More from Scott on his race at the North Shore Half Marathon:
I got to the race site nice and early, probably 6:40 or so for the 7:30 start. Like I mentioned: perfect weather. Mostly cloudy with temps in the 50s. I went over to the info table and got switched to the A corral so I’d be close to the front at the start, then got a good 1 mile warm up done. Just some easy running with a few hard pickups. My right knee has been a little loosey goosey lately and popping and cracking a bit but I had none of that during the warm up so I felt good about that. I headed to the start to watch the 5k go off at 7:15. I saw Mark Morgan…he ended up having a great race. Once the 5ke’ers cleared the 2500 13.1’ers and I got in position. The start corrals are very narrow so we were packed in tight.
The gun goes off… The field spread out very quickly so I had plenty of room. The first half of the race is basically all a long very gradual downhill. I felt solid and tried to focus on staying relaxed and not going out too fast. My goal was 7:15s and I felt if I could keep myself no faster than 7:10s for the first few miles it would really pay benefits.
Now let’s talk about pacing. Any serious runner will tell you the way to a PR is to even pace, or slightly negative split if possible. It’s great in theory but very hard to actually implement and in every race I’ve ever been in almost everyone starts out to fast and ends up fading in the end. I saw the same thing on Sunday as dozens of people flew past me in the first mile…especially anyone under the age of 20…ahh the stupidity of youth. Most of them would all come back to me at the finish. The first mile marker approaches: 7:08. Thank god I’m not overdoing it. My Garmin had been slow to get things going but I was able to get it synced up at that point and that gave me one less thing to worry about. I saw Mary and my mom and the twins at mile 1.5 or so. Always great to see the cheering section!
From there I settled in and focused on staying calm and running the tangents. The miles start going by: 2. 7:10 3. 7:16 4. 7:08 5. 7:18 6. 7:13 Just before the mile 7 marker the course goes through a couple of S curves and drops 70 feet straight down towards Lake Michigan. From there you make a left-hand turn and go straight back up Park Ave. towards Sheridan. Because of the downhill I ran mile 7 in 7:02. Then it’s up the hill. I knew it was coming, but it hit me harder than I remember from the year previous. I tried to stay steady and stay under 8/min miles but it was tough. My heart rate spiked to 182 and I could feel my legs burning. The hill is steep, but short, and within 2 minutes it’s mercifully over. I felt a bit crummy but was determined to not panic and get back in my groove.
Mile 8 went by at 7:25, meaning the hill only cost me 10 seconds or so, which is totally fine. Mentally, however, I felt like I had to try and make up that ground, and started pressing a bit…which led to me running mile 9 at 7:05. Stupid. My average HR for that mile was 178, about 3-5 beats higher than what I had been doing the previous 5 miles. I could feel myself losing my mojo, and decided I had to calm the fuck down and get back to my goal pace. At this point the race has turned into Ft. Sheridan and between mile 9 and 10 the race winds up and around the parade grounds and under the clock tower. It’s a long slow uphill…very gradual, but a little demoralizing because it feels like you are going nowhere as the road slowly curls around.
I went through mile 10 at 7:12, and stabilized for 4-5 minutes, but the gradual incline got to me and I started scuffling a bit. My breathing got hurried and erratic and I started getting a nasty side stitch. I was far from comfortable. I checked the Garmin and the pace had dropped to 7:20 or so. I was determined to stay tough. I was so close. Less than 3 miles to go. I knew this was the race right here. Either hang tough and hang in and try to recover on the way back out Ft. Sheridan, or worst case this is where it starts to unravel. I was running with a group of 2 guys and one woman and I guess they were in the weeds as well here because in spite of my slowing I surged past all of them except one. That perked me up mentally. We also finally crested that hill and crossed under the bell tower and had a little slight downhill stretch. I started to recover, felt the stitch stabilize, grabbed some water and Gatorade at an aid station, and hit mile 11 at 7:19. I’d survived and not given up too much time.
As we came out of Ft. Sheridan I saw my cheering section again. I don’t think I even mustered a nod at this point. Right thereafter I hit mile 12 at 7:15. Home stretch, right? The problem with that was the whole last mile is a long gradual uphill. It’s a grinder. You just want it to be over…but it’s not…you’ve got about 30 feet to gain back to the finish. I worked on just keeping my cadence up high, cruised through the last mile at 7:13 and picked it up for the last tenth to cross at 1:34:28. Bullseye. It’s an amazing feeling when it all comes together. I beat my goal time by 32 seconds, and averaged 7:13’s overall. No complaints. I was elated. I planned my race raced my plan. Not easy, but very satisfying. What’s next? Maybe a winter marathon, but more likely I’m going to try and PR my 10k here in the next 2 months…then maybe try another half in the fall.
Thanks for reading! Scott