On Sunday, November 5, 2016, I ran the Good Life Halfsy half-marathon for the first time in Lincoln, Nebraska. Yes, I ran my Halfsy off! The official time of 1:38:19 confirmed a new half-marathon PR: crushed my 1999 half-marathon PR by more than a minute using run-walk! The half-marathon I usually run here is the one associated with the Lincoln full Marathon run in May. But point-to-point races are very enticing. (My first 50k was a point-to-point race). Sometimes we get bored with running loops all the time.
When a 17-year PR crumbles like this, we must ask how did this happen? More than anything, it was the walk breaks. Strategically inserting only about 3:00 of walk breaks was all I needed to slow down my heart rate, refill my lungs, and allow my legs to refresh. Returning to running with renewed vigor, it just seemed easier after the walk breaks.
It did require some discipline with pacing. I chose to wear a 1:35 wristband and to try to run those precise splits (or faster) for as much of the race as possible. Envisioning 7:00ish splits and etching them in my brain was easy, reinforced by an amazing supersize 7:00 minute pace banner at the race. Also, there were pacers for both the 1:35 and 1:40 targets. I knew 1:40 pacing was not going to work to beat my former 1:39 PR. Plus, I just ran a 1:40 in Norfolk’s Laugh and a Half in June so I knew how to produce 1:40. So I watched for the 1:35 pacers during the races and tried to stick to them like glue, not letting them out of sight until the very end of the race.
It’s no secret that I run every day. The consistency of running that frequently does produce a deeper well of running insight and knowledge than what I had before I began run-streaking nearly 3 years ago. Learning when to keep the light runs light and/or slow helped. I had a very good taper week before this race only running about 5k per day. So I had a lot of energy and fresh legs for the race.
There will be a lot of photos with this post. I did snap a lot of pictures. I also took at least 2 video snaps, one 360 of the pre-race vibe and one video snap of us running through the starting chute. I will do my best to place the pictures where they belong. Also, I visited a key point in the course the day before, mile 6 (roughly halfsy of the Halfsy; should we call it halfsy-Halfsy?) just to know where the halfway point was. As runners, we commonly are energized and excited to learn that half of the course is finished and only half remains. It sends wind to our sails and we can coast/glide with that momentum and excitement as long as we don’t quicken the pace too much to have a strong kick.
My only goal for this race was to run a half PR. If my GPS watch hadn’t died in Norfolk during the race, who knows? The PR may have been broken there. But I was in better physical condition for the Halfsy. I could feel it. The 7:00 minute target was a little faster than needed (7:15 corresponds to a 1:35 race, under the PR) but I decided to pursue it and to have at least one mile under 7 if possible. For the first mile, my plan was to keep the pace a little more controlled than usual. I have a jackrabbit tendency to start some races too fast, burning too much energy at the beginning of races. As a result, the second mile was actually my fastest of the race, somewhat unusual but that’s what worked for me.
Another strategic consideration was where to put the walk breaks. Generally I rotated them between about 3 spots: 5k, 8 miles, and 10 miles, adding a few for water stops/aid stations along the course. I knew I would want to see my 5k and 10 mile splits to see how close I was to my goal pace looking at my wristband. So the walk breaks would allow me to check.
For walk break length, I used increments of about :15-:30 each. For a race less than a full marathon where we are trying to run PR pace, I didn’t want the walk breaks to be too long or there is a loss of some of the momentum and mojo that builds up within us during races. And I did not do regular intervals but targeted strategic walk breaks, just enough to give me that restful sense and burst of energy amidst a half-marathon. So when I was using walk breaks I was running :30, walking :30 or running :45, walking :15 seconds.
Yes, it was a festive runner’s expo as you can tell from the photos. I arrived at the expo the day before the race right when they opened to try to avoid the rush of runners and I’m glad I did because it got crowded quickly by lunch time. I enjoyed spending time with other runners there and bought some Clif ShotBloks (margarita flavor, triple salt) since I was out of salt tablets for the race and needed an anti-cramping strategy. I only used 2 of the 3 sleeves that I bought during the race but they helped. No muscle cramps whatsoever. Also, I ran into one of our Galloway group runners members at the expo and it was good to see each other right before the race.
