Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Pace Bunny at the Barrie Half

As mentioned previously, I work at Honda, the main sponsor for the Barrie 5K and half marathon, which took place on my birthday, June 17!  With Honda footing the entry fee, it was a no-brainer to sign up.  I even attended the volunteer meeting, but in reality, with running the half, I could not help on race day and there were plenty of non-race day volunteers.  Then I got that innocuous email that seemed so innocent at the time, but caused me much more worry for a mere 21.1K race, than I have experienced since being wholly unprepared (and DNF'ing) my last 50K.  A fellow asked if I could be the 2:00 pace bunny.  The simple answer is no...  But I'm not good at accepting my limitations.

Sunday morning was almost perfect for a race, with a cool breeze floating off lake Simcoe.  Holding the "2:00" sign high, we started down a small hill.  Out and around the south side of the bay, I was able to maintain roughly a 5:30 pace.  For a 2 hour half, you need to average 5:40.  I figured that starting a bit faster would help to bank a bit of time, yet not hurt anyone who would have difficulty maintaining 5:40 for 21.1K.

We were 1 minute ahead of pace at the 5K, so I thought it was reasonable to slow the pace slightly, to 5:40.  This seemed to be working well, but my old Garmin tends to read long on straight flat pavement.  It is fine on tree covered trails, but the sampling out in the open tends to hopscotch about, reading slightly long, with the pace coming in slightly fast.  I forgot all this, but it all came back to me when I hit the 10K sign and the Garmin read 10.26K.  Oops!  Now I was a minute behind pace!

Due to my torn cartilage, I had explained to the group that I would pace at 5:40 until 15K (when it tends to act up), but they might be on their own after that!  Nevertheless, at 10K, I had to pick up the pace to 5:20 (5:10 on the Garmin) for about 2K.  Unfortunately, several in the group could not sustain the pace, after already running 10K.  I like to think that they would have had problems maintaining a 5:40 pace regardless, but it is not the greatest feeling to hear people muttering and exclaiming as the were forced to drop back.

From 10K to 15K, I could only manage to maintain a 5:40 pace.  At 15K, we (I) were behind target by about one minute.  With 6K to go, I made a decision that a pace bunny should make, but not someone running with a torn cartilage.  I increased the pace in an attempt to erase the 1 minute deficit.  The group (including me) were now struggling.  As we passed the KM markers, I figured we would have an outside chance of making (not breaking) 2 hours.  I was calculating that at 19K, if any in the group could maintain 2 - 5:00 K's, they would cross the finish at 2:00:xx.

Remember my bad knee?  I might have been ignoring it, but at 19K, it decided to gently explain who was truly in charge.  I fervently hope my surgeon is not reading this...  With sharp shooting pains, I told the group that if they wanted to finish in 2 hours, they had to increase their speed.  I would be slowing down.  Good luck!

A group of about 3 did go ahead.  I don't know if they finished in 2 hours, but they would have been close.  I looked at the remaining 3 - 4 people and reiterated that now was the time to press hard, to finish on goal.  They sort of looked at each other, then at me.  Remember, this is at the 19K point of a half marathon.  They have not been out for a leisurely jog, but pushing fairly hard.  They turned to me and declared that finishing in 2 hours was no longer a top priority!

The finish is up what I call a little hill.  About 200 meters at about 7% grade.  I'm in pain and with my ultra background, this is an ideal time to walk.  Except, there are about 300 people cheering you on.  I'm the 2:00 pace bunny and the clock is already at 2:01:xx.  I kinda chuckle, then increase my cadence, if not my speed.  Finishing time is 2:02:xx.  Chip time is 2:01:56.  I don't think I let many people down, but in retrospect, pacing the 2:10 crowd would have made more sense.

Now the bad news.  My knee is swollen and for the last 3 days, I have not been able to run.  Of concern is that walking is painful.  Yes, I have another half marathon in 3 days:  Niagara Ultra on Saturday, June 23.  I have never DNF'd a race shorter than 42.2K.  I see 2 choices:  Run the race very slowly (try for a PW) or DNS (did not start).  I know what you are trying to tell me, and yelling at a blog makes no sense whatsoever.  What you are not considering is that I will be forced to stop running for 6 weeks after my surgery on July 17.  This has altered my normally good sense (all right, borderline delusional sprinkled with hyper optimism) so that I would like to get a few races under my belt, before the forced hiatus.

I have told Lee Anne that if I run the Niagara half, I will not be pacing her for the last 50K in her 100K Niagara Ultra.  I think this speaks volumes for my sensibility.

Surgeons should be barred from reading blogs...

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