But when I saw the pictures, I had to laugh.
I have one very good running buddy who has gotten super-fast. But on occasion, we'll still do races or parts of races together -- he'll either slum it with me at my pace, or double back to run me in after he finishes. The plan was that he would do the half, finish, get some water, then double back for me on his cool down.
Well, he's having a flare up of acute Achilles tendinitis, so he was a no show for the race. That meant I thought I'd be left to my own devices for pacing.
Here is a shot of what my Garmin pace data looked like for the race (faster is higher in the picture, slower is toward the bottom of the picture):
So you will see that there are a few random spikes due to satellite error or possibly a stop to grab water or something.
But generally, on the first half of the graph, you can see a fairly level line for my average pace. My mile splits for miles 1-4 were all within a 10 second spread. Miles 5-8 were within a 25 second spread or so, but all slower than miles 1-4. But miles 9-12 were where the wheels were coming off. All those miles were within a 20 second spread, but the spread was nearly a minute per mile slower than my average pace for miles 1-4.
The crazy thing is, I knew the second half of the course would have some pretty big hills, so I purposely paced pretty slowly for miles 1-4. I was aiming for right around marathon pace, which I basically did, and isn't exactly speedy for a half marathon.
But even with a conservative and steady start, by the time I hit the hills about halfway through the race, my pace took a serious turn for the worse.
You can see that if you drew a horizontal line following my average pace for the first half of the race, the vast majority of the second half is well below that line.
But you might also see that in the last 5-10 minutes, there is a general increase in pace, the graph trends upward again.
That is because I was struggling toward the finish, contemplating quitting or walking, but realizing that my goal was just to be done and that would happen more quickly if I just kept running/jogging.
Well, 3 guys were coming out on the course backwards. One had a big noisemaker crank thing that he was using. When he stopped, I joked that it had been nice because my breathing sounded like a train and it was drowned out by the noisemaker.
At that point, I was running near 2 guys, but wasn't really talking to either of them. The group of 3 backtrackers u-turned near us and were encouraging us to speed up and finish strong.
I wasn't really able to speed up I didn't think, but the 2 guys were actually slowing down, so I was the lucky person selected from the group of 3 to be paced to the finish.
As they chatted (I mostly grunted responses), I learned that the 3 of them had been the first 3 finishers in the race.
The leader and winner of the race told me to focus on the woman in front of me (way, way ahead) and run her down. He grabbed my water bottle for me (his shirt was balled up in his other hand).
Here's a picture of him where he appears to be looking over at me to check on how I'm doing.
Because the wind that day was fierce and straight into our faces when we were on the hilly second half, he told me to tuck in behind him and draft.
During the race, that comment had made me chuckle a little bit, but the pictures actually made me laugh out loud. The idea that this guy was going to be able to block ANY wind for me is hilarious!
Do you see the size of his left thigh in the picture above? I think it might fit into one of my arms. One of my forearms. Ahahahaha. And HE was offering to block the wind for ME! Maybe his brain was deprived of oxygen or something from running fast enough to win the race.
To humor him, I did eventually attempt to tuck in behind him and take a free ride off some of his excess energy.
Even if he wasn't big enough to provide any kind of wind block, the fact that he carried my water and that he ran with me and encouraged me was amazing and wonderful -- and as the upward trend at the end of that graph shows, effective! The last half mile had an average pace just a bit faster than the average from miles 1-4. And the last .1 was among my fastest sustained paces of the race (certainly my fastest sustained pace on something flat, there were a couple downhills where the wind died down and I probably ran about the same pace).
These pictures are good reminders that a.) runners are awesome people, and b.) fast and skinny runners can be hilarious in their concept of wind-blocking ability. I told him he deserved at least 50% credit for my age group award. If I'd been left to my own devices for the last mile or so, I think the pace would have stayed in the gutter, and there's a pretty good chance it would have cost me another several minutes, perhaps making me lose my spot "on the podium" to someone else. Though we never caught the woman in front of me, we closed the gap significantly and she wasn't in my age group anyway. And I ended up less than 5 minutes off my half PR -- which is a lot given that it was only a half, but not a lot given the elevation on the course. My Garmin (not exactly the most accurate, but for what it's worth) showed about 300 feet of elevation gain in the race, and 250 feet of that was in the second half. So about 1 minute slower for every 50 feet of climbing. Not as shabby as I was sure it would be during the race itself.