Race Report - 2015 Raleigh Rock 'n' Roll Half-Marathon

Image by chuddlesworth, courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.

Image by chuddlesworth, courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.

As an avid runner, I thought it might be fun to include some race reports on Think Wilder. I have been running regularly since August 2011 and consider myself to be a strong mid-packer. I am by no means an elite athlete but I get a lot of enjoyment from running. From the meditative aspect, achieving personal goals, pushing myself further, and testing my limits, I have learned a lot from running.

Last weekend my girlfriend and I ran the 2015 Raleigh Rock 'n' Roll Half-Marathon. This was my second half-marathon (my first was the 2013 City of Oaks Rex Healthcare Half-Marathon) and second Rock 'n' Roll race (my first was the 2013 Brooklyn Rock 'n' Roll 10K). It was my girlfriend's first half-marathon and first Rock 'n' Roll event.

After the 2014 City of Oaks Rex Healthcare 10K and a few months of maintaining a solid running foundation, we began training in earnest for last weekend's race in mid-January. I wanted to beat my half-marathon personal record (PR) of 2:29:20, so we embarked on a more difficult training plan than what I used the last time, which was the Hal Higdon Novice 1 Training Plan. Being a Nike+ iPhone app user, we decided to try to use the beginner Nike+ Coach plan embedded in the app.

Even though it has "beginner" in its name, the Nike+ Coach app had us running further and more frequently than the Hal Higdon training plan. I also committed to sticking to the cross-training plans and speed work that was recommended. At the time, I believed that a more challenging training plan would result in a new PR.

At first the training plan wasn't too rough. The first three weeks involved four days of running per week and two cross-training days. Starting in the fourth week, one of the cross-training days became a running day, which meant five days on the trail each week. Both of us kept up our commitment, even running in ice and snow in painstakingly-boring quarter-mile loops on our property during some inclement winter weather in February. I used a stationary bike and practiced yoga for my cross-training.

Everything was going really well until week ten's long run, which was a grueling 12-mile run on our local Neuse River Trail. (The trail, by the way, is a great place to run long runs, since it is 28 miles long and follows the Neuse River through some nice natural settings.) After that long run, I had some really intense pain in the outer arch of both my feet. My Brooks PureConnect 2's had about 350 miles on them and were fairly worn out, so I think that combined with overtraining did me in.

I went to the doctor and was assured that I didn't have a stress fracture, but that I needed to cool it on the intense training. It was painful enough and I was concerned, so I heeded that advice and only ran thrice more in the three weeks remaining that led up to the run. I wasn't even sure if I'd be able to attempt the run until a few days before race day, but I decided to forge on and give it a go with a brand new pair of Asics Gel Kayano 20's. After all, if I really needed to drop out due to injury, there was no shame in that. In my mind, it would be worse to not even give it a shot. And I realize that it isn't usually a good idea to run with a new pair of shoes, but after a short training run in the Kayanos I felt like my feet would be better supported and have less chance of injury than with the PureConnects.

We went to bed early the night before the race and prepped everything that we would need to bring with us, including stashing a cooler bag with coconut water, fruit, and nuts with my family for them to hold onto until after the race was over. I woke up at 3AM the next morning, hydrated myself, filled our hydration packs, and made a small breakfast. We got to the parking deck by 5AM and spent some time walking to get coffee and tea and getting warmed up for the race. 

Our corral was pretty far back, because we were both anticipating to finish around three hours. So although the starting gun was shot at 7AM, we didn't cross the start line until about 7:40AM. I was careful to not make the same mistake I made in my first half-marathon, which was to run the first mile way too fast. So we started slow, and I sped up after about three miles.

I realized around mile six that my body was feeling more fatigued than it should. Was it because of the extremely hilly course, my new shoes, or the fact that I hadn't been running as much as I would've liked during the last three weeks of training? I was feeling good but tried to slow down a little bit to save some gas in my tank for the last few miles of the race.

However, around mile eleven, the hills got to me so bad that I had to walk about 60 percent of the last two miles. I've never walked in a race, but I couldn't keep running any longer. I ended up finishing strong in the last quarter-mile and clocked in with a time of 2:35:09. That time was way better than the three-hour time that I expected, but shy of a PR by about six minutes. I think if I had paced myself better between miles three and nine I would've been able to tackle the last two miles of hills and possibly beat my record. My girlfriend clocked in just over three hours, which we were both really proud of.

Although I was pretty beat up for a couple days after the race, we are both considering attempting a full marathon by the end of the year. One of my personal goals for 2015 was to complete two half-marathons, because I didn't think I would be ready to tackle a full marathon. But I think with the right training plan and enough rest that we could complete a full 26.2 miles. Our next race will be tomorrow, at the Duke Forest Pine Cone Pacer 5K in Durham, North Carolina. The goal is just to have fun, because I'm not in shape to set a new 5K PR.  I just want to get a feel for the distance again because my last 5K was two years ago.

I hope you have enjoyed this race report. I look forward to writing more to share my progress and give local runners a report of our local races. Until next time, I'll see you on the trail! 

Race Results
Time - 2:35:09
Pace - 11:51 per mile
213 out of 252 in my age/gender group