I was really on the fence about doing this one because I've been sick this week. But I woke up this morning with clear sinuses and a sore throat and decided that was good enough to give it a go. I really wanted to get a half in before Houston. It's been a few years since my first and only half. Plus this course spends 7 miles on my levee, so I felt a little ownership over the course.
I expected the Local Hero (LH) to be there and had a loose game plan to hang with him the first half, practice running the last 6 miles at goal race pace, and see if that was good enough to win. Thought that would make it 5:30/5:20 first half to second. Goal 1 was to beat LH, Goal 2 was to get 6-7 miles at goal HM pace.
That sort of went out the window at the start as it was fairly windy (~10 mph avg) and Kevin Castille showed up. LH went with Kevin at the beginning, so I hung back a little at my own pace. I flipped my Garmin to show current pace since I'd be running in no man's land and needed to keep the gap manageable to LH. I was a quarter mile in and the pace read 4:50. Yikes. I eased off the gas and reached 1 mile in 5:16.
The way the course was laid, we'd run the first 4 miles with the wind, then 6 against and the final 3 with again. I felt good at 5:20 pace and kept the intensity right around there. 5:19, 5:16, and 5:20 for miles 2-4. I felt really good, and I thought I could maintain that pace for a good while.
I caught LH around Mile 4 and he didn't like me drafting on him. We had just turned into the wind and he hit the brakes. I slowed way down, but he out-braked me and I ended up in front. We sort of started this cat-and-mouse game for the next couple miles. I accepted it and ran 6:00 pace happy for the chance to rest. He'd surge past every once in awhile before dropping back again. I surged a couple times to see if he'd hang, but then I'd slow back to 6:00 pace. 5:44 and 5:45 for miles 5-6.
I figured I'd make a big move at mile 7, try to drop him at some point into the wind, and then grind out the last 3 with the wind. But at around 6.5 we made a pass near the starting line and the wind eased up for a moment. I sped up a little and heard him drop back. Interesting. I sped up some more and soon I couldn't hear his footsteps. I decided that would do and I'd keep my foot on the gas from there.
Miles 7 through 10 were hard work. The wind hurt. I went 5:27, 5:32, 5:29, reached the turnaround during mile 9 and looked back for the first time. He was nowhere in sight. Mile 10 in 5:33, and he was a minute or two behind.
With Goal #1 & #2 complete I had a hard time keeping my foot on the gas for the final few miles. My breathing had become wheezy. I felt like I might be able to hit low-5:20s if I had to, but I was totally fine easing up and not pushing my sick body harder than necessary. 5:28, 5:38, 5:43 and the final 0.1 in 5:21 pace.
2nd place was still in the money, so that was nice. It hardly covered the entry fee, but that's okay. I'm excited for Houston, and I'm glad I showed up for this one to help me know what to expect. I'd forgotten how hard those last few miles can be, and I think hitting 5:20s on the last 3 would have been really killer today.