For only my sixth road race eva, I raced the 2015 Capital City Half Marathon in the capital city of Ohio, Columbus. I
picked a couple of races, outside of my marathon, to be guinea pig races for my October Super Bowl, more for fun and to learn how to race better. Although I have run for years, there’s a certain art to being able to run 7 minute-miles instead of 9 minute-miles. Some people seemingly have the ability to run amazing races as beginners, others not so much (or maybe they’re not nearly as rambunctious as myself).
The Capital City Half is a very big race in Columbus. This year 7,717 — 3,212 men and 4,505 women — finished the race (interestingly, that’s a normal split of men to women for races shorter than a marathon — men outnumber women by an equal ratio for the marathon). The next two years Capital City Half Marathon will play host to the 2016 and 2017 USATF half marathon national championships.
I didn’t “train” for this race. I want to run two half marathons before the Columbus Marathon in October as guides to see my current fitness as well as learn how to race better. Thus, I pretty much ran marathon-length training runs during the weeks and months preceding this half marathon.
As what it seems with nearly all new marathon runners, I am following one of eminent running coach Hal Higdon’s marathon training plans. (I may move to either one of Pfitz’s plans or just add more miles during the week because I am waay ahead of schedule for October; my main goals this year are to run more and learn to race better).
The most paradoxical training advice I have learned since my marathon last year is that you run faster by running slower, and more often. During the past few months I’ve learned invaluable advice from Runner’s World’s website of friendly runners more than willing to help out someone who’s still learning how to accomplish this simple task of running. Although I have met one of them, they seem like real friends because we talk everyday and communicate with each other on Strava. I don’t know where I’d be without them. Although, as usual, I may or may not take everyone’s advice, I will certainly listen to it.
In any case, I more or less went with the idea that if I am training for a marathon, pulling weeks of over 30 miles, I’m in shape for a half marathon, even if my training does not necessarily carry over to actually racing a half. Perhaps that is wrong on my part, or perhaps that makes no damn bit of difference, in and of itself, but I continued my more is more in terms of running.
I’ve reached the stage of obsession of running that I do take my diet seriously. I cringe when I hear people say I can eat whatever I want because I’ll just run it off. Believe it or not, it’s very easy for people to gain weight while training for a marathon because they think because they are training for a marathon, that they can be in the seefood diet.
Try to run 40+ mile weeks and eat whatever you want (I’m sure some hard asses will contradict that, but even they stay within limits). Not only what you eat, but when you eat it. I’m not going to look up all of the biochemistry, but carbs should be eaten in greater quantities earlier in the day with proteins later in the day, for example. And then if you’re 150 pounds exercising 5.5+ hours weekly, you should be consuming 400+ carbs daily (of course, your mileage may very).
I’ve found that I’ve had great success eating fruit and yogurt when I first wake up. If I eat a smoothy with yogurt, orange juice/premade smoothie juice, a banana, and other assorted fruit I have plenty of energy for my morning run and earlier in the day. It’ll be around 450-500 calories, upwards of 100g of carbs, and a healthy portion of potassium. Boom, instant energy!
After my runs (I run five days/week) I have a glass of chocolate/milk and maybe other glass of OJ. For breakfast I’ll have steel cut oats and usually two eggs. Yes, I’ll have that nearly everyday, but I’ve found that it works. Sometimes I’ll throw in a bagel, bowl of cereal (and by bowl I mean a serving), or peanut/almond butter and jelly sandmich for snacks. For dinner, I’ll have a pasta of some sort.
I’ve been on that diet for about a month or so. I’ll dick around with it to see what may work better. For about a week or so I literally measured everything, just to have an idea of what nutrition I actually put in my body. It’s amazing how easy calories are to consume for the American. As a runner, I don’t have to eat necessarily any more than the non-runner, but smarter and better timed (eating a shitton of pasta right before bed is a great way to wake up a pound or two heavier than usual, as well as just feeling heavy).
Although I unfortunately have to work a few nights per week, which means I need to eat late. The nights that I don’t work I can time up my eating so that I eat little to nothing later in the evening, so I wake up feeling light and lean, which means I can run more efficiently. Just some slight adjustments can go a long way. Plus, what I am eating is healthier than before, in addition to being better for running.
Prerace Week Strategy
My Capital City Half Marathon prerace week strategy was run the same as I usually would. Haha. I told my “taper” to play in I-270 rush-hour traffic as I ran 16 miles the Saturday before the Capital City Half. Although I am running more miles than I ever have, I have run more effectively than I ever have, so I didn’t feel that my ambitious prerace week schedule would interfere terribly with Capital City.
