As I have announced earlier my first A race was the Lehigh Valley Half Marathon. This year the plan was to run sub-1:40 race (9 minutes and 50 seconds improvement over 2007). The day started quite well - early morning alarm at 6 am, quick breakfast and final preparations for the race. Boring things like water for fuel belt, gel packs, iPod, headphones, etc. The traffic around the race parking was getting heavy when I got there, but I was just on time to meet with the pace group in the gym. I met quite a few very nice people and we had good chat about the race plans, strategy and such. Then it was time to get lined up in our corral. I followed the 1:40 pace group leader with the plan to stick with the group if I did not feel well and break away at some point around 7 miles if I felt good. I was much more in the front of the pack than last year which made it easier especially on mile 1 that can get quite busy as everyone feels like breaking world speed records while they still have 12 more miles to go. Oh well.
The siren went off at 8:10, exactly as planned, and off we went down hill on mile 1. It is pretty nice run down hill in Allentown streets and then down to the park near a little man made lake. Everyone was flying, but I stuck with my planned pace. I was passing 1 mile clock at around 7:20 which was good. I did not want to go any faster than that. Next mile was up and down a little until we reached the ML King Blvd. Then the race is pretty much flat until about a mile 6. I tried to keep even splits as much as I could and I kept hydrating and eating gel packs every 20-25 minutes. Last year was definitely a lesson about nutrition during the race and I did not want to get dehydrated or bonk. The strategy worked very well and since I was carrying my own water I did not need to slow down through the aid stations. Mile 7 is probably the biggest hill on the course as you need to climb up to the Lehigh Valley Parkway and then run the parkway track. I slowed down a bit on the uphill, but then let it go down the hill. It is pretty good strategy and I have few people pass me on the way up, but I re-pass them on the other side (along with their friends). The run through the park was very nice and I did not even mind the occasional uphill. At mile 10 split I was right on the money for the secret target of 1:38. I started laboring a bit on mile 11. But on mile 12 I got new legs and was able to even pick the pace up a bit. I passed the mile 12 split few seconds behind, but then I picked up the pace even more and kept pushing it hard until the little up-hill to the stadium. This race is great it has stadium finish - what most people do not know is that it is 3/4 of a lap before the finish. So if you fly up that last hill you will hurt on that last lap (yeah that is self learned from last year). So I took it easy on the uphill - exactly 7 people passed me. When I got onto the track in the stadium I regained my composure after the last hill and then sped-up. According to Garmin I did the last 3/4 lap in under 6:00 pace which is more than good. According to preliminary results posted during the race I finished in 1:37:55 and I'm very happy about it.
During this race I used the new Garmin 405 which proved to be more reliable than the Polar RS800 (that unfortunately did not pick-up the S3 sensor signal during the whole race and I had to go by the new watch - another reason to have backup for everything). If you are interested in the details of the race look at the Garmin Connect site for the details. I'll be putting together a short review of the Garmin 405 soon. I just want to play with it little more to be able to provide more details. Until then just one note - it is very good monitor and proved to be my new best running buddy today.