Ok the STG half has been my Achilles heel of half marathons. The first year I ran it in 2011 it was only my second half ever and I cramped something fierce with my muscles spasming and also left with a blood soaked bib. Last year when I ran it I was coming off ITBS and hadn't run in 3 weeks, it rained, was cold and miserable and I had my worst half in 2 years running it. I would say it is the second hardest half marathon in Southern Utah (behind the Hurricane half a half I have sworn off forever). So I really wanted to run it as it was my second ever and I had run it the last 2 years but really didn't want to pay for a race that has beaten me to death the last 2 years. My running club suggested that I pace it instead then I get to run it and have fun and not be out the cost of the race.
Fresh off my pr at Snow Canyon of 1:50 i signed up for the 2 hour group as they said to run 10-15 minutes off your pr. I figured if I could run this race in wet, cold miserable conditions with ITBS in my knee and not having run at all that month I would be ok for the 2 hour group. I would have signed up for 2:05 but they didn't offer a 2:05 as they jump to a 2:10 and do 10 minute increments after the 2 hour mark.
I have been doing a lot of bricks this winter as I commute 17 miles to work on my bike as I train for the half ironman in May. I can get up and run in the mornings if I want before work and before my bike but most mornings I wake up look at my alarm and say eff that its 16 degrees outside and go back to bed. Its been a very cold winter here in the desert this year, so almost 2-3 of my runs every week have been bricks. I noticed in December that this means my legs don't start waking up until about 45 minutes into a race and then I can just take off. So I thought perfect as this race really eases up at mile 7 and is much easier after that as all the tough steady inclined hills happen the first 7 miles and then it gets flat.
So I am all good feel great about the time I signed up for and then I got the flu on Christmas and was out of commission that entire week. I went on a bike race of 40 miles about 5 days later and nearly hyperventilated at the top of hill because I could not breathe at mile 35. I had to get off my bike and catch my breath for several minutes panting like a dog. The worst part of this flu is that once you got better the cough didn't go away. You had a cough for like 3 weeks after and it made running and biking extremely difficult. This meant just like last year I had a 3 week period where I did not run very much at all. I finally got better last week and managed 31 miles and a nice 10 miler on Saturday and a 12 mile run on Saturday with 31 miles biking and 2 miles swimming, my best miles in a month.
But this left me freaking out a little because when I signed up the 2 hour group seemed easy as that's my long run pace but now I haven't run in nearly a month and I am like crap. I was supposed to be pacing with my friend which I was looking forward to but he had to drop out of pacing as he also hasn't run in a month because he got plantar fascitis in his foot. So they dropped down the 1:50 pacer to my group with me a very experienced pacer which I was glad for as he was great the entire race. I talked my friend into running it still because he started to feel better this week and he already had a bib and there is a drop out point at mile 8 if you like.
Race morning comes and we are supposed to meet up at 8am for a group photo and to go over strategy as the race starts at 9am. Get there and get my singlet and find the other pacer for my group and we go over strategy. He says he normally doesn't walk the water stations but we agreed if we were a little ahead of time we would walk the water stations which was great for me. Its still been pretty cold this morning as the temp was 25 degrees even though it warmed up from last week and I know I will warm up on the race so I wore a long sleeve tech, shorts and my gloves.
We take off and a nice even pace and hit the first mile in a very good 9:02. My friend stays with us for a little while before taking off. We had a pretty good group and the other pacer was a lot of fun. He thanked all the volunteers and spectators and was very encouraging to other runners. I am actually feeling really good and realize ok the 2:10 group would probably have felt too slow as I almost tried to drop down to the 2:10. We get through the second mile and we are still about 20 seconds ahead of pace so we decide to walk the water station. Get our water and gatorade and get going again. The first couple miles have several steady climbs nothing too bad just a couple hundred of feet for some short hills but we ease back a little so we have plenty of energy for later in the race.
They changed the course for the 4th straight this year and it actually was a good changed. Last year at mile 3 you took a mile and half of rollers up and down through a neighborhood. This year they ran us through a different neighborhood that was much flatter and a lot easier. The other pacer is the one who makes the pacer bands and we realized that we hadn't planned for the easier mile and half stretch so we decide to also walk the next water station as we are going to be about 15 seconds up on time.
After this aid station you hit the meat of the course where the toughest hills are before you ease into the much easier second half of the race. There is a 2 mile stretch hill on a steady incle from miles 5-7, so we ease back just a little again to conserve some energy for later in the race. We fell off about 15 seconds at this point because of the tough hills but not bad as we know we are going into the easier portion of the course. We decide we will run the next aid station as we don't want to give back any time and we actually make up the 15 seconds and are spot on again around mile 9.
This portion of the course after mile 7 I call the cluster pluck portion of the course. You are on skinny trails and as the 2 hour group we have quite the entourage of runners behind us. It was funny at one point on this section there was a lady that was trying to pass and she is like out of the way 2 hour people as we had quite a large group behind us. This race had 2000 runners and I would say we had at least 50-100 of em behind us haha. This is the much easier portion even if it is on the cluster pluck trails. At about mile 10 we caught up with my friend who said his foot was feeling fine but his legs were hammered from not running the last month and we left him as he finished in 2:03xx.
