Monday, 12 July 2010

Something a bit shorter - Smith Rock Half

The view from part-way up Smith Rock's main trail.

A nostalgic weekend but I managed to squeeze in a half marathon anyway to get my first post-WS race. I was back in Bend, OR, for the weekend to see Amy plus a fair chunk of her family, who were visiting. It's my last trip to Bend while still kind of living there (Amy moves at the end of the month to join me in San Jose) and the weather was perfect for summer fun and floating down the river.

Doing a half seemed a little anti-climactic after a 100-miler and with Badwater's 135-miler starting two days later, but I don't do many shorter races so it's good to mix it up. As I write this, Badwater is underway and I know a couple of people doing their first one, including James 'hallucinations' Adams. Rather them than me but I can completely understand the lure of such a ridiculously hard race. I better finish this write-up so I can get back to being the official Facebook poster for updates for James so people back in the UK know he's still going well.

However, the race that I cheekily squeezed in was the Smith Rock Sunrise Classic, a reasonably flat and fast half marathon in the shadow of Smith Rock, a famous hiking and climbing landmark north of Bend. As the name suggests, it was an early one with a 6:15am start, soon after sunrise. Definitely a great location and you wouldn't expect a flat race with Smith Rock in the name, but this one was well organised, fun and seems to be growing - there were around 340 finishers in the half plus more in the 5k and 10k.

I felt sluggish and had heavy legs with the 100-miler still leaving me less than fresh, so I thought I'd aim for somewhere around 1:17/1:18. That was good enough for the winner last year but I suspected that at least one of the local speedsters would show up to go way quicker. Plus I had tried a tempo run on the Wednesday and found that pace extremely difficult to maintain.

However, to my surprise I found myself running with one other guy at the start and plenty of footsteps just behind. But no obviously elite runners - 12 minutes for the first couple of miles would have been way too slow to be in the lead normally, especially as some guys were bound to go off too fast. So I just stayed in joint first until mile four before running ahead since the guy next to me kept varying his pace to zoom past me then slow down rapidly. I wasn't sure if it was a tactic or just a desire to keep recapturing the lead, but he faded after I kicked a bit anyway and finished well off the pace.

I'd hoped for a hard training run and got what I wanted. Keeping it around 6-minute miling was exhausting and my legs didn't have much in them. But I seemed to be gradually pulling away so had the incentive to keep going all out. As a consolation, I compared the hour and a bit of running here to the 17+ hours of WS and how an hour of pain isn't really that much.

Wind and slight inclines made my lungs burst but I had a good patch in the second half with a couple of 5:30 miles, which gave me a confidence boost that I haven't lost too much pace with all the recent ultras. It was also very cool to have my own police motorbike ahead of me to stop any traffic from squashing me. I've had a bike to follow in city marathons before, but never a cop.

I managed to hold on and get 1:18:05 for a win by about 1:40 and was very happy to have finished and won my first half marathon. This short stuff is a killer, although I don't usually mind this distance. I got an excellent training session in and it reminded me that it's time to start doing speed work again if I want to get that marathon time down below 2h30m. I think it's doable in a marathon at the end of August as I'll be nice and fresh and rested after my honeymoon and no races for the 4 weeks before it.

I'll miss Bend but at least I got a great last race in there before I left. I'll definitely have to come back for the odd long weekend and race since it's such a beautiful area. Next up is the very hilly Headlands 50 miler on Saturday then the San Fran marathon the week after, where I'd like to go a bit quicker than in this half to confirm that I'm in shape for a full pace marathon a month later.

Happy racing over summer everyone. So many beautiful races to choose from around the world.

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