2012/06/23: Running with the Devil HM (race report)

There’s a local event here in Las Vegas area around Lake Mead called Running with the Devil, and it has multiple distances: 5k, 10k, HM, marathon, and 50-miler.  It’s purposely in the middle of summer, and the course is pretty hilly, so it’s pretty much everything counter to what people want when they’re looking for a “fast” race.  There’s also a Running from an Angel race in the winter on the same course so people can compare times.  I walked the Angel race (HM) earlier this year when I had tendonitis in my knee, so I knew the course.   I hadn’t planned on doing this race, but I recently got chosen to crew/pace someone at Badwater, so I figured a warmer weather race would do me good.  It’d been 15 months since I’d run a half marathon, so I chose to do that one, even though I knew a PR would be out of the question…

Last night, my husband and I picked up out packets at the host hotel, which is actually close to an hour from where we live, but it prevented us from having to wake up even earlier this morning.  As I walked up the steps to stand in line, I recognized my online friend Greg and said hello to him and his wife.  He noted that he’d gone for a quick jog earlier and that it “wasn’t too bad.”  I tried telling him he was going to do “really well” (i.e. a top contender), but of course he modestly said he wouldn’t happen (lol).

My husband signed up for the 10k, but as fate would have it, he had a mandatory social event late last night for work, so he only got an hour of sleep.  I coaxed him out of bed and told him he didn’t have to run but to just go out to the car and sleep on the way.  He ended up running it. 😉

We got to the start area this morning about 15 minutes before the start of the HM, which is closer to the start that I typically ever get to a race, but it was a small race, so there were no issues.  I was feeling good as I waited for the race to start, and the temperature felt cooler and breezier than I’ve been running in lately.  The RD spoke about the course and explicitly told us this was NOT a PR course and that we should not even TRY to run one because it would end in disaster.  I’d been teetering between running it conservatively and actually trying to PR, and that pretty much sealed the deal.  No one is going to tell me I can’t do, or even TRY, something.  I knew this could come back to bite me, but I figured it was worth a shot.

The race started and we were immediately greeted with a very short but steep hill.  I walked a few steps, but I still ran the first mile in 10:18.  I guess this is a good point to say that my previous HM PR was 2:19:36, which equates to an average pace of 10:38.  The next mile went well too and I completed it in 10:04–so far, so good.  Mile 3 had part of a hill in it and I ran it in 10:31–slower, but still faster than the pace I needed.  Mile 4 was 10:04–another good one.  But this mile was mostly downhill, which I dreaded running on the way back.  I had my Garmin set up to show time, distance, instantaneous pace, and average pace; I cared a lot more about the average pace than the instantaneous one.  I noted as the miles ticked by, my Garmin was reporting roughly a hundredth of a mile more each mile (i.e. by mile 4, I hit the mile marker at about 4.04 on my Garmin).  This was important to be aware of, as it meant that if I were to PR, my average pace, according to my Garmin, would need to be faster than 10:38.  Mile 5 was run in 10:26.

While my mile splits don’t indicate it, I was beginning to feel pretty tired.  The temperature felt okay (not cool but manageable), but the hills were getting to me.  I like some hills, but I prefer for them to be short so the uphills and downhills “cancel” each other out pretty frequently.  This course’s hills didn’t have a bunch of elevation gain (and It had zero net gain since it was an out-and-back), but they went on for quite a while.  The first and last 3 miles (which are the same stretch…for the math majors out there, haha) had smaller hills, while the middle 6 had the more drastic changes.

Mile 6 had quite a bit of ascent (relatively) and my time was 11:07–not good, but understandable.  I walked a couple times during this mile, and during some other parts of the course.  I used this quick gauge to see if I should walk: If running was very effortful and I was running slower than an 11-minute pace, I walked; however, if just one of those criteria were met, I’d keep running.  It felt sort of like cheating at some points because people around me who were running were exerting a lot more energy and not gaining much ground while I was re-charging as a brisk walking pace.

I hit the turn-around point (which my Garmin said was at 6.6 miles) at 1:08:00.  I was happy to still be on pace to get a PR, but I felt more tired than I should have and wasn’t sure how long I could keep up the pace.  I began to think that maybe I should have gone out more cautiously and did not look forward to trying to justify why I crashed and burned in such a short race (relative to what I normally run).  I knew better.  Mile 7 had quite a bit of downhill and I finished it in 10:29, so that was encouraging, but I knew there was one more significant uphill section and that it was in the next mile.

At one point during mile 8, I noticed my average pace had crept up to 10:35.  That was way too close for comfort.  I sped up a little bit, and even with the hill, I ran that mile in 10:57.  It’s slower than I wanted, but given the hill, I knew it could have been a lot worse.  Mile 9 was done in 10:38–not great but not terrible.

I got a second wind somewhere in the mile 10.  I ran that mile in 10:18—very happy with that, as it lowered my average pace, which gave me a little bit more of a cushion.  It was somewhere around this point I started doing mental math to figure out how slow I could run and still get a PR.  I felt cautiously optimistic but it was by far not a done deal.

I’m not sure what happened  in mile 11, but that was my fastest mile: 9:51.  I felt more confident about breaking my PR, although I still knew it’d be close.  Mile 12 contained part of one of the small hills, and I ran it in 10:29, which was quicker than I needed, so I was happy about that.  The remainder of the hill I started in the previous mile ended in mile 13.  I had somehow remembered (erroneously) that it was all downhill after that.  However, there was a gradual incline for about the last half of mile 13.  My time for that mile was 10:31.  At this point, I was really happy because it was a pretty steep descent for the remaining .2 miles, which I really picked up my speed for.  I ran the last .2 in 1:20 (which is a 6:51 pace, lol).

My Garmin time was 2:17:03 for 13.2 miles.  My official time was 2:17:01.  This meant it was a PR by 2:35.  I didn’t get it by much, but under the circumstances, I was happy with it.  The temperature only got up to the low 90s or so, which wasn’t too bad, especially for Vegas!  I still look forward to doing a “goal” HM in the next few months where I can actually see what I’m capable of doing.

I’m glad I lowered my PR a little bit, but I’m still not satisfied with the time itself.  It’s a “soft” PR that I’ve run faster than many times in training.  Even my marathon PR earlier this month, in ideal conditions, was done at a faster pace than today’s HM.  I’m honestly happy about my performance today, but it makes me more motivated to find a “normal” (i.e. it doesn’t have to be known as “fast”) HM. 😉  Oh, and even though I felt, for a while, like I was slowing down significantly in the second half, I ran just a slightly positive split–the second half was 61 seconds slower than the first half.

Also, even though age group awards only went 1 deep, I got 2nd place in my age group! 😉

Oh, and I had the pleasure of texting Greg an “I told you so!” message after I looked at the results for the 10k he’d run; it turns out that he won it. 😉

Here’s a photo of the shirt and finisher medal:
Devil shirt and medal

I *had* a photo of my husband and me and  of Greg and me, but I can’t find them.



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