It was also about mile 10 that I started to feel the fatigue myself of not having run in a month. Had I been on my own I might have done what my friend did and just dropped off pace but I had 50-100 people counting on my so I was like suck it up buttercup its just a 5k anyone can run a 5k. So I just gutted it out and stayed right on pace, we took a much smaller walk through the aid station at mile 11 as we were on perfect pace and didn't want to fall off it helped a little with my fatigue but man I wished for a longer aid station walk. The other pacer got just a little ahead of me so I sped up and caught up with him.
It was about a mile from the finish when I saw my heart breaking moment there was this lady that kept stumbling and she said she was cramping pretty bad and she was crying. Both me and the other pacer wished we could have stopped and helped her but we still had a job to do. We told her to stop and stretch and to not to try and worry about staying in front of us. That was a funny thing for the race so many people would see your 2 hour sign and would be like get away from me, you need to stay behind me. There was one lady and her friend about a half mile to the finish that was yelling at her friend cmon we are a half mile away don't let them get in front of us.
Crossed the finish line in 1:59:57, the other pacer crossed the finish line in 1:59:58 so we were spot on. Anyone that managed to stay in front of us got their sub 2. We were perfectly paced and spot on the entire last 4 miles too running exact 9:09's the entire time.
I found my friend got some gatorade and chocolate milk and decided to have some of that magic stuff put on my legs. Big mistake as the moment I sat down man I cramped a little thank the guy and just walked it off as it wasn't too bad.
Was a fun race and I had a blast pacing, I am signed up to do the 2:10 pacer for the Zion half in March too. We ran a perfect race and that was fun to do even if I felt a little fatigued at the end.
Great job. Did the runners with your group thank you guys? Were you able to interact with them too, since the group was so large? If the other pacer wouldn't have been with you, how do you think it would have gone? I'm only asking because I'd crumble under the pressure of being responsible for potentially helping so many runners meet a goal.
Yea I talked to quite a few runners they were a good group. A bunch of them did thank us. The other more experienced pacer helped but we were doing a lot of feedback back and forth like we need to speed up or slow down. I think I would have been ok by myself but it would have been a lot more difficult. He helped a little when I got fatigued as I only had to stay with him and not worry too much about my pace he was really dialed in that last 2 miles.
I think it's good that I had him there for my first pacing. on Zion in march they are only doing one pacer per group so I am on my own with the 2:10 group so I am glad I got one experience in before I am on my own.
Very nice pacing job! Honestly, I was expecting to say you blew up after not having run in a month.
In the words of my late-coach : Just hang in there, relax... and at the end of a race anyone you see.....just pass them
Good job buddy.
That timing was right on. Keep up the good work.
”Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right.”
A year ago I would have very likely blown up, had I tried to go out for a pr yesterday I am sure I would have blown up too as I would have needed to run a minute a mile faster for a pr. I think I have evolved a lot as a runner the last year and I attribute it to three things. First off triathlon training I think when you have just gotten off a bike after a 20-40 mile ride it takes a lot of gutting it out to go out and run. I think triathlon training has me a much stronger runner, you have to learn how to pace yourself for each leg so you don't wear out. Secondly I think all the long to medium long runs I do every weekend on back to back days has gotten me good at dealing with the fatigue. I typically run 10 miles on Saturday and 12-18 on Sundays every single week. I was fatigued at mile 10 from not running in a month but I have been there and done that and was just able to say suck it up buttercup people are depending on you.
And thirdly I think I have learned a lot from the crazy way I train. It's not always been pretty but I have learned as much from my failures as my successes. It has made me a better more disciplined runner. I have come along way and still think too many runners are way too conservative in their training. If you have never gutted it out in training pushed through that wall and fought through the pain cave I just don't know how you are going to do it in a race. By mile 10 the adrenaline is gone and all that is left is the ability to dig deep and fight on. Its not been pretty at times but I think people should learn to be fearless at times and even a little stupid. If your afraid to reach for the stars you will never truly succeed.
Trying to find some more hay to restock the barn
Nice job hitting your paces Dizzy. I agree that one of the more frustrating parts of being a pacer is not being able to help those that you've been running with in to the finish.
Yea you so want to help everyone around you but you can tell people are struggling but you still gotta job to do. With about a half mile to go we were urging everyone to pass us and get in front of us as we let them know we were perfect on pace and if they got in front of us they would have a sub 2. Sometimes it was good though we ran with this guy named James and he totally left us at mile 12 and finished a whole minute in front of us that is what you wanted to see. You want to help everyone and your so close, its funny the other pacer made a great comment with .3 to go and the finish line almost in sight, he was like you can do anything for 3 minutes cmon, loved that comment.
Wow, good job finishing exactly on time like that! That would be too much responsibility for me.
Yea it's a lot if pressure I wouldn't try it until your %100 positive you can run even splits. A 2 hour half is my marathon pace. I practiced an even paced 2 hour half in August prepping for a 4 hour marathon in October. That really helped as I ran a perfectly paced 1:58 even though I could have gone faster. It also helped when I was hurting a little to say these people are relying on me to say suck it up buttercup. I remember trying to run a sub 2 for a year now I am pacing a perfect two hour half.