In this case, I knew that my 8:30/mile pace was insufficient. To get under the original time target of 5:30 for the race, I would have to run closer to eight flat. After grabbing my run gear, which included my trusty hat and my Amphipod, I took off for the run exit.
Almost immediately out of transition, the single hill of the course tried to stop runners right in their tracks. Primarily flat, the first section heads down to the beach then back up to road level. After a determined jog up the hill, I was off to the races.
At the first mile marker, my time was about 7m50s. I liked the pace, but knew I couldn't maintain it. I eased off and found a pace around 8m10s. I felt good, and my heart rate was under control. At every aid station, I downed a bit of water and threw at least on cup over my head. Climate control at its best.
Somewhere between miles three and four, near the turn-around point, I saw George Schweitzer. He quickly hit the turn (of his second loop) and passed me up. He was looking strong as can be, and we chatted briefly about the race before he took off up the road.
The miles were flying by, and I was staying fairly close to the 8 min/mile I would need to break 5:30. I knew it would be close, and it would depend on how things went on the second loop, but I had some hope. When I hit the end of the first loop, I knew just how close. That loop took 52 minutes, leaving me somewhere around 51 minutes to achieve my goal. A tall order.
Knowing that making 5:30 would require not just a negative split, but a half-marathon PR (at the end of a half-IM, no less), I eased off just a bit, and decided to make the final decision at the 10 mile mark. The last 5K would make or break me.
Twice during the run I saw Iron Wil. Late in my first loop, and again around the 11 mile mark. The first time, I told her how strong she looked. The second time, I managed a "Hey Tracy" after she yelled as I passed her. She was doing great, and urged me on.
With 5K left, I knew my goal was possible, though highly unlikely. I had something like 23 minutes left to cover 3.1 miles, requiring a near seven minute pace. Following the advice of Coach Mike, I put it all on the line. I was going for broke.
Aid stations were flying by. I grabbed what I could and most of the water was for cooling purposes only. I drank what I could, but at the pace I was keeping, that was little. Soon enough, I passed the 12 mile mark and started the run through the zoo. I knew that the other side would leave only the short sprint to the finish line.
As I hit the final stretch to the finish, I glanced at my watch and saw 5:30 come and go. I would miss that target, though by the slimmest of margins. As I crossed the finish line, I remembered to do what I always tell my son. I threw up my arms in victory. Victory because I had finished the race. Victory because regardless of my place, I had won. And victory because regardless of time, I had beat my previous best.
Once again, there at the finish line was George. He had finished nearly an hour earlier, and was still there to see his friends cross the finish line.
A post-script to the race is appropriate, here. Prior to the race, Coach Mike sent an e-mail I received after getting home from the race. He suggested I push a bit harder on the run than I originally planned. I did accomplish that task, though for the wrong reasons. I was duly chastised for radically altering my race plan for the sole purpose of gaining some time back. Adjusting a plan for changing conditions or odd situations is one thing, and every good race plan has contingencies for various circumstances. Attempting to "make up time" shouldn't be one of them. I was lucky, and have to remember not to push that luck.