As far as nutrition the day before the race, I decided to centralize my protein at lunchtime: 2 Runzas (one plain, one with bacon). I was going to have a pre-race smoothie the night before but was out of greens and decided to “go light” with Greek yogurt and oat nut toast. That worked well. I learned from Jeff Galloway’s books and experience that it’s better to have the main meal of the day at lunch time the day before a longer race to give food more time to adequately digest.
The night before the race, I did have a little trouble sleeping. Just normal pre-race excitement, nothing major. I was able to relax though and finally doze off to dreamland.
On Halfsy morning, I ran a slow warmup mile with our dog in the dark with a headlamp. I noticed my heart rate was a little elevated. Running in the dark does that as I try to be very careful to not trip over sidewalks/other obstacles that are mostly invisible in darkness. Our dog Misty was not very happy that it was just a mile (we usually run more) but those are the breaks on race day.
Before race day, I had decided to wear the Galloway Training Program shirt and hat to recognize the help that the Galloway run-walk training has provided to me and also to promote our training group. The weather forecast was cool so I brought my NYC Marathon gloves, knowing I would wear them for part of the race. And it appeared to be the last race for my Mizuno Wave Rider 19, some amazing shoes that have blessed me with great success in several races and runs of all lengths. Strava keeps telling me my Wave Rider 19s have high mileage on them, time to retire the shoes.
For my running GPS watch, I’ve moved on the Garmin Fenix 3HR since my Forerunner 620 died in the Norfolk half-marathon. The Fenix gives me good heart rate, VO2 max, and accurate splits for miles and other intervals. I’ll review this watch soon on my blog.
After downing a second cup of coffee on Halfsy race morning, I grabbed my OrangeMud vest with a water bottle and drop bag and drove to Seacrest Field in East Lincoln, the starting point of the race.
The start was very well-organized. There were plentiful volunteers, race organizers, musicians, and even someone in a Pink Gorilla suit. I should explain that Pink Gorilla events is a co-sponsor of the race. Also, Bulu Box, a local business, is a major sponsor of the race and I’ll show a picture of the Bulu box items I picked up at the expo later in this post.
It was a beautiful sunny day, gentle breeze, a little bit cool. I tried to delay turning in my drop bag as much as possible to keep my jacket on and stay warm enough. It’s tough to start a race well when you are too chilly. I wondered if I should have worn a long sleeve shirt for the race but it warmed up quickly.
The Good Life Halfsy had some nice Snapchat location geofilters which I used at the start. The 13.1 mile one was really cool so I added it to a few pictures. (Thank you Snapchat for your help with all the photography and videography I did for this race!)
Before the start, I didn’t run much, mainly just walking trying to keep my muscles warm. Finally I dropped off my drop bag and headed for the start, looking for the 7 minute pace banner and the 1:35 pacers. I found my spot and waited. I took a nice 360 degree short snap of the pre-race vibes. The energy level was very high. Runners were excited and so were the organizers and volunteers. A wheelchair participant was started about 5 minutes before us to give him a head start and we cheered him on.
Finally, the time to start arrived. The gun was sounded and we ran through the starting chute! I took a short snap of the start just so I could remember what it was like with this being my Halfsy debut.
The race begins in a small loop and southerly path down 70th Street. The pace band suggested a 7:42 first mile but that seemed way too slow to me: I aimed for 7:00. My general tendency is to aim below 7:00 for a first mile but for a longer race, I’ve learned to hold back and conserve energy. If I run a 6:30 first mile in a half, I get tired faster and tend to be more breathless. Runners jockeyed for position early and there was definitely a fast group pressing the pace. I could tell there were hundreds or thousands of runners perhaps just running this race for fun, too so we were balanced.
Reaching the one-mile split, I felt strong and checked the split. 7:04, a hair slower than a was aiming for but definitely close enough. I decided to try to pick up the 4 seconds in the second mile. There must have been something about that second mile: just running straight south on 70th Street, a street I am very familiar with, feeling strong and confident. Knowing that the second mile would be under 7:00 to put a little time in the bank on obtaining the PR, I shortened my stride and sped up a little bit. During this second mile, I tried to assess my energy level and it seemed to be high. I passed some runners and tried to establish a stronger running rhythm so I could glide effortlessly as possible.
