|What it looks like to finish with a 10-minute PR after leaving it all on the course.|
The race coincides with a 5K run and walk. Everyone starts together, and the half-marathon runners split off the 5K course at about 2.5 miles. It is completely flat for the first four miles or so, then with rolling hills for the next two miles which finish with a steep drop (down Hook Mountain), then a 3-mile out and back which is completely flat except for a steep hill at the turnaround, then, at mile 9, 2 miles starting with a steep climb up Hook Mountain and then rolling hills, and finally 2 miles of flat back to the finish line.
The race's namesake hill, at mile 9, is what everyone talks about before, during, and after the race, and I've run it enough times to know that it's only as hard as you make it. While very steep, the hill is short enough that you can walk it without raising the heart rate too much and without much detriment to your race time. Yet, it's not so short that you can't haphazardly run it at your regular pace and expect to crest it without crashing.
Even though I was getting tired, I decided to run the hill as hard as I've ever run it - figuring that, if I crash and burn, I'll deal. It's only a half marathon, after all.
|Passing walkers as I near the top of Hook Mountain|
I was literally dizzy as came over the top, but recovered and finished the race with nothing left in me at all. It is rare that I run a race that hard, and consider my effort in terms of both intensity and endurance (at the same time) near 100% of what I'm capable of. Definitely took a great deal of mental toughness to keep going at that pace in the last couple of miles. In fact, I was unable to breath deeply for a couple of minutes after the race - short, shallow breaths were all I could manage.
Ironically, my perceived effort was unusually slow - I felt like I was running sub-10 minute miles (and by now I know what sub-10s feel like), but was disappointed to see I was running 10:15s to 10:30s. So, for whatever reason, I was slow. But that's not the point. I ran my heart out and I'm proud of what I accomplished.
Finally, while I am really glad I was able to dig deep and pull out a sub-2:20 time, especially on that course, it's taxing. It's rare that I work that hard in a race, and I honestly don't think I can perform at that level more than a few times per year. The recovery is as slow as any race I've ever run, including the utlras. Here, on Wednesday morning, I'm still experiencing general fatigue, not to mention aches and pains.
As I mentioned in the preview, my company played a big part in this race, sending 50 people to participate. There were 7 of us who did the half (the rest did the 5K) and I was dead f'ing last among us. But - my 5K split in the half marathon (something like 31:30) beat all but 5 of the 40+ coworkers who were doing the 5K. (:
Here are the half-marathon results:
68 Gary (legal) 1:42:35
116 Derrick (payroll) 1:49:01
233 Scott (construction) 2:01:04
282 Cathy (incentives) 2:05:36
283 Richard (real estate) 2:05:38
328 Michele (merchandising) 2:08:45
399 Steven Tursi (IT) 2:17:57
New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time
I happened across your Hook preview over the weekend, and even recognized you out there on the course from your photo (I ran the half too). I made a mental note to check back to see how you did and read your thoughts.
Congrats on the PR! Ten minutes faster is an amazing accomplishment, especially on that course, which can be punishing if you don't run a smart race. This was my 5th time running it, so one thing I can share is that you really can't compare the numbers to another half marathon. If you were to run a more conventional half marathon next weekend (in similar conditions) I think you could count on taking 5-10 minutes off that finish time.
But, we don't run the Hook because it's a fast course. We run it for the atmosphere, the people, the scenery, and *because* it's hard.
...but I don't have to tell that to a guy who runs races that have more mileage than some folks run in a whole month! Good luck to your this year!
A fellow Hook runner