Sunday, October 14, 2012

ING Hartford Half Marathon race report

Ok this year I had wanted to do the Hartford Marathon. A last minute entry into the Chesapeakeman Skipjack led to a lack of marathon run training going into early October.  After some conversations with my girlfriend and assessing my training; the full pull just wasn't in the cards this time around. I crushed out the mileage to do a half marathon and then some so I decided to "half ass Hartford." Part of me still felt like I was wimping out doing the shorter option especially when I went to the expo with my sibs to pick up my bib and goodie bag, but I figured if I was going to do the half then I was going to throttle it.

My PR at the distance was a 1:34 split in the 2009 Hartford Full Marathon , since then the best I was able to muster was a 1:38 at Savin Rock in 2010, I figured with the way I had been running in my half ironmans this year and with my Macca-esque chase down of Josie in the Chesapeakeman race ( where I made up 9:50 or a 10:00min deficit on the bike during a 10 mile run.) I was hoping for a sub 1:35 day, maybe even sub 1:30.

Race morning came early and it was cold. Steph and I drove into Hartford and when we made it to the Aetna garage the temperature was a balmy 30F. All week some of my friends racing with me from the Y tri club asked me what cold weather gear I would be racing in. When I responded a singlet and gloves I got the typical response of "you're nuts." I had a long sleeve tee in my bag but I had raced in colder without one so  I left Steph to unsuccessfully find a portolet. I did get a mini warm up in and figured I'd be fine. So I ditched my wind pants and long sleeves with the World's cutest gear sherpa, and made my way to the start.

As we queued up I looked for the 1:30 pace group and saw it was on the other side of the Orange netting separating the seeded runners from us Barbarians. In my haste to register I forgot to mention my race time and get a seed card. (For the half athletes looking to run sub 1:45 are placed with the elites where in the Marathon only runners who can break 3 hours are seeded.) Luckily I was right behind the divider and when the volunteers moved out of the way and took the fencing with them I was able to find the 1:35 pace group and got in front of it. About this time a guy named Pat in a black sweat shirt and tights came along side. "How fast you looking to run?" he asked  "1:30" replied, "Good I'll pace with you." We started developing our plan of attack as reps from ING, the State Police and Hartford Chamber of Commerce talked themselves up on the PA system.We were then joined by an elite looking chick with a nose ring and lime green shorts, I didn't catch her name but she joined the "unofficial 1:30 Pace squad." Essentially if the three of us could stay together we would go under 1:30.

The gun went off and the carnage began. The Half and full start together so the beginning of the race is mass pandemonium. runners with different paces and goals clogging the streets. Pat, green chick and myself darted through the crowd. I tried desperately to keep with them occasionally I was able to surge ahead. We hit the split mark about mile 2 and the marathon runners broke off and there was a lot more room to maneuver. I looked at Pat when we went through the first aid station. "I think we cooked that first mile." He nodded but was keeping the pace. As we made our way toward West Hartford he and green chick were history and I was left on my own. In my head part of me was like "well looks like I'm going to be running another 1:40ish half." I looked at the split at 3 miles 19:55 I decided to try to find a runner up the road and keep them in sight. The only one that had been consistently in front of me was a chick in a bright purple Block Island Sports jersey. So she became my first pacer. By mile 4 I looked at my watch and I was still going sub 7 so maybe 1:30 was still possible. I tried to focus on the fading runners to find targets I could catch and pass. I ran through one cheering section completely oblivious to anyone but the guy/girl I was trying to reel in. Mile 5 was slightly above 7 so I need to pick it up for mile 6. We went through the ING fan zone in this mile and as tacky as it sounds it actually was motivating. Having the screams of 100 plus fans can definitely get you to light the fire under your ass. I went through mile 6 in 6:44  then mile 7 in 6:47, I was starting to get passed by droves of runners but as I checked my splits it was because they were speeding up instead of me slowing down. Mile 8 was a little slower a 7:02 but it went slightly uphill and when we turned into Elizabeth park for miles 9 I managed to bring the pace back down as it was down hill but at mile 10 I was back above 7 minutes. I decided to push because I saw I went through mile 10 in 1:08, if I could hold 7 min miles 1:29 was do able. Mile 11 was our last in West Hartford as we made the turn onto Farmington Ave. I had tried to keep pace with Roger from HEAT ( Josie and I had raced with him at Chesapeakeman.) and it helped as I had gone 6:45 but now my quads and hamstrings were beginning to scream. In my head I kept saying to myself  "must go faster."  There were no mile markers so I didn't know how close I was coming to the finish. We ran past gas stations, the cathedral,  various shops, and more guys saying "you're almost there" than I care to count but it wasn't until he hit the train station that I knew we were almost there. I saw the the barriers and the mums in the dividers start, I saw the arch and I looked at the watch it was just hitting 1:29:30. I pushed and hit the line just after it crossed 1:30. No crazy arms in the air, or fist pump to celebrate, just a click of the watch and a well deserved PR official time was 1:30:28.... about 4 minutes faster than my 09 marathon split and 7 minutes faster than my best straight half.

I grabbed some water from the massive fountain and my foil blanket from the volunteers and made my way toward the far end of the finish chute. I saw Steph and we met up. She handed me my long sleeve T shirt and turned my foil blanket into a kilt. Doug from the Waterbury Y tri club came over, he had gone a little slower than expected but a 1:35 was still a PR for him. Alexei came in a few minutes later pulling a 1:38 on a sore knee in his first half. All in all it was a good day.  Now I have a few short road races coming up and 2013 to plan.


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