The triathlon training blog of Phil Barnes

Seaway Half Marathon 2012, Massena NY Race Report

My first real race

Ginormous 3-and-a-half inch medal. "13.1" bumper sticker (yes they did have 5K ones too),
and the 24KT Solid Gold (looking) trophy for King of the 40-49 Age Group.
There was also a long-sleeved Green tech-shirt.

We were a group of 59 runners for the half-marathon. Judging the books by their covers, we were a good mix of abilities. “M-dot” guy, “Boston jacket”, “smiley bearded man”, “young gun” and “compression girl” were possibly contenders; but, there was no reason I couldn’t throw myself into the mix.  I surreptitiously lined up two thirds of the way back. I had promised myself I would hold back for the first 2 kilometers: 6 minute pace max, and then open it up.  The first 2 clicks were downhill though, and despite resisting the race-start bravado, the Garmin chirped a 4:56 and 4:30 for the opening stanza.

This was my seventh half-marathon – and umpteenth “race”, but there was a completely different flow to it and in some ways, this turned out to be my first real race. My weakness has always been the “time in the bank” strategy which is the denier’s term for “going out too hard”. Many PBs have been set with this strategy, but every single one of them has ultimately ended with meltdown starting at the half-way mark. After watching the lead group slowly stretch out and break away, I figured, there may be a chance for something different today. Ten minutes into the race, I was in twelfth place, feeling fresh and had 19 kilometers of opportunity in front of me.

Hold back at the start, and then reel people in.

I have done this a few times, and found it to be a pleasurable way to race. Target the next runner – bridge the gap – recover – pass with authority – recover – repeat. I was feeling somewhat “douchy” using this approach, but it was working, and fear of being re-passed kept me going strong. Approaching the turnaround, I had chipped my way up to 4th place. The leader was about 90 seconds in front of me.

The route is an out-and-back. It was easy enough to follow. It started at a picnic area, in Robert Moses State Park – which is an absolutely beautiful place (we counted 9 deer randomly grazing in the fields on our drive in). The route is mostly downhill for 2 miles and passes underneath the Eisenhower lock. It then makes a right hand turn onto HWY-131 and rolls on in a fairly straight line, to a conveniently located triangle in the road at the half-way mark, where it then turns back on itself. Gatorade and water were conveniently located at approximately 2, 7, 10.5, 14, and 19K. There is a fairly steep "kick-up" at about 8.5 k and then you continue to climb slightly to the turnaround.

What goes up eventually does comes down. I’m pretty good at running downhill. The secret is head down, point forward, don't fight it, and let nature take its course. By the 14K mark, the extra momentum had eventually propelled me into second place. The leader was in sight, and not appearing to be gaining, perhaps even slipping back a little.

The route turns north, leaving the 131 and heading back to the State Park at about 16k. The Garmin chirped "1:11 something" and this was the first time I took note of my time, and started to guestimate how I might finish. I was smiling inside. I figured a 25 minute 5K to finish, and I would be in 1:36 territory – dreamland.

The next click was 4:32. I was still running down the leader, but beginning to realize how painful it would be to actually surge enough to pass and achieve first overall. And this is where I’m starting to get really tired. I have been in the Red zone for a while now.  The next segment of the route takes us back under the canal through the tunnel. The change in elevation is significant, so I lean forward to milk every ounce of gravity. The tunnel levels out, but then… oh! The exit is excruciating. The incline to get back out saps me dry. I’m running on fumes now. I feel significantly slower. The remaining route back is all uphill. And then it happens. Just before the 12-mile marker, the speedy girl (who I passed for second place) re-passes me. She turns the jets on and is instantly making huge gains on the leader. I concede for a third place finish. Third and a 1:36 is now my raison d’être.  The final kilometer takes yet another pitch uphill, and I’m completely spent. My calves are not going to cooperate. I am completely done. “Oh no” I’m going to be “that guy”. I won’t even be able to walk. I’m going to have to crawl it in: the humiliation! I can just imagine the next 10 people passing me and chuckling to themselves.

Apparently it wasn’t that bad. I still had some capacity to get me to finish line without resorting to the crawl. And if the race had have been 13.05 miles, I would have finished 3rd overall. But in the last few meters, I could hear a charge coming up from behind me. All I could do was shake my head “no”. I had absolutely no kick (let alone desire) for a finish line sprint. 3rd went to the guy I overtook for 4th. I held on for the next spot.


It was a PB by nearly 3 minutes. 

Very happy. It was a great race.

PS: Guylaine ran a 17-minute PB too (1:54:08). And unlike me (where my pace was all over the map) she held a steady 5:25 pace +/- 3 seconds the entire way. (cool!)

The Splits - I'm all over the place (as dictated by my "strategy"),
Guylaine (red bars) is smooth and even +/- 3 seconds maximum off her average pace.

Official Results from Peak Sport Solutions