So this was my 4th Youngstown half marathon. I've done the race the past three years, and despite being in better shape every year I have somehow gotten slower there every year. My intention this year was to go out and treat the race like a training run since my plan called for 13 miles, and if all went according to plan this would still be my fastest time at Youngstown because my training pace should be much faster than the paces I ran here in previous years. I wasn't 100% I could do this, especially since I had a super slow recovery run yesterday and my arms were still sore this morning, but I kept my expectations high.
Carpooled to the race with my SERC buddies. Many of the club runners do this race, just goes to prove how hard core our club is in my opinion. It takes a lot of grit to come out and run this extremely hilly half in the first weekend of March in what is usually less than ideal conditions.
No warm up for me today. The plan called for 13 and I would do no more than the race. I didn't want to be sore after this because I wanted to be fresh for this weeks training. My goal pace was around 8 minute miles. McMillan's chart puts me at a 7:56-8:56 pace for long runs based on a 19:57 5k (I picked a time between my last 2 5Ks because I still can't fathom training at the paces proposed for that 19:23). Figured since this was a medium long run I could be on the faster end, but knew it might be slower if I factored in the hills.
We hit the first mile right on target at 7:55. Started out with Daisy and Solar. A little bit of conversation but mostly just trying to focus on running my pace. I wanted it to feel like a training run but I didn't want to slack as Pfitzinger makes it clear that my long runs should not be at slacker pace but at a pace about 10-20% slower than marathon pace.
From there on out all splits were questionable. I held even effort all day, stepping up the effort slightly after mile 10 and letting myself get a bit competitive in the last half mile to pass two women. I know with the hills splits probably won't be even but some of these splits were just nuts!
For those that don't know the course, pretty much every mile has it's own set of hills. And then a few special miles have some really steep climbs. The downhills are nice, but definitely don't come often enough. I consider this to be in my top 3 hardest 13 mile runs I do all year, the other two being our Christmas and New Years Eve runs in Bedford.
Daisy hung with us until just after mile 3 before the steepest climb of the day where she had to peel off for a porta john break. She ended up running with Brian and I am sure they had fun! Solar stuck with me through most of the race. We chatted a little but mostly just enjoyed the relatively pleasant weather and the serenity that is Mill Creek Park. The miles went by pretty painlessly and I was feeling awesome.
Ran into a few interesting characters as always. One with a camel back who was not particularly happy and had no qualms expressing it! Didn't want his negativity to bring us down and thankfully he pulled ahead for awhile. Other odd encounter was the guy taking down early mile markers following us in his car for over a mile. We tried to get to the left so he could pass and he just wouldn't. So finally we gave up making the effort for him and then he decided to honk at us because he wanted to get by. He then proceeded to stop just ahead and follow us again. More than a little nerve wracking.
We got to the hill after mile 9 where Daisy had dusted me last year and I pulled a bit ahead of Solar. I figured she would catch me on the downhill and kept my pace. I knew if I kept up the same effort I should end somewhere around 8 minute pace, but wasn't entirely confident since our splits had been so bizarre all day.
We had a bunny for most of the race. She ran the race great and took advantage of the nice flat and downhill from miles 10-11. I kept her the same distance ahead of me and upped my effort a little bit knowing that this section was easier than what we'd hit after 12. My legs felt great and breathing was just starting to get slightly labored on the uphills. I was running exactly where I wanted to be. Let me tell you that is a nice change for me after the past two years here!
After mile 11 you start to see runners behind you heading out towards mile 8 and 9. Since I was just doing training pace I smiled and gave some "good job and looking great" loving to all of these runners. I think it pumps me up just as much if not more than it does for them. It just feels good to be nice to people out on the course. We don't often get the opportunity to praise strangers in real life, so this is a nice experience!
Passed one lady here who was falling a bit back then I set my sights on the bunny. As we passed mile 12 I figured I might as well catch up to her and make a go of it to come in with her. I caught her on an uphill around 12.5 and said good job. She was running an excellent race, she attacked the course perfectly. I was still feeling fine and there was one more pony tail ahead and I figured heck, I feel great and don't feel like I am pushing, might as well catch her in case it is the difference between an age group award and not getting one. I passed her coming around the final curve and luckily she didn't make me sprint to hold the lead.
I thought I would break 1:44 when I hit 13 but alas that last .1 at Youngstown is uphill and took me a whole 60 seconds! Still 1:44:14 on a training day was just what I wanted. 7:57 pace and 3 minutes faster than my first and best time at this race. Today was a nice confirmation that I am in great shape and hopefully the training will line up for Boston and I will finally hit that sneaky 3:25 mark I have been longing for!
Added bonus the two girls ahead of me in my age group both placed top 5 so I won "1st" in my age group and Solar got 2nd! Gotta love getting hardware! Everyone from SERC ran great today. It was nice to have relatively good conditions here for once!
Splits for what they are worth