Channel Islands Harbor Half Marathon Race Report (Read 463 times)

    Another longish race report. Bottom line is that I had a good day but without much information on my pace I was largely running in the dark. Which isn’t a good place to be..... The Channel Islands Harbor half marathon is a new event in Oxnard, CA (between LA and Santa Barbara). The course was very flat with the only rise of any note being a bridge over a large canal high enough for large yachts to pass under – probably a 20 or 30’ rise. That was it. The weather was good, with very low wind, the temperature was probably in the high ‘50’s at the start but it did heat up and get a little humid at the end. The course itself was pleasant, through the harbor area, past the beachfront property and then past a lot of agricultural fields. Lots of long straight stretches. The only down side was the lack of mile markers. There were water stations at the odd numbered miles but several of these were way off. For most of the race I didn’t really know what pace I was at. The race was also quite small, at least partially because it was new, with less than 300 runners in the half marathon and possibly about the same number doing a 5 or 10k. The outcome of this for me was that I was largely running on my own and, because I don’t have a garmin, really didn’t have much of a clue about my pacing. My ultimate goal was to get close to, or under, 1:26 and I had calculated splits based on a 6:35 pace, a 1:26:15 finish. A bit of a leap for me, but I felt I had the training for it. My race was a fine demonstration of the effect of oxygen deprivation on the human brain. It went something like this: Mile 1 - 5:54 . Yeah right. Fortunately this was sufficiently beyond the bounds of reason that I was suspicious of the mile markers from the start. Because there was a 5k and a 10k I think this water stop was placed here for convenience rather than accuracy and this was also the point where the returning runners on the half marathon rejoined the course. Brain functioning well at this point. Using the evidence to draw a reasonable conclusion. Mile 3 – 18:01. Also simply not feasible, that would be an 18:37 5k , not far off my pr. And I was running at a pace that, although it felt brisk, felt manageable. My breathing was nowhere near as hard as it would be if I was actually doing 6 minute miles. The question was though, what pace was I doing? Brain function still good, assessing evidence, making reasoned conclusions. Mile 5 – 31:36. In hindsight this was probably the first accurate marker. I was running a pretty consistent and solid pace for the first 5 miles. The only problem was that at 6:19 pace it was too fast. At the time I think I largely ignored this marker because the previous two had been obviously wrong. It would have been good to have known my pace was 6:19 at this point. Brain function decreasing, I should have worked out that this one looked right. Mile 7 – 44:49. Miles 6 and 7 were slightly into the wind which had picked up just a bit on a very open stretch. They were at 6:36 pace if this marker was accurate, very close to my actual plan. Although at this point I didn’t really believe any of the markers. In hindsight this marker was also accurate and should have confirmed what I discovered at the previous marker, that my pace was a bit too fast. 44:49 for 7 miles is a 6:24 pace, a sub-20 5k and, I guess this means this was my second ever sub-40 10k. Brain function still declining. Much blood and oxygen being diverted elsewhere. Mile 9 – 56:30. I’d actually slowed a bit here and yet my brain somehow decided to believe the time at this split that was clearly wrong and was placed at a turnaround for convenience. A simple subtraction and division by two would have shown that the split time suggests that I did miles 8 and 9 at about a 5:51 pace! Somehow I persuaded myself of the unlikely scenario that I was now almost 3 minutes ahead of my ambitious 6:35 pace schedule. Brain is now in a happy place of its own basking in the glory of a sub-1:25 finish. Mile 11 – 1:11:53. Arggh. Now I’ve lost all that time and am barely 30 seconds ahead of schedule! Arggh. Arghhh. Brain hits full panic mode. (Which consists mainly of panicking and little reasoned thought). Of course, at this point we also hit the one and only (slight) hill on the course. Now I’m starting to worry that 1:27 might not happen. Arghhh. Starting to wonder what time I’d get if I crawled in from here. Arghhhh! I try to pick it up coming down off the bridge. Muscles complain. Arghhh. Severe grimace. Arggghhhh. Of course the photographer is positioned right here. Mile 12.1 – The course is a large loop and the final mile is down the same stretch as the first mile. As we blow by the 1 mile marker I don’t hit my watch but I remember the panic level increasing as that 1:27 looks unlikely. For some reason I fail to remember that 80 minutes earlier I’d calmly worked out the first mile must be short. At this point my brain is nowhere to be found. Leg movement is happening purely by instinct. A younger runner I vaguely recognize passes me and I pass another runner. Probably the most passing I’ve seen in 10 miles. Mile 13.1 – The last mile is flat and straight. I’m able to pick it up a bit and actually enjoy the last few hundred meters as I finally realize that I’m going to make it under 1:26. Although to be honest I only fully realize this when I can see the finish clock. Final time is 1:25:41 a 6:33 pace. Over 3 minutes off my previous best, a good step on the way to a sub 3 half and my best distance performance this year. In hindsight and looking at a map and my splits it looks like miles 5,7 and 11 were probably close to accurately placed and 1,3 and 9 were not. If this was the case then my actual race (as opposed to the fantasy race going on in my head) went something like this: Miles 1-5 @ 6:19 pace Miles 6-7 @ 6:36 pace Miles 8-11 @ 6:46 Miles 12-13.1 @ 6:34 pace Not perfect, but not that bad for a race where I didn’t have much info. I’d have enjoyed the last few miles more without the unnecessary panicking. Does everyone suffer this severe decline in mental functioning during a race? Even at mile 11 the panicking was pretty unreasonable, a week ago I'd have been delighted if I'd known I would be 30 seconds ahead of schedule at mile 11. For some reason I was obsessing over the fact I was slowing at a rate of several minutes per mile. Which of course I wasn't.....
    Goal: Age grade over 80% on a certified course.
      Awesome job considering the race was screwing with you! Acutally, awesome job even if it wasn't Big grin
        Does everyone suffer this severe decline in mental functioning during a race?
        No, my normal level of brain function is so low that any significant dropoff would mean failure of autonomic systems and a complete shutdown leading to a dirt nap. Under similar circumstances, my report would look something like this: Oh good. Oh, ungood. Oh, good. Nice job with the on-the-fly analysis, and more importantly NICE run.

        Greater Lowell Road Runners
        Cry havoc and let slip the dawgs of war!

        May the road rise to meet you, may the wind be always at your back, may the sun shine warm upon your SPF30, may the rains fall soft upon your sweat-wicking hat, and until you hit the finish line may The Flying Spaghetti Monster hold you in the hollow of His Noodly Appendage.

          Another good one for you, John. As I said earlier, you are way ahead of schedule on your goals. Some of the calcuators rate this as sub-3 marathon equivalent and the ones that don't rate it very close. Maybe you'll decide to look for another marathon between now and Santa Barabara 2009? I'm sure you'll be ready before than. Congratulations on a nice race and big PR. Jim
          Age 60 plus best times: 5k 19:00, 10k 38:35, 10m 1:05:30, HM 1:24:09, 30k 2:04:33