We reached the 2 mile split and it was just under 7: 6:59 pace. This was the fastest mile of the race. Interestingly, the placement of this faster mile worked well, allowing me to warm up my legs, accelerate, get comfortable with a faster pace, while still reserving enough energy and strength to lasso in this elusive PR.
Off to a good start so far, I was determined to keep the first 5k split as 21:00-something (under 22) to stay on pace). And fortunately, I was able to do that, reaching the 5k split at 21:47 (3rd mile was 7:08). By this point, we were looping onto the trail approaching Holmes Lake, where I knew where there would be cheering, great scenery, and water if we needed it. I also remembered that I was now on the 10-mile State Games of America course (which I was fortunate enough to win a gold AG medal in) last year so that was a great inspiring memory.
There is something about running around and by Holmes Lake that makes me want to run faster (with less effort). Just the beauty of the scenery and waterfowl, trees, and bathed in sunlight always helps fill and nourish my body, mind, heart, and soul with energy and strength. Holmes Lake has become sort of an energy recharging station for me. I just feel like I can recharge my mental and physical batteries there without necessarily stopping, just by scanning the horizon and letting the beauty of nature do its wonderful soul-filling work. It was still cold by this point in the race so I still had my (2004) NYC Marathon gloves on and they helped. So far I had just used my OrangeMud water bottle for hydration and hadn’t taken any water stops. I did take my first short walk break after 5k: about :15-:30 just to rejuvenate and refresh.
Also, a creative local dental office set up a “smile station” at Holmes Lake on the course and they were snapping runners smiles as we ran by. That was a nice unique touch. Not something you see in every race. And of course if we smile more, we relax more and running becomes more effortless.
The 4 mile marker is just as we enter the Holmes Lake area. As 7:08 seemed like a good pace in the 3rd mile, I just kept going at that pace and reached 4 miles in 7:09, one second slower.
Although I had skipped the water stop after 5k, I decided to walk through the 2nd water stop at 4.9 miles (about :15) so this slowed my mile 5 to 7:22. This was the first mile slower than the pace band suggested. Not a huge deal as I was still ahead from the previous miles. This pace felt comfortable so I kept it right there for another mile.
Shortly past 5 miles, we leave Holmes Lake and begin heading towards the finish line on Normal Boulevard. At this point, the Halfsy course corresponds with the Lincoln Marathon course, which I am very familiar with. There is a nice downhill leaving Holmes Lake and I accelerated slightly past that to try to pick up a little bit of time and momentum.
Funny seeing the 6 mile split: 7:21. My birthday, the only mile where it matched. Just a second faster than the previous mile but :10 slower than the pace band suggested. The 6 mile point was special to me because I had photographed it the day before just to lock the location in my brain. The photo would not have been as pretty the day of the race (better clouds there the day before). I was a little surprised there wasn’t a 10k sign but I probably missed it. Maybe someone walked or ran in front of it or was holding a sign so I couldn’t see it. I noticed that I had 1:35 pacers running right next to me at this point. One of them began passing me and I was afraid it was the 1:40 pacer but no the sign said 1:35. That was a relief! If it was the 1:40 pacer, it would be fartlek time to catch him and lasso his pace. I became aware that the mile signs seemed to be flying by a little faster than I expected. Time flies when you’re having a fantastic fun-filled run!
The cheer stations along the course were helpful. I think there were five of them and supporters had signs (touch here for power!), noisemakers, thunder sticks, water, Gatorade, and high-fives. I tried to high-five all the kids that I could reach easily. Kids love high fives! So do adults of course but sometimes kids seem to appreciate high fives a little more. And the high-fives, support, and encouragement give runners a boost and help us relax into a running groove that just feeds off the momentum we’ve established and every light running footstep.
There’s a home field advantage factor for local runners when we are confidently running on our local marathon course. We just feel the excitement of great previous race experiences, which weave seamlessly into the race we are running right now. I felt this home field advantage on Normal Boulevard, it felt like I was running the Lincoln Marathon a little bit. That relaxed happy-go-lucky feeling was there.
At 7 miles, my pace had slowed to 7:37 (partly due to water stop/walk break at 6.9) and this is about the point where my final splits diverged from the pace band. I realized that going for broke with attempting 1:35 might be overdoing it without having done more speed work. But I knew that with the solid halfs I had in Run Laughlin (1:47) and Norfolk (1:40), that I was on the right track and breaking the PR could still be done.
