>This past weekend, I raced in the Seventh Annual Jacksonville Marine Corps Half-Marathon. This was my first time running in this race, and the first stand-alone half marathon I have raced in several years.
This race is held in downtown Jacksonville. As I was traveling for work last week, and didn’t arrive home until late Friday night, I needed to get to the race course early enough to pick up my race packet. I live about 30 minutes south of downtown, so in order to get there in time to pick up my packet and warm up appropriately, I had to get up at 5:00am. Suffice it to say that I don’t like getting up that early on too many Saturdays. Morning nutrition was half a bagel with peanut butter & strawberry jelly. I sipped a bottle of First Endurance EFS drink along with a serving of FE’s Pre-Race on the drive north. I arrived at the course and had little trouble retrieving my race number, chip, and goodie bag. This race used one of those disposable champion chips – which is OK, I suppose, but the package was pretty clear that I couldn’t wear this on an ankle strap – so I had to spend some time threading this into my Fasttwitch’s. My warm up was some strides, light stretching, and a sprint back to my car from the potty to get my race number, etc. just prior to the start. About 10 minutes prior to the start, I took about 100 calories from a EFS Liquid Shot.
As I noted, this race starts directly in front of EverBank Field (home of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars). The start was preceeded by a very nice rendering of the national anthem by a Navy band. The starting gun for the race wasn’t a gun – it was a blast from a huge cannon! There were about 3000 folks in the start (the race combined the half marathon with a 5k). We ran downtown for approximately a mile and half before the 5k race split from the half marathon. After the split, we ran over perhaps two of the higher points in Jax – the Main Street Bridge and the Acosta bridge.
|Jacksonville’s Main Street Bridge – one of two bridges in the first 2 miles of this race|
After the bridges, the route took us through historic Riverside and back. Overall, the course is essentially flat, and very fast. The only “problems” with the course occur beginning at mile 10, when the course takes runners on the Northbank Riverwalk – a brick sidewalk. We run on this for two miles. The problems – the brick path is hard on the feet, and narrow. Plus, there’s a walking bridge over the river that ends in one of those spiral ramps down. Not easy to run down fast.
My plan going into the race was to maintain a 10:00/mile pace. My longer training runs had been around this pace, so I had decided I’d have been happy coming out of the race anywhere between 2:15 to 2:20.
At the gun, there was the normal chaos that one finds at the start of a race. There were lots of folks who had seeded themselves poorly – so I had to dodge tons of people. In fact, I was still dodging people until we got to the Main Street Bridge at Mile 1.5. I checked the Garmin at mile 1 – 9:40. A little faster than I thought I’d go out, but no worries. I just thought to myself, “settle down and run your race.” At mile 2, I looked at the Garmin and realized I was ahead of my pacing – but I felt fantastic. At that point, I decided I’d just continue to hold the pace for as long as I could. At this time, the Garmin was reading an average pace of about 9:27. I found a groove, and held on.
From a nutrition standpoint, I carried a Fuel Belt with 2 flasks – one with water, the other with EFS Drink. I also carried my half-empty flask of Liquid Shot. I took a hit of Liquid Shot at 6 miles and then again at 11 miles. I didn’t finish the entire flask – probably took 300 of the 400 calories in the flask (all day, including pre-race).
I hit 10k in roughly 58 minutes. First thought – “Dang…good pace going!”.
Around this point, I passed the eventual race leader on his way back in. He was flying – and had about a 4 minute lead on second place. I saw two folks I knew on their way back in – one friend, Chris, is working on qualifying for Boston at the Jacksonville Bank Marathon in December. Passed a few friends spectating on the side of the road. Overall I felt really strong through miles 7, 8, and 9. I hit 9 miles in 1:24, and was really pleased. I was well ahead of my PR time at this point in the race.
As I ran the 10th mile, I started to fatigue. I purposefully slowed my pace down. Tenth mile pace at 10:22. Eleventh mile was even slower, but I felt OK. When I hit twelve miles, I knew I had to walk and recover a bit. I walked twice during this mile – a tenth of a mile each. My legs were totally spent. When I crossed into the final mile, I knew that I had to pick it up and go so I could still get my PR.
I ran the last mile in 9:28, and according to Garmin, finished the half marathon in 2:08:06. My official time was 2:08:12. Either way, it was a huge PR – by almost eight minutes.
My Garmin splits are below. I had my Garmin set to display average pace – not my per lap pace, so I had to guess as to my splits during the race. Looking back, I’m amazed that I averaged such great miles all the way through mile 9.
Finish & Post Race:
This race finishes in Metropolitan Park – which is a riverfront park about 1/10th of a mile from the start (basically it’s directly across the street from EverBank Field). The interesting thing about the finish is that, as a Marine Corps event, there were tons of military equipment on hand. The last turn into the finish was manned by a Marine in his dress blues, and the finish line was a strand of balloons spread across two huge cannons. Scattered around the finish area were a large multitude of military hardware. Certainly an impressive display. Crossed the line, picked up a medal and a decorated pint glass. I thought about grabbing a beer – but decided against waiting in a 50+ person line. Grabbed two bottles of water and headed back to the car. I drank a serving of First Endurance Ultragen on the drive back home to wrap things up.
Next up on the Tri-2-B-Tuff Challenge:
The Outback Steakhouse Distance Classic on Turkey Day morning. Another half marathon. My goal? I’d love another PR. I keep thinking that with just a little bit more hard work a time sub-2:00 might be possible. Perhaps it’s a stretch goal, but it’s something I’d love to do. We’ll see. Between now and then – lots of speed work. (I love 400m repeats!)