Mahaffie Half Marathon Race Report

Sometimes everything—training, preparation, weather, race course, and mental state—all come together in almost perfect harmony to create a special race experience.  On November 3, 2007 I ran the Mahaffie half marathon and enjoyed one of my best races. 

The Mahaffie half marathon is a small race in Olathe, Kansas (near Kansas City).  The course is challenging, mostly rolling small hills, but with a couple of larger ones thrown in.  The half-marathon does two loops of the course.  To find out more about this race visit the website at:  http://www.eventmidwest.com/mahaffie/.

Summary:

My goal was to run a personal best of under 1:50:00 (average pace 8:23).  I destroyed that goal by running 1:48:52 (average 8:18 per mile).  It was almost a perfect race on a tough course and I’m very happy with achieving a new personal record. 

One of the many great things about running is that you don’t have to win the race to be a winner.  Today I won by achieving a new personal record even though for many runners my record is their slow training pace.

Training:

I followed Ryan Hall’s half marathon training plan (see: http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-238-244-258-12006-0,00.html ).  His 10-week training plan is designed to improve your speed.  I did the “long program” version of the plan since I plan to run an early spring marathon.

I had a good base prior to starting the 10-week training, with a weekly average of 30-35 miles throughout the summer.  I ran the Lincoln marathon in May and took it easy over the hot summer months.  At the end of August, I started the 10-week training.

Hall’s training plan is challenging but builds in plenty of recovery days.  I usually ran 5 days per week.  1 day (usually Sunday) was a long run.  The long run started at 8 miles and eventually increased to 16 miles.  Every other long run included doing up to half the miles at 20 seconds slower then your goal pace.  One - two of the weekly runs were speed workouts.  Either you ran intervals (starting at ½ mile and increasing to ¾ mile) at marathon goal pace or faster with a brief recovery jog between intervals or you ran 30-35 minutes at marathon goal pace or faster (with a mile warm up and a mile cool down).

I handled the training pretty well, especially the speed workouts.  I really hadn’t done much speed work previously.  I think the challenging speed workouts made the difference in my ability to hold a faster pace throughout the half marathon.  I did almost all the speed work at a pace faster then my marathon goal pace(which was 8:23 per mile), usually running at around 8:00-8:05 pace.

Overall, Hall’s half marathon training plan worked very well for me and I finished the training feeling good and well prepared to run a strong race.

Race Day:

The weather was perfect: clear skies, cool temperature in the low 40s, and minimal wind.  I slept great the night before.  I had a cup of coffee, an energy bar, and a chocolate donut 90 minutes before the race start.  I also drank a small bottle of Gatorade.

I arrived at the course about an hour before the 8:00 am start and got my chip (they hand out the chips the race morning even if you pre-registered; it’s a pretty small field).  I then relaxed in my car until about 10 minutes before the start.  I took a Gu and put my running shoes on.  I jogged for 5 minutes and then lined up in the middle of the pack.  I wore shorts, a long-sleeve dri-fit shirt and light gloves.  I was a little cold but knew I would warm up quickly as the morning went on.

We sang the national anthem as a group and then the gun went off to start.  I hit my Garmin’s start button as I crossed the line.  Here are my split times and some notes on how I was feeling.

(Note all times are from my Garmin)

1 – 8:23 (my goal was to run an 8:30 and ease into my pace so this time was good)

2 – 8:00

3 – 8:05 (Feeling fine, miles 2 and 3 are on a public street (blocked off for the race) with several rolling small hills.  I told myself to just run easy and really felt fine at this pace even with the hills.)

4 – 8:16

5 – 8:11 (Somewhere in miles 4 and 5 we turned off the public street and onto a trail that runs through Olathe’s parks.  The trail is narrow but there were so few runners that was never a problem.)

6 – 8:25 (This mile has the largest and steepest hill of the course.  After most of the miles having several small up and down hills, this steeper hill was a challenge.  Near the end of this mile I also took a Gu).

7 – 8:19 (Start the 2nd lap of the course)

8 – 8:06 (back on the public road way, feeling good.  There is a runner about 1 minute ahead of me and I thought it would be great to catch him.)

9 – 7:49 (my fastest mile.  My Garmin was right on the mile markers so I don’t think this was a short mile.  I’m feeling good and thinking that a personal record might be possible as I’m slightly ahead of the time I need.)

 10 – 8:24 (starting to feel tired, the hills are having an effect and I know that miles 11 and 12 have some of the tougher hills (short but steep).  I kept telling myself just maintain 8:20s and you’ll set a PR.  Come on only 3 more miles!)

11 – 8:47 (A tough mile.  I’m getting tired and struggling to maintain speed when going up hill.  No chance of catching the runner ahead of me.  I vow though to let no one pass me and to get back close to my 8:20s pace.)

12 – 8:43 (Another tough mile, with the largest and steepest hill again.  But I knew once I got past that hill that the last 1.1 miles was relatively flat.  I wanted to be at 1:40:00 at the end of mile 12 and I was at 1:39:33.  I knew then that if I ran hard the last 1.1 miles I would PR.  After two tough miles I started to feel good again.)

13 – 8:22 (I’m really proud of this mile.  I got back on pace after two tough hilly miles.)

.1 – 8:20 pace – (YES!  A new PR 1:48:52!!, Gun time 1:48:56!!)

Conclusion:

I felt great at the finish.  To set a new personal record on a pretty tough half marathon course was wonderful.  I’m so happy with this race and feel really good about my training and race results.  Everything came together so well.

It’s race days like this that make running such a joyous experience.  I set a goal, worked hard to train for it, and then I achieved it.  I’m nowhere near the fastest runner, but at age 46 I’m so thankful to be able to enjoy running and to achieve my goals.