This is the second year of the Dismal Swamp Stomp Half Marathon and also my second year of running this race. A race that is run on a two lane blacktopped road that was formally the old Highway 17 in Chesapeake. When they built the new four lane 17 they turned a portion of the old 17 into the Dismal Swamp Trail, a picturesque trail that runs next to the Atlantic Intercoastal Waterway...a waterway that runs from New York to Florida. The trail is flat and goes about 8.25 miles out so an out and back will get you 16.5 miles...and I frequently do my long runs there. Last year I had a big PR with a 1:32:26, which also netted me a surprising Age Group 1st place finish...The first AG award in my young racing career. This year I PR'd again at the Norfolk Half Marathon with a 1:28:01, and since my training had been going fairly well and I had had a big confidence boosting sub 40 PR at Ukrop's 10K, I was expecting another PR here and my goal was to at least go sub 1:28 with a secret (well not really a secret since it is a 2008 goal) if everything went right...goal of sub 1:25.
Woke up this morning to clear skies with cool temps in the 50's. The forecast called for around 60F for the 8:00 start with the temps climbing into the 80's by midday. Not my notion of ideal racing temps but at least it wouldn't be humid. I ate my breakfast and headed to the race early. Last year the parking was so limited that there were still lines of cars trying to park when the race started and a lot of runners started very late. This year the parking seemed to have expanded and I didn't hear of any problems like we had last year. I got parked and relaxed reading the paper while I waited for a couple of women from the gym who were also running. I hit the port-a-potty and met one of them there and the other shortly after. 30 minutes before race time, I ran my two-mile warm-up on the trail and everything seemed to feel fine. I got back to the start line and see Paul on his hand crank and talk with him a bit and wish him a great race. I join the crowd of runners near the front and look for people to pace/run with, thinking that if I stick with one of them I won't go out to fast. I found Colleen, Leisa and Charlie all in the same area and whom I knew are faster than me, but going out with them would prevent me from jack rabbiting my start. My plan was to stick with them as best as I could and was confident that they would give me more even pacing than if I went out by myself...besides, the time and miles seem to pass faster when with a group and talking.
Paul is sent off first on his hand crank a few minutes before the 8:00 start and we soon follow. I start off with Colleen while Leisa goes out ahead and Charlie is a bit behind. We talk a bit the first couple of miles and I miss the first mile marker but the second is in 12:52, which averages out to about a 6:26 pace and it felt easy and I had to keep telling myself that the first few miles always feel easy and I need to keep paying attention to my pacing. Colleen seems to be dropping off a bit and Charlie with a group of two other runners passes us and I decide to follow them. Mile three is in 6:30 for a total time of 19:22. Charlie's group seems to be picking up the pace and we bridge the small gap to Leisa and mile four is in 6:41 and I decide to stick with Leisa because in the past races she has always run me down from my fast starts towards the end with seemingly effortless ease and I figure I can do my best by running with her for a while. I see Paul ahead and we pass him around the five mile mark and it reads 6:34. I urge Paul along as we pass and he seems to be doing very well and on his way to a brand new PR because I'm surprised it has taken us so long to catch him. On the way to mile six, we see the lead pack of five Kenyans on their way back and then a few more runners...I try to do a Steve and count the lead runners going by but lose count at about 12, and mile six is in 6:38. We get to the turn around point and head back. This is my favorite part because I get to see all the runners coming towards me and am able to see a lot of runners that I know and we greet each other including my gym mates and I miss mile seven but mile eight is in 13:18 for an average pace of 6:39. Keeping with Leisa has really helped in my pacing but she seems to be falling off pace and I gradually lose her. I set my sights on the runner in front of me and slowly catch up to him and pass him and again set my sights on the next runner about 75 meters out and mile nine is in 6:40. I catch up to the second runner and we play leap frog for a bit and then we both settle into the same pace and we are able to talk a bit before he seems to fall back also and mile ten is in 1:06:04 for a 6:47 pace. I set my sights on the next runner that I can barely see in the distance. By this time the bulk of the runners still going out to the turn around comes to an end with only an occasional late starter or walker still heading out and the road is lonely and quiet and mile eleven shows it because it's my slowest split at 6:58. I get mad at myself for falling so far off the pace and try to pick it up but mile twelve is in 6:50. 1.1 miles to go and I try to concentrate on my stride and pace but can feel myself slack off and the final 1.1 is in 7:29 for a finish of 1:27: something. Later checking the race results my time is posted as 1:27:23 for an overall pace of 6:40/mile, 22nd overall and first in my age group. Another PR although only by 38 seconds...but hay...I'll take it! Paul comes in a few minutes behind me with a great PR in the 1:31 range. Great Race Paul! I went back to my truck for my camera so I can take pictures of my gym mates and was able to get a picture of both of them racing towards the finish. Towards the 2.5-hour mark I notice that the ambulance seems to make a lot of trips out on the racecourse and back. I learned later that about six runners needed medical attention on the course with one that they had to use the defibrillator on...currently I don't know how she is but I hope she and everyone else are fine.
There were 47 finishers in the Male 50 to 54 age group and 1124 total finishers
Overall finish place was 22 of 1124
Age group finish place was 1 of 47
Time: 1:27:23.40 for an overall pace of 6:40 per mile
Mon: 30 min Elliptical, 45 min Cycle
Tue: 9.1 miles run, 20 min Elliptical, 20 min Stairstepper
Wed: 33 min Elliptical, 31 min Cycle, 25 min Stairstepper
Thu: 7.2 miles run, 20 min Elliptical, 10 min Stairstepper
Fri: 30 min Elliptical, 31 min Cycle, 12 min Stairstepper
Sat: DSS Half race with 2 miles warm-up
Sun: 31 min Elliptical, 30 min Cycle, 15 min Stairstepper
Next race is a marathon next Saturday, the Country Music Marathon in Nashville, TN
Hope everyone has a great weekend and week!