I left work early last Thursday since Gordon was on quad break and headed down with my family to visit Heather's parents for the weekend. On Friday, Heather and I visited our new niece, Maisie, in Lancaster, PA (my brother Alex and his wife Chloe’s first) and Saturday we headed to Pompton Plains, NJ for the 3rd Annual North Jersey Half Marathon.
The race was advertised as flat, and the course drive through looked amazingly so. We arrived at the park where the race began at 7:30 am for the 8:30 start. It was cold, around 40 degrees and I had only brought my CMS singlet and shorts, no hat or gloves. I was confident it would warm up once we got going. Heather also donned the (new) CMS ladies' gear, as we warmed up a bit and made our way over to the starting area.
I noticed one young runner who was answering a lot of questions about what he was hoping to run and how fit he was, etc. and figured he was the local favorite. He mentioned a recent 2:31 marathon and just wanted to run half that time because he had been sick that week.
I had 1:10 in mind and Heather hoped to improve dramatically on her 1:39 best from several years back.
The gun went off and the young guy (Rob Albano) and I went right to the front. We talked quite a bit the first mile and still came through in 5:09. I told him I wanted to run 1:10 and he basically gave me his blessing to go for it. At 2.5 miles, we came to an intersection with a police officer standing in the road and we asked which way to go as we approached. The officer told us to turn right, but Rob thought we were supposed to go straight, so we stopped and talked and deliberated (it was probably only about 5 seconds) and decided to disobey the policeman and continue straight. Fortunately, we made the right call, as did the 223 runners behind us.
It was a little unsettling to have that happen in the first 3 miles of the race and I was concerned about what other adventures we might have in the final ten miles. After miles 2-5 passed between 5:26 and 5:31 amid much gabbing between Rob and me, I told him I was going to have to pick up the intensity a bit if I wanted to get close to 1:10. He obliged and we ran a 5:22 6th and a 5:21 7th mile.
After that, the miles got a little screwy, but we were really cruising (for me), keeping the (Garmin) pace between 5:00 and 5:15. Mile 8 (little short) was a 4:57, Mile 9 (very short) was a 4:45, Mile 10 (way long) was a 6:05, and had us back where we were supposed to be, with a clock reading 53:32 at 10 miles. At this point, I was losing ground to Rob, but (according to the Garmin) I was keeping the pace pretty consistent. The mile markers were another story. Mile 11 (Garmin measured .82) was a mile PR of 4:18. Mile 12 and 13 + caught me up, but it was hard to know what my time would be or if the course would end up being accurate or not.
I came through in 1:09:45.3, but more importantly a Garmin-measured distance of 13.26 indicated that the certified course claim was true. Rob won in 1:09:31, quite a bit under his predicted 1:15.
Heather had a similar fate, finishing second by about thirty ticks, but with a huge 12-minute PR. (1:27:01)
Feeling happy about breaking 1:10, but still a little weird about this race, because of the mis-labelled mile markers. With a little better course management, this could be a big-time PR course. It had quite a few turns in one neighborhood, but also a couple long, straight shots down the boulevard on either side, where you could just roll (like New Bedford). Also, no ocean winds to worry about and absolutely nothing resembling an incline.