March 31, 2014

Livermore Half Marathon

The inaugural half marathon race in Livermore was the original race I registered for back in October which started my running adventures. This race comes just 6 days after I ran the Oakland Running Festival Half Marathon. Being a “home town” event, my in-laws came out, friends and father were in attendance to watch and cheer me on. My kids even made signs so needless to say, there was a bit more pressure than last week when it was just Jen and the kids. The night prior, I didn’t sleep well at all. I was waking up every couple hours, my mind racing with questions.

The forecast called for 60% rain by the middle of race so what should I wear? I don’t have a waterproof jacket so should I wear my long sleeve or short sleeve shirt and just be cold? Should I wear my tights? I’m still not comfortable wearing them aside from my training runs. Is six days enough of break? What if don’t finish and all those people came out to watch me fail? With the demands of the course, what if the hills beat me?

I was more nervous than ever.

I wore my same gear as before (shorts with under-tights, compression calf sleeves, hat, sunglasses) but this time I wore my long sleeve shirt and remembered to tape my nipples to avoid chaffing.

The day prior, Jen signed up herself and the kids to run in the family fun run and they were “excited to run like daddy” which still makes me smile when I think about it. They raced 15 minutes after half marathon runner went off so I wouldn’t get to see them but from the stories, they had blast! Miles, now dubbed the sprinter, bolted out of the gate then slowed back down and ran the entire 1.5 miles side by side with Jen. Olivia, now dubbed the marathoner, started slow and steady then kicked into gear at the final stretch to sprint through the finish. Both kids ran the entire time! One parent later told Jen that she actually tried to chase down Miles to beat the 3-year-old but couldn’t! Both kids were super-excited to get their finisher medals (and wine glass too). I’m so proud of them and it provided a great time-killer for Jen while I was off running my own race.

I found my spot in the corral which was just behind the 1:50 pace group. While waiting, I was mentally trying to define my goal for this race since I achieved it last weekend in Oakland. I needed a new goal. I decided that this time around, I wanted to stay within pace of the 1:50 group for the first couple miles then meet up with the 1:40 group and stay with them the entire time to see how I feel maintaining that pace and finish with the same time to compare how I felt. If all things go well, maybe I could even beat my time but I’ll be happy with the same time.

The gun went off and the race of 2,600+ runners was on. As usual, I spent the first couple miles zig-zagging the crowd. It wasn’t that bad getting with the first pace group so by the third mile I was already running with the 1:40 pace group. Running consistently was interesting for a number of reasons:

  • Watching other runners trying to get around the group only to fall back through was funny. If they only knew how much energy they were expelling by accelerating to pass us only to them slow down and be swarmed by the group overtaking them. It must be demotivating too.
  • Running around the group, left and right, front to back is waste of energy too. Just stick with one position in the group and maintain that.
  • It’s much easier to fall into a rhythm and enjoy the scenery when you find the zone and the music is good.
  • Drafting the pace runners means less energy expelled!

All in all, I was feeling great running at 1:40 pace. I was thinking that I could actually beat my time! I was cruising through Sycamore Grove Park like a champ (aside from a couple hills that were steep!) but when we popped out of the park and ran the stretch up through Wente Vineyards, everything was about to change.

For the next 2-3 miles, we traversed  a roller coaster set of hills through beautiful wine country… which was completely lost on me because I was solely focused on working up the hills. The group really thinned out at this point. People were falling off to the sides to walk, or worse, dry heave. I was also drifting apart from the 1:40 group. I was started to panic but tried to think about how I can make it back up to the group. On the rare downhill moments I opened up my stride a bit and looked ahead to find the shortest line on the route. Some time later, I was able to work back up to them and the sense of panic was gone!

The final 3.5 miles was mostly downhill and by mile 11 I started to push my pace to see if I could beat the 1:40 time. I didn’t have a lot energy left but I knew if I dug deep, I could make it happen. Once we were back downtown, I knew I was on the homestretch and focused only on picking off runners at a steady rate. I focused on my breathing , tried to open my stride more and remind myself that the end is near– while the pain was strong, it wouldn’t last forever.

As I’m coming down the final block, I could hear the MC over the speaker say “and here comes Ryan OOOOOOODonnell” … That was so cool. The crowd cheering, smile ear to ear, all I could do was give it everything I had.

Official Standing

Final Time: 1:40:10
Pace: 7:39/mi
Age Group: 27th
Gender: 63rd
Overall: 74th
5k Split: 23:51 Pace: 7:41
10k Split: 46:48 Pace: 7:32

Amazingly, I was a mere 6 seconds slower than my Oakland race. Six seconds! Considering the hills, this was AWESOME! I probably should have kicked into higher gear earlier if I wanted to PR but I’m thrilled with my time. It proves that my Oakland time wasn’t a fluke and that beating this 1:40 time is well within reach.

Having my family there to hear my name and see me come through with a strong finish was one of the best feelings in the world. Having my dad there to see meant more to me than I originally imagined. I’m glad he could see me tackle this challenge and hear his son’s name over the loud speaker while a crowd of people cheering.

I’ll never forget this race. It was the most grueling 13 miles I’ve ever run that culminated into a beautiful morning for our family.



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