopped to do it. The blister is in its usual spot right on the pad of my right foot right behind my big toe. Although the race did incorporate lots of off road running, my street shoes would have been fine. In hind sight I wish I had worn them instead.
Taper time is officially in session. Will I be able to achieve a sub 4:00 in Austin? I'm not sure - but I'll find out in two weeks.