Between 7 and 8 miles, I made sure to eat one of the Clif ShotBloks sleeves (margarita, triple salt) to prevent cramps. I think I ate the other one around 10 miles.
By 8 miles, I noticed fatigue was surfacing so I changed my run-walk strategy: adjusting the walk breaks up from :15 to :30. A major cheer station at 8 miles was helpful in giving me a boost where I was starting to feel the effects of crushing sub-8 miles for 8 miles in a row. My 8 mile split was slower: 7:54, the second-slowest mile of the race. I wasn’t intending to slacken the pace quite that much but was trying to keep some energy for the last 5k that I knew I would need if I was going to attack the PR. I started to notice a little dehydration at about this point in the race so I made it a point to drink more water from the OrangeMud vest. I avoided all the Gatorade to avoid upsetting my stomach. I determined that I needed to speed up to still attack the PR.
At 9 miles, we reached Capitol Parkway on our way back downtown to the finish. Downtown highlights pop into view, primarily the tall ones: State Capitol building and other bank and commercial buildings. So here I began using these historic landmarks as magnets, pretending they were pulling me home. It worked. The Capitol building had the strongest magnetic pull so that was the one I leaned on the most. My 9 mile split was 7:27 so good uptempo mile.
Between 9 and 10 miles, runners enter Antelope Valley Trail. There is an amazing point on the trail headed north when we ran by the State Capitol just west of us, realizing just how close and easy the run home could be.
At 10 miles, there is a major cheer station. This one was the most raucous of the whole course so it was special to me. Lots of signs, noisemakers, live music, cheering, and thundersticks. More thundersticks than I was expecting (but less than NYC Marathon of course). At this point my middle 6.9 mile split was 51:49 according to my results sheet. Not bad. The 10th mile was 7:34, slightly slower than 9 but still at a good acceptable clip. I recall taking a :30 walk break after 10 miles.
At some point during the race, my Garmin Fenix HR3 read +8 “good” which gave me a physical and mental boost. It showed that I was controlling my heart rate better than expected, partly due to walk breaks, partly due to a good taper and pacing the race well and steadily (for the most part).
Past the 10 mile point, there was strong familiarity with the rest of the course as we had a Galloway group run on the end of the course a week before the race. I was also familiar with it from running the Lincoln Marathon. The Halfsy does diverge from the Lincoln Marathon ending though since the finishing points are different (Memorial Stadium for the Marathon, Canopy Street for the Halfsy). I knew my pace was good for breaking the PR at this point: I just needed to keep on running my race, my pace.
My 11th mile split was 7:46, a little slower than the previous mile and here there was a positive splitting that went the rest of the race. Not ideal but it worked for me. I was inserting walk breaks more frequently (about once per mile :30 in length).
I did seem to be struggling slightly to keep the race splits under 8:00 and was frustrated with that. Fatigue was starting to set in. Just keep run-walking. And drinking more water. It also seemed to be heating up a bit. I pulled my visor down a little to shield my face and pressed on.
On Charleston Street, I started to notice several runners passing me and I let a lot of them go. They were running a different pace than I was while I was simply trying to reel in the PR. One runner was pacing me a little and suddenly stopped tired. I encouraged her with “You got this!” and kept going.
From our Galloway group run, I remembered the energy required to ascend the L-I-N-C-O-L-N bridge that goes by Pinnacle Bank Arena. So I held back a little so I could burst up and down that hill at the end. So the law of conservation of energy made me reserve some fuel for the final kick. The bridge says Lincoln on the side and it’s an actual Strava segment you can run (I’ve run it a few times before). It’s also a great point for a photo op. The beauty of the LINCOLN hill is that there is a fantastic downhill where you can accelerate, cruise, glide and coast right down past the Pinnacle Bank Arena. Uphill and downhill. There’s always a happy side of that hill that we tend to complain about or struggle with at times.
My 12 mile split was 7:56. Here the reality of the PR was settling: the PR was right there for the taking. I just had to keep the pace up and fire the turbo jets at the end.
