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Road Racing

Brock’s 2018 Philadelphia Half Marathon Race Report

Brock’s 2018 Philadelphia Half Marathon Race Report

Having competed at running events from 400 meters up to 100 miles, it is surprising that this was my first time competing in a half marathon (if you don’t count the ones I ran at the end of half ironman triathlons). I love racing in Philadelphia, especially when my friends and teammates are there to cheer and race with me. This was also the first race with our new rabbit race kits. At least we’d look good!


Purpose and Goal

This was my “A” race for the fall. I didn’t feel up to running another marathon this year, so the half felt like a perfect way to test my fitness and see if I’ve advanced since last year. My goal these days is to be a competitive masters runner, so I had my sights set on beating as many over-40 folks as possible (which is highly dependent on who shows up).

Earlier in the year, it looked like I could get into shape to break 1:10. However, some injuries and inconsistent training in the late summer set me back. The last 8-weeks leading up to this race were solid, but it was clear that 1:12 was a better target for this race.

Pre-Race

I had a very busy week leading up to the race and had to really focus in the last 24 hours to get myself in the right mental state. Getting into an optimal mindset is just as important for me as optimal physical preparation. Race morning went well. Having run well at Broad Street 10 mile earlier in the year, I had the privilege of accessing the elite tent which makes many of the logistic much easier on race day. A warm place to change, dedicated porta-potties, a convenient gear check, and easy access to the starting line are just a few of the perks.

At first, my warmup had me second-guessing my taper, as I felt really stiff and un-energetic. But things got better as the sun rose along with my body temperature. I feeling good as I headed out to the starting line and was pleased to see some friends there — chatting a bit helped release some tension.

The Race

I’ve run a few 10 mile races, but I wasn’t quite sure how hard the additional 3.1 miles would be. My intention was to be conservative at the start and build through the middle of race. Based on my training, I didn’t want to run much faster than 5:30 per mile—and I wasn’t certain I could maintain that for the whole race.

It always amazes me how races can provide such a boost to performance. I went out in 5:22 and then ran 5:15 for the second mile. It felt really easy as I tucked in behind some guys and relaxed.

The pack I was with started slowing in the 4th mile. Around the 5-mile mark I had to make a move around them to stay under 5:30 pace. My friend Darryl also made a move at this point. We ran together for a bit but he took off for the next pack that was about 20 seconds ahead of us. I didn’t have the confidence to go with him.

For the rest of the race I ran alone, staying about 10-20 seconds behind the pack ahead. Each mile required more effort to hold 5:30 pace. Some small hills in miles 7-11 made things interesting. I really had to push hard here to stay in contact with the pack ahead.

I kept feeling myself slowing down, and each time, I would counter with a small surge followed by an attempt to relax at that pace. It seemed to work.

By 11 miles I was really feeling it. Fortunately, my team mate John Becker was there to encourage me (yell at me). There was also a nice downhill at that point that allowed me to throw down another 5:15 mile.

It was all flat from there, straight into the rising sun. I ran all out and still could just barely hang on to 5:30 pace. I tried picking up at the end but my legs and lungs were working at their max. So when I crossed the line at 1:11:39 I felt really good that I ran as fast as I possibly could on that day.


Outcome

I’m very happy with the effort I put in and I think the training for this race helped me progress my fitness. I did manage to take the 1st master trophy, which meant that I got to enjoy some additional privileges after the race (VIP tent, hanging with Meb Keflezighi and Des Linden at the awards ceremony). It was the perfect ending.

Our new rabbit race singlet, shorts and warmup top were amazing. Felt really good and looked great.

Lessons Learned

  • Be willing to revise goals based on training. Aspirational goals are great but not if they are impossible. I firmly believe I can go sub-1:10, but not right now.
  • Share running experiences with friends and family. I was sad my family couldn’t be there, but I had teammates and friends to enjoy the event and performance with. This was amplified by the number of friends who I interacted with on Facebook, Strava, and text message after the race.

