Napa Half Race Report

The end of the pain cave. Note: the clock time in the picture is for a different race. 😆

I PR’d my half marathon at the Napa Half!! Yeahh!!!!

In this post I want to look into the race and more closely analyze what went well, what could have gone better, and what was interesting about this race.

Strategy

The race as a whole had few surprises. I started with the 1:30 pace group and my goal was to hold onto them until around the 7-9 mile mark, since that’s how long I held onto the same pace group in my last PR.

I definitely felt like quitting a few times, but I managed to hold onto the pace group all the way without feeling like complete crap. At mile 12 the pacers encouraged anyone who was feeling okay to go ahead of the group. I figured it was better to give it everything and bonk at mile 12.5 than to finish the race with extra gas in the tank.

I was very surprised I didn’t bonk at any point. I attribute this to my training program which I talk about below.

My splits were pretty even due to following the 1:30 pace group. They ran a little faster than 1:30 pace (which would be 6:52min/mi) because the course is actually a little longer than 13.1 miles!

This PR vs. Previous PR

My previous Half Marathon PR was at the 2019 SF Half Marathon. Here’s a graph that charts my previous PR pace against my new PR pace. It looks like I actually went out faster in my previous PR until about the 2/3rds mark, then fell off.

Note that this graph doesn't take into account the elevation difference between the two courses.

Physiology

Heart rate: I have no idea why, but my heart rate trended down during the race(??). One guess is that maybe my wrist got sweatier so my Garmin had a tougher time reading my heart rate.

Feet: I got one black toenail and a few blisters out of this. It’s a price I’m willing to pay for a PR.

What could have gone better

Training

Race-day performance is a function of all the training I put in to get there, so I want to examine what I did right and what I did wrong in the weeks before. From my perspective, the two biggest things that changed were mileage and training strategy.

For mileage, in the 10 weeks leading up to the race I logged 160 miles, 35 more miles of training compared to my previous PR.

I think the biggest effect, however, came from a change of strategy. This time I was following the advice in the books Hanson’s Marathon Method and Half Marathon Method. I did not follow their training plans verbatim, but I learned a ton from these books and integrated their strategies in my training.

Hansons is potentially most recognizable for a unique feature of its marathon training program: the longest long run is 16 miles. How can the program help you if you’re not doing 22 mile runs, I hear you ask? The key piece of Hansons is more frequent runs, building up your cumulative fatigue. For the marathon, this means your 16 mile long run simulates the last 16 miles of a marathon, not the first. Their training programs ensure that you never quite recover to the point of having fresh legs. After training with it you can count me in as a believer that it works. I haven’t decided whether I want to do a marathon again, but if I do, I will definitely be using Hanson’s Marathon Method.

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