Sunday, August 07, 2011

An Anonymous but Happy Half Marathon Finish

Eighth overall at the relatively small and low-key Santa Claus Half Marathon in North Pole is nothing to write home about (blogging is a different story), nor is another age group medal. Nevertheless, I could hardly be any happier with the outcome of Saturday's Race.

This is probably tied for my favorite local running race--and the half marathon is probably my favorite distance. One of the few regrets I have is not doing more of these in my peak years.

The course starts and finishes at the Flint Hills Refinery in North Pole, AK about 15 miles from Fairbanks. It's flat with one 30 sec hill and a couple short risers. 4 miles of pavement, and 9.1 on dirt road/gravel through the Chena River Flood Control Project.

A cool front moved through yesterday, dropping temps to low-mid 40s overnight.

I came in hoping--but not 100% confident--to break 1:22, or 1:22:30, but with moderate mileage (30 to 50 miles per week), and this being my longest race in two years it was anybody's guess. My best case goal was to break 1:21.

Went out faster than planned--behind Davya Flaharty who was out to break the course record of 1:23. Hands were cold and we had a bit of a headwind from mile 1 through 6. So I just chilled with the temps and let it flow. Lead pack of 7 or 8 was clipping along good, at 5:30 to 5:40 pace. I pulled away from a small pack at 2 mles (6:09/12:34), and set to work on Sam Viavant, the guy who beat me at the 8K a few weeks ago, who was 20 sec up. Caught him at 4 (25:02), and we worked together to catch ex UAF skier Cody Priest who was up another 45 or 50 sec. Slowly we gained.

I caught him at about 8.5, and Sam had fallen behind. In 7th at this point, pushing beyond myself, and hoping to have the energy to hang over the last 2 miles.

10 in 61:06.

The last 3.1 were tough, and even though I pushed hard, Sam caught up just before 12. I made an inner promise to stick with him through 12.5. Lasted to 12.57. I should have hung on a wee bit longer.

Hit 13 at 1:19:26 on my watch, and a quick calculation said I'd have to kick hard to break 1:20. Kick I did, but alas not quite enough 1:20:01.

A mild argggh, it was there if I'd really bit down with 300 to go. But 6:06 pace was beyond expectation.

Splits 6:09, 6:24, 6:15, 6:11, 6:10, 6:00, 6:06, 5:51 (30 sec downhill), 6:00, 5:57, 6:11, 6:12, 5:55 (drafting off Sam!).

In the local vernacular 8th place is nothing, might as well be 48th. I've done six Santa Claus's and hadn't finished lower than 5th. Ironically my best finish was a 3rd in 2004, when Moses Waweru set the course record, which was also my slowest at just under 1:22. This was the deepest field yet, a 1:20 over the past 10 or 12 years has always netted a top 5.

The coolest thing is that 7 of the top 9 were in their early or mid-20s. Great to see these guys running fast, like in the old days.

However, I happy with time and most importantly other than a little bit of tired legs, no knee pain today!


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