Race Report: Broad Street 10M (2018)

Race Report: Broad Street 10M (2018)

John Becker, Brock Butler, and Bill Conn represented Run Xpress at the 2018 Broad Street Run. All three ran PRs for this distance.

This race report comes from John Becker who had the biggest breakthrough of the day:

Purpose and Goal

This year was my eighth straight Broad St. Run. Going into it I was very confident I was going to beat my PR of 59:38 but I wasn’t sure by how much. At the Valley Forge race I ran a 2 minute PR so I thought if I could run a 2 minute PR at BSR I would be happy.  So my goal was to run 57:30 and my stretch goal was to break 57. I also wanted to be in the top 10 in my age group with a stretch goal of being in the top 5.

Pre-Race

I was pretty much hitting all my times in the weeks leading up to the race so I was feeling good. I would have to go back and look at my logs but in years past I probably tapered my mileage back more than I did this year. Sometimes I was worrying that I was doing too much.  My legs didn’t start to feel really fresh until Saturday morning. The week of the race I was busy getting my house in West Chester ready to go on the market. I was doing more physical work than I wanted to but I wrapped things up on Thursday and was hoping to rest up until Sunday. Saturday evening I cooked dinner for my family and my in-laws and I got a little irritated that I wasn’t getting much help. I think it was partly due to my nerves. By around 7:30 or 8 pm I went upstairs to bed and read for awhile and tried to relax.

Race Report

I got to the race pretty early which gave me plenty of time to warm up. I got in a nice 2-0mile warmup with some surges and did a couple of striders to get ready to race. At points I felt like I was floating when I was doing my surges. My mouth was kind of dry at the start of the race and my shoulders were a little crampy. First mile in 5:46 which ended up being the 2nd slowest of the race. I felt pretty good the first couple miles and was pleasantly surprised that miles 2 and 3 were faster than 5:45 pace. I didn’t panic nor did I think that I was going too fast. I just kept telling myself that I was doing good and to keep it up. I came through the 5 mile mark at 28:16 which was around 30 seconds faster than my goal. Once again I just kept telling myself that I was killing it and to keep it up.

A couple of times in the race there was a sizeable gap between the group I was running with and the group ahead of me. Sometimes I would dial it back a tiny bit and hang with the slower group but not for long. After a short time I usually made a move and caught the faster group. I felt like I was catching people most of the race. There weren’t many guys that passed me. Two years ago I had Brock to help me the entire race and last year there was someone that I ran neck and neck with for a bunch of miles but I really didn’t have anyone like that this year.

I started to develop a side stitch somewhere near the middle of the race but I was able to fight it off by exhaling on the opposite side. The race started to get really tough around mile 7 and some negative thoughts started to creep in. I tried to use my mantra’s and thought about my son and how I wanted to make him proud. After mile 7 there weren’t a whole lot of people for me to run with. There was one guy that was a few steps ahead of me and I told myself I had to hang with him because if I fell off I was going to be all alone. 

Miles 8 and 9 were tough too but I was able to maintain my pace. I had to resist the urge to stop pushing it. I knew I was ahead of my goal and I could have easily cruised it in and still ran 57:30 at this point. I got to see my family shortly after the 9-mile marker which gave me a little boost but I felt like I came to a screeching halt on the tiny hill around 9.5. Once I crested the hill I knew I had to start kicking which I tried to do but my legs felt very heavy at that point.

Outcome

Very happy with 56:32. I wish I could have dug a tiny bit deeper to get under 56:30 but no big deal. According to the results I came through the 5-mile at 28:16 which means I ran an exactly even race. I had plans to run negative splits but I’ll take it.

