The St. Luke's Half Marathon is one of the oldest running races here in the Lehigh Valley. When I first started racing 20+ years ago this was known as the Lehigh Valley Half Marathon, took place in the middle of March, and would have 800 participants, most all from the surrounding area. Fast forward to 2015 and the race has 2400+ finishers from all over the country and a 5k race attached to it with another 800 participants. A lot of change, but for the most part the race course has remained consistent throughout the years.
The familiarity is nice. But what I like even more is the sheer number of people from the local running community who either participate or come out to support the runners. It's a chance to test your fitness while chatting it up with your running friends.
Originally, I had it in my head that a realistic goal would be a 1:30. That is a pretty fast time - especially for an "old" guy - and a nice round number. Closer to the race I started thinking more pragmatically and less emotionally about what I wanted to accomplish.
Realistically my run mileage in 2015 has been extremely low. How low is low? 18-20 miles per week in a big week, which may sound like a lot to some, but not what I have done in the past. I have always responded to volume. Back in the day volume would be 60-80 miles per week (and all the food I could shove into my pie hole). Once triathlon took over as my racing passion that dropped to the 40 mile per week range. So reality #1 was my mileage just hasn't been there.
|Nice heal strike.|
Keeping my lack of serious run racing and a less than optimal physical issue during race week I set my new, more realistic race goal at 1:35. And if something felt off with the calf I would either kick back the pace or walk off the course. No need to ruin a race season. There's always another race.
On Saturday morning The Mayor and I tested out my calf with a pre-race 4 mile run on the tow path. The first two miles things were tight but once it loosened up things were all good. After a quick breakfast we hit the race expo for packet pickup. I never find that there is much interesting at this expo so we were in and out of there in a flash.
On race morning I parked at a friend's house who lives in Allentown and walked down to the race start with her. This worked out perfectly. The walk was long enough to loosen up the legs and the weather was picture perfect. I had 30 minutes to hang around, talk to friends, and get to the start line. There may have been a little dance move as well. Just after 8:10 am the gun went off and so did we.
Pacing this race is always a challenge. The first mile can really screw with you as it is downhill and fast. I held myself way back, still crossing the mile mark in 6:58. From there I settled into a steady 7:00 - 7:05 clicking off the miles at a comfortable heart rate. As I was getting close to the turnaround on MLK Drive I passed Lauren who was out ahead of me, looking incredibly strong, and running 2nd female overall. After making the turnaround I saw so many familiar faces, including The Mayor, Kevin, Kari, Kate and the Lehigh Valley Crossfit Crew. Everyone was looking fan-tastic!!!
After passing through the 10k mark in 43 minutes I started to prepare myself for the park. I hate that park. Don't get me wrong, it's very nice, very well kept. But those cinders are just slow. Too slow for my liking.
|Little Lehigh Parkway (Source - Discover Lehigh Valley)|
After passing over Bogert's Bridge I was determined to keep my focus and simply carry on. The only concern I has was the short and steep climb at the 10 mile mark. Last time I ran this race that bugger of a climb cooked me. This time, I slowed it up a bit and made it over without issue.
From there I continued on, not feeling great but not feeling bad. Around mile 12 1/2 Cassie, Danielle and the rest of their crew were screaming their heads off. Perfect timing. Once onto the track I realized I had a chance to make it in under 1:35 if I picked it up. I did, making it in in an official time of 1:34:59.
Overall I am happy with how I performed. Going sub-1:30 would have been awesome, but at this point in time was far fetched. After such a long period of time without racing this distance, my result was a good first step back. I now have a baseline for Runners World Half Marathon in October, and maybe R&R Philly 1/2 Marathon in late October.
Thanks for reading.
Train hard. Stay focused.