First, the details...
Foster's Daily Democrat article
Quick little video
5) 5:25 25:55
10) 5:21 52:43 (10 mile PR)
(I'll try to add a few pictures as I get them)
Well, yesterday was the 2010 Seacoast Half Marathon, or as I've been calling it for a few months, "My goal race for the fall." I've been thinking about this race off and on since the week after the 2009 race where I finished 2nd to Whirlaway stud Dan Princic. I started focusing on it in earnest shortly after the USATF-NE 10K. During my cool down at that race I ran with Lesley Hocking for a little bit and decided to talk to her husband Dan Hocking about a training plan. Dan is a great runner, a really smart guy and has a lot of great ideas about training. I decided he'd probably be able to put together a better training program than I'd find in a book or on my own because he knows a little bit about me and my background. I told him that I wanted to try and run under 1:10. Dan certainly didn't disappoint. He put together a great personalized training plan for me. On paper it looked a little intimidating when I first got it, but to be honest I ended up having a training cycle that was just about perfect and the workouts that Dan prescribed showed a pretty remarkable instinct for paces and volume. His plan didn't call for any races in the training but I substituted a couple of 5K's for some of the faster workouts and set 5K PR's in both races despite having done no 5K workouts, just off the strength I was building in the cycle. OK, I'm sure I'm flattering him to the point of embarrassment, but I'm really just trying to give credit where it is due. Dan's been working through a tough summer of injuries after whipping himself into fantastic shape this spring, and my other secret goal for asking him to help me with training was to get him thinking about half marathon training in general, because I think Dan could use his own training philosophies to get himself an OTQ half marathon or marathon next year.
After reviewing the list of entries and looking for familiar names, I had a feeling that I might be the favorite this year unless there was an unknown visiting from out of town or something, which is certainly possible. (The race walking division this year had a woman who would have walked an Olympic Trials Qualifier if the event had proper judges on the course to certify it, and she came in from New York to compete) Also, a few fast guys had been denied entry after the race sold out, including 2008 winner and recent CMS addition Chris Mahoney, which I was a fairly disappointed about. I do almost all of my training alone these days so I tried to prepare for the possibility of a solo time trial while hoping for some company. As I said, training was about perfect in terms of sticking to the program and after a couple of sharpening workouts and a nice little taper, I got to the starting line ready to roll. I felt confident that my backup goal of breaking the course record (1:11:24, Tim Rider, 2007) was a safe bet barring any major problems and that I was capable of running 1:10 if I ran intelligent and hard.
As I was milling around the start I saw Dan, who had come to support me at the race. (and maybe see how his training plan translated to the race! :) ) After a nice presentation of colors and a national anthem, Andy got us off and running on a beautiful morning. Just before the gun I reminded my friend Rob Levey to take it easy in the first mile and not let the excitement take him out too fast in his first half marathon. I then promptly made a hypocrite of myself and skipped out to a 5:02 first mile, which felt like 6:02 in terms of effort. Oops. Well, the course actually sets up for a positive split, with an elevation profile that loosely looks like a wide V. The first 4 miles are downhill and fast. I reminded myself of that while still trying to back off a hair in the second mile, which still felt like a breeze in 5:12. I passed Camie, Camden and Carter, as well as her parents at about a mile and a half, where I executed a perfect ditching of the arm warmers, throwing them across 2 lanes of road and landing them in the stroller, which got a few remarks from the crowd.
This year at Foyes Corner I made sure to stay left instead of running out around the traffic circle like we did last year, which is the correct route. Unfortunately by 2 miles I think I was about a minute clear of Rob, who would run alone for 2nd place and wisely didn't copy my quick first mile. Mile 3 winds a little bit but I was able to run the tangents really well because the course volunteers stopped traffic for us and I split my watch at 15:20 for 3 miles. At that point I made the decision to split my watch without looking for the rest of the race because I knew I was a little ahead of the pace I had in my mind and didn't want to scare myself out of running as hard as possible.
I know this course like the back of my hand (or the front of my hand while I was in high school) and I've always thought that mile 4 was a little short and mile 5 was a little long. After reviewing my splits I'm still convinced of this. Mile 4 is a fairly straight shot down to Rye Beach where I ended up passing most of the race walkers who had a head start on the runners. Almost all of them shouted encouragement as I went by, and I think I startled a couple by practically brushing shoulders with them in my commitment to the tangents. The 4 mile marker is immediately after the course turns left to come back up the coast, with little protection from the wind. It was at this moment that I realized that the weather wasn't quite as perfect as I thought it was while standing on the starting line a couple of miles inland from the coast. The wind was actually pretty surprising and I found myself running mile 5 directly into a headwind with my head down most of the way. I reminded myself that this mile split is always off and that this headwind would be at my back somewhere else on the course. I tried to just maintain effort and looked up ahead to Odiorne Park where the course gets some shelter from the trees, hoping it would bring relief from the wind...which it thankfully did. Mile 5 was passed in 25:55, which actually might be a PR for that distance. I'm not sure if I had a faster split in any other longer races this summer but I can't recall one.
