Editor’s Note: If you’ve never met Troy Coleman, I’m sorry. He is kind and funny and cool and when he runs, there is a smile plastered all over his face. Seriously, getting to run makes him straight up giddy! It’s fun to watch and his spirit is contagious. You can catch some of that in his recap from the Colfax Half Marathon where he set a PR.
I set out for the Colfax Half Marathon with zero expectations. The 13.1 mile distance is very unfamiliar to me. From near the start of my running just a few years ago, I embraced the marathon. It has been my distance of choice. Till joining November Project in January of 2014, just finishing was fine with the outside hope of getting faster. The November Project tribe managed to elicit an inner competitive side. I was always just happy running but could not imagine getting faster. I was unaware of this inner drive, but now can count on it joining me when the number is pinned on. Make no mistake, I am still the guy that will high five every kid watching and I spend most of the race smiling like I got away with something.
On Sunday, I was ready to run but having just overcome a nearly fractured fibula and definitely broken toe, I reminded myself to listen to the body. I was placed in Corral D in the larger half marathon crowd and before “go” was even shouted, I knew there were more people in front of me at that point than would be at the finish of the race. With no other gauge than my marathon time and a loose idea of how a half would be faster, I targeted 1:45 to finish. I had the pace band on to stay on track through the unfamiliar 13.1 miles.
We set out and I found myself stuck, ironically, in the 1:45 pace group. I was literally stuck square behind the pacer with diligent runners staying close on all sides. My preference is on the sides of a course to pass with ease, but I heeded caution on the pace and stayed with them through the first 2 miles. (mile 1: 7:47, mile 2: 8:12 – [brief pit stop]) By the time we got to the zoo around 2.5, I knew my pace was going to feel better faster. I maneuvered my way out of the school of fish and proceeded at a better pace, glad for room to stretch the legs out. The twists and turns of the zoo (plus seeing the animals) got me running much faster. According to my Nike+ SportWatch, I dropped my pace to 7:34. I also took a page from my fast friends playbook at this point and turned my baseball hat backwards. I knew it was going to be a fast and good day.
Once clear of the park, I knew my next 7 miles were mostly straight and mostly uphill, though a gentle one. I love hills, but my preference is a quick attack, not a lengthy slog. I dug in and enjoyed the scenery. This was my first race without music, and I was struck by how peaceful it felt even running harder. Miles 4 – 10 felt like work but not bad. At mi. 5 I had a medic cut the pace band off, my hand was going tingly. I was clipping faster than my marathon pace, but did not want to burn out so I was holding off the throttle while still climbing. My splits were nice and even – mi. 4: 7:51, mi. 5: 8:00, mi. 6: 7:48, mi. 7: 7:39, mi. 8: 7:42, mi. 9: 7:40, mi. 10: 7:53 I usually fuel religiously every 4mi. and forgot till mile 6. Figured the halfway point was good though.
Knowing that the 10mi. marker was the end of the climb, I settled in and cruised for a bit to be ready for a punch towards the end. I cheered on the two runners that were the only ones to pass me. Their steps were heavy though and they did not seem like they were having as much fun as I was. I knew I had something in the tank still, though not sure how much at this speed – mi. 11: 7:53, mi. 12: 7:43. I did retake one of them later in City Park.
As the streets got more familiar, signaling I was getting closer to the park, I picked it up a little. I shortened my stride some to prevent my frustrating foot swing that becomes more prevalent when I am getting tired. Sometimes I feel like Woody from Toy Story out there though. With more people around the park, I felt myself getting quicker and starting to let go.
As we entered the park, I was ready to kick some but was definitely feeling tired. That’s when I got a much needed inspiration. Lets just call him “Guy.” Well Guy was wearing earbuds and weaving widely across the course. He cut me off and I moved over and passed him, not too aggressively as it seemed like an innocent enough swerve. Then Guy passes and cuts in front of me again. Once again I moved over and passed with a little more speed. Without letting off too much I see Guy creep up in my peripheral vision. Not happening again Guy. It was time to see what I had saved. That was just at the 13 mile marker – mi.13: 7:35.
I jammed it up to a 5K pace, nearest I could tell. If Guy was going to share my finish line photo, he was going to have to earn a place in it. Later, I could see my pace dropped to around 6:35 for the last quarter mile or so. I came in smiling so big the announcer called me out and high fived me as I crossed the finish line. Guy was no where to be seen. Final time: 1:42:45 (PR). I had also managed a negative split which made me pretty happy considering I had sped up so much around the zoo at mile 3.
It was a blast and a half to try a different distance. It was great to go out with the only aim being to have fun and get a long run in. What was most gratifying was to be myself out there, high fiving and waving and thanking the police, but still have a competitive edge that I was ready to push and see how far it could go. I’m hunting a BQ and am getting steadily closer each year. There is actually racing in my races now and that is making it even more fun. That is still the biggest reason I run.