Last year I ran my second-ever half marathon race at Cap City and ran a very nice PR (1:36). This spring I was originally planning to run the Earth Day Marathon, but by February I was all stressed out about it, so I decided to bag the marathon and focus my attention on the half. After running 1:36 last year at Cap City and 1:36:51 for the first half of the Erie Marathon and running 1:37 or so in a training run in snow flurries this winter (one of the few snowy days we got), I set a goal of 1:30, which would mean averaging under 7 minute miles for the race.
Along the way, I started a friendly challenge with a friend from my hometown (who writes a very insightful and thoughtful blog); his training was stellar, and we were both shooting for 1:30, so we challenged one another to a "virtual race" (he was racing in the Indy Mini while I would run Cap City).
Two weeks before the race, I went to Texas for an intense leadership development course, and while I fit in training, it was difficult (due to the intensity of the course as well as the heat and humidity). But even though it was cold back in Ohio, that humidity turned out to be training for Cap City.
By two days before the race, I was getting twitchy, and the day before was nuts. I went to the expo and got my shirt (nice - red this year; I was disappointed that last year's was gray) and wandered through the expo. I didn't find anything I wanted (tried on a pair of racing shoes but they had that dreaded medial post that doesn't work for me). I did talk to my friend Ben for a few minutes, but other than that, and the humor I got from having to walk through the "Hell City" Tattoo convention to get into the expo, the expo was really pretty dull.
After getting home, I took my twitchy legs out for a spin - just a couple of miles (one fast, one slow) and got everything together for the race.
The night before the race, I felt like I hardly slept at all, so when 5am rolled around, I was up and ready to go. I ate breakfast (a bowl of cereal and a banana and a bottle of Gatorade) and was on my way. I met up with my friend Rob and headed for downtown.
After getting parked and finding our way toward the start, I met up with some friends from our running group (Run DMC) for a photo op, and then I made my way into starting corral A. It was kind of crazy trying to get to a good spot (the MC was calling "last call to get into the corrals" so I had to fight my way through the crowds in corral B), but when I finally got a good spot (and not directly in front of the PA), I heard someone call my name... it was friends from Lancaster who I've run 5K races with. I had a great time with them, hanging out, talking. I really needed a bathroom, but there was no time... after some interviews, some music, and the National Anthem, it was race time!
This year I was committed to not go out too fast. My Lancaster friends took off in front of me, but I stuck to where I felt comfortable. I did stop at the first port-o-john I found, and my auto-pause on my Garmin activated, so I lost a few seconds there.
There was a pretty good crowd with signs and noisemakers, but I was focused on the race and really blocked most of it out. The "entertainment" along the race course was pretty lame - it was actually a negative in most cases. I don't want to hear some guy with an acoustic guitar singing Otis Redding - that's not very motivating. The only act worth mentioning (positively, that is) was the drum corps near OSU.
I think one reason I like long distance running so much is because it's a natural for me - I tend to go inward, and running is a good way to do this. I thought a lot while I ran, not necessarily about anything, but just thinking.
As we ran along, I found myself trying to keep pace with a few people - it just seemed like we had similar pace. I trying to keep them within striking distance. On High Street (on OSU campus) I smelled the wonderful smell of fresh donuts, and that made me think of my banter with Christian High about eating donuts and running...
Definitely the worst part of the race, even worse than the humidity, was the intersection of the 1/2 marathon and the 1/4 marathon. The 1/4 marathon runners/walkers took up the whole street, so I spent a lot of time and energy dodging through them. I was extremely glad to see our paths split!
I didn't care much for the brick section, either - footing was iffy throughout that area.
I brought along two Powerbar gels (the one gel I have found that I like) and I took one at the 5 mile mark and one at 10. I felt like that was a good use of them and that they gave me the extra fuel I wanted about that time. The other thing that gave me a good boost was the Run DMC group at the last water station, around mile 12. At that point, I already had a large-ish group of runners in my sights, and they propelled me forward after them. I loved the last hill; I just picked off runners one after another on my way up the hill. Nobody passed me in the last mile.
Duke (my Garmin) had me at 1:33:31, but the Cap City website had 1:33:42. Whatever the case, I was slightly off my goal, but well under my (previous) PR (1:36).
After finishing, I stuck around, waiting for my friends (including my ride). After-race fare was the usual (water bottles, bagels, bananas, oranges). I didn't go into the post-race-party, having no desire for a free Michelob Ultra or champagne (I think they were giving that away again this year), but I did grab a blessedly delicious cup of chocolate milk.
It was a very good race, despite the humidity, and despite the news I found later, that my friend in Indy had defeated me by almost a minute.