Week 46, 2012: Big Sur half-marathon

So, the Big Sur half-marathon week has come. I did a fast threadmill workout on Monday, followed by recovery run on Tuesday and then both fast and recovery runs on Thursday. The former I planned to deviate from my standard 12K route and instead do only 8K but at a fast, half-marathon target pace.

Little side story here. Recently I started playing around with Strava and the more I do, the more I like it. To begin with it has much nicer, modern interface than the one of Endomondo, which I start to hate... funnily enough they updated it this week and, yes, it's better, so maybe I'll reconsider, although I'm half moved to Strava by now (and the only thing keeping me with Endo is all my friends being there; guys check out Strava, it's pretty cool).

But there's more. The main distinguishing feature (IMHO) of Endomondo are the peptalks. But since I don't run with my phone anymore (and even if I did I now live in a completely incompatible time zone) and only upload runs post factum, I don't use this feature anymore. On the other hand the coolest feature of Strava are segments. Segments are "interesting" sections of your run. Strava keeps track of your progress on them and, more interestingly, creates a leadearboard among all Strava users. This thing is highly addictive. I have to, frankly, admit that one reason for running 8K instead of 12K on Thursday was because I wanted to get a good time on the Baylands Park loop ;)

It didn't go too well. I started too fast and after approximately 3K I realized that if I continue then possibly I'll get a good time on the segment, but I won't be in a shape for the half-marathon on Sunday. So I decided to postpone Strava racing for another time and slowed down considerably.

The half-marathon was at 7am on Sunday, so I went there Saturday afternoon. The route leads though a mountain section, it was raining like hell and I saw two accidents on the way, one of them rather serious. I got there, checked in, went for dinner, where I had to wait for 1 hour... if only I knew, but all the time it seemed that it's only going to be 5 minutes more.

I know I always bitch before races. I guess it's because on a day like this one wants everything to be perfect and also one knows how even small things can interfere with one's performance. Funny thing is, this time on race day everything worked almost perfectly (after not so perfect previous day). I had to get up at 5:30, so plenty of things that could go wrong there, but I got up on time, drove to the designated parking, grabbed some breakfast on the way and walked to the start line. I was placed in the first starting zone, so I could watch all the pros getting ready for the show. While it was raining the previous day, weather was great for the race, a bit chilly, no rain and not too much wind.

And then off we went. After a couple of kilometers I knew that attacking my PR is not gonna happen today. No big surprise there, I guess. Still, I plodded on. At some point we were going through the Asilomar beach; I'm glad Jorge introduced me previously to this beautiful place, as now I didn't have much time to appreciate this beautiful stretch of land. Still, it was nice running in a pretty place like this. What surprised me somewhat was that even though we were running on the beach and the elevation was probably never above 10m, it was constantly going up and down. Not much, but enough to be noticeable. Call it my excuse for the race ;), but the total elevation gain was half of that of the Amersfoort half-marathon, which I considered a tough one. Anyway...

I finished in 1:32:05, so pretty much exactly what I anticipated. What can I say, there are only two options, either: 1) I am not capable of running any faster, or (what I still want to believe) 2) I'd really need to train specifically for shorter distances (now, isn't it funny that I start considering half and full marathons shorter distances? ;) to improve on them. Or more likely I should just follow some professional training program or get a coach, as my approach to training is essentially a happy creativity on my part without much .

Anyhow, I'm now certainly going to focus on ultras, at least for a year. I'll probably occasionally do a half or a marathon, but purely as part of the training for ultras. Btw. did you notice my facial expression on the first photo above where I'm running. Jeeee... and if it was only one photo, but on half of the ones I got I look as if I was about to die; I wonder whether I really look that happy when I'm racing ;).

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