Lessons Learned

  • Trust in your training and your coach
  • Try not to sweat the small stuff in the days leading up to the race

Race Report: Cherry Blossom 10M (2018)

Race Report: Cherry Blossom 10M (2018)

Details

  • Date: 8 April 2018
  • Location: Washington DC
  • Type: Road Running Race
  • Distance: 10 miles

Purpose and Goal

I’m using this race as a gauge to see how my fitness is progressing at my “1-hour threshold” pace. I’d like to eventually run 10 miles under 51 minutes (next 1-3 years), and an awesome outcome for this year would be sub-53 minutes. I’d be happy with anything under 55 minutes as long as I raced as hard a possible.

Pre-Race

Training was really good the 2-3 weeks prior to the final week. However, I felt horrible all week leading up to the race. I overdid the speed workouts a bit the week before. Some of the bad feelings are likely mental. Fortunately, I know that the taper sometimes goes like this. I got myself to a good spot mentally the night before the race.

Race Report

Race morning is chaotic. 26K people. Lots of fast dudes, including several olympic medalists, lined up within a few feet of me at the start. Meb is there. Centrowicz is there. It is 33 degrees and windy. Had to be in corral 25 minutes before start just to get a good spot. My first mental battle was going out controlled and getting in a good rhythm without overdoing it. Mission accomplished. First mile in 5:22 which ended up being the slowest of the race. Felt really good from there. Really good! Just kept the foot on the gas and settled into the sweet spot just shy of redlining. Found a good group to hang with through mile 4. After that, I traded places with another guy the rest of the way. We were super-consistent. Just kept hammering 5:15-5:18 per mile. Breathing and form was effortless through 8 miles. At that point, we turn back into the wind and slight uphill. This was the only part of the race I really had to work and suffer. I knew I could break 53 minutes if I kept 5:20/mile. That turned out to be very hard. Even though I was running as fast as possible, I just couldn’t get the turnover to maintain pace with wind and hill. 5:21 and 5:22 last miles. The dude I was running with took off with 400 to go and beat me by 4 seconds. He’s in his 20s. It was fun battling with him during the race. We traded lead position at least 12 times.

Outcome

Very happy with 53:04 on this cold, windy day. Very happy to be the top master. Satisfied with training and preparation to get here. Surprised by how easy it felt. Very happy to have family there to support me.

Team Involvement and Celebration

  • Had the family with me in DC: Wife, kids, and parents. Very awesome having them there, although it increased the complexity of planning race logistics.
  • It was fun to celebrate with the family in DC after the race. We explored the city, had a great lunch, and bought yummy treats to enjoy on the ride home!
  • Super-cool to have so many friends comment on Strava about the performance.
  • A few friends checked in to see how I did — nice to feel like there are others out there who actually care about my performance.

Lessons Learned

  • Training body with long cruise intervals around goal race pace is very effective. After doing different variations for at least two months, I feel very comfortable with this pace and effort.
  • I still lack strength and technique to close strong. I should have been able to surge and go sub 53. Need more strength training and hill workouts in the future.
  • May have been cold temps, but my form was very compact and non-dynamic. Very short arm swings. Can’t complain about pace, but efficiency indicators did decrement as rave progressed. Video from mile 5 below.
  • For me, 5:15 is sustainable for an hour and breathing is not labored, but 5:05 is very hard and can only last for 3 miles. I have a very steep cliff between my 1-hour threshold and 3K VO2Max pace (4:57/mile at last month’s race). I think I can only improve my time further if I work on getting more efficient at VO2Max. I need to get my mile time down to sub-4:30 and my 3K down to 8:45.
  • It was good for me to start easy and build to 5:15 pace in 2nd mile. Not warmed up enough given crowd and corral dynamics.
  • 330W was precisely my average power for this race, and this is exactly what I targeted during track and treadmill workouts. I’m amazed at how consistent this is.
  • My mind nearly caused excessive stress and suffering that could have jeopardized race. Stopping this with breathing and meditation was effective, and I did a good job getting focused and positive the last 24 hours. Felt confident and strong by the time I got out to the race.
  • Having family with me at the race was an extra stress, but ultimately made the experience much more meaningful.