• Derek Stone

The Perfect Race

The Perfect Race-

“How did you run a 68 minute half marathon?” Well, the short answer is I have no idea. I’ll detail my weekly structure and weekly mileage at the end. Plain and simple. I ran and I ran hard and this was my perfect race.

The Tom King Classic would be my 3rdopen half marathon. Coming from a 1:12 and change PR, I knew I was ready to run fast. But how fast was fast? Days leading into the race the rain continued to come down which threatened the course. Race organizers scrambled to route and reroute the course as flooding overtook the Shelby Bottoms Greenway. Local athletes continued to keep a close eye on the weather. Thunderstorms were rolling through. I’m not sure how much more rain I could take. It was literally a monsoon in the Southeast. I just hoped that we were able to race and I didn’t care what the weather was like. I just wanted to grind and compete.

Race morning

Well the details are lost because the race happened in February and I am writing this in late June. If I recall correctly, I had some eggs and toast for breakfast with my usual cup of coffee. I typically sip on some type of sports drink throughout the morning before a race as well.

Getting to the race venue at Nissan Stadium, it was already wet, cold and the rain continued. I warmup up briefly outside and then moved into Nissan where I circled with many other participants. Staying dry and warm would be important before the start.

I laced up in the Nike Vaporfly 4% and wore a Louis Garneau singlet, which is super lightweight, and made my way to the starting line. Because of the bad weather, the 5k and half marathon started at the same time.

Off we go. 3 guys took it out fast including Garang Madut, who smoked me at my first half 2 years prior. I quickly settled in but the 3 pulled away quickly. Mile 1, I look down and see 5:16. Okay. Not bad. But can I hold this? A lot of thoughts start pouring into my brain as I began to process the 5:16 first mile. But I felt good. But, Madut was 80 meters ahead. Yikes. I settled for 2ndat the moment. That is okay, I’ll still PR. It was wet, cold and raining. My shoes were soaked at this point. I continued to push along. As I approached the first aid station about mile 3, I saw water over the road, so I quickly did this tip toe thing to try to stay dry. It was a waste of effort. Time to throw a thumbs up at the aid station and smile. It was motivating to see volunteers in the pouring rain. As I passed the aid station, I saw Madut. Was I speeding up or did he fall back? Either way, I’m going to catch him now and be in first as I run by the aid station.

Got ‘em! Okay so I caught him. But he’s running with me. This just turned into a race and I was ready for battle. We began clipping miles off and we honed in on 5:15 pace. I began thinking in my head as we hit a very small incline- “where do I make a push? Mile 9? 10? 11? Kick to the finish? Nope, around mile 6 there was the turnaround point and it was a 180-degree turn. This! This is it. I went around the cone and put a surge in while I counted to 20. Ho-lee-shit. What the hell am I doing, and I cruise along. “I still have 7 miles to go.” Whatever. I felt damn good. As I passed the aid station again, I needed fluids. I took a small cup of sports drink and again as I looped back around to the aid station. I looked back and I had about 100m on Madut but the race wasn’t over. I still had 5 miles to go at this point.

Mile 9. Oh shit! My calves. They were getting tight. I tried to push faster but I was limited. I held on right around 5:16 pace at this point. From there, I just maintained a consistent effort as the fatigue began to set into my body. Seeping into every single muscle. I just needed to get to the stadium. I pushed a little more and the overall pace dropped to 5:15. I hit the finish line and I was toast! 68:46.

I stuck around the finish and congratulated the other finishers. Tony White grabbed me, and we began cooling down. This hurt! I suppose my body is going to take a beating while only running 35 miles a week.

I was walking down the stairs sideways several days after the race but I was stoked! Next up, a marathon! Maybe, I had this idea that I wanted to OTQ (Olympic trials Qualifier) for the marathon. It’s tricky because I have already signed up for 4 70.3 races and I had Ironman Arizona in November. I switched Arizona to Louisville so I could run Huston if I decided to. I’ll see how fast I recover from Louisville.

Throughout the winter, I had a pretty consistent schedule. My key swims were typically Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I would do a hard bike workout Tuesday morning (sweet spot effort) and then a 3-4 mile tempo in the evenings. Thursday would consist of a track workout and then another hard bike in the evening. Long runs typically fell on Saturdays and ranged from 13-18 miles.

Overall, I executed the race aggressively but I was also smart. I'm not sure why my calves spazzed out. I might have been slightly dehydrated. Fortunately, it was cool or cold...

I think it would be really cool to hit a 2:19 which is the OTQ time. That being said, I also like to take it easy in the winter and enjoy myself. The holidays can be a challenging time to stay disciplined. What do you think?

Taken by Talbot Cox at the EMJ Camp

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