Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The NYRR Manhattan Half Marathon Pace Report

(Sorry for the tardiness of this post...my professional duties have been keeping me far too busy to attend to this blog earlier in the week!)

So this is my pace report for the half marathon I ran on Sunday. If you came here looking for a race report, please read Brandon's version of things from a racer's perspective. As this is the first race I've ever paced, my point of view will be slightly different...

If there is one thing I took away from this pacing exercise, it would be that in order to be an effective pacer, one much detach oneself from the race experience as much as possible. Like the backstage manager of a Broadway play or the offensive center of a championship football team, one must learn to be in control of the situation, understand every emotion and execute the game plan while remaining anonymous and out-of-sight. After all, it is not a race for the pacer and it would be counterproductive for him to regard it as such. Rather, it is his responsibility to establish and maintain a specified pace regardless of any external or environmental factors. And though I knew this going in, and even actually stuffed a post-it note with the words "PACE NOT RACE" into my racing tights, I still found it extremely difficult to suppress the racing instinct once the gun went off. It's like that old adage that says "You can take the runner out of the race but you can NEVER take the race out of the runner."

I met my crew of 3 a little before the race start and jogged over to the start. Since the runners who were running with me were a mix of blue and red bibs, we situated ourselves in the middle of the red corral and waited for the race start. The sky was damp and cloudy but not in the slightest bit cold. I debated wearing two top layers for this race but decided to go with one when it was revealed to me that it would be approaching 40F before race's end. I felt perfectly comfortable waiting there with my bandana, gloves, my Philadelphia Half Marathon technical top and running tights although I wondered silently whether shorts might have been more appropriate given these fair weather conditions.

Once the horn sounded, we waited for about 20-30 seconds before following the crowd to start our race. I told my crew that we were not going to waste energy bobbling and weaving. Instead we ran slowly and conservatively and saved our energy for Cat Hill in mile 2. At the halfway point of the first mile, I lost one of my runners who decided to run ahead to attempt a PR. During the last portion of Cat Hill, I lost my second runner who stopped off a bit before to run with his brother who he found on the course. This left Brandon and I for the full duration. After settling for a slow 7:56 in mile 1, we got things back on track in mile 2, running a 7:18.

The next several miles were uneventful as I kept a conservative pace for Brandon to follow. We sped down the downhills and climbed up Harlem Hill without much difficulty. I noticed we were passing people on all the uphills which was encouraging. At the bottom of the West Side, after one full loop has been completed, we gradually picked up the pace. By mile 8, after another Cat Hill was tamed, we ran a 7:15 perfect mile and was on par for a sub 1:35 finish. Unfortunately, Harlem Hill came soon after and shattered my dreams of going 1:34. My mate came so close to losing it after battling the hill that he tasted a bit of his impending vomitus in the back of his mouth. Although I couldn't see his face as I was in front, I could tell from his heavy breaths and shortened stride that he was indeed tiring. For the rest of the race, I did the best I could and encouraged him to push the pace as much as possible - 5K to go, 2 miles, than 1 mile to go. We were able to pass some, but many others ran past us in that last half to quarter mile. Eventually, the finish came, and we sprinted as best we could toward the finish. Once over the line, Brandon lost his balance and slumped onto me. He gave his full effort and finished a hilly half marathon in 1:35:20 (7:16) for a 9 minute PR! Woohoo!

In retrospect, I am glad I was able to help out a friend and secure an epic half marathon PR for him. Not only was it so much fun, I also learned many valuable lessons that would help me pace better races in the future. I've already decided I'm going to pace 1:30 for a half-marathon over the summer. Then who knows, maybe a 3:10 for a full marathon in late fall or early spring? As long as it fits into my training schedule, I'm more than willing to help out fellow runners to have better results in their races.

What about you guys? Have you ever paced others for a race, or have used a pacer yourself? What was your experience like? What qualities of a pacer are most important to you?

20 comments:

430orbust said...

Enjoyed reading the 'pace' report! Congrats on a job well done...

Ironman By Thirty said...

Nice job!

I paced someone for the first time this year as well. Albeit was only a 4 mile race. I would generally race that distance a 7 minute pace and I had a friend that wanted to go under 32 minutes. I definitely was hard to block out the race and ignore the emotions that come with the race and focus on the pacee. In the end, she finished with a 7:45 pace. I think I was happier than she was! :)

I don't know if I could pace someone over a longer distance. And I definitely couldn't pace them at your speed!

