what not to do on race morning

i just typed the title and had to laugh, because this entry is basically about a hugely successful race that had everything going wrong up until we crossed the starting line.
yesterday was the fontana half marathon. the course is a one way route, where the runners are bussed up into the mountains and we run down a windy course to the city hall in downtown fontana. the last bus out leaves at 6:20, and since ken hadn’t registered yet, we wanted to get to the registration area early enough to make sure we’d have time to register, catch a bus, warm-up, etc. so, the plan was to leave ken’s house at 4:45. butt-crack-of-dawn early, but safe.
i was up at 3:45, ate (a big bowl of oatmeal and a banana), got my gear together and was out the door at 4:30. smsmh and i are staying at her brother-in-law’s place this week, watching their kids while they’re in hawaii, and since i was loaning my truck to some friends for the day, i hopped in my brother-in-law’s car and headed over to ken’s.
i hit the first intersection with a signal, and the light wouldn’t change. i sat there for a few minutes, watching the clock and getting frustrated. i backed up, moved into another lane and the light wouldn’t change. i tried all the lanes and nothing would trigger the light. in the near five minutes i was there, no cars had come through the intersection. so, i went ahead and zipped through the red light. yeah…you see where this is going…
two miles up the road, i noticed headlights coming up on me pretty quick, and then the red rolling lights. busted. i pulled over, got out my license and fished around in the glove box for the registration. i explained to the officer that it wasn’t my car. he asked where i was going at 4:30 in the morning.
“i’m heading to my running partner’s house. we’re going out to fontana to run a half marathon this morning.”
“are you late?”, he asked.
i looked at the clock. “now i am”, i responded.
he asked if i’d run the red light and i told him yes. he asked if i’d even slowed down before going through the intersection. i explained the problem with the light and how long i’d been sitting there. he headed back to his car and i thought for sure i was going to be there for another 10-15 minutes. not more than two minutes later, he came back, gave me a warning and sent me on my way. woohoo!
i got to ken’s house right at 5am, didn’t have time to use the restroom, so we just hopped in his car and took off. we drove up to the freeway, only to find the on-ramp closed due to construction. the detour took us in the wrong direction and pointed us to another on-ramp that was closed due to construction. we decided to cut our losses and hit a different freeway. finally on the road and it was now 5:30 – the time that we wanted to get to the race registration.
we flew to the race location, and pulled into the parking lot at 6:10. i ran to pick up my packet and ken headed over to register. we met back up and ended up on the last bus to the start. whew! at the start, we were treated to limited toilets and LONG lines. again, i decided to cut my losses and searched around for some bushes to…ahem…void in. that didn’t leave us much time to warm up, so we jogged a short half mile and then got into the queue. a couple minutes later and the starting horn sounded.
7:30 and we were off! the coach had said to run mp for the first 10k, since we didn’t want me to get injured on the steep part of the course. plus, that would ensure that i was still fresh for the remainder of the race, once we were on the flat. people streamed past us for the first few miles, and it was very tough mentally to let them go. it was also very tough to keep the pace slow. we fluctuated between 7:00-7:20 pace, and due to the downhill, it felt absolutely effortless. knowing that the downhill was going to be brutal on the quads, i took the advice of rbf’ers and REALLY focused on form.
here’s the splits for the first 10k:
7:12 mile 1
7:22 mile 2
7:16 mile 3
7:08 mile 4
7:08 mile 5
6:55 mile 6
after the fourth mile, people stopped passing us, and we started reeling folks back in. we were staying very consistent with our pace, running the shortest distance through the curves and keeping our form. as we eased into the sixth mile, the downhill started to recede and flatten out. the change in slope felt weird on the legs after so many miles of steep running and the change to 6:55 felt hard. i wasn’t sure if i’d be able to, or if i wanted to, keep that quick of a pace for the remainder of the race.
to break 1:30, i was going to have to not only run the low 6:50′s, but also make up the two minutes or so that i’d lost in the first 10k. ken and i started picking it up through the 7th mile, and i started to feel quite good. when we passed the 7th mile marker, i looked back at ken, who had dropped to a few feet behind and shouted “6:44 – we’re doing great!”.
i was feeling wonderful and dropped into what felt like a hard, but sustainable, pace. i checked the pace at the eight mile marker and was shocked to see 6:26. and it felt wonderful. i kept pushing the hard pace and over the remainder of the race, was able to maintain fantastic consistency. here’s the last 7 mile splits:
6:44 mile 7
6:26 mile 8
6:21 mile 9
6:21 mile 10
6:20 mile 11
6:20 mile 12
6:11 mile 13
at mile 10, i could feel my form getting sloppy. i knew that if i didn’t focus on it, i’d start loosing tons of energy with the reduced efficiency. i focused hard on my form and was able to keep the consistent pace. i hit the 12 mile marker and realized i still had quite a bit of juice left. i slowly focused on increasing my turn-over and slowly dropped the pace. i was flying as i came down the final stretch and was amazed when i saw 1:28 on the clock as i went through the chutes.
i’d broken my “pie-in-the-sky” goal by over a minute, and my pb by nearly 10 minutes. i was ecstatic! i jogged back up to the finish line to watch for ken, and he came flying into the chutes at 1:30:09, almost two minutes faster than his “pie-in-the-sky” goal.
the race was a huge success. not only had i turned in a fantastic time, but i learned quite a bit about pacing through the early miles, how to keep consistent with my form, and most of all, that all the hard work i’ve been putting in is paying off. this success is a huge confidence builder. i’m feeling really good about racing the marathon in july, and am very confident that the 3:25 goal is in the bag.
thanks for everyone’s support. i thought about your comments, well wishes and suggestions often. they really made a difference!

