May 9, 2011

Oh My Aching Quads! (aka Kirkland Half Marathon Race Report)

Yesterday, I ran the most difficult half marathon course I've ever run -- the Kirkland Half Marathon.

It was near the top of my list in terms of total elevation change, but it was a road race instead of a trail run. The two other extremely hilly courses I've run were trail runs -- which are notoriously slower and less of a "race". Also, trails are much more forgiving on your feet, quads, and back when you are taking the extra force of the downhills.

Finally, several of the roads on this course were extremely banked. This meant that in addition to pounding on the pavement, at times, we were running at an angle, with one leg repeatedly hitting the ground lower and pushing off harder than the other leg. Unfortunately, this caused my running buddy to pull a muscle in her calf. (Poor thing! I'm so sad for her.)

The hills were placed such that there really weren't any long flats on the entire course. If you exclude an unscheduled walk break due to my running buddy's injury, I did the remainder of the course at 1 second/mile faster than my goal pace for the marathon (8:59). This felt great because the course was very difficult, so if all goes well, I feel confident that my marathon pacing goals are reasonable.

For example, while I hit my goal pace average with 1 second to spare, I only ran one split within 14 seconds/mile of goal pace (Mile 2, 9:00 on the dot). The remaining splits were all over the map including miles as fast as 8:03 and as slow as 9:42. The elevation chart from my Garmin explains why.

The first 1.3 miles were rolling hills with a net gain of over 270 ft. When we finally hit the crest of the final hill and could see the downhill, I looked at H and said, "Holy crap that was brutal. We're at least 30 seconds behind."

The next 2 miles (again rolling hills) had a net loss of 320 ft. So, we made up the lost time (and then some) and decided to try to hit our goal pace despite the surprise of the course difficulty. (Note to self, when races don't post pace elevation profiles, be very suspicious).

The next surprise was a 250 ft. climb over 0.7 miles for a 6.7% grade (9:24 for that mile). Followed by a 100 ft. drop over 0.5 miles, a 50 ft climb over 0.2 miles, and so it went...

From mile 5 to mile 7, we slightly rolled through a climb of 200 ft. The next downhill was my favorite (because I love downhills) but I heard the cursing and frustration of many whose knees, legs and backs did not enjoy it -- a 330 foot drop over 1.2 miles -- an average grade of -5.2%, which in reality was made steeper by the 2 sharp climbs of 30 and 20 feet they threw in the middle to break it up.

The remaining 5 miles of the race was nothing but a 50 ft climb, two 100 ft climbs, a 200 ft climb, and two 70 ft climbs plus the intermittent drops. Nary a flat to be found.

I was thrilled to open the elevation profile for my upcoming marathon and see that while there are some rolling hills with 20-30 ft climbs and drops none of them are particularly sharp, and there are only two serious climbs to consider. Both of them are around 100 feet in total gain (and loss) with an average max grade of 2.9%. Yes, I'm sure they will be difficult because a marathon always is, but at least the hills will be nothing compared with yesterday.

Due to H's injury, my plan of doing 7 out and back after the race turned into 1.5 out and back while she was in the medical trailer. My total mileage of 14.6 was nowhere near the 20 I'd hoped for. But, I didn't feel too disappointed. In fact, as the day wore on, and the physical side effects of the effort hit me, I realized it was probably for the best that I hadn't done the full 20 -- it would have likely beat me up a bit too much and this week's training would be shot.

So, I recorded the week's total mileage at 45.81 and moved things around this week to include a 16 miler instead of 12. Thankfully, I did fit in one 20 miler three weeks ago (I'd forgotten about it and was very happy to see it in my log), so I'll just have to make due with the late-stage sub 20 long runs and hope for the best.

3 weeks 'til the marathon (and the trip back to California where we can enjoy sunshine!)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi There! We just read your blog post about the Kirkland Half Marathon and we're excited to announce that the event now has a point-to-point route that has a 292 foot total elevation LOSS. More than 700 feet of hills have been removed. If you're game for running in it, let us know. We'd love to have you back!