Berlin Marathon Training Week #12 Day 4 3-Peat Win Near Area 51 (Race Recap)

Location: Rachel, NV (Extraterrestrial Highway)

Temperature: 12:30am run so it was dark and mostly cloudy with some light rain, temperature was between 65 and 68 degrees

Type of Run: Race

Length: 13.1 miles

Type of route: Gradual incline for first 6 miles of around 800 feet starting at about 4,700 feet in elevation up to about 5,500 feet then a decline of about 800 feet for the final 7 miles.

Time: 1 hour, 23 minutes, 52 seconds

Pace per mile: 6:24

Average heart rate: 159

Place: 1ST OVERALL!!!!

For the third year in a row, I won the ET Full Moon half marathon. Granted this race is on the smaller side (usually 190 to 250 runners) and is more of a novelty race than competitive, I was pleased to win again. The best part about the win is I improved my time on the course from last year by about a minute. That means progress is being made and my training for the Berlin Marathon is working. Not only was there time improvement but I felt good throughout the race and afterwards. My legs were not achy or sore during the race which allowed me to push myself on the downhill portion. My left thigh was a little sore in the beginning but there was no pain there as the race progressed which was good. Even now, while there is some pain again, it’s in the healing process.

The overall goal was not to win necessarily but to run the best time I could and gauge how I could handle a long race like a half marathon with about six weeks to the big race in Berlin. I wanted to put my body through the stress of a long race so it could prepare again for the rigors of a marathon and lock in some fitness gains from the race. A half marathon is a good way to prep for a marathon because it’s long enough to wear out your body but with a much quicker recovery than a marathon.

The race starts on the Extraterrestrial Highway. It’s a straight shot to the finish at the Little Aleinn which is an alien-themed motel. Getting  to the race was nearly problematic. I chose the option to ride a bus from Las Vegas. That bus started malfunctioning shortly after leaving. It had to turn around and drop us off while a new bus arrived. This delay meant that any warm up would be brief. I was a little concerned about that.  I felt bad for the marathon runners because they were scheduled to start 30 minutes before the half. They would have even less warm up time.

The replacement bus made good time though we did arrive at the marathon start 15 minutes before the start of the race at 12am. That’s right–12am! It’s an overnight race. There were no delays in starting because the desolate and dark highway is still open and can only shut down briefly for the marathon start. I jumped off the bus and prepared as best I could by putting on anti-chafing spay, (a must for running a half marathon or more) tying my shoes properly, putting on my headlamp and reflective vest then doing some stretching to loosen the muscles after a 2-hour bus ride.

The marathon went off and so did the buses to take myself and others to the half marathon start seven miles ahead. We exited the buses with 15 minutes to spare before the race. I did some more stretching and did a light warm up jog. I could tell me legs felt good. That made me even more confident that I could run my best time on this course which isn’t easy for several reasons. First, the race is at altitude. That means less oxygen is getting to my blood. That means a little less energy. Times will almost always slow at elevation for runners who don’t train at that altitude or higher. Usually, I run a half marathon under 1 hour, 20 minutes but not on this course.  Second, this course climbs 800 feet in elevation for the first 6 miles. That alone will slow you down. You can make up time on the downhill portion but fatigue can sometimes prevent you from maximizing the downhill to your fullest extent. Third, the race is at 12:30am and it’s dark. A person’s body is not used to running or racing at that time plus running at night is usually slower even with artificial light. It’s because you can’t see the road as clearly so your brain goes into safety mode and slows you down just a bit.

My first mile was solid at 6:14 but a bit faster than what I wanted. I was far in front of everyone else at this point so it was just me almost all alone on a dark, desert highway. (cue the Eagles..better yet don’t). Usually, in a half marathon, like a marathon, it’s best to run the first 2 to 3 miles slower than goal pace then pick up the pace. This race is a little different due to the course. The first mile is the easiest of the uphill portion. My pace slowed during the climb which was normal. I didn’t care for how much my mile splits slowed since mile five was run in 7:00 but  I told myself this is how the race normally is and just keep running hard because the downhill portion would come soon.

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That’s me with the Little Aleinn ambassador. He’s quite welcoming of us as you can see by the sign. 

I came to the peak after mile 6 and started the descent to the Little Aleinn. The downhill portion is a welcome relief after some tough climbing at altitude. I gauged my legs at the race peak and found out they were still feeling good and strong with no obvious signs of fatigue. I increased my pace and did mile 7 in 6:18. Each mile after pretty much got better. The next miles, respectively, went like this–6:07, 6:05, 6:01, 6:01, 6:00 and 5:57.  I was happy I was so consistent.  I was able to do this because I pushed myself because I had a goal which was to improve my time from last year. My legs felt good and so did my breathing so I kept pushing. I was all alone and had practically already won the race so it would’ve been easy to put it in cruise control. However, I wanted to gauge my fitness and improve on my time. Those reasons motivated me to keep pushing the pace. When I saw my mile splits improving, I told myself my goal was within reach and to keep moving. Don’t slow down!

I crossed the finish line. I had bested my time from last year by about a minute and physically I felt good for just running over 13 miles hard. I wasn’t achy or exhausted like I have been after past half marathons. This is because of training, having a clear goal and having the confidence that the goal could be attained. Set your own goals for running and form a plan to execute that goal or goals then have the confidence in yourself that you can do it and have confidence your plan will work.

The race gave me confidence that a personal best of under 2:49 in Berlin is possible. I have to remain disciplined and smart and listen to my body if it does need a little rest. If I continue with my planned training schedule, I should be able to achieve my main goal in Berlin.

Running With You,

Donald

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