27 thoughts on “what not to do on race morning

  1. Woohoo! Way to “Let ‘er rip” in those last 6 miles! I am impressed and inspired by your results and the training that you did to accomplish them. You showed discipline in sticking to your strategy. Next time I’m wimping out on speed work or hills, or tempted to abandon my race strategy I’m coming back to read this post.

  2. WHOOOOHOOO!!!! What a totally rippin’ race, Jeff! 6:11 on the LAST mile?! Whoa! Man you’d better throw those shoes away because I’m sure you burned up the rubber in them. :) Fantastic race! Congrats on the PR!

  3. Just awesome. What could have put you in a lousy mood with the cops and lights and being late and all didn’t happen. Instead you let it all go and ran a great race. Way to go Jeff!
    And again what an incredible time! I am so envious.

  4. even though i know you weren’t pulled over for speeding, lets just pretend because that way my little joke is more funny.

  5. Congratulations on a great race Jeff – in spite of such a hectic, early start to your day.

  6. You ran it perfectly. Smokin’ fast. I’m a big believer in negative splits but this was amazing.

  7. Don’t you just love it when hard work actually pays off. Great focus and self control.
    Love reading your blog.

  8. Jeff, CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!! Wow, that’s AMAZING!!!! What an awesome race you ran! Not that I didn’t think you weren’t capable! ;) But really the splits are incredible, you managed to smash your old PR, smash your time goal and learn a lot through the race… wow! I’m so glad you’re seeing results after all your hard work! Way to go!

  9. Truly amazing negative splits there, Jeff. Apart from an understandable mile one, you were just ticking them off! That’s a wonderful improvement. As an aside, do you realize that you’re only seven minutes away from guaranteed NYC entry? I realize that “only seven minutes” may be a stretch, but still… that’s less than you improved by this year, and it sounds like that’s not the easiest course either.

  10. I am impressed. That was some seriously good racing. You still have to be feeling good after that effort.

  11. WOW! Those are some awesome times! Congrats on such a good race! And way to go on overcoming such a frustrating morning!
    Awesome!!

  12. I am amazed, great job,, wow,, diddo to all of the above!!!!
    Heather

  13. Man, those speeds. They should have pulled you over again right around Mile 9. Fantastic race.

  14. WOW!! That’s great. With your way of racing you will not only reach the 3:25 but be a lot faster. Based on calculations done with your 1/2-marathon time you should be able to go for a sub 3:10 time.
    Congrats, great race!!

  15. Jeff, that is an absolute great effort!!
    Well done, I’d agree 3:25 is in the bag, keep the focus going.

  16. Catching up on blog reading and I thought I would say holy congrats on a well-run race. Awesome! Additionally, I agree that the recently posted breakfast looks yummy, despite sitting on the floor. Besides, you guys look like me right now, living in chaos!

  17. I, too, am just now catching up on blog reading and wanted to add my congratulations!

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