todd has posted his race report, but i thought i'd share mine as well, to give another (albeit quite similar) perspective.
going into this race, i had done the half marathon distance only once before. it was my very first race and i had a great experience. my training for that half had wasn't much. a friend who was also running the race asked me, about 2 weeks before the race, what my longest run had been. at that point, it was only 6 miles. i ran every day but the day before the race and got one 12 miler in (with my friend's help). i ran around a 1:42 at that race and was pretty happy with the result.
by contrast, my training leading into this race has been voluminous, with many miles logged and long runs topping out just over 19 miles. still, i was treating this as a training run, and so i figured my time would be in the 1:50-1:55 range. i have recently been finding a bunch more pace in shorter runs, but my runs of 13+ miles haven't been at a very high pace. beyond ensuring that i was staying on track in my marathon training (2 months away now!!) by not getting injured, i just plain didn't think i could run much faster than that for this distance.
i ran the race with two friends, josh and todd. todd and i run together quite regularly, and i've come to accept that the guy is just plain faster than me. he too is training for the marathon so we both decided to take it slow at the start. josh shot right out, and i wouldn't seem him again until the later miles of the race. todd and i hung back, fighting the race day adrenaline and keeping a nice, easy pace. todd broke off after the first mile to tie his shoe, and soon after that he went flying past me (i still think he was munching spinach or something instead of tying his shoe). knowing he is faster than me, i didn't try to keep pace with him. i wanted to run my own race and not push beyond my limits. the last thing i needed was another lower leg injury.
to my surprise, i settled into a really nice rhythm. miles 2, 3 and 4 were all sub 8 minute miles. i was running much faster than i had planned, but i felt no ill effects for it. the early stretch of the race was run along the ocean, with a nice breeze coming in on an almost unbelievably nice day for this time of year. the sun beating down on my face, the great scenery and the droves of runners in bright colors had me mesmerized, and my body's natural rhythm was working very well. when we left the road along the water and found ourselves in a more residential neighborhood, i realized i was running below 7:30 pace. i took stock of how i felt, and i really didn't feel badly at all. too, i had todd in my sights and was able to get right on his heels on a slight incline.
for the first time in a long time, i actually considered racing in a race. i had strategy forming in my mind. i thought i would stick on todd's heels as best as i could, and, stealing one of his moves, try and launch a surprise attack on him with a kick at the end. we kept pace with one another for another few miles. i think around mile 8 or 9 todd stopped off for a bio-break... i was so close behind him that when he looked back to check the field, i had already passed him. in terms of racing, this was not how i had planned it!! not only was todd setting a nice pace for me to keep up with, something that kept me steady and within myself, now my strategy for "racing" was out of the window!!
the next stretch i ran alone. shortly after the mile 9 marker, i spotted josh up ahead. it was nice to see him, and keeping him in my sights helped me settle my pace down quite a bit. i didn't want to make a push to catch completely up to him because i knew that the last two miles were probably going to hurt, given that i had been keeping a much faster pace than i normally keep in training runs.
shortly after the 10 mile marker, as i was toiling up a slight incline, todd came flying past me. i shouted his name, but he didn't turn around or acknowledge me. at the time, i thought, "man, he is serious about beating me!", but as it turns around, he was completely unaware that he had passed me (or that i had passed him). having him pass me was a bit demoralizing, but only to the competitive part of me. i was otherwise still feeling great. passing through the 11th mile marker, i knew i was going to be able to maintain a similar pace through the end of the race. seeing todd and josh not too far out of reach in front of me, and seeing both of their families rooting us on along the course provided a nice boost.
todd put in his kick around mile twelve, and as he pulled away, i didn't have it in me to try and match him. i did put in my own kick, but i knew right away it wasn't going to get me closer to him. i focused my efforts on maintaining my form, on keeping my breathing steady and ensuring i wasn't pushing myself anywhere near the fear of injury. i crossed the line in the beautiful sun of the early afternoon at 1:38:39, my new half-marathon PR.
both todd and josh ran great races, both crossing the finish line in front of me. we all finished within a minute of one another, which has never happened to me before when i've run with friends. it was nice to have shared the experience of running that race with them on such a wonderful day and at such a wonderful event. we talked through it over beers back and josh's and all agreed that there will be a marker on our calendars for this event next year.
i am really happy with the race and my performance. it gives me the confidence that i can push the pace at longer distances (well beyond my training pace) and not blow up or bonk. i'm glad i decided to run this race and happy with how well it has fit into my marathon plan.