You gotta love race day.
You train, you rest, you eat right, hydrate and get mentally ready to lay it all out there. Then with a simple click of the mouse on the weather report, your race day hopes for a fast time can vanish as quickly as a north Texas wind gusting at more than 20 mph.
That is what lays in store for us at White Rock Lake tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m. for the 10th running of The Texas Half.
The temperature at race time looks to be right around 38 degrees, which truth be told is just about perfect race weather. The “Real Feel” temperature however with the wind chill is looking more like 27 degrees – which is firmly “tights territory”for this Austin runner.
I was able to run fairly well at the Decker Half-Marathon in 2010 wearing tights, a long-sleeve Under Armour mock, thick hat and heavy gloves – but all things considered, I was hoping for shorts a long sleeve shirt and light gloves for Saturday. Unless something changes dramatically in the next 20 hours or so – it looks like the race day weather Gods will not be shining down on us once again.
The course sets up with a long stretch heading more or less directly into that predicted North wind over miles 3-8. The five-mile stretch where you are hoping to lock in pace and effort and cruise before things get a little bit dicey at mile 10. Managing the wind and my energy expenditure is going to be important on Saturday, so when the wind starts to tilt in our favor from mile 9-12, we are not so beaten up that we cannot hold pace.
To add a cruel twist to the race, at mile 12 there is a 180 degree cone turn around that sends the runners back due North to the finish line.
Directly back into the wind over the closing mile.
From the standpoint of the other racers, it is all relative. Everyone is going to be racing the same course in the same conditions. I expect to run a competitive time and place well both overall and in my age group.
But more importantly, my “time” which I was hoping to serve as a strong predictor of our fitness level at this point in our training and our ability to chase 2:59:59 at Boston in April is pretty much going to be tossed out the window. There will be no real way to account for how much the conditions impacted my pace. Was it :10 a mile? :12 seconds?
Much like my race out in Denver last year at altitude, it was difficult to interpret what that 1:26:33 half-marathon time “really” meant.
Some estimated it was more along the lines of a 1:24:30 at sea-level. Some said even lower. Some a little higher.
The good news is that after the Texas Half we still have two more half-marathons to gauge our abilities and training prior to Boston. The very challenging and hilly Austin Half-Marathon on February 19th and the flat and hopefully fair Shamrock Half-Marathon in Virginia Beach in March.
So tomorrow – things don’t really change very much from a strategy standpoint. I’m going to lock into that “uncomfortable” half-marathon pace and hold it as tightly as I can through the first ten miles. For miles 11 and 12 I’ll try to push just a bit harder to stay on pace as my legs grow tired and my muscles start to fight me a bit.
The final mile will basically be an all-guts mile.
I won’t feel particularly good. The wind will be pushing me backwards. Very likely I will have been running all alone for quite some time with nobody to draft off of and nobody to chase. It will be me running against the clock and then a final kick up the last hill to the finish 1/10 of a mile away.
The key tomorrow will be to race hard despite the fact I know that my time may not reflect the effort. It will be a good “mental toughness” day if nothing else. There are things you can control when it comes to racing, and there are things that you cannot – that’s just part of the deal. In the end, I’ll know how well I raced regardless of what the clock has to say about it.
You gotta love race day.