Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Heritage Half Marathon - October 2013

Heritage Half Marathon - Haymarket, VA - October 2013

Heritage Half Marathon race shirt
This race was my "backup" plan after the Wilson Bridge Half Marathon was postponed due to the government shutdown.  It was only one week later, so luckily it didn't throw my training plan off too much.

I was already scheduled to do an 18 mile run with 14 miles at marathon pace on this day.  So, I figured that this would be a good substitute.  A couple of miles for a warm up and a couple of miles for a cool down, with a half marathon in the middle.  The only difference is that I was planning on running this race faster than my marathon pace, which is only around 7:00/mile.  I set my half marathon PR of 1:25:33 (6:31/mile pace) last October at the Wilson Bridge Half, so I would be attempting to beat that time.  I was hoping to hold a steady 6:25/mile pace, and finish in the 1:24s, or maybe 1:23s if it was a good day.

Heritage Half Marathon finisher medal
Well, it was not a good day - at least not weather-wise.  It was POURING rain all weekend, including the morning of and during the race.  Race morning it was right around 60 degrees, windy, and humid in addition to the rain. Not ideal.  The race started at Battlefield High School in lovely Loudoun County.  It was a beautiful school with an impressive football stadium in which the race started and finished.  The lights were on inside the stadium, which was helpful, because it was pretty dark between the rain and the early race start. The race finished with a lap on the track inside the lit up stadium.  I enjoy races like this because it makes you feel like a celebrity when you come into the stadium to finish with everyone cheering you on.

I wore a trash bag over my body to stay dry until the race started.  It was really pouring! Finally the race began, and 410 half marathoners set out in a driving rain.  I knew that I wanted to average a 6:25 mile pace, but this course had some hills, so I would have to be strategic about it.  There would be some places where I would lose time, and some places where I could make it up.  (See elevation map below)
Heritage Half Marathon - elevation map

Age group award - plaque
I started off pretty fast with a downhill 6:15 mile,  but then evened it out with an uphill 6:34 second mile.  Miles 3 and 4 were fast again with a 6:11 and 6:13, before I settled down to where I wanted to be for miles 5-8 with 6:28, 6:20, 6:23, and 6:27 respectively.  At this point, I knew that I was going to get my PR, even if I really slowed down a lot - as long as I didn't totally crash.  So, I went more conservative for miles 9-12 with a 6:43, 6:41, 6:36, and 6:44.  These miles had a lot of hills too, which slowed me down anyway.  I also had probably used too much energy early on by going out so fast.  But I did have just enough energy left to really push it on my final 1.1 miles, averaging a blazing 6:14 mile pace!

Finally, clothes drenched in rain, I entered the brightly lit Battlefield High School stadium, took a lap around the track, and crossed the finish line 10th place overall and 2nd place in my age group with a time of 1:23:56 (6:24/mile pace).  (Race Results)  This beat the PR I set last year by almost 2 minutes! 
A rainy day with a happy ending!

Despite the terrible weather, this race ended up working out really well for me.  I set a new PR, won an age group award, and felt really confident about my chances of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.  According to MacMillan's Pace Calculator, my half marathon time of 1:23:56 translates to a 2:56 marathon - and all I need is 3:10 to qualify for Boston.

I would strongly recommend this race if you are looking for a cheap (only $40) half marathon that is easy to get to, with ample parking, where you don't have to get there too early, deal with big crowds, corrals, and general race hoopla.  You get a really nice long sleeve technical shirt and medal, in addition to abundant age group awards.  There is also a 5k, if you don't feel like going 13.1.

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