Being a glutton for punishment, I was elated to hear the alarm go off at 3 a.m. Saturday morning. It wasn’t so much the early wake-up time — I try to get up a 4 a.m. every morning anyway. The day’s punishment that I eagerly anticipated was the 13.1 miles of hills at the New River Half Marathon. I ran this race last year and it was my slowest half marathon of the year out of 13 that I ran. I remembered that there were hills but I don’t think I appreciated the magnitude of the hills. There are a couple of 300-foot climbs as well as a couple of 100-foot climbs, and since I do very little hill training the results are just about what you would expect. I’ve always been a proponent of the run/walk method and used to incorporate regular walk breaks in every race. Over the past couple years I’ve mostly stopped doing that, instead trying to run the entire race without any walk breaks, at least most of the time. This race is an exception to the rule though. Last year I walked a considerable amount and this year I did the same. As you can see by the downward spikes on the chart that represent walk breaks (because of the slower pace) I walked about 15 times in this race, and so many times on the last hill that I couldn’t distinguish where one stopped and another started.
This was an unusual race for me in that it was the first time I had ever started near the back of the pack at the beginning of the race. Usually I line up near the front and take off fast — always faster than I should according to most people. The result is that I slow down and get passed by a lot of people that I left near the starting line. The theory I’d heard was that if I would start off slowly and gradually build up my speed, then I’d have much more left for the end of the race. It sounds logical and since I didn’t have any great aspirations for today’s race I thought it would be a good time to try it. Looking back now after the fact, it did work out pretty much the way it should.
I did some calculations that I don’t want to bore you with, but the bottom line is that I ran the first three miles 3 minutes and 16 seconds slower than I did in last year’s race. I did indeed have some extra steam in the last three miles and ran those last three miles 3 minutes and 20 seconds faster than the previous year. I actually did feel better in those last three miles this year, and the slower miles at the beginning felt good as well. As a matter of fact, being able to pass hundreds of people gradually over the first few miles after starting in back was kind of fun.
There were a couple of drawbacks that I encountered with this experiment though, and I think I’ll go back to my previous way of doing things. The first problem is that even though it was fun to pass all of those hundreds of people, it took a lot of jostling around left and right to pass people. There was a bigger problem though: after starting out slowly I never really seemed to build up enough steam to get to what I think of as my cruising range — the heart rate I normally build up to in a race and try to hold it throughout. No doubt my actual pace gets slower but most of the time I’m able to hold that same heart rate. In this race after starting with such a low heart rate for a couple miles I never really got into that zone.
One other consequence of starting in the back of the pack is that I ended up crossing the starting mat 38 seconds after the race began. At the awards I was named as winning 1st place in my age group. Looking at the results now though I’m listed in second place. Even though my chip time was 1 second faster (1:46:36) than the person listed in 1st place (1:46:37), his gun time was faster than mine by 35 seconds. Theoretically at least, if I had started up where I normally do and ran the same race I might have won by a second or two. You never know, and it doesn’t matter a lot, but you can be sure that in the future I’ll be up front. And just for the record, I do agree that the results should be by gun time and not chip time, so if there is a contest between two people, especially in the same age group, they are going head-to-head at the finish line.
Time: 1:46:36 (chip time)
Age Group: 2 of 10 gun time (1 of 10 chip time)
Overall: 40 of 477
* RACE RATING (100 Possible Points) *
Note: With my new rating system (started in December 2011) there’s not a chance of any race scoring near 100. If it’s important to you, look at each individual category to see how points were earned (or not). Just trying to be more objective with the details. I generally like all of the races I run. If there’s something that really rubs me the wrong way I’ll mention it in the summary above.
RACE COURSE (20 possible points)
3 – Chip Timing: (3 points if yes)
2 – Starting Mat: (2 points if yes)
2 – Water Stops: (at least 1 for 5k, 2 for 10k, 4 for half marathon) (2 points)
1 – Course Marking: (0)bad (1)good
1 – Course Scenery: (0)bad (1)good
1 – Mile Markers: (0)poor or none (1)normal (2)with clocks or time called out
2 – Volunteers: (0)too few (2)good
0 – Finish line: (0)mediocre (2)pretty good to excellent
2 – Certified Course: (0)no (2) yes
2 – Correct Distance: (0)no (2)yes
0 – Partly or fully on unpaved roads: (0)yes (1)no
REGISTRATION (6 possible points)
1 – Cost: (0)expensive (1)reasonable (3)cheap!
3 – Race Day Registration: (0)no (3)yes
RESULTS (3 possible points)
2 – Posted promptly online: (0)no (2)yes
1 – Clear link on website: (0)no (1)yes
AGE GROUPS (13 possible points)
2 – 3 deep awards: (2)yes (0 for anything less)
0 – 5-year age groups (5 points) (0 for anything less)
1 – 14 and under group (1)
0 – 65+ group (1)
1 – 70+ group (1)
1 – Top Overall M/F: (0)none or first only (1)top 3 or better
0 – Masters Category(40+): (0)no (1)yes
0 – Grand Masters Category (50+): (0)no (1)yes
AWARDS (9 possible points)
2 – Overall Winner Awards: (0)none (1)yes (2)excellent
1 – Age Group Awards: (0)none (1)yes (2)excellent
0 – Door Prizes or Drawing: (0)no (2)yes
1 – Finisher Medals for All Finishers: (0)no (1)yes (3)really cool medals
POST RACE (7 possible points)
2 – Food for Race Participants: (0)none (1)some (2)adequate (5)a feast!
1 – Entertainment: (0)no (1)yes
0 – Finisher times posted after race: (0)no (1)yes
REST ROOMS (4 possible points)
2 – Porta Potties: (0)no (1)limited, long lines (2)plentiful
1 – Indoor Restrooms: (0)no (1)limited, long lines (2)plentiful
T-SHIRTS (8 possible points)
2 – T-Shirts: (0)no (2)yes
2 – Design: (0)not good (1)not bad (2)nice
0 – Material: (0)cotton (2)technical fabric
0 – Discount for no-shirt option: (0)no (2)yes
PHOTOGRAPHY (12 possible points)
5 – Professional Photography: (0)no (5)yes
5 – Prices: (0)expensive (2)reasonable (5)cheap!
0 – Free Photographs (newspaper, etc.): (0)no (2)yes
PARKING (8 possible points)
2 – Close to Start: (2)yes (0)no
2 – Close to Finish: (2)yes (0)no
2 – Plenty of spaces: (2)yes (0)no
2 – Free Parking: (2)yes (0)no
WEBSITE (5 possible points)
2 – Dedicated race website (0)no (2)yes
1 – No dedicated site but separate page on other site (organization, running store, etc): (0)no (1)yes
2 – Results or link to results posted on website: (0)no (2)yes
OTHER (5 possible points)
0 – Shelter from Inclement Weather (needed or not): (0)no (2)yes
0 – Swag (free socks, water bottles, etc.): (0)no (1)yes, some (2)excellent
0 – Part of race series or Grand Prix: (0)no (1)yes