Thursday, April 29, 2010
Pittsburgh Half Marathon Neutoric Preview
No, we don't want water one mile in...
I have three days until the Pittsburgh Half Marathon, and it's time to get all the nervous energy out. I have put more thought into this race than any other, and as a result I have worked myself up more for it than any other that I can remember.
Not quite sure if I was satisfying some dangerous curiosity or properly preparing myself for the race, I started checking out who was in the field for Sunday. The Pittsburgh Marathon website lets you search for specific names, but doesn't give a complete list of entrants or elite fields, so I started entering in the people who usually terrorize the road race scene in Pittsburgh. I confirmed the three I expected: Ryan Sheehan, Jeff Weiss and Joey Zins. Trent Briney, the ummm, 4th place 2004 Olympic Marathon Trials finisher is registered. As is Luke Watson. Mario Macias and David Mealy also have low bib numbers, but I'm not too familiar with them. I was actually sorry I'd be missing the chance to watch Sheehan and Weiss go at it, though I know Sheehan will prevail. He's an animal who gets that much more dangerous when he's competing, though I can't remember the last time I saw him in a race where he hasn't had a comfortable lead midway through. Josh Eddy's running the full, so is Dave Mock, so no need to worry about them. From the times Eddy has run this spring, he should be in the low 2:20s. No Ian Fitzgerald, Curt Larimer, Dave McCollom, or Jay Dolmage, none of the Simpsons.
I'm glad there will be a few guys racing hard up front- I'm not trying to win, just go under 1:11. Without being tempted to take the lead and compete for the win, I'll be able to focus on my race plan, though it will be nice not to be buried in the field like at Cherry Blossom or the Monument Avenue 10k.
Chris Geddis, Eric Laughlin, Jim Hommes and Dave Masse are running the half. I've generally been faster than Masse, but he got me at the Great Race last year, and he is a big variable. Jim is a long-distance vet, who knows what he'll pull out of his hat. I don't know what kind of shape Geddis is in. It seems like Laughlin's been putting in some good training.
Right now the extended forecast says 59-77 with a 70% chance of scattered thunderstorms. I'm not too tickled about that...
The course is deceptively flat for being in Pittsburgh. I see four main uphills- mile 4, climbing to East Ohio Street from the 16th Street Bridge, slight hills on the Warhol and Clemente Bridges and the climb over the West End Bridge. After the West End Bridge, you get a nice long downhill on West Carson Street to Station Square.
The Pirates schedule allowed the race organizers to make some big improvements. Restrictions on how late the race could keep the streets closed on the North Side forced the course onto an awful loop in Manchester last year, that was really boring. This year we still get to go through West Park in Allegheny Commons, and actually loop around it. The new stretch on the North Shore including PNC Park, Heinz Field and the casino will be flat and fast.
1:11:00 is 5:25 pace, so I have to run just under that. It will be easier to resist the temptation to go out too fast, compared to Cherry Blossom- where I also shot for 5:25s, but was pulled out by everybody going out in sub-5 pace. I won't have that mob mentality Sunday...
My 54:24 at Cherry Blossom had me on pace for 1:11:19. I also positive splitted ridiculously. I have the ability, it all rests in my execution, and the answer is to negative split the race. So, I start with 5:30s. How many? How many is reasonable to expect? Should I consciously slow down after my first mile, because I am going to go out fast anyway, or stick to a pace I think is a little too slow for a few miles than start pushing and hope my ability to get around 5:20 pace toward the end compensates for my slow start?How about starting at 5:30, then dropping a second each mile? The would bring me in at 1:10:57. It would be cool to do that, but I don't have the precision...
I think, most likely, I'll start out with a 5:25, straining like crazy to stay slow. I'll hit three 5:30s, then start speeding up to 5:25s again through seven miles. From there, it's a six-mile race, and I start hitting 5:20s from there.
Having never run a half before, it's daunting to think about holding a pace the entire time. It will be best for me to expect that as I tend, that I will race better than I work out. I will also think about my tendency to go out too hard and force myself, against my urges, to stay calm at the beginning, even though I will want, for all of my ego, to race up with the front guys at the start. The heavy work is going to come away from everyone else, without cheers from anonymous spectators and a few people I know. If I can get through the first seven miles in a decent time-- around 38:00-- then run the last 6.1 more aggressively. I don't want to be straining before PNC Park. Run my race... Look at the race in phases:
Phase 1: Maddening Adrenaline - mile 0-1.5 I'm going out faster than I want, time to accept it.
Phase 2: Collected Calmness - mile 1.5-7 Just cover the distance without going too far over my goal pace
Phase 3: Rolling - mile 7-10 Take advantage of the flat North Shore to speed up, get excited for the West End Bridge crossing and the Carson Street stretch I love so much, despite its bleakness
Phase 4: GO TIME - mile 10-13.1: Treat it like a 5k, and considering how I ran for my time trial in the heat on Sunday, I can handle anything for 5k. This time it's flat, and Smithfield Street always has a cool breeze. Balls out.
They key is speeding up toward the end. I want my fastest miles to be in the last four, and I want the gas left in the tank to have an open-ended upside when I need to close the time gap. I want to be all out when I get to the Smithfield Street Bridge.
This wasn't technically a workout, but I wanted to run a few miles at about race pace on the road Wednesday evening to get a feel for them. I wanted to start really relaxed and go about 5:30, and I would up going 5:17. Then 5:20, then 5:21. Then 5:11. I'm not sure if this was good or bad. None felt too taxing, so that's good. I might be able to run faster than I think, but I'm not going to act like that on Sunday. I did that at Cherry Blossom, and though I PRed, I ended up slower than my goal pace. I'm not going to try to be a hero, I am just going to take the race in phases.