Sorry its taken to long to get this up. I’ve been busy doing some home improvements my loving wife has requested and work has just clobbered me. I ran the Heartbreak Ridge Half-Marathon at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California on Saturday and the bad news, well maybe good depending on how you look at it, is the hills were not the Reaper or Old Smokey, it was not muddy and it didn’t rain! score!
That’s not to say this race didn’t just kick my but; the hill’s were murder but the course was not technical at all; outside of the elevation/incline. It was a waste of time to have worn my trail running shoes, my Brooks would have been way more comfortable.
The run was an out and back so the first and last 3/4 mile was on pavement the rest on some gravel but mostly dirt roads that were heavily traveled by military equipment so the dirt was mostly uneven but packed. I was surprised that the road was not muddy since it had rained all week and the day before. But it was a nice surprise.
The elevations going in had a rise from under 200ft to 500ft in less than a 2 miles, on the way out it was mostly a gradual up and down climb with some flats until you got to the 10 mile point and you had to dig in to get over that last extreme rise to the peak.
I made a couple real amateurish mistakes during the run, the first was wearing shoes I hadn’t even tried on before the race and the other was my in race nutrition, but I’ll get into in just a bit.
It was my fathers birthday the day before the race and as I predicted his passing 3 years ago hit me again on the evening of April 8, the eve of this run. I sat and talked to my Dad and decided that I would run this race for him (as long as he came for the ride; that was the deal) I told him that if he hung out with me in the race I wouldn’t walk the hills.
If you have been reading my blog for any amount of time you will have noted that I have a problem with processing sugar, I’m “Insulin Resistant,” which means that I have to be extremely careful so I really had to dial in the gel packs I was using for my run. I was able to get it down to two gels for a half-marathon taking the first at 6 and the second at 10. I also battled finding gels that didn’t have processed sugars. Then I found out that almost all of the gel packs contain Maltodextrin which is highly processed and even worse then processed sugars; to make things worse its exempt from labeling as a sugar and allowed to be listed as a carbohydrate. Maltodextrin has a glycemic index of 130, while table sugar is 65.
Because of this ‘revelation’ I decided that I would roll back the use of Cliff Gel Packs to ONE for the entire race.(mistake two)
I was up at 4:30AM so that I could get to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton at 6:00am. I was out the door a little after 5:00am I arrived at the base gate around 6:10am and drove from the gate to the race area some 5 miles further. Since I was early I was ushered to the furthest point in the parking lot away from the race area; which wouldn’t have been so bad had I not had to walk back and forth to my car three times pre-race for such things as leaving my ID in the car not knowing I needed it to pick up my bib and to drop my warm cloths off at the car before the race. I didn’t notice the bag check until after the race LOL. What it did do is give me a great warm up 🙂
The Kids 1K stated at 7:30AM followed by the Military Running corral for the Half-Marathon at 8:30 and Civilians at 8:40. I was in the 8:40 corral time and while waiting for the corral I met three gentlemen, two were in the 50-54 and one was in the 60 – 64 age groups, I was in the 55-59 group. Seems all three of us came to the race alone. Tony was the person I seemed to gel with the most and ending up talking to him prior to and in the corral.
My plan was to start at the back of the pack but
some how, because I wasn’t paying attention and talking too much we all ended up 12 feet back from the start line right in the thick of things.
At the horn we took off at about a half mile I looked at my watch and noticed that we were running a 8 minute mile pace. I told Tony and the others that I was rolling back my pace and I watched as they ran off into the abyss, lost to me in the masses that followed behind them. I wanted to roll back to a pace between 9.30 and 10.00 because I knew that I would need to worry about the hills coming up.
I caught the first one of our group at about the 2 mile point on the first hill, his pace had slowed substantially. The hill was steep and I could feel the burn in my legs as I worked my way up the hill. Although I was not the only person running a number of the people on the hill were already walking. At the peak there was an aid station, there were actually allot of aid stations along the routes; more than I think I’ve ever seen in a race. I carried my own water so I didn’t stop at any of the aid stations until I ran low on water and that wasn’t until after mile 10. I caught the second of our group as I came down the hill in the 3 to 4 mile stretch.
I dropped in to “the zone” I figure just around mile four; ear phones/buds use was not allowed on this run so I was inside my head and totally oblivious to the heavy breathing of runners near or passing me or even the fact I was running. It was not until Tony shouted “Hey Bill!” as he passed me some where in my mile 5/6, his mile 7. It took awhile for Hey Bill to register and he was at least 20 feet passed me by the time I yelled Hey Tony! back to him. Mile 6 I downed my one and only gel.
Somewhere around mile 6.6 I hit the turn around point and head back toward not only the race stating point/finish line but into the 500ft climb. I was still feeling good at this point my legs felt good as well, but I knew I was in for a long gradual ascent. The trail would be a series of small rises, some sharp, a few ‘short’ flats and a lot of dips.
Mile 8 and 9 I stated to feel the onset of fatigue in my legs. In the distance I could see the sharp incline at mile 10 and I was dreading it; as I neared it I stated to question if I had the energy and legs to make it up; almost no one was running up that hill; I’d have to say maybe 1 in every 10 at best ran up it. At its base I decided I was gonna power up the sucker and mustered up the will and dug deep. As I was going up I noticed Tony in front of me and said, though huffs and puffs…. HaHAY Tatony.. Tony was shocked to see that I had caught him. Making it to the top of that last big hill was exhilarating, I had conquered the worst of the run. I grabbed a cup of water at the aid station slowed down just enough to gulp down half and poured the rest over my head.
Then like a bird in flight raced down the back side of the hill, my feet pitter paddering as fast as my legs could take me; I was in the moment and enjoying my accomplishment and then as the trail flattened and I was using my legs again it started to hit me. Mile 11.43 I bonked bad it was if my legs weighed an extra 20 pounds each, the energizer bunny in me was blinking “LOW BATT.”. I was at that point I knew that I had taken another gel I would not be having this problem, but it was too late taking one now, even if I had one would have been pointless.
I struggled to mile 12 and that’s where it turned into a mental run; everything in me wanted to stop and rest, I had tingling in my arms and top of my head but I couldn’t bring my self to take a rest. I knew if I did, I would be for the worse. I kept repeating to myself just a mile and some change. I had to dig deep.. Then a Marine yelled 1/2 mile more…EASY DIG! When I had the finish in sight I rallied what little energy reserves I had left and tried to finish strong.
I was never so happy to cross a finish line. If I had taken that 2nd gel I’m sure I would have PR’ed but I finish so I ll take it. 10:35/avg. mile