Thursday, May 10, 2012

Indy Mini Race Report

Well, this event almost didn't happen for me. Though I had entered the Indy Mini months earlier, I wasn't really thrilled about running it after making the decision to race at Du Nats. By early April I had convinced myself that it would be foolish to compete in another event so quickly. The event slipped off of my radar.

I returned from Tucson last Tuesday physically and mentally spent. Luckily, I was able to sleep well one night and my body healed significantly. And then I needed to drive into northern Indiana to pick up my son, Tyler, from Purdue. This created a scenario in which running the nation's largest half marathon would be a convenience, so I decided Friday afternoon to join about 35,000 other runners in the Indy Mini.

This half marathon is a fantastic race! With more than 4000 volunteers working the aid stations, monitoring intersections, and playing a variety of music, the journey to the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway and back is one that should eventually appear on all runners' calendars.

Because muggy conditions were expected, race management sent warnings about heat threats. I used this and the fact that I had raced the previous weekend to deduce that I should run in a tightly controlled manner. I would allow the heat to indirectly dictate my pace. Though I can run a half marathon at 90-92% HR max, and though the heat would likely slow me while also elevating my HR to 92-94% in a normal race effort, I decided to keep an eye on my Polar RCX5 and run at 86-88%, thus treating the event like a long tempo run. Experience told me that the plan would allow me to not only survive, but also to maintain a relatively steady pace.

The Polar RCX5 heart rate and pace chart.
And it worked! I eased into the race with a 6:01 first mile. I then ran relatively steady at sub-6 pace for several miles with variations  resulting from slowing to take two cups of water at each aid station.
The Polar RCX5 laps recorded manually at mile markers.
Just before passing the six mile marker, while running around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the sun hit me for the first time. Immediately, I felt hot. And my body reacted with a HR spike from 165 to 172. I knew the heat would only drive the HR up further. So, I slowed until the HR stabilized at 168-169. This resulted in a 10-12 second decrease in pace and peace of mind.

The steady, HR controlled pace resulted in me feeling great and passing more than a dozen runners in the closing miles. An average HR of 168 resulted in a time of 1:18:33 (6:00 ave). Though I almost did not run the Mini, my experience there served as an affirmation of the importance of monitoring heart rate while training and racing. Unfortunately, running it caused me to pass on a planned long trail effort geared at getting me ready for my next big event, the Bighorn 100.

As my buddy, Chris, says, it is time for me to change my tactics, slow down, and learn to survive a long, long run. Of course, I should also adopt the mindset of ultra legend Karl Meltzer, whose mantra is that "100 miles is not that far."

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