I toed the line for my first official race since moving to Sacramento. Yes, I ran the triathlon relay but this one was just me, the clock, and about 500 other souls. I traveled a little more than an hour south to Modesto for a half marathon. Though the race title suggests it starts at midnight it actually goes off at 9 p.m. I guess the hope is that everybody finishes by midnight!
When I think of Modesto, I think of the Modesto Relays. It used to be one of the great staples of American track and field when I was a teenager. It's a modest city of more than 200,000 people situated in the San Joaquin Valley.
I decided to run this race after its director sent our station a request for media coverage. On a Saturday night it's tough to utilize the thin weekend resources for a road race. I thought I could at least contribute by running and blogging about it. I was more than a little surprised when I saw live trucks their from our competitors, KCRA and the Telemundo station. The only thing that surprised me more was that I was actually cold when I got there and had to done a long sleeve shirt to guard against the cool night air before racing.
My goal was to run the 13.1 miles at my marathon pace. That meant 8 minute miles and a time of 1:45. I wanted to get to 10 miles and maybe push a little bit to the finish and hope my legs felt fresh. My last half marathon in March in Fort Myers was not very satisfying. I was toast after nine miles and struggled home.
The gun went off and I settled into a pace that felt comfortable and sensible. The course traveled from the heart of downtown Modesto and snaked its way through various neighborhoods with very little street lights and some so-so traffic control. I didn't catch a split until mile two which I ran in 7:47. I was worried that I was going too fast but decided to plunge ahead and forget the watch.
Just before three miles as I approached a busy intersection the police officer had the runners stopped and was letting traffic through. I was stunned but about 10 yards from actually hitting the intersection he stopped traffic and let the 20 or so gathered runners move forward. I quickly got over that shock and soon realized I was starting to catch a lot of people. I was passing folks at the rate of two about every quarter mile.
A lot of the runners had the good sense to have little head lights attached to their hats or just carrying it in their hands. I was grateful for the illumination but I found myself in a no man's land of darkness after six miles and hit one of the course cones in the darkness. It tweaked my hip and I almost took a spill but after letting a profanity I kept moving.
I felt very good but I was anxious that I was running too fast and would hit the wall. In the darkness the miles seemed to take forever but finally by mile 9 I realized I felt plenty strong and I was still passing people. I hit 10 miles and checked my watch. It read 79:19. I was a little alarmed. I started doing the math and realized I might be able to run 1:44.
The last three miles were uneventful except for one runner who I passed after ten miles came back on me at 11 and I decided to up the tempo and try to carry it to the finish. I left him on the dark streets passing other runners before we swept back into downtown where I hit the finish line in 1:42:44. I was elated until I looked at my Garmin and it read 12.96. There were a lot of trees and it could have blocked the GPS but my guess is the course was a little short.
When I got home and checked my splits I was pleasantly surprised. Mile two had been a fluke. My first mile was spot on 8 minutes and I hit 8 minute miles or just a shade under most of the way until the end when I went 7:45 and 7:38 to finish. Plus my legs were fresh and I know I could have run another three miles at that effort without much of a problem.
I've got three more weeks of hard training and St. George is still five weeks away. I really think the goal of 3:30 that I set for myself six months ago is well within my grasp.