Following Higdon’s plan I would run 4-8-4-R-8-16 miles, totaling 40 for the week. I have the speed to be fast at half marathons and marathons, but I need to work on my endurance. Running more miles means that I build more endurance, so if I have a strong week I should build more endurance. Perhaps not on such short notice. But as what every master’s runner will point out is that I’m 28 and can recover fast. I guess I’ll splurge mileage whilst I’m able.
Race Week Strategy
My first mistake of race week was going out with coworkers for a night at Hocking Hills. If you get all nine of us in a room, or a hot tub, you may have a 75% recollection of what took place that day. Life is too short to have have fun with friends, apparently even on Monday nights of race week. Enough though we all woke up as rough as sandpaper Tuesday, I got in a really nice five mile run later that day. Haha. (Apparently everyone else spent the rest of the day sleeping, slackers.)
Tuesday I had another short run, at basically a jogging pace. I didn’t want to take the week off entirely because I was having great success during previous week leading up to my long runs. I felt that from continuously running I was really, really helping my running game. Although tapering and staying off your legs during the previous weeks is traditional, I’m all about breaking tradition. Thursday was a rest day, but I got my race packet at the expo! It wasn’t
anything super-duper nice. I did get another Under Armor loose tech shirt, because I liked I one I already had. They didn’t have too much bullshit that I would have purchased, like silly bumper stickers or decals.
Interestingly, on Friday, I went on a four-mile run at about a 7:30 pace. It was short enough that it would not negative affect my race, but I kind of wanted to see where I’d stand. In addition, I mentally wanted to know if 1:35 was really out of the question.
Race Day Strategy
I awoke at 0400 on race day. I made a smoothie the previous evening so that I would have my prerun nutrition in my system well in advance to racing that it wouldn’t affect my run for the worst. I have my usual coffee and a Nuun tablet for some extra electrolytes as well. For an 0800 race, I believe I imbibed all of this by 0530.
I set out my racing gear on my floor the previous night, for both a photo op and a way to look at how much neon I would be wearing. I wore my usual hat and calf sleeves, but also had on my 5.7oz. Asics Hyperspeeds and my new neon green singlet. I was really excited. It’s one of those things that you act like how you’re dressed. Well, if you’re dressed for a race, you’ll be mentally ready to race!
I arrived at my downtown parking garage around 6, just because I like being everywhere ridiculously early. I had a runner friend from RWOL text me to meet up with her before the race, with a couple of friends of her. They gave me time to socialize and kill before the start of the race. Being that I live twenty minutes away, I don’t have to plan on lodging, so it’s interesting to see how people pack and prepare for races. They had VIP passes, so eventually I was stuck being with the commoners before the race. So I did my thing of checking my bag and heading off to the starting corral.
My half marathon personal record (PR) is 1:53, which I broke a couple of times during training. I was quite confident I would nuke that record and probably get sub-1:40. I had a few people say I might hit 1:35, and being the achiever I am, I thought that I’d go for broke trying to run a 1:35, which is a 7:14 pace (which sounds really fast over 13.1
I thought that I would run the first few miles a little slower, so that I could set the pace and negative split, instead of going out like a bat out of hell. I knew that I would have the speed to accomplish a 1:35 half marathon, but I didn’t know if I would have the endurance for it.
Capital City’s weather is classic Ohio: you never know what you’re going to get. It’s in May, but since Ohio’s weather is bipolar enough to be committed, it could be hot, cold, snow, sleet, hail, rain, etc., all at the same time. It was perfect weather! Sunny and it would start at ~50 and end up at ~60 for the race. In other words, the weather should not play a factor, even though it could be five degrees cooler.
Capital City Half Marathon
My Capital City Half Marathon started at 0730 when I arrived in my B Corral. Now, they don’t have corrals by anticipated finishing times, like the Columbus Marathon has (which is the smart thing so alleviate people weaving in traffic too much), but I thought that I was in about the right spot. They had Frankie from the Crew up there for some reason, trying to get a rile out of the crowd (apparently every member of the Ohio State Buckeyes football team was unavailable).
I was breathing in and out trying to get a sense of how my race would go, as metaphorical countdown clock continued to click. Eventually the race began!
My second big mistake (or it might not have been — we’ll get more into that later) was deciding to out of the gates like a bat out of hell (I’ve read waaay too much about Prefontaine and apparently I am a student of Radcliffe as well). One of the biggest mistakes for racing newbs is taking advantage of the adrenaline rush at the beginning of races. Hey, you have the energy to run a 7:00 pace — why not take advantage of it!
