My Annapolis Half Marathon Experience
If you’ve been following d3 on the blog or newsletters you would know that upon our move here I immediately signed up for Annapolis Half Marathon. I did this to start getting back in shape after the layoff surrounding the move, to see our new city in a different way, and to meet others who make fitness a priority. The race took place last weekend on Dec. 1st and I have to say it was a very good time. Here’s a little rundown of my Annapolis Half Marathon experience. I did PR but there should be an ansteriks *, haha! I’ll explain.
The course started at the Navy – Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. After looping around the stadium, we made our way through downtown Annapolis. This is a very cool part of the run as this part of the city maintains its colonial, maritime feel. We go down the cobblestone Main Street with all the cute local shops and we run by the city dock/harbor. It’s a great place to visit if you ever get the chance. After leaving the downtown, we made our way across the Naval Academy bridge, passed near the Naval Academy then made our way back to the stadium. The weather was very cool, maybe low 40s, which made it decent for running, but there was a heavy fog over us which made it hard for a newbie like me to a) know where I was half the time and b) see any of fantastic views one would normally get downtown, from the bridge, and on Gov. Ritchie highway.
Two obervations about this race: One – there is a huge difference running here versus Chicago. I’ve noticed in training the last 8 weeks that this place is not flat. The race course was rolling terrain. No extreme climbs but we were constantly going up or down rollers. Just crossing the Naval Academy bridge was a bit of a climb for me and there were a couple pretty decent hills right after as well..
Two – the are a ton of turns on this course. As I mentioned before the fog didn’t help and I lost my whereabouts a few times. You could really cost yourself some distance and time if you’re not paying attention to where the next turn is. Also, the few places where they had out-and-backs got a little squirrelly as people started fanning out and running on both sides fo the road. A few additional volunteers or pylons may have helped here.
Going into the race, I wanted to run the first 3 miles around 9-9:10 min/mile, then 8:45-9 min/mile for 3-11, and then see what I had left for the last 2 miles and just try to stay under 2 hours total. However, I was somehow pushed towards the front at the start so I was probably WAY too fast out of the gate. I was using the RunKeeper app on my phone to help in pacing, and have music, but as I started running the app went on the fritz. It was starting and stopping for no reason and was updating me of my pace literally every 5 seconds. It was crazy. I ignored it and let it go and started timing myself on my watch at mile 2. Unfortunately my watch didn’t help that much either becasue the mile markers weren’t spaced correctly!! That is, unless I ran a 5:34/mile at mile 7-8. Not likely. The RunKeeper app did turn on all of a sudden around at mile 5 when we got further away from the Naval Academyand and to my surprise had been recording data from the start, but I wasn’t sure how accurate. Oh well. Not a big deal.
It’s hard to say with the RunKeeper issues I was having but I’m pretty sure I ran the first 2 miles at 7:30-8 min pace. Usually this is a big mistake. When coaching runners for a race like this it’s alwasy best to go out a little slower because it’s easy to exert too much energy getting caught up in the adrenaline rush being around all the other racers. Anyway, I did settle into a good pace after that just trying to stay comfortable and not overdo it. I always spend a lot of time just concentrating on my pace and my form. Primarily, I tried to maintain my posture and lean, using my glutes as my main source of shock absorbtion and push-off, while also ensuring I was landing on my mid-foot.
The combination of the fog, my lack of familiarity with the area, and not having run a race since March made the race fly by. Before I was really aware of any semblence of fatigue I was already at mile 7. The only discomfort I had during this first stretch was the climb over the Naval Academy Bridge which was more difficult than I had figured. When encountering hills, it’s always best to slow down, concentrate on form and even walk if you have to. You’ll waste too much energy trying to power over the hill or trying to keep your normal pace. You can usually make up any lost time on the way back down, but be careful not to overstride and “brake” when landing on a downhill incline. The wind was also a bit aggressive at the top of the bridge and with the moisture in the air it became a bit nippy as well.
By the time we crossed the Naval Academy bridge for the second time I knew there were less than 4 miles to go. The mile markers were off and I didn’t have full faith in the RunKeeper app which seemed to be working (it was telling me I was at appx 8:30/mile) but I wasn’t sure if it had the right distance. I just tried to keep a comfortable pace so that I could really kick it in at mile 11. The RunKeeper app completely turned off when we got back towards the academy and it’s last reported distance was 11.3. I decided to trust that I was inside of 2 miles and took off. I only had 8 weeks to train (normally I’d train someone on a 12-16 week training schedule) so not injuring myself and enjoying the race were the two main goals, (success!) and if I broke 2 hours that’d be dynamite.
As we headed back to the stadium I was pushing pretty hard. I was starting to pass a lot of people that had left me behind long ago. The crowd started to pick back up at this point too so with their encouragement I knew I could crush it until the finish line. At the end of a race, I’m always talking to myself – repeating in my mind that, “it’s almost over”, “you get to rest at the end”, “you’ve trained for this”… Oh, and although this isn’t PC I’m always telling myself, “don’t be a p*ssy” and “finish the damned thing”. I think everyone should find their own motivational mantras to push through because 90% of an endurance race is mental. As the finish line came into site I saw it read 1:49. Knowing that I was going to break 2 hours, and by 10 minutes, helped me hold my sprint to the finish. I finished with a chip time of 1:50:24. This was my first official Half Marathon and was my best time of that distance by 2 full minutes. This is where the asteriks comes in …**The other 3 times I’ve done this distance it was part of a Half IM after a long swim and bike so that probably isn’t apples to apples. I should have beat those times and I’m sure glad I did no matter by how much!
After the finish, I received my medal, a bottle of water (nice) and a running hat. The main peice of swag was a red long-sleeve half-zip pullover for spring/fall runs. Compared to some other races the quality of the swag here was very nice. Then my favorite thing after a long race the “astronaut blanket” or silver thermal sheet and beer. Grab a beer and nestle up in the astronaut blankey and drive home. All by 9:30am, that’s a good Saturday morning.
It was a great first Maryland race and I look forward to many more and getting faster each time!!