Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Harrisburg Marathon 2011

Me about to cross the bridge across the Susquehanna river and towards the finish line.

Harrisburg is the capital of Pennsylvania; it is also one of the largest cities to file for bankruptcy, which it did recently, even making pages of The Economist in a commentary about city finance and the polarisation of US politics. My wife is from the small town of Mechanicsburg which is a few miles west of Harrisburg and so this race was a good way of combining a trip to her parents with a marathon and is only a ninety minute drive from Baltimore. The race has also received consistently excellent reviews from Since adopting a HR approach to my training and using Pfitzinger and Douglas's HR bands, rather than target paces, my training paces have slowed and I had felt better than I have in a while. I felt I had made good progress. A few weeks before the race I did seventeen miles with the final ten miles at 87% MHR; these miles averaged 06:42, this was considerably better than a similar effort a few weeks before that came out at closer to 07:00 min/mile and for an additional percentage point in effort. I had my doubts that I had the aerobic base to maintain 86/87% MHR for 26.2 but resolved to go out at sub three hour pace see how it felt. The race began at 0830hrs and conditions were perfect and I quickly settled into 06:4x pace. However, by mile eight I knew it was not going to be able to maintain the pace and decided that I would forget about sub three, which I always knew was going to be a big ask and backed off to 07:05 pace for the next few miles. During mile ten I had to duck into a port-a-loo and do both a number one and two; this is something I have never needed to do in a race but I did initially feel better for it. By halfway I was not feeling good and the slower pace that was initially comfortable was now increasingly uncomfortable. As we passed the halfway point we ascended up a short sharp climb and I slowed further. My pace was now in the 07:20s and my legs were turning to concrete. This was frustrating as while I thought a sub three pace might be tough to hold I did not think it was suicidal either and I had sensibly backed off after eight miles. By mile seventeen, as we entered the Harrisburg Area Communinity College campus, many runners were passing me. There was a turnaround at this point and the final nine miles would be a double back on much of the first half of the course and many of the runners passing against me, at least half a mile ahead, were previously in the same group that I ran with in the first eight miles; this was not a confidence booster. By now I was doing the maths to calculate at what pace I would need to avoid a personal worst and would have taken 03:15 without any hesitation. The final six miles were something of a death march and runners were going by me in groups of two or three now. By mile twenty-two I resigned myself to a personal worst. My pace was now north of nine minute milling. At mile twenty-five I was about to walk when I heard the shouts of encouragement from my wife, mother-in-law, and friend visiting from Ireland; this prevented me from walking. I tried to increase the pace but any injection of pace never lasted more than a fifth of a mile. I reached the finish mile in 03:23:22; a bit if a disaster. However, I refuse to be too discouraged and have decided upon a reasonable and informed, I hope, plan to rectify my very poor 2011 racing year. Discussion of that will follow in another post shortly.

Harrisburg marathon 2011 by westley1977 at Garmin Connect - Details

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