A week ago Sunday I ran my 5th half-marathon, and second of the year: The Saratoga Palio here in Saratoga Springs. I loved this race last year and I loved it again this year. It’s definitely a tough race since there are a few hills throughout the Spa State Park, then mostly uphill in the final 5k (the sprint down North Broadway in the final 7/10ths of a mile aside).
Coming off a 1:34:24 at the Lake Placid Half-Marathon in June, and just a few weeks out from my next full marathon in October, my aggressive goal, knowing the hills would slow me down, was 1:30:xx. I was also pretty confident I could set a PR, bettering my 1:34 Lake Placid time.
Sure enough, I hit right smack in the middle and finished 35th overall and 4th in my division with a new half-marathon PR of 1:32:09 – average pace of 7:01/mile (view details on Garmin Connect) — just 70 seconds shy of a 1:30:59 (damn hills). Even now as I check out the course elevation, I’m surprised to see just how hilly it was, which makes me appreciate my time even more:
I was pretty happy with the time and feel psyched to hit a 3:10 at the Mohawk-Hudson Marathon in 2 weeks. Running a 1:30 half is the rule of thumb to be able to run a 3:10 full, and the MHM is a much faster course than the Palio course. Plus, my August 5k time says I can do it.
The weather last Sunday was perfect running weather: Overcast and foggy. It was a lot like the weather the day of my last marathon in San Francisco. We didn’t really get much sunshine until well after I’d finished the race — quite a bit different than the sunny 2008 Palio.
(Speaking of last year’s race, I took nearly 8 minutes off my time — and 2+ off my Lake Placid time.)
The race started late – a little after 8am – and I chatted with a woman at the starting line who had scaled back to “only 70 miles this week” (she’d run 90 the week before). I also saw TnT friend Kim and her dad, along with Green Mountain Relay teammates Megan and Jess.
I did a good job resisting the urge to come out too fast in the first mile – I hung back a bit with the initial starting surge and cruised to a 7:00 mile. As we ran into the pine-covered paths of Spa State Park, I picked it up the next couple miles, clocking in a 6:57 and a 6:53.
One key thing I’ve learned about racing as I’ve gained more experience – this was my 24th race since I started running last year, and my 11th this year – is that it’s important not to fall into pace behind another runner or group of runners going slower than you… or who are temporarily running your pace, but are slowing. This happened early in the race and then again toward the end around Mile 8 past the Racino. You have to make your move and go for the pass to maintain your own goal pace.
All the way through the state park, back into town, into Congress Park, and toward the final 5k ascent – the first 10 miles — I managed to maintain an average pace of 6:59, so I was feeling good, despite running low on steam.
I hit my first GU in the state park around the 30-minute mark (between Miles 5 & 6). It gave me a much-needed boost to maintain the quick pace. I hit another GU just before the 1-hour mark, as I recall, and that was it for the day (only 3 total, including the one pre-race GU).
Miles 11 and 12 – up Excelsior, across Route 50, then up North Broadway onto the Skidmore campus – are the killers – so that’s where my pace took the biggest hit of the day, slowing to a 7:48 in 11 (slowest of the race) and 7:12 in 12.
In the final mile I dug deep and gave it everything I had to clock in my fastest mile of the race in 13 – a 6:37 (the downhill helped). I also flew past the dude who had passed me going up the North Broadway hill.
My heart rate had climbed to 176 (from the high 160s/low 170s where it had been most of the race), and I poured it on in the final 0.1, hitting a blazing 4:48 pace as I cruised across the finish line for my PR:
(What’s funny is watching the above finish line video as compared with my finish line video from this race last year – note that last year I’m clearly struggling a hell of a lot more.)
Jen was at a bachelorette party in Manhattan that weekend, so she missed the excitement and the Palio 5k she’d planned to run. But we did go out later for a late lunch with Alexis at Bailey’s Cafe:
Big thanks to Alexis for being the official race photographer and videographer, and to Sarah, Eric, Ellery, and Bodie for cheering me on at the finish:
Mile splits by Garmin:
|Split||Time||Distance||Avg Speed||Avg HR|