Sunday, May 8, 2011

Picking the "Perfect" Race

race medalsAs I mentioned in my last post, one of my goals for this year is to qualify for the Prestige Half Marathon, which means clocking double-digit minutes (ie, under 1:40) in a USATF-certified half. Realistically, this is not a hugely ambitious goal; I used to run 10 & 15 miles at a time at that pace or faster, and when I was just getting back in to racing seriously a couple of years ago, I raced 1:46 in a USATF half with only five weeks of pretty moderate training. Encouraged by this, I registered for another the following October with the intention of breaking 1:40; alas, that race happened to coincide with the worst of my much-lamented hip and tibia injuries, and I ended up mostly limping to the finish in a pretty dismal 1:49.

After four months of physical therapy and a really great April 10K, though, I'm finally ready to give it another shot this fall, meaning I need to pick a race and get myself registered for it while it's still reasonably affordable (as prices tend to go up the closer the race gets). Luckily, there is no shortage of fall half marathons in the Bay Area. Unluckily, I've become so focused on finally closing the book on this long-overdue achievement that I've found myself getting a bit neurotic about choosing the actual race.

First of all, it can't be too pricey. I am still not permanently, full-time employed, so spectacles like the exorbitantly priced (and much over-hyped, in my opinion) Nike Women's Half are out of the question. Second, anything with significant hills like the US Half is out, not because I'm particularly down on hills (I love training on them) but because they definitely mean a slower pace. Third, since I want to use the race as a Prestige qualifier, it has to be run on a USATF certified course (which includes many but certainly not all of them). Finally, I'm looking for a course that's relatively straightforward. Too many turns means memorizing tangents, which I'm terrible at; as a result, I'm almost guaranteed to end up running 13.3 or 13.4 instead of 13.1 (which is why it's unlikely I'll ever run Rock N Roll San Jose again). Secondary concerns include the size of the field (preferably under 5,000 but definitely not over 10,000), the distance from home (gas & hotel rooms significantly increase the cost of a race), and perks (I'm a big fan of technical shirts; how many cheap cotton logo T's does one runner really need?).

Initially, I was all set to run Primo's Run for Education in Danville / San Ramon on Oct. 9. It's cheap ($50), flat, certified, relatively close, and involves not one but TWO performance shirts (if you're one of the first 500 people to sign up, which seems pretty easy given how small a race it is). Finally I decided I should stop procrastinating & just sign up. Before I did, I decided checking the course map wasn't the worst idea anyone ever had, JUST to be sure there was nothing too crazy about it.

Sigh. As perfect as the rest of the race seems, 20-25 turns (depending on how you count) is a bit daunting (San Jose was maybe 22ish, and that was quite stressful).
So now I'm back to square one. On the upside, I do have a whole list of potential fall halfs to re-sort through; on the downside, I always seem to find something wrong with whichever one I'm looking at. I'd love to run the US Half sometime when I'm not trying to set a PR. Dean Karnazez's Silicon Valley Half seems like a cool, small race that's not too far away, but the course isn't certified. Big Sur would be perfect if it weren't a) in Big Sur, and b) $95. (This one is definitely on my list to run at some point, but probably not this year.)

Then again, it could be that I'm just over-thinking all of this (shocking). If I'm really in shape to run double-digit minutes, a few hills or turns shouldn't really matter that much. Part of me thinks maybe this all goes back to the fear I have of paying for a race, training hard all summer, then getting to October and finding I'm not ready to hit the time (or not definitively ready and in a place where a few hills and turns could actually make the difference). This