Ansky said...

Elyssa (NYCBKLYNGIRL), Amy (RUNAMYRUN), and myself all paced each other at the half. It was much easier running the race with other runners who run almost the exact pace as me.

On the other hand, I ran with a 3:50 pacer at the NJ Marathon last May and he went out way too fast, more like a 3:45 - 3:48 pace. May not sound like a lot but over 26.2 miles a slightly faster pace can take it's toll on you.

Congrats on pacing Brandon to a 9 minute PR. I know it wasn't easy for him, but he held it together and met his goal.

Julie said...

Hi Lam,
Welcome back, I have missed you:) Hey, great race report! Thank you for the wonderful recap it was fun to read! I am so happy for your friend and his PR...Go Brandon!! That must be pretty exciting knowing that you helped someone to obtain their PR dreams!! You could move to Minnesota and be my racing coach/pacer...but you would go crazy becaus I am waaaayyyy slower than you:) Have an awesome day Lam!! Keep smiling:)

Anne said...

Great job helping Brandon attain a 9 min!! PR, that's amazing. I have never even raced YET...but soon, I'll know more about being paced. Have a good day! :)

Brandon Wood said...

As I said in my race report (linked in original post) I could not have gotten my time without you. The biggest thing that struck me about the miles during and after Harlem Hill was how fast we were actually going. I can't remember the exact splits, but I know that I FELT like I was moving at a snail's pace. However, upon checking the splits, we were really moving!

I hope that, one my triathlon season is over and on a less difficult course, that I can once again fall into your wake and be led to that 1:30!

Jocelyn said...

A slow 7:56? I hate you. Will you pace me for a PR of 2:30 half marathon? hahaha. You could walk and I would still be reacting the same way brandon was.
Great job being the leader! You rock.

Noah Moore said...

Great report. I ran with a pace group at the Marine Corps Marathon last year and it was awesome. I ended up cramping at mile 20 and losing the group, but I still finished with a PR. You guys are amazing for giving up your race time to help everyone else. The sport is better for it.

Morgan said...

Thanks for the pacing insight! I am pacing two friends in two different upcoming races and def needed an inside approach. Any suggestions on how NOT to annoy the person your pacing with encouragement? I think that's my biggest fear is that I'm going to annoy them because I'm so dang happy when I run. LOL! Great job pacing and big congrats to Brian and his killer PR! Off to read his recap now!

marathonmaiden said...

wow what a great pr for your friend! and awesome job as a pacer. i love how you had a post-it saying "pace not race" haha

stplatt - The Devoted Runner said...

Very interesting perspective on the race. Had never thought of it from the pacers point of view. Good Job.

rUntoNamAste said...

Good job pacing and congratulations on the PR, Brandon!

Were you wearing a red shirt and said 'Shit!!' when you saw the clock? If yes, then I saw you hauling ass at the finish line.

pen said...

It sounds like you did a wonderful job pacing! Want to pace me at a 3:23 marathon so I can get guaranteed entry to NYCM? ;)

I did promise a friend to pace her for a 4hour marathon, so when that actually comes to fruition, I may have to check in with you for some tips...

Tricia said...

Enjoyed the report!

RunMishiRun said...

Great Job Lam!!! I love that you give back. Such an inspiration. I'm excited to follow you on your journey to the New Jersey marathon. I can't wait!!!!

Running and living said...

Great job on the pacing. In a way, I think it is tougher than racing, bc there is so much responsibility involved!

X-Country2 said...

Awesome job! I paced a new runner friend once, and it was one of the most rewarding thing I've ever done. I was soooo proud of her.

Lisa said...

I have paced a friend before, but it was for a 5M race, not a half. It was fun - did it more for fun than anything else. I guess that's what your mindset needs to be, right?

I'm running the MORE/Fitness Half in the park in April. It should be fun, but I'm not really looking forward to two laps of those hills! Even though that's where I train. Guess I have to spend more time at the north end!

lindsay said...

i've never paced nor been-paced. no particular reason other than maybe the pace group i wanted was not available? you gave it more of a "run with a friend" twist (to me anyway) which i liked! i may need to partake in your services one day :)

Chic Runner said...

I am pacing someone soon so this was very interesting to read. AND SCARY! ha ha what if i FAIL... BAD DANICA! Ha ha. :) Great job though I'm sure you were an excellent pacer and a great encouragement!

 
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