Saturday, March 16, 2013

Tom King Half-Marathon

The Tom King Half-Marathon is probably my favorite Nashville area race.  Most of the running crowd around Middle Tennessee come out, the weather is usually pretty cool and the course is flat and fast (even though it's pretty boring.)  This was my third time doing the race and I was really looking forward to it.  Going into the race, my main goal was to attack the course record of 65:19, set by my former college teammate, Maciek Miereczko.  We went back and forth in college, and he ended up running 2:14 for the marathon a couple of years after graduating.  While the Americans were slaving away the 100+ mile weeks during the summertime in order to get ready for the fall cross country season, he would take several weeks off and play full court 3-on-3 basketball.  That sounds like slacking but he would play to 100 by ones.  One time in college, I was running through a pretty nice neighborhood on a weekend and ran into him.  Not literally, but he was standing in someone's front yard, peeing behind a tree.  Gotta love the Poles.
Maciek likes his beer

I knew breaking the course record would be tough.  I felt like I was in close to 64:00 shape, and definitely would be able to break 65 if I had someone pushing me.  I was hoping Justus David would show up, so I could have my shot at revenge but he's been hurt.  I was also hoping Patrick Cheptoek would make it down because I'm 0-4 against him, but felt like I was ready to give him a run.  But he had a class, so he was a no show as well.  But you never really know who will show up to a race, all you can control is your own effort and destiny. 

The weather that morning was nearly perfect. It was around 40 degrees, with a 7mph wind.  I stopped by McDonalds to get my token coffee and also ate a Powerbar Irongirl bar (don't judge) as well as a Powerbar protein bar.  I knew conditions were set up for me to run fast, so I wanted to take advantage of them.  On the line, I couldn't tell if any other guys were ready to run sub 65, but I saw Lanni Marchant (2:31 marathoner) and told her that she was going to tick off a lot of guys (she ended up finishing third overall).  When the gun went off, I tried to immediately find my rhythm and lock in My plan was to run just under 5:00 pace and hang on as long as I could.  I was prepared to go all-out if needed, but I was hoping that I would finish with some gas left in the tank. On a flat course like Tom King, you can really put a whooping on your body if you hammer all out. There's not much muscle mix-up and it's the same motion over and over at a pretty high rate of speed.  I wanted to be able to train hard the next week, so I didn't want to have to take several easy days in a row afterwards.

The course is pretty simple.  You start in front of LP field, cut a left and follow the mostly flat road all the way into Shelby Bottoms.  After a couple of miles, you hop onto the greenway for a little over four miles, before making a U-turn and coming back the way you came, except for a small extension at the end of the park.  You also finish inside LP field and get to watch yourself on the jumbotron, which is pretty cool.  On a course like Tom King, it's a good idea to work into your pace.  There's a ton of people who go out over their heads in a half-marathon, so it's fun to chase them down.  With the long straightaways, it's easy to see who is in front of you and shortly before the turnaround, you can check out your competition and see who looks like they are about to drop back.  If you go out too hard (like I did in 2011), you have a lot of people who can pass you, which is really unmotivating and that long stretch on Davidson St., well, feels VERY long.

I was alone from the start and even though the lead bikers were in the middle of the road, I hugged the inside of the left lane.  I knew breaking Maciek's record was going to be tough, so I needed to take every second I could get, and running the tangents would definitely help.  I went through the first mile in 4:54 and felt pretty good.  It was a little bit tough but I could tell I wasn't really loosened up and would feel better a few miles down the road.  I went through the second mile in 5:01, which scared me for a second because I wanted all of my miles under 5:00.  But that mile included a mini hill, so I didn't stress about it too much.  Finally I entered Shelby Bottoms.  This is a pretty boring part of the course because it's the equivalant of running on a treadmill in front of some trees for several miles.  It's the same thing over and over, but luckily it's pretty much completely flat, so it's easy to lock into your pace.  I was clicking off all of my miles just under 5:00 and wouldn't let my mind drift for even a second.  I completely focused on running the tangents in perfectly straight lines.  Normally, I'm not such a tangent Nazi, but I knew every second would help out.

Finally, I made it to the turnaround!  After making my attempt at a quick U-turn (which I'm usually terrible at), I was headed back towards LP Field.  After a couple of minutes, I saw Chris Duncan and Lanni Marchant coming towards me, followed by a guy I coach, Olaf Wasternack.  Shortly after they went by, traffic greatly picked up.  I'm not a big fan of this part of the race for a couple of reasons.  With runners coming towards you, it's hard to run the tangents, so you just hug the right side and hope for the best.  The incoming runners also make me extremely ADD.  I usually have a lot of friends that run Tom King, so it's really hard to focus on maintaining your pace while seeking out the people you know so you can cheer them on.  If I was following the pace of someone else, it wouldn't be too bad, but this year, I had to focus on keeping my sub 5:00 pace.  I felt a bit like a jerk that I was so focused on myself this year, but I had buisness to take care of.  I ended up running that portion really well and was also able to catch several of my friends on the way down.

After running against traffic for a few miles, you take a right turn for a little mini-extension around the Nature Center.  I was getting near 10 miles, so I switched my GPS screen to see my total time to (beforehand and usually in races, I only have my individual mile time on the screen.  I hit the lap button at the mile marker and it starts back off at 0:00).  I went through 10 miles in 49:13, which I guess is an unofficial state record because the official record is 50:09, but it doesn't count since there wasn't a timing mat there.  But my mile split that time was 4:46.  That didn't make much sense because I didn't feel like I picked it up.  But hey, a 4:46 sounds good, so I just went with it.  I ran 5:15 the next mile which shocked me. Was I starting to die already?  I picked it up a hair because I didn't want to lose the record in the last two miles but after running the next mile in under five minutes, I realized that someone probably put the mile marker a little bit early (which shows in my GPS data, because the 10th mile was short, and the 11th was way long).   Finally, I was on my way towards the stadium.

Every year, I get tricked at this part. I think I'm almost done but I forget how far you have to run around the stadium and then you have to through, before heading to the grass.  At this point, I was passing some of the 5k runners and thne I finally made it onto the grass.  Running 13 miles on pavement/concrete and then running on plush grass was a huge change.  It's like punching a wall for a while and then punching a pillow.  I made sure not to slip and as moved around the 5k runners and finally it was time for the homestretch.

I could see the clock getting close to 65:00 and I would have really hated to run 65:00, opposed to 64:59, so I gave a little burst and crossed the line in 64:56.  I was 17 seconds off my PR but it felt much easier than the 64:39 did last year.  It was also under the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials qualifying standard of 65:00 but unfortunately that doesn't open up until August.

Overall, it was a great day for racing.  A lot of people set PR's (all three guys I coach did, great job Olaf, Chris and Jeff) and you can't beat the post-race buffet they have afterwards, where I ate my weight in apple danishes.  This race was a confidence booster for my races to come and I look forward to what the spring brings.

Balanced out splits: 4:54, 5:01, 4:57, 4:59, 4:55, 4:56, 4:56, 4:52, 4:57, 4:58, 5:02 (I adjusted the last two because the 10 mile sign was in the wrong spot), 4:57, 5:00


  1. Been looking forward to reading this all week. Huge congratulations! Fantastic running. You make the race sound awesome, too, and I'm hoping to make my half debut here next year. Congrats again!

  2. Thanks man. You making the debut in Tennessee or Asia? Your times are dropping big time and you'll be ready for a strong half.