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St. Augustine Half Marathon 2014 - Race Report

  • Sunday, November 30 2014 @ 08:04 PM UTC
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Running and Fitness

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This fall I decided to train for a Half Marathon. I already had four half marathons under my belt but this was the first time I targeted the distance with specific workouts. I had planned to run the Tom Walker Memorial Half Marathon and had figured out a schedule for all of my key workouts. However, the Tom Walker race date started wandering around the calendar and after hearing that the event would be rescheduled a second time, I went looking for another nearby race. The Columbia St. Augustine Half Marathon on Nov. 16 looked like a good option so I re-plotted my key workouts to fit the new schedule. I now had a firm target race date which always helps me to maintain my training focus. My training went well with my only goof being that I misread my own calendar and did a hard workout less than a week before the race. I would have preferred to have 10 days of taper to absorb that last bit of training. Regardless, by Sunday morning race day I felt ready to go.

The morning was clear and beautiful, cool but not cold. I took this photo of Castillo de San Marcos during my warmup, less than an hour before race start.

The race was well-organized with the finish line, registration tent, food, and plenty of port-a-potties all in the Francis Field area. The adjacent parking garage was open and free to race participants. The course is USATF certified, well-marked with cones the entire way, has solid mile markers, plenty of aid stations, and race staff at significant road intersections.

The starting line was a short jog down A1A to the front of the Hilton on the waterfront. This is probably the first race I have attended where people were shy about lining up at the start. The race officials kept calling for the "elite" runners to come to the front and eventually waved enough that people finally approached the starting line. There was no special elite division, they just kept calling the faster runners the elites. After looking at the race results from previous years, I had my goal solidly set on placing in the top 5 overall, so I felt no qualms about lining up at the front.

I got out quick at the start and then settled in to let the rest of the field sort itself out. The leaders quickly achieved separation from the rest of the runners and the top 4 finishers were already far in front by the time we crossed the Bridge of Lions. The runner in blue (Kristopher Shold) went on to win. The runner in orange (Paul Mcrae) passed me very early and finished 35 seconds ahead of me. The tall runner behind me in the white Columbia singlet (David Picciano) caught up to me by the time we hit the first mile marker and at that point we were racing for 3rd place.

Photo by ChessiePhoto

It was easy to smile so early in the race:

Photo by ChessiePhoto

Picciano and I went through the first mile in 6:58 which was a bit slower than my target race pace. Pacing is hard, I say. I didn't worry too much at the time since there was still plenty of race left and I was just nice and warmed up at that point.

I spent the first half of the race trying to drop Picciano. My first attempt was at a water stop when he moved over to get a cup. I skipped the station and pushed the pace and ended up running 5:59 for that mile split. Picciano apparently did not want to be dropped. He worked back up to me as we neared the 312 bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway.

The course route was out-and-back over the bridge. This added a bit of non-trivial elevation change in the middle of the race. On the way out I tried to take in the view. On the return trip over the bridge I tried to push up the hill, my second major effort to solidify a 3rd place finish. Picciano tucked in behind me and I was never able to gap him. It seems that he was just humoring me, since as we turned right onto A1A he pulled away and I was not able to keep up with the injection of pace. Picciano ended up taking 2nd overall. I could see the now 3rd place runner (Mcrae) ahead of me while running through Anastasia Island State Park. After exiting the state park, we ran through some neighborhoods and past the St. Augustine Light House. This was probably my least favorite part of the course since there were many turns and there were no spectators, and not even any people directing traffic at the intersections, just a bunch of big orange cones. By this time I was sucking air hard and having trouble maintaining my form. Eventually we popped back out onto A1A and turned back towards the city. One more time across the Bridge of Lions and I knew the finish line was in reach.

The final chute to the finish was nicely fenced off and lined with flags. As I ran for the finish line I could hear the announcer saying "here comes another one of our elite runners" which I enjoyed hearing.

Photo by ChessiePhoto

With my official finish time of 1:23:40 (6:23 per mile), I earned 4th place overall (out of over 800 runners) and won my age group. I achieved all of my goals which included a top-5 finish and a personal best (by over 2 minutes 20 seconds!).

Photo by ChessiePhoto

The other top finishers showed a lot of sportsmanship, with everyone being cordial and pleasant and congratulatory to the other runners.

Photo by ChessiePhoto

I took a photo of the posted race results sheet:

Delicious post-race Spanish food was provided by the Columbia restaurant and I have to say, the Paella was delicious! One of the benefits of being an early finisher is that I didn't have to wait in a long line to get to the food. I also enjoyed the free beer and hot coffee!

Huge race medal, trophy, race t-shirt, and my Altra 3-Sum shoes:

As I mentioned above, this was the first time I had specifically trained for the Half Marathon and the race-specific training seems to have payed off. In particular, I ran many training runs over 10 miles. I also ran faster on many of my long runs (instead of just "easy" pace I would push it down to the maximal effort that allowed me to continue breathing easily). I also added long tempo runs and progression runs targeting my HM race pace. My long runs (up to 20 miles) were longer than what you would find in a standard half marathon training plan, but I am hoping to run a full marathon in the spring and wanted the extra mileage in my base. I am very pleased with the results.

I also have to give a shout out to the great group of talented runners in the Gainesville area that I occasionally have the benefit of training with. Thanks to you all.

The award for age group winner was a very nice looking trophy:

The St. Augustine Half Marathon was held on Nov. 16, 2014. Race Results:

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