Sunday was the 33rd Annual Decker Challenge Half Marathon — a beast of a course full of hills and unfriendly weather from start to finish. I knew it would be tough, but there seems to be a disconnect between what I think my ability is and what my ability actually is. But let’s start from the beginning.
Long, long ago (read: 5 weeks) I realized the Decker Challenge was going to be a brutally hilly course. Then this week I reviewed how hilly it would be and made a conservative prediction to finish in 1 hour 40 minutes. As is tradition, the night before the race I went to a friend’s beer showcase. Carbo-loading, right? Later that night I got really amped for the race, mostly attributed to the beer. Finally after four and a half hours of sleep I got in my car and headed to the race.
Start & Miles 1-3
My goal was 1:40 (a 7:37 min/mi pace). I lined up slightly further back from the starting line than normal to stay away from the speedsters at the front. My teeth were chattering like crazy in the 45 degree morning. That would change quickly though. After a speedy National Anthem we were on our way. Now, I’m notoriously bad about starting races too fast and Decker was no different… granted there was a bit of a downhill, but my first mile was knocked out in 6:53, my fastest of the day. Sheesh, this was going to be a long day if I’m spending my energy so early for no reason.
Mile 2 brought me back to Earth with my slowest mile of the race in 7:25, basically all uphill. Remember, my goal pace was 7:37, but we’ll get to that later. I followed my slowest mile up with my second fastest mile in 6:55. And just like that I was done with the first 5k of the race. Going as planned? Not so much.
Miles 4 – 9
I’m happy to report things got more consistent from here on out, though admittedly way faster than expected. Miles 4 through 9 were all between 7:02 and 7:11. Somewhere in there I hit the 10k marker in 44:10, which is only 4 seconds slower than the IBM Uptown Classic 10k total. I fell into a rhythm during these middle miles and took each obstacle as they came without worrying too much.
Miles 10 – 13 & Finish
In some twisted reality someone thought it was appropriate to put the steepest hill on the course right before Mile 10. As such, my second slowest mile (7:24) came late in the race and a couple guys passed me right near the top. It was a bit discouraging and I was hoping I’d have enough gas in the tank since I left a lot out on that hill. Graciously there were no more mountains to climb, though the last 3 miles had its fair share of rolling hills. I got back on track with 7:05 for the 11th mile and 7:02 for the 12th mile. It was here where the course starts wrapping around itself and you can see the finish coming up.
At this point I did what I could to muster a final push. The last mile retraces the second mile (my slowest), but this time I did it 27 seconds faster. With only a tenth of a mile to go I summoned every ounce of energy to eek out what I could. Crossing the line was a huge relief and I started to comprehend what my finish time meant. 1:33:07. Really?
Well, my finish time reconfirms my inability to set realistic goals. With a goal of sub-1:40, it’s almost comical to finish in 1:33:07, nearly 7 minutes better than expected. I’m kind of embarrassed really. The 3M Half Marathon, the Chicago Marathon, and now the Decker Half Marathon — all way off on prediction-versus-actual times. The good news is, my preliminary prediction for the next race (3M Half Marathon) is going to be aggressive. Real aggressive.
I’m waiting on the official results for the Austin Distance Challenge, but that will have its own separate blog post. For now, thanks for following along!
|2011 Decker Challenge Half Marathon
|49 / 930 (5.26%)
|48 / 451 (10.64%)
|Age Group Place
|6 / 39 (15.38%)