I the bat flew the first miles at 7:15, 7:10, and 7:04 pace (a 1:35.00 half is 7:14ish, after all). I know about adrenaline and how it. will. kill. people if they don’t resist the urge to redline 6th gear during the first 5K of a distance race (c’mon, is 5K really a long distance race?). The race started on Front Street, just south of the Arena Distance and I’m pretty sure I read my Garmin 620 reading 6:48 when I was going downhill on Vine. That’s really fucking fast. That’s sub-3:00 marathon fast.
My focus on the first few miles was just to try to maintain a race. Yeah, I was flying, but I did feel good and I tried to establish a really good pace. The Garmin 620’s main screen whilst running (if I have one more person ask me if it keeps track of steps…) has four sections to keep track of a multitude of matrices. I chose cadence, time, lap pace, and distance; usually I have heart rate data instead of time, but I knew I’d be red lining and heart rate didn’t really matter to me during the run anyhow. I have no idea why I put this info about my Garmin in this paragraph, but there it is!
Now, beliebe it or not, only crazy people really run their race pace during training, and most people don’t run race distance during training either (at least for the marathon). So, essentially, you’re running faster and farther during the race than you ever have. It’s fuckin’ nutty. If memory serves me correctly, I ran my fastest 5K race at a 7:14 clip. That’s how fast I wanted to run the whole damn Cap City Half Marathon. That was another reason I wanted to fully run my 40-mile week the week previous to get my miles in, instead of using it as a taper week. I wanted to get my body used to running farther, because I know I have the speed but not endurance.
There were some slight rolling hills as I ran up on Olentangy River Road, but nothing about would effect the outcome of a race. The first five mile of my race I was on pace for a 1:34 half marathon (one mile, adjusted, was 7:00; THANKS STRAVA!). I hit a couple of 7:20s, but that was more because of the change of elevation than actually my race slipping away from lack of endurance.
The shit started hitting the fan during Mile 8. I had to take a leak for a while during the race. It wasn’t one of those leaks, like during a movie, that your world stops while you locate a John, but one that you’d just feel better after pissing. After finishing my business, I leaped and short-sprinted my way back to pace on the course. Literally. It was on the sidewalk, so I wanted to waste no time getting back to pace. Looking back, that was a great way to pull a muscle.
I finished Mile 7 in 7:58, but that accounts for my bathroom break. The next mile I ran at 7:07 — so it initially appeared to have been a flawlessly executed piss break. Except within the next few miles I got the side stitch/pulled muscle from hell. If you’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing the pleasure of a side stitch, it feels like a motherfucking knife is being stabbed into your side. Although it usually doesn’t have any actual physical effect, it hurts like a bitch. However, it kept getting worse – so bad that it nearly made me stop – that I might have pulled an ab muscle.
The pain would come and go during miles 9 and 10, but by that time, I was out of juice to return to my 1:35 pace. The last 5K of the race felt like me doing time until I reached the finish line. My hope before the race was to no stop: My momentum would carry me through to the finish line. I would play Russian Roulette if I had to stop, because I didn’t know if I would be able to return to PR pace.
My pace during the final 5K ranged between 8:30 to 9:00, which is not baaad, but that’s an entirely different game than racing at a 7:14 pace. I didn’t feel as physically spent as my marathon, but I definitely didn’t have much juice felt in the tank. Well, at least not every. single. joint. in. my. body. was. hurting.
Of course the end of the course had to have hills. I felt like I was jogging by the end of the race. I ended up, per my watch, finishing 13.26 at 1:43.56.
At the finisher’s area I got my finisher’s medal, yogurt, b-a-n-a-n-a, bagel, and water — with no pockets or bags to put that stuff in. Seriously, can’t I get a bag to put my stuff in? I just ran 13 miles and I don’t have that much dexterity anymore.
Cap City’s after race party is a production and a half. Free shit you get includes pizza, Mich Ultra, and
champagne sparkling wine (for the record, the only “champagne” you’ll ever see is from Champagne, France — everything else you see is sparkling wine; but are the same thing, really, akin to Scotch being delicious whiskey hailing from Scotland). For the party animals, you can also pay for your own Patron margarita! I just had sparkling rose wine, as my metabolism goes into redlining-overdrive during races. You just read that — I turned down free beer and pizza; and you wondered why I didn’t rush.
I met my friend, Judy, at the end. She took a gnarly picture of me being photobombed that will forever be my profile pic. And seeing how I was really exhausted I left early. My stomach was in post-race turmoil and I thought that I’d feel better if I just went home. Although the post-race atmosphere was amazing – Cap City had a band playing pop song with Ohio State lyrics, I thought that I was just sticking around.
First of all, I have no official time because as ginormous production as the Capital City Half Marathon and its timing company are, they don’t have me listed. So, I can go with: 1:43.56 as what my total time ended up being, or I can use
my half marathon “best effort” of 1:42.34. I’m going to call it 1:43 and call it a day.
