On Sunday I ran my 4th half-marathon, and it was pretty awesome. It was the Lake Placid Half-Marathon in beautiful Lake Placid, NY — about 2 hours north of Saratoga Springs, a place that really reminded me of Lake Tahoe.
Going into the race, I had an injured Achilles tendon — likely tendonitis — so I took 3 days off before the race (which can seem like an eternity when you’re used to running 6 days a week). But the time off helped and I felt fresh and ready to rock going into the race. I didn’t have any pain in my left Achilles tendon until about Mile 12, when I developed a sharp pain and had a momentary fear that I was going to fall over and not finish the race.
But back to the beginning…
My plan to go to bed at 8pm for my 3:30am wake-up on Sunday didn’t go so well, so it was about 9 or 9:30pm before I finally fell asleep. As is the case before any big race, I slept very lightly Saturday night and never really felt like I got into a deep sleep.
Dan picked me up a little before 5am and off to Lake Placid we went. It was a little overcast and cool when we arrived around 6:30am. The race didn’t start until 8, so we were among the earliest to arrive. I liked having a lot of time to stretch, do some warm-up running, and eat some pre-race GU.
By the time the start rolled around, it had warmed up a bit, the skies had cleared, and the scene was set for a beautiful day of racing in the mountains.
Like any mountain race, Lake Placid was a really hilly course, and I’d read that the hills were killer. I actually enjoy rolling hills, and there was a super-fast downhill at Mile 3 that allowed me to simply fly down it, clocking in an early 6:35 pace in that mile.
In the early part of the race, I quickly fell into a solid pace, staying as close to 7-minute miles as I could. The weather was perfect, I had tapered and carb-loaded perfectly, and my heart rate monitor showed I was running around a comfortable 164 beats per minute. I was flying and knew from early on that I was going to have an awesome race. I even got a little choked up with a case of runner’s high at one point.
I ate my first GU Roctane of the race around 35 minutes when I felt my glycogen level depleting a bit. It gave me the boost I needed to keep going strong. Around mile 6.5 or 7 as we continued up a slight hill, I noticed that the runners ahead of me were starting to lose steam. It seemed early in the race for people to be slowing down, but I’ve seen in so many races that people go out way too fast and don’t pace properly (as was the case for me in my first marathon when I had no idea what I was doing).
So passing people is always a nice confidence booster. I kept pushing strong through the turn-around point around Mile 8.5, where I grabbed another GU from one of the nice volunteers (the volunteer support for the entire race was superb). It was at the 1-hour mark when I ate my second GU Roctane to give myself another power boost and to maintain my solid pace.
The hills were starting to get to me around Mile 9 and 10 (7:20 and 7:10 miles, respectively), and I’d heard that there was a bitch of a hill at Mile 11, so I wasn’t looking forward to that. Sure enough, the 118 feet of elevation gain in that mile (with a loss of only 11 feet) slowed me to my slowest mile of the race (7:45 pace). I ate my third and final bonus GU somewhere around then, even though it’d only been about 20 minutes since I ate the last one and I knew I wasn’t going to be running for more than another 15.
I was running out of steam around Mile 12 when the Achilles pain struck, but one guy passed me around that point, so that motivated me to pick up the pace for the final uphill battle. The Mile 13 ascent into the Olympic Oval finish was just cruel — the elevation went up 120 feet from 1,748 to 1,868 feet, and I felt like I wasn’t running much faster than a walking pace.
At the top of the hill, though, as spectators began to cheer, I got my final burst of energy to turn it on for the final loop around the oval and across the finish line in personal best time. Showing my alumnus pride for Team in Training with my purple singlet, I also benefited from the added cheers and support throughout the race. At the top of that final hill, someone shouted, “You’re the first Team in Training runner!” So even though I didn’t fund raise for this event, it was a good feeling nonetheless.
For a tough, hilly course, I’m especially proud of my new PR — official time: 1:34:24 (7:11 average pace), placing 38th overall out of more than 1,200 runners. I shaved nearly 2 full minutes off my last half-marathon time, which I set on a much faster course than Lake Placid back in October.
View my mile splits and other data here or below:
The player view of the race on the Garmin Connect site is especially awesome since you can watch my speed, elevation, and even heart rate throughout the race.
Back in Saratoga Springs that day, Jen was busy taking more than 2 minutes off her own 5k PR, too! So big congrats to my 5k specialist wife!
We celebrated the banner day with Alexis and Justin in Lake George — shopping for the girls and cocktails for the boys, followed by dinner overlooking the lake.
Now if only my Achilles tendon would heal in time for my next race…