Lessons from the 2008 San Jose Rock & Roll Half Marathon

I entered the San Jose Rock & Roll Half Marathon less than two weeks before it was run, with one goal in mind: to break 2 hours. Well, to make a long story short, that didn’t happen. At all. I finished in 2:09:42, as compared with 2:03:19 last year, when I had a much better excuse (eating too much at Disneyland). It’s even 3 seconds longer than my first half marathon in San Francisco, which is a much harder course.

The race itself mostly sucked, except for the first few miles when everything seemed to still be going according to plan. But since it ended I have at least gained some better perspective, and definitely learned a few things:

  • I’m glad I didn’t quit. There was no reason to other than I felt like doing that, but I would feel worse now if I had.
  • Running by myself on a track is faster than running with 13,000 others on a road course, even on a very flat course like this one. Before I signed up, I ran 8 miles at comfortably under 8:45/mile pace, and even including a warm up mile and a cool-down mile, I was under 9:00/mile for the whole 10 miles, but that was on the track. Today I fell apart before getting to 10 miles, and the writing was on the wall before even the halfway point.
  • I had two ways of judging my pace, since I had my GPS/heart rate monitor. When my heart rate went well above the 155-165 range that I had done that test run in, I kept going at the pace I needed to make the 2 hour goal, hoping that somehow I could maintain that heart rate (167bpm average over the whole run, but up into the low- to mid-170’s from around 2 miles until about halfway–that is around 100% if you believe the standard 220-age formula, and is seriously high in any case). If I had based my speed on my heart rate, I would have had to slow down and give up the goal sooner, but my time would have definitely been better than it was.
  • I was reminded that I still like trail runs better than road runs. Which is mostly good, though my next event is closer to a road event (a 12 hour fixed-time event, coming up in three weeks).
  • A friend pointed out that I didn’t specifically train for this, unlike my 50 mile event.

So that’s where I am tonight. I’m glad there are hard things I can do, but a little discouraged that speed may never be my thing.

I’m considering running 50K trail races three weekends in a row in December. There, I’ve said that out loud. It’s probably a bad thing that it doesn’t seem that scary…


3 Responses to “Lessons from the 2008 San Jose Rock & Roll Half Marathon”

  1. Ron Says:

    Did you ever consider that you are putting in too many miles training? Your plan to run a 50K every week, is way too much in my estimation unless your goal is to complete the maximum number of events without regard to time or enjoyment. Improvement in running speed is best abtained with speed work with a group to provide incentive.

  2. Mike Weston Says:

    What I should do depends on my goals. You are 100% right that if my primary goal was getting faster in road races in the 10K to marathon range, then what I’m doing would be totally wrong. If I liked road races better, I would try what you are suggesting, but they really aren’t my favorite, even when they go better than this one. I just threw this one in since there was a longer than usual gap in my schedule.

    My main goal at the moment is a 50 mile event next April that is harder than the one I did (substantially more climbing and probably hotter, and thankfully a longer time limit). The idea of three 50K’s is 1) avoid gaining holiday pounds, 2) start the year in good shape to start preparing for that event in April, and 3) see if my belief that I recover quickly is really true.

  3. pam Says:

    was it hotter? did you have a cold brewing? just tossing out some ideas as to what might have caused the higher pulse rate. as the previous commentor suggested, you may be over-training which will also lead to a higher pulse rate and greater fatigue… three 50k’s is one helluva way to avoid holiday pounds! i think i’d just keep training in a sane and reasonable way to increases my strength and endurance without injury, and skip a few extra helpings or desert:)

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