This was a challenging, but enjoyable, running weekend. On the advice of my ultra running friend Arthur, I ran a solo half marathon yesterday, then the Mercer Island Half Marathon today. When we first discussed the idea, I wasn't so sure I wanted to try it. He said it would be a good way to simulate leg fatigue late in a full marathon. Once I wrapped my mind around the idea, I went for it. I ran 10 miles on Monday, 6 Tuesday, 5 Wednesday, 4 Thursday, took Friday off, ran 13.1 on Saturday and 13.1 today, for a new weekly PR of 51.3 miles this week.
Back to the halves. Saturday morning, I ran the first 6 miles with Mike and Eric (two guys from the Mill Creek Running & Multisport Club, with whom I run on Saturday mornings. BTW, I carpooled to today's race with Lars, who is one of the group's founders. He ran the race this morning in a nice 1:48), then ran the last 7.1 alone. I ended up with a quicker-than-expected 1:43:42. Fast-forward to this morning at 9:00am when the Mercer Island Half started, under overcast conditions with a temp of 52. PERFECT. I wanted to go out slowly (8:00-8:10), but ended up with a 7:44. No worries - still well within my range. I'll list mile splits later, but I'll say that I felt TOO good for the first 6.5 miles. I naively started thinking that yesterday's half wasn't really going to affect me that much. Well, I forgot to mention that the Mercer Island course is HILLY! I felt some leg fatigue kick in at the 6.5 mile point, but it was slight enough that I thought I could push through it at my current pace (7:30 or so by then). At that point, I took a Hammer Gel and tried to drink enough water (which I never do) and continued to cruise along (mostly uphill...like an M.C. Escher drawing, where there seems to be more ups than downs). Alas, mile 12 showed it's ugly, asphalt face. There was a pretty serious hill (as opposed to the joking ones) that started at the 11.5 mile mark that slapped me in the face. My legs revealed a level of fatigue I have never felt before. I don't know if I achieved glycogen depletion (i.e. "hit the wall"), but at this point, yesterday's half came into play big time! I struggled my way up the hill, feeling like I was barely moving. My quads were zapped of energy. There was a downhill immediately after, but I didn't have enough in me to fly down it like I typically try to do on downhills (and did on previous ones in this race, few as they seemed to be). There was another slight uphill (which didn't feel too slight) with less than a mile to go...then down again briefly, then up to the finish. The last bit of uphill was torture, since there was no way I was backing off the pace, or walking, in the midst of so many cheering spectators! One interesting thing I noted was that my heart rate was actually dropping later in the race, yet my legs were dying. That told me that the pre-fatiguing of my legs was indeed working.
Here are the numbers:
Overall place: 371/2137 (17%)
Age Group: 48/174 (28%)
Men: 301/1077 (28%)
Avg. HR: 150 bpm
8:08 (where I hit my "mini-wall")
7:59 (pace for last .1)
I'm sure I would have gone under 1:40 if I hadn't run a half yesterday and tapered a little, but my current focus is the marathon, so even though I didn't run a PR, it ended up being my second fastest half (out of four races), and with dead legs, on a hilly course. I'm pretty happy with the result, and also happy I got a taste of the leg fatigue I'll likely encounter in my first marathon, now only 8 weeks away.