2019: Canal Run Half Marathon

Reasons to participate in this event haven’t really changed over the past several years: a very well organized and attended race in my own backyard, the potential to see and be with a lot of friendly faces from the awesome community I am so fortunate to live in and a chance to sleep in the comfort of my house the night before, and show community that its investment in helping me run (better) has been worthwhile. This year was no different either.

A recap of the 2018 edition

My original plan was to stick with training plan and add ~3 miles before/after the Canal Run to make it a 16 mile LSD run at the end of week #07 towards Chicago Marathon. Training plan would have had me race a half marathon at the end of week #09. I took the advice of Ryan Towles (he is too cool for social media) and Andi and swapped out weeks #07 and #09. Doing so offered an opportunity to race in a real race atmosphere and if all went well, maybe even a PR (sub 1:43:03).

I started out well and easy with DJ but he peeled ahead just as Joel joined along. We ran together for about 4 miles meeting our short-term goals. Though I got behind the goal pace for a while, I decided to go for broke at about 5 mile mark. Heart rate wasn’t too high but head/cross winds didn’t help my cause over the final ~5 miles. I finished several minutes off of PR with an official time of 1:49:43 (55/184 overall, 45/90 in gender and 7/10 in AG). Realizing that my fastest and slowest miles were only a minute apart was particularly satisfying.

Driving to the start with Ray and Stephen and back with Ray offered a wealth of information about running. Ray thought I could have finished a sub-4 hour marathon in today’s conditions! The week after RTK weekend, in previous years, was mostly for recovery. Being able to keep up with the W07 training plan in its entirety was the first visible benefit/value of following Hal Higdon’s plan. I felt good about the progress so far. As long as I stick with the training, drop some more weight in a meaningful way and don’t do too much stupid stuff, I should be ok.

Taking a couple days off after the Run The Keweenaw, A Festival of Trails and let the mild sprain/hyper-extension in my left ankle heal was a neat idea. So was keeping the effort relatively easier on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Driving to Chicago for once in a lifetime opportunity of meeting running legends – Dr. Roger Robinson and Kathrine Switzer – was a blessing in disguise. Not only I learned much from my interactions with them, Chicago (the Lakefront Trail, courtesy of Laura and The Magnificent Mile, a bucket list item) provided a change in scenery on running routes. Approximately 900 miles of driving meant I was also off my feet and the ankle got even more time to heal.

Waking up a couple hours before the start of the race (another perk of a hometown event), I had sufficient time to drink some coffee and drive to Atlantic Mine with Laura to pick up Ray en route to the bussing area. Andi and Jim had picked up my race packet the night before and dropped it off at my place – saving me the hassle of that task on race day morning. Laura, Joel and I caught one of the last busses to the start. In spite of that, there was sufficient time to run a warm-up lap with Craig few minutes before the starting gun was fired.

The goal for this event was to learn more about pacing: hold back for the first half and and push the pace for the second half (thanks, Ray!), and earn a new PR for the half marathon distance (i.e., finish below 1:41:32) by executing the plan well. After starting near the very front of the pack, I peeled off to be a mid-packer to stay true to the plan. Holding the pace back (~7:40 min/mile) for the first six-ish miles, though felt easy while doing it, was probably harder work in hindsight. Maintaining (or better, improving) the pace in second half took some effort but the good ole pain in the left ankle started showing up again by mile #10.

13.11 mi, 1:39:15, 7:34 min/mile (4:41 min/km), 7.93 mph (12.76 kmph)
Garmin Forerunner 935 and Tempe Sensor, Stryd Power Meter, and WP GPX Maps Plugin

Usage: php wp_extract-race-analytics-lap-by-lap.php event_unit DISTANCE GOAL_TIME EVENT_TIME CSV

Though the pain wasn’t much, I was starting to fear about potential longer term damage. Just as I was thinking about slowing down, Laura joined the party. Chatting with her easily distracted me from foot pain but helped me focus on running up the final ascent into Downtown Hancock under 8:00 min/mile pace. If not for Laura’s blessed company, Lianna‘s help with matters of the mind as well as a reminder from Ray in the last 250-300 meters or so to swing the arms, the final time wouldn’t have been what it was. All in all, I finished fairly strong with Laura at 1:39:15 – good enough for 13/146 overall, 12/66 in gender and 1/9 in AG.

Overall, I was quite happy with the effort and the result. Keeping an eye on the weather (saving the energy for a stronger climb at the end when the sun would be beaming at my face) and losing the shades (not permanently; aid-station volunteers were amazing and brought it back to the finish area) around mile 6.50 made me a little conservative. I believe not being so would have improved my overall pace by about 2-3 seconds per mile. I was also quite proud of sustaining fairly even splits throughout the course (fastest mile at 7:22 and slowest mile at 7:47) and approximately even 5k chunks (23:46, 23:55, 23:35 and 23:35). Post-run activities included participating in the awards ceremony, hanging out with friends in the Chassell and spending some time with the Mlynskis at home before calling it a night.

Thanks be to

the rejections and opportunities life has brought my way, event folks (organizers, sponsors, volunteers, timers, law enforcement officials, photographers, fellow participants and spectators), and the family of good friends in and outside of my community for all the unexpected, undeserved and unrewarded acts of kindness and constant encouragement as well as offerings of constructive criticism to improve myself as a human and an athlete. I am eternally grateful to all those who let me train with them, who shared their invaluable experiences with me, who helped keep my mind, body and soul in good health, who helped me stay the course during the training cycle, who continued to teach me the value of work-life balance, and who cheered me on from home or along the course.

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