I ran the Springfield Half Marathon a few weeks back. The last few years, I've gotten into the pattern where I only do running races before or after tri season. Road races are great for benchmarking and letting me know how my training is coming along. The general idea here being that training and fitness gains should be progressive both over the course of a season and the course of many seasons together. That's the general idea.
I have a tendency to forget the specifics of my PRs. Going into this most recent half marathon I knew that I had ran 1:21 something or other the year before at another race. I also know that on the right course I should be able to run significantly faster than that. Springfield started out well. I clicked off about 5 miles right at 6 flat pace which would put me well under my PR. This marathon's supposed draw is that you get to run by most of the prominent Abraham Lincoln sites in Sprinfield. This aspect was rather lost on me since after mile 5 all I was noticing was the over-abundance of hills! I actually held pace for a couple more hilly miles before a big slowdown around mile 10. I felt strong at the end and clicked off a couple good miles trying to get that PR.
1st in Age group
This time was pretty low in the 1:21s so I thought a small PR looked hopeful. I went home and looked up my time from the previous year's half in St. Louis. 1:21:08.
I kid you not. Almost exactly a year apart, both races chip timed, and I run the same time to the second! Both courses were comparable in terms of hills (many). Outside of 1/2 Ironman races, I've only done 4 half marathons ever. I decided to look back so I could feel good about my long-term improvement. At the end of tri season in '06 I did a different hilly half marathon in St. Louis. Time, you ask? 1:21:09. 1 second worth of improvement over 3 years!! Granted, I don't actually know the parts of a second for each race, so in all probability it is less.
How the heck does this happen? How do I lay it on the line at 3 different half marathons and only have one second of variation between the three? Beats me! I've been running for many years though and know almost exactly how hard I can push my body. Turns out for the 1/2 marathon that is right around 1:21:08 give or take a few tenths!
To wrap-up the rest of my early season run races:
Mountain Goat 15K (lots 'o hills)
56:32 (2nd overall)
As a side note when I did this same course 3 years prior I was a whole 8 seconds slower. Yipee, big drops here;)
Lake Run 12K (worst wind I have ever ran in)
44:27 (5th overall)