Near mile 13, the LINCOLN bridge comes into sight. This is a make-or-break point for many in this race. If you’ve trained on hills and reserved enough energy and strength, you’re in good shape. If not, it’s a little bit of a struggle for people and paces slow and more walking. I took the turn for the bridge and climbed the hill, finally cresting it on the LINCOLN bridge. I fired the jets, knowing the PR was going to happen, accelerated as much as possible. I did accelerate enough to break my Strava record for the LINCOLN bridge segment so that was enjoyable to see.
When I’m handed a downhill like what we get near the Pinnacle Bank Arena on the other side of the Lincoln bridge, I lower my head and lean into it, accelerating and taking advantage of the momentum and the downhill grade. Descending the hill, I saw the 13 mile split was 7:57 (still under 8).
Seeing the finish, I became very excited at finally being able to crush and slay a 17-year old half PR from 1999. It felt SO wonderful! There was ecstasy, elation, and of course, endorphins! The race finished on Canopy Street and a jumbo screen showed the finish for everyone to see on a big screen. I think they even called us by name when we finished, which is impressive.
I must have accelerated quite a bit at the end because 6:14/mile is quite a kick for the last .1.
Looking at the finish time, I was elated to see 1:38:19. I raised both arms in the air, pointing skyward and yelled “YES!”
Walk breaks baby! The walk breaks work! Yes I’m a believer! Three PRs in 3 weeks (15k, 5k, and now half-marathon), a very quirky substreak within a runstreak (day 1084 ’twas Halfsy).
After finishing, I walked to receive my medal from a friendly volunteer. I walked gently and slowly, grabbing as much food as possible and some chocolate milk. There were many cookies, I remember that.
My final 5k split was 24:42, slower than the first 5k but enough to PR the race.
Official chip time: 1:38:19 (breaking PR of 1:39:31 from 1999), 7:30 pace according to results (Garmin says 7:28 because I kept running a little past the finish before stopping the watch). 222nd place out of 6000, 165th among men, 8th in my 45-49 age group. So I’ll definitely be keeping this bib as a souvenir. How can we bibchat without saving some of our bibs right?
After taking some pictures I texted my wife and she texted me back surprised at my 8th place AG finish. Yes, I was surprised too. I guess I tapered well. I texted her back: “Walk breaks baby!”
I found the area to get a printout of my results and redeem my free Michelob Ultra beer. That was a very welcome and enjoyable reward for Halfsy a good morning’s workout.
I did run into one Run The Year participant from Minnesota who also ran the race. I saw him wearing his RTY shirt so we chatted a it. That was fun!
Finally I realized I had forgotten to take photos without my OrangeMud vest on at the finish so I got my free picture from the Halfsy photographer and moseyed towards the busses returning us to Seacrest field. It was nice to be able to claim the photos from Facebook (sorted by the color backdrop we chose) and show them to family and friends.
The Halfsy medals are really cool: Abe Lincoln with shades and doubling as a bottle opener for those thirsty moments. Very practical and special.
An amazing race, well run and orchestrated, well staffed with volunteers, adequate hydration, support, music, and an impressive twist we don’t see on most races: Kleenex. For those of us with runny noses in fall/winter races. That was helpful. I grabbed Kleenex twice. If you do nasal breathing on the run like I do, your nose runs more. So I appreciate that unique bit of making the run just a little easier.
It was really neat to see the official pace car at the finish. I forgot that it had all of our names inscribed on it. But the part that was meaningful to me was: Don’t Worry, Run Halfsy! That race mantra in all the marketing had penetrated my mind and body, relaxing me just enough to help me reel in this PR. So I’m very grateful and thankful for their creativity. It helped! Believe me, runners worry about everything! And nothing! And even more than all that combined!
Thanks to our Galloway group members and the Galloway national people for helping me implement run-walk here in Lincoln. It’s helped me a lot and I am impressed with how much the Galloway run-walk method helps others. If we make the walk breaks a regular part of routine in practice and during races, faster times and eventually PRs happen. And it feels more relaxing to run a half with walk breaks than to run a half full tilt with no walk breaks. I was impressed to see my heart rate very relaxed the last half of the race (partly because it was downhill/flat) but also due to walk breaks.
Finally, last but not least, thanks to my loving wife, Mimi, and our adorable daughter, Cecilia for your love and support. I dedicated this race to both of you and I love you both very much! You mean the world to me!
Run along now! Don’t Worry Run Halfsy! (and be HAPPY!)