2011 Governor’s Cup Recap

Nov 9, 2011 by

2011 Governor’s Cup Recap

If you read my Governor’s Cup preview, you know that I would be chased by a penguin, and that my goal of breaking 1:45 was looking bleak, due to a foot injury.  Well, I’m happy to report that the penguin had a great race – he started last and managed to pass around 500 people.  I’m even happier to report that I was not one of those 500!  I managed to stay in front of the penguin by a couple of minutes, and I also managed to break my goal of 1:45 by 8 seconds, for a 1:44:52 finish.

Course & Conditions

I’ll get back to my trials in a minute, but first I’ll talk about the course and conditions. You can find my elevation map of the 2010 course in my preview post.  This years course made a slight detour in the middle due to some road construction.  One friend commented he thought the re-route was tougher.  I don’t really remember the old route well enough to say.  It did seem awfully hilly.

Weather-wise, I think the penguin ordered in the weather.  After a week of perfect weather, a cold front blew through the day before and brought much cooler temps and a lot of northerly wind – brrr!  The temperature at race time was around 40 degrees and windy and not expected to warm up too quickly.  This is a pretty shady run, once you get off Millwood Avenue around mile 2 1/2, so it was cooler than I like it. More on that later.

Unexpected Wrinkle

I felt good before the race.  The tendonitis in my right foot was on the wane, and I had managed a couple of runs during the week without problems.  As I warmed up by doing some laps around the Capitol building,  I turned on my Timex GPS watch to get it ready.  Normally, the watch takes 2-3 minutes to find a signal.  On this day, however, it never found a signal (a first).  Two key feature I use on the watch are automatics splits and overall pace, but with no GPS, this would not happen.  I would have to go back to old school, hitting the splits button myself after each mile marker and trying to keep a rough average of my pace in my head.

Race Time

At 8:00am, the starter sent us off.  The first mile is mostly downhill and I hit it on a 7:28 pace.  Too fast, but I expected that and slowed down a bit for the 2nd mile uphill climb.  I settled into a good pace.  The first 5-6 miles were uneventful as we worked our way down to Lake Katherine.  My biggest complaint about the race setup came around mile 2 1/2 where the first water station was not setup.  The coolers were there but no people or cups.  I don’t know if that was intentional this year, but this had been a water spot the last two years and I was counting on it.  This station was setup on on way back, around the mile 10 mark.  So, the first water station finally came around mile 4, I think, and I decided to take a GU gel at this point.  My strategy going in was to take a gel between miles 4 and 5 and then around mile 9. Since you need to take these with water, I figured this was the time.

Around mile 6,  I felt the first warning signs that this might be a painful last hour.  My quads starting protesting, and we had not even started the climb back!  At this point, I was under an 8:00/mile pace, but with a lot of big hill climbs to come and legs already complaining, I was a bit worried about beating my goal.  Remember the weather conditions?  I don’t like being cold, so  I opted to go with my long running pants and long sleeve tech t-shirt with a short sleeve shirt over it.  This was probably a mistake.  I was too hot, my heart rate was too high and I was sweating too much.  Not a good combo for the 2nd half of a half.

Second Half: No Pain No Gain

Most everyone comments on the brutal  Blossom Street hill finish of the Governor’s Cup.  While that may be the knock out blow, the setup punch is the Kilbourne Road hill from mile 8 to 9.  My mile split for that hill was 8:40, and I was about ready to pack it in and slow down, but I just concentrated on small quick strides and took my other GU gel.  I was just trying stay mentally focused on getting to Devine Street, where we’d get about a 2 1/2 mile flat to downhill break toward and through Five Points.  With no GPS giving me pace and my math skills getting fuzzy with the splits average due to a tiring brain, I figured to have any chance of meeting my goal, I needed to really pick up the pace at mile 11.  This is a downhill section of Devine Street, and I managed to hit 7:47 on that split.  I tried to maintain that to the bottom of the Blossom St. hill.

Finally, I reached The Hill – a little more than half mile to go. I remember looking at my watch and trying to figure out if I was on track, but the previous 1.5 mile surge had taken its toll, and I was not doing well.  I knew I was close, so I just hit the hill as hard as I could, which at this point was not punch.  Just don’t stop, I told myself.

One of the cruel twists to the Governor’s Cup, is the turn off Blossom Street on to Sumter Street.  You are thinking to yourself “I did it!” but you look up and see Sumter Street is still up hill until it crosses Greene Street!  In this spot, a spectator yelled encouragement to me. “Almost there, keep it up!” I wanted to smile and say “Thanks!” but I was just trying not to throw up.

Suck it Up!

At the Finish Line

As I approached Greene Street, the crowd was getting heavier, forming the last 1/10th mile or so chute to the finish. I was just telling myself “nice try, but you are not going to make it today” when I was finally close enough to see the official clock over the finish line.  I was still under 1:45 at 1:44:40! Twenty seconds to go!  Shocked that I still had a shot at my goal, I dug deep and found once last  kick and passed over the chip mat in 1:44:52.  Someone hung a medal around my neck and another handed me a bottle of water.  I was thinking, “Thanks, but please get out of my way! I’ve got to keep moving and try (again) not to puke!”  I managed to make it past the refreshment tent and walk up Sumter a ways to recover and not puke.  I’ll save that for a 5K (2012 goal).

As I wandered back toward the finish line, I heard the race announcer calling out the Penguin’s finish!  Wow, that is impressive – under 1:50!.  I went over and told Dean congratulations.  I doubt he remembers this.  He looked worse than I felt.

Lessons Learned

So, I accomplished my goal and set a PR in the Half Marathon. I am not 100% satisfied, though (character flaw which I’ll discuss in future posts).  I wanted to beat an 8:00/pace, too.  I did beat the 1:45, but according to Cool Running’s Pace calculator, that is 8:01/mile.  1:44:52 is an 8:00/mile pace.  Argg.  I wanted my PR pace to start with a 7, as in 7:59.  Oh, well.  I did not leave anything on the course.

So, what did I learn?  Two main things.  First, maybe I should carry one hand held water bottle to make sure I have a some water at the right times.

Second, I need to just accept being cold and not overdress.  I think the long sleeve shirt was the right move, but I should have gone with shorts, not long pants.

Thanks for reading this far.  To see the overall results, click here.



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