From the mile 5 marker to just after mile 7 the course winds back in towards Foyes Corner for one of the short sections of the course that doubles back on itself. I grabbed a cup of water at about mile 5.5 and got a good mouthful down. I had taken a cup at mile 2 as well but didn't get down as much as I had hoped. Mile 6 was passed at 31:13 and shortly after 10K I had a brief game of chicken with a guy on a scooter. I was on the far left side of the road cutting the tangent and he was trying to stay out of the way as much as possible, so we ended up headed for each other on the wide shoulder. He pulled into a driveway about 20 meters before I got to him and disaster was avoided. (Fat Bob from 2005 probably would have won that battle, but not scrawny 2010 Bob!) Just before mile 7 I ran past the nicest croquet course in the area in Jim McLaughlin's back yard and got some encouragement from Jim from his front porch. Mile 7 clicked off at 36:31 as I ran back by Jim "Muscles" Marchese (that tough sum'bitch once suffered a broken collarbone in the first 1/4 mile of the Great Island 5K and proceeded to finish the race in about 16 minutes!) who was manning the hairy blind corner just before the mile marker.
Foyes Corner is always a good spot to run by with lots of loud spectators and a couple of spirited water stops, which gave me a little boost. To be honest I had started to become aware of my loneliness and I got back to Foyes at just the right time. Winnie the Pooh and Tigger where cheering loudly at the water stop as I went by. You might recognize them the next time you're at Runner's Alley in Portsmouth. Mile 8 goes back up to where I had passed Camie half an hour earlier and then turns right out onto Newcastle Island. I gave the gang a little wave as I went by and got some loud encouragement from that popular viewing spot as well.
Mile 8 was passed in 41:43 for a 5:12 mile, but I knew I was now biting into the toughest mile on the course. Mile 9 is a long gradual climb up past the Ice House, the Wentworth Golf Club and peaking at the Wentworth Hotel. It was also directly into the wind again, as we were once again exposed to the coast. I knew it was a tough mile, but I did look down at the mile 9 split and was a little bit disappointed to see 5:38 for that mile. I tried to tell myself that I'd get that breeze at my back in mile 11 coming off the other side of the island, and tried to get back into a quicker pace once I got behind the trees leading up to the Great Island Common (Camden's favorite playground!). This mile also winds and rolls a bit but I felt like I got back on track a little bit and did look down at mile 10 to see 5:21 and a total time of 52:43. I was getting tired enough to not be capable of much math, but I had gone over the numbers enough in the days before the race to know that if I got to 10 miles in under 53 minutes and wasn't falling apart that I'd have no excuse not to get under 1:10. So at mile 10 when I saw 52:XX, I remember thinking, "OK, you're in position so don't f*ck it up."
I really think that the last 5K was where Dan's training program benefited me the most. He had me do enough pace work that I felt my body would tolerate the pace even when tired. Also, I really think the "long runs" (read "long hard tempos") I did helped build more muscular endurance than I've ever had. I remember the last 5K in 2009 and I could tell my form was breaking down and the wheels were coming off as Dan Princic continued to pull away from me. This year I was able to run the last 5K at almost exactly goal pace, despite climbing from sea level to the highest point on the course over the last 2 miles. This year was certainly a much better experience than last year coming down the stretch.
Mile 11 winds out off Newcastle and back towards Portsmouth. I got there in 5:20 and was at 58:03. I quickly assured myself that 12 minutes was plenty of time for the last 2.1 miles as long as nothing really bad happened and I passed the last water stop (they always win the water stop competition) and had a couple of high school boys tell me they loved me. I think I'm flattered. Mile 12 bumps over a couple of little bridges but is fairly straight and flat. I remember specifically passing the exact driveway with bushes where I fantasized about pulling off the course last year and grinning inwardly as I realized how much stronger I am now. I got to the 12 mile marker with another 5:20.
The last mile on the course is arguably the toughest, except that the wind might have given that honor to mile 9 today. It is almost all either uphill or flat, but there is decent crowd support and you can sniff the finish line. I tried to stay on task and finish hard. There is a nasty little hill about half a mile from the finish that is a real groove buster and I put my head down to march up it, reminding myself that once I felt the road level out again it was time to get on my horse and make a run for the finish. There were a few cars on the course in the last section and I actually ran right on the bumper of a blue car for about a minute trying to run as short as possible but the car was kind of in the way. As I turned left back into the high school parking lot I made my way up the last hill on the course before passing the mile 13 marker (didn't catch the split, I've estimated above) and opening up my stride to hammer back down into the finishing area. As I was coming down at about 800m pace I heard Andy announce something about the course record and I finally allowed myself to get excited and broke the tape in 1:09:19 with a scaled-back "Fyffe finishing the Vermont marathon" celebration, which was fairly exuberant for me with a fist pump and a holler.
After collecting myself and talking with Andy and my family, I caught up with Dan and we chatted a little bit. I really think that he put me in the best shape of my life and prepared me to run a little faster than I did. I tried to picture Brandon and some of the other guys I battled with all summer out in front of me in the later stages of my lonely time trial, but there is something about a fierce battle that allows me to tap into that last extra bit of effort that can't be summoned in a time trial.
I've got mixed feelings about this. It reveals something about myself that I don't like, but also makes me happy to know that I can run faster. It is easy to say on Monday afternoon, but I can run faster. Yesterday's PR only adds to my desire to realize my full potential. This training cycle gave me some permanent fitness gains that I will try to build on for next year to get faster. I'm satisfied with the results but deep down I believe that if someone showed up in mid 1:08 shape yesterday I would have given them a fight.
But hey, at times like this I think back to the talk I had with my step-dad the morning after my junior prom. "Bobby, sure you were hoping to hit a home run, we all are. But you never, EVER, complain about a 69."
(pics courtesy of Cheryl Senter, Seacoast Online)