racing

The AFC Half Marathon

I spent last weekend down in San Diego to run the America’s Finest City Half Marathon and as usual have some thoughts about my low-carb and running-specific training that led up to this race.

First of all I did knock nearly 10 minutes off my half-marathon PR in April so it was obviously a good race. After the cramp city that was the L.A. Marathon and the miserable hills of the La Jolla Half, it was a fairly uneventful spring and summer. I kept telling myself I would go strict carnivore and drop some weight but all the social engagements got in the way, and as the mercury rose the motivation dropped. There were a few weeks in which I skipped the usual weekend long run but as the summer progressed I felt like I was losing endurance so I tried to go back to a long run (13+ miles) a week. I also attended track workouts more regularly and tried to push myself a little harder during the regular group runs instead of hanging out in the back chatting with people.

Come to think about it, not the best idea

Come to think about it, not the best idea

Leading up to race day, I didn’t particularly taper, since the demands for a half is really much less than a full. I checked in to the Airbnb the day before, drank electrolytes, and got my usual pre-race 3 hours sleep. I should have thought out dinner a little better and ended up having a “paleo burger” and onion rings at Burger Lounge, and when that didn’t feel like enough, a chicken sandwich.

I knew I had to warm up so I elected to walk about 1.5 miles to the shuttle pickup instead of driving. Everything about logistics went off without a hitch; I got coffee and cream and arrived ahead of schedule and used the potty before the race (which were pretty polluted by the time I got in line and smelled awful).

Whatever runners eat, they need to stop.

Whatever runners eat, they need to stop.

I originally planned to follow the 1:50 pacers knowing I would likely beat my La Jolla time, but I passed them in the first mile and never looked back. The first 3 or 4 miles were really fast, especially on the downhill portions. I felt calm and steady, and unlike the LAM there was no soreness in my knees despite me going much faster.

Mid-race was smooth except I could feel the initial rush wearing off and not being able to keep a breakneck pace. Having run quite a few of these, I knew that there was little danger in running out of glycogen so I tried to sustain a good tempo pace which turned out to be 8-ish min/mi. I only had electrolyte once and poured most of the water over my head which worked perhaps a little too well in cooling myself off and made the race shirt cold and clammy against the skin.

Hard to get good photos during a fast-race

Hard to get good photos during a fast-race

Late-race was a little hairy because the hill at Mile 11-12 was a little bigger than I anticipated and my pace started to drop off (and the kicking myself for not losing some more weight began). Fortunately the hill was only about a mile long and the end of the race was a gradual downhill and I totally blitzed it at the end. I felt great post-race. For my first half marathon a year ago, right after the race I felt an overwhelming need to sit down and I couldn’t get back up for 20 minutes, but this time I walked all around the finish zone, collecting medals, picking up my bag from gear check, taking photos, using the restroom, etc. before finally finding a chair at the beer garden.

My time was 1:44:56 which translated to an exact 8:00 min/mi pace. According to Strava, I set a PR in every single category from the 1k to 13.1-mi, and came in 359/4141 overall and 45/293 in my division. I would pay for this in the afternoon where all the vegetables I ate with the paleo burger came out in a hurry and I had diarrhea for a few hours afterwards. This isn’t unexpected - in fact, there was a talk at AHS last year about endurance athletes and digestive distress - but it was surprising because I didn’t feel like I had a particularly hard race after I finished, and in fact walked the 1.5 mi back to the Airbnb with zero trouble.

This is probably okay post-race…

This is probably okay post-race…

I think both pre- and post-race nutrition was less than ideal this time because the vegetables slowed digestion and the ton of carbs I had post-race (in the form of inflammatory sugar) really interfered with recovery. My Tuesday group run was astoundingly slow and there was residual muscle soreness, but after having steak all day, I felt much better. It would probably have been a better idea to plan out both meals immediately before and after the race.

One thing that was somewhat hard to reconcile was the fact I gained 6-7 lbs from my 2018 low. Given the last burst of major improvement as a result of losing ~10 lbs from World Carnivore Month, I had been focused on improving my power-to-weight ratio, but clearly I had gotten faster despite a worsening of that metric, and despite running quite a few number of miles less per week. I think most of the benefit in the last few months came from doing speedwork and track workouts more regularly, so perhaps I accessed some untapped potential, and running with large groups is inherently competitive.

… but this is not.

… but this is not.

Now that I don’t have another significant race coming up (and the Santa Monica Classic 10k doesn’t count), it’s a good time to finally work on basic stuff like aerobic long runs and calibrate the diet some more. I’m glad the long break after LAM wasn’t a waste and improvements have continued to happen even during the traditional runner’s off season.