Monday, March 24, 2014

Bainbridge Half Marathon: The Unknown

Google Maps may have perfected its omniscience over much of the world, but it has only a tenuous grasp over Bainbridge, Georgia.  It led us astray when we were trying to find my race's packet pickup, attempted to take us 14 miles out of the way on the five-minute drive to our hotel, and declared the name of the road to our dinner restaurant to be "unknown."

This was apt, because for me a half marathon was also a big unknown.  I had run only one previously and that was 8 years ago, well before I started doing any serious training.  I had no idea how fast I should try to run or what kind of heart rate I could maintain for that distance.  I eventually decided to run by heart rate rather than pace and to stick with a heart rate of 170, about 5 beats per minute higher than I'd run a marathon at.

This worked out perfectly.  I felt strong and comfortable nearly the entire race (miles 10 and 11 were on the rough side though!) and it was possibly the most evenly-paced race I've ever ran:  I averaged 6:57 miles in the first half and 6:58 miles in the second half, for a new PR of 1:31.  I felt like I wasn't a million miles away from being able to keep up a slightly slower pace for a full marathon, although I'd have to get better at eating and drinking on the run--I would have liked to have taken a Gu at some point during the half but I couldn't figure out how to do that without wasting way too much time, so I just had a few sips of the coke that Divesh met me with at miles 6.5 and 10.5.

One quirk of being so bad at short distances is that all my short distance paces are virtually identical; I don't seem to have a fast gear.  So during the course of the Bainbridge half, I actually got 3 PRs:  5k, 10k, and half marathon!  I was so tempted to try for a mile PR during the last mile, but I knew it was going to be slightly uphill with lots of turns and I just couldn't force myself to bring on that much pain for so little chance of success.  Of course, now I'm kicking myself for that...

The race itself was a good event.  It was a small local race, not the kind you would usually travel for but I really wanted to do a half on this particular date to fit with my training schedule, and this was the closest flat option.  It was pretty well organized and everyone was so friendly; this was one of the best parts of the race for me.  I also liked the no-nonsense approach to the race goody bags:  the entire contents consisted of a race number, four safety pins, and two packets of ibuprofen.  What more does any runner really want?


On the way home the next day, we went for a run at Providence Canyon State Park.  I had seen it advertised as the "little Grand Canyon of Georgia" so that sounded like something we just had to check out.  It was a bit of a letdown since 99% of it was just your standard wooded forest scenery, but 1% of it was like this:

I was also very pleased to discover that my legs felt completely fine on the run.  They were definitely getting tired on the uphills, but they didn't feel injured, dead, or sore.  Onwards with another hard training week then...


  1. Nice work! Those are the kind of races I like to run too. The crazy fanfare gets old after a while. It's funny that you call a half marathon a short distance. Ever considered training for something shorter than that to see what you really can do?

    1. Thanks! Embarrassingly enough I *did* actually train pretty hard for that 10k that was my PR before this. I do want to see if I can improve my one-mile time, but I keep running out of time in the schedule to fit that training in. Hopefully soon.

  2. Thanks for this write up. I just saw it. ~ Andy Payne - Race Director of the Bainbridge Half.

  3. You ran a half with me 2 years ago, although obviously you weren't racing it, just come as support for me :-)