May 19, 2013

Race Report: Marine Corps Historic Half 2013

Headed down to Fredericksburg for my second Marine Corps Historic Half. After running the 2012 Historic Half, I knew what to expect and thought I was prepared for the hills.

However, being woefully behind in base mileage from daddy duties in 2013 made the event a lot more challenging than expected.

But in a tough race, you gotta Marine up.

The Expo

I headed down to the race expo on Saturday morning, grabbed my bib and shirt, and went through the expo pretty quickly. They had a mix of regional groups and some military charities, with a few random merchandisers thrown in the mix.

After the expo, I headed over to the A. Smith Bowman distillery to get a tour and tasting. Drinking dark rum and bourbon counts as pre-race nutrition, doesn't it?

I spent the rest of the day at my hotel, catching up on some sleep with a little nap. Was eerily quiet in the room, I hadn't heard silence in quite some time, but I was still missing my little girl. I watched some horse racing and a bad movie, and made some pasta in the hotel microwave. Same hotel as last year, sitting in a classy part of town between a Waffle House and a Hooters.

The Course and Race Day

The day started in a misty rain, and would continue in a mist or light drizzle for the next 13.1 miles. The course started at the Fredericksburg Convention Center, site of the race expo, and quickly started to fall under foot. There's an elevation loss of 300 feet over the first nine miles, but there are definitely some steep bumps spread throughout. As I clicked off the first few miles, I was feeling pretty good, and ended up under my goal pace in crossing the 5k mat in 6:32 pace. But I also started thinking I had messed up my hydration; I started thinking this may be the first race where I needed to hit the on-course bathrooms. In the following few miles I tried to hold back a little, knowing my lack of base mileage may be an issue later. As I made my way through historic Fredericksburg, I came across the 10k timing mat in 6:42 pace, getting back to my goal area. At this point, I decided it was time to hit the bathroom and ducked off course, thank you historic bushes!

As I approached the 9-mile mark, I started to feel my endurance suffer a bit. There were some small bumps and I was getting a little out of my groove. Add the mist and rain, and I had to wipe off my glasses every few minutes, running in a distorted view of the world the rest of the time. I was struggling a bit to keep up my motivation as I watched time slip away; I crossed the 15k timing mat back at 6:48 pace, but the preceding 5k was run at 7:00 courtesy of the bathroom stop.

At this point I was getting concerned actually about Hospital Hill. I knew about it from last year, where I kept a consistent pace up to the top, but I didn't feel quite as strong on this morning. I passed mile 10 and started the climb. There was a sparse crowd willing us up the hill, and for about a solid mile it climbed 260 feet. I kept my arms moving, kept a consistent effort, and surprised myself with a pretty good assault on the incline. The rest of the miles however, were more difficult. The steady and sustained climb to mile 12 was tough, especially knowing my pace was slipping and I wasn't in top shape.

There were some very tough mental and physical moments, and my 20k pace of 7:02 meant I'd run miles 9-12 in about 7:44; I knew the inclines would hit my pace, but that was a pretty slow slog for me. The uphills were pulling on the muscles that were pounded on the early declines, but I still finished strong and felt pretty good about beating last year's time. It wasn't a PR for sure, but it was better than my 2012 finish, even with a bathroom break. And even though I continued my bad trend this year of positive splits, it can be forgiven based on the elevation changes in this race. Final time, with a little break, was 1:32:18 (7:03/mi); probably looking closer to 1:31:30 (6:59/mi) without the visit to the bushes, but that's part of the game.

The Results

5k :        6:32/mi
10k :      6:42/mi
15k :      6:48/mi
20k :      7:02/mi
Final:   1:32:18  |  7:03/mile 

The results were what they were, not the best, not the worst. Faster than last year, but clearly I lost some speed with my strained training schedule since my early season PR at Rock 'n' Roll USA

The Swag

All runners received a technical shirt, a race program, and a finisher's medal. The medal nicely devoid of sponsors, lending to a simple ribbon and design. It followed the growing trend of bigger medals, which is getting a little silly. Also, whereas last year was a patriotic red, white, and blue, this year's design was overly simple and had random aqua accents. The back featured the "13.1" logo with an outline of the Gen. Hugh Mercer Monument for the final digit.

The Verdict

I enjoyed my trip down to Fred-town, especially the distillery tour the day before. The race expo and race were easy to navigate, even with the early wake-up call. I'm sure I'll be back again.

Cute stowaway trying to go with daddy.

Mascots at the starting line.

Race start. I'm all the way left,
all black with white hat.

Thank you, Marines!

Hanging out with the town crier.