Saturday, April 24, 2010

A weekend of running, a new hydration pack and the LAWS Half Marathon (PR)

It was a down week in my training schedule for the Mid-Atlantic Regional North Face Endurance Challenge 50K. On June 5th I will have 9 hours to complete the ~31 mile course.

Saturday was a good 12 mile run with Mandy and Cherry from Great Falls to Algonkian Park on the Potomac Heritage Trail which makes up or at least parallels a fair amount of TNFEC DC route. The weather was beautiful if slightly chilly and a little windy. We finished faster than I had previously done that section ~2:30. I didn't feel at all bad letting them head back to and around Great Falls for another 14 or so miles. This was the first time out with the Nathan vest and I have to say I like it. Sunday was the Loudoun Abused Women's Shelter (LAWS) Half Marathon. I had planned to go out easy, continue on and finish that way, a nice easy supported training run. Having reviewed my results from my first running of the event in 2009 I knew that I needed to beat a 10:15/mi pace to PR and decided to see how I felt in the morning after an early start, trip to Columbia and a Caps game in DC and late celebration at the Irish Channel for the Caps second game against the Habs the day before.

Race day, it was cold when I woke up at 6 after about 4 hours of sleep. I had pre-mixed fuel in my new Nathan HPL 020 with its HydraPak bladder to replace my older leaking CamelBak with its taped patches, pinned on my number, attached my timing chip, laid out my clothes and set the coffee maker to start brewing at 5:50. I rolled out of the house about 7:15 and arrived in the parking lot around 7:30. I mustered the will to get out of the car and into the cold wander into the hall, chat with Conan and eventually back out for a lack luster warmup only to find that my Garmin would not turn on even though I took it off the charger right before I left the house. Oh well, I have RunKeeper which works well enough if my phone can get GPS signals.

At almost exactly not quite 8:30 the race started after an abysmally down tempo rendition of the National Anthem. In the first half mile I felt horrible and thought to myself that if I hadn't crossed the starting line I could just quit. It's one thing to not start but another thing entirely to DNF and I wasn't going to start doing that now. At mile 1 I got the first and only split until after the turn around. 00:11:49 eh, I thought so much for a PR. Got to the first water at about 1.25mi skipped it but took a drink from the pack and a walk to adjust the shock cord on the Nathan, it was managing to brush me right on the funny bone every so often.

Around mile 3 I loosened up and started enjoying the race, around 4.5 the leaders on the road started passing on the return leg. Then I had to stop and urinate the second of three times during the race, I guess that is a good sign for getting re-hydrated after Saturday but it seemed ridiculous. I started passing some people who had gone by in the first three miles but still took it easy with no real idea of pace or HR. A few times I noticed that my breathing was a bit labored and backed off to easy again reducing pace on inclines and just going with the flow.

At mile 7 the second split on the course I got ~1:11:30 and realized that even with the horrible beginning, a bit of walking and running easy I was close enough that the ~10:14 I would need to make a PR was in reach if I kept it up and maybe pushed a little on the down hills (forgetting that the return really seems like it is mostly long slow climbs). I rolled on with renewed enthusiasm. From 7 - 12.1 my split was ~2:01:?? and I thought, holy crap I just flew through those miles like nothing, even with another pit stop all I needed was nice fairly easy 10:00/mi to be sure of a good PR. A short sprint up the last little hill and across the line left me with a new Half Marathon PR of 2:10:37 down from 2:14:17 in 2009.

Equipment thoughts

Nathan HPL 020

The Good:

  • No bottles (as with the FuelBelt) to hit with my thighs on obstacles
  • Front facing pockets are great and totally missing from my CamelBak packs primarily used for cycling.
  • Hammer Perpetum in the reversible bladder (for cleaning) works well, no problems with flow.

The only OK:

  • The bite valve, when the bladder is full and I am running the valve drips/squirts a little as fluid sloshes. I find myself turning the flow on and off via the push pull mechanism which I think adversely affects my ability to sip as frequently as I did with the CamelBak.
  • Bite valve on/off the push pull mechanism, it works but it isn't my favorite.
  • Having recently been shopping for hiking packs...I would really like the strap adjustments to pull towards the back (your front) so that I could snug the pack on the run. Again thinking that I could slightly modify the fit as content and volume change.
  • I had snugged the shock cord on the back of the pack to see how it affected the fairly minimal sloshing I had noticed. It didn't seem to make a difference but the now longer end of the cord swung to gently tap me on the funny bone every so often.
  • The closed zip pocket on the front has the same mesh back, if I were to store a phone/camera in the pocket I would need to continue to use a bag inside the pocket.

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