I made three goals for this year, and one of them was to break a 1:45 half. I did that. Although I was not pleased with the end of my race, I did accomplish a 10-minute PR. I suppose I have too much of the “never satisfied” gene in my. If I know I could have done better, I’m not entirely satisfied with the results.
And I have no idea right now how to arrange the pictures better. We’ll just call it modern art.
This is something that was really pissing me off during decline and fall. On Friday, I set my Garmin watch to alert me when I’m running slower than a 7:30 pace. At the time I thought that was a good idea. I never tested this before, so I didn’t realize it would seemingly tell me every 15 seconds how slowly I am running. Thanks for the reminder, Garmin. I wish that I had tested that out, or if the Garmin knew that you went from 7:15 to 8:45 there’s no coming back. It not only annoyed me, but other runners would check their watch thinking that another mile had passed. Psyche!
What I Learned
My races first and foremost this year will serve as learning instruments to race. I’ve run for years, but racing and running and two entirely different things. There’s an art to racing a distance. From the running regiment during race week, to fueling the day before, and how you’ll actually execute your race.
Running a race and racing a race should not be confused. One of the most difficult things that I have ever done is race a race. Racing is really fucking hard. I can run 16 miles, then work a double okay, but racing
13.1 13.2 miles is ridiculously difficult. During a race you should leave it all out on the course — you’re running with 100% effort. It becomes an art because you have to combine speed with endurance. Too fast out of the gate and you have little left at the end; too slow at the start and you feel like you short-changed yourself. And your joints. Your body physically hurts more because you’re running faster than you do in training and often farther. In any case, you’re body is depleted of energy and you want to go into hibernation. I have no idea how people can eat pizza and beer afterward.
I had completed 13 and 14 mile runs the previous month without fueling (I brought Gu and water for the 16-mile run the previous Saturday), so I thought that I might be able to squeeze this race out without bringing it along. The temperature was supposed to rise from 50 to 60, with little humidity, during my race. Although that’s slightly higher than what I would have liked, that didn’t affect my running performance. I took the water during my crash and burn jog of shame, but I hadn’t previously. Although “they” say to consume such-and-such amount of liquids during an hour, I’m a believer you can train your body. Haha, I’ve done it before, so why would that change?
I have no absolute idea of why my abs started to hurt like a motherfucker. Maybe I need more core strength training? Maybe taking off after my leak tweaked something? Maybe I had some gastrointestinal distress (my stomach just felt “off” that day for some reason). Maybe I should have went earlier in the race? I don’t know. Ostensibly I’m putting a lot of thought into what went wrong, so I can fix it and not let it happen again.
For my next race, Emerald City Half in Dublin, Ohio, in August, I’ve learned a few things. First, I will run 1:35. I’ll start out a little slower, say, 7:30 as what has been pointed out to me earlier. It’ll be August, and even at 0700 it’ll be too warm to not fuel during the race. I tried to somewhat treat Cap City as a normal week, but I’ll try to make it more like a race week, in terms of running and dieting.
Rating Capital City Half Marathon
Now the moment you’ve all been waiting for: Me “rating” the Capital City Half Marathon! And by rating, I mean discuss without and quantitative analysis. And I’ll talk about what I’m thinking off the top of my head.
It’s a really big deal. As previously mentioned, the USATF half champ will call Cap City its home the next two years. 7,700 runners finished the half alone. Yet, I never felt crowded during the race like I have with the first half of the Columbus Marathon (the crowd doesn’t really go away until the half runners exit left). Maybe it was because I was in the front of the race for a while, where it was thinner (the average finishing time was 2:18) and it had naturally thinned out when my abs decided that enough is enough. So, my running really wasn’t hindered by people being in my way.
I’d have to look up the exact number, but let’s way there was a water and Gatorade station every 1.5-2 miles. That’s plenty for a half. The gel station was Mile 7. It seemed like most people brought their own fuel, so I don’t think hydration should ever have been an issue.
Honestly, I never paid much attention to the crowds or bands/DJs. I was kind of in my own little world during the entirety. There were more people for the Columbus Marathon, it is a marathon after all, than this half, but it wasn’t like we ran it in the sticks either.
Will I do it again next year? Probably not, just because I’m tentatively planning on racing the Glass City Marathon in Toledo, Ohio, the week before. I would definitely run it again notwithstanding running marathons.
Price. This race is really, really expensive for a half. It’s priced comparable to a marathon. You get a lot of goodies during the post race party, but when I signed up in February it cost me $96 when it was all said and done. That’s not the cheapest price bracket, but, conversely, the Columbus Marathon starts at $75. Then again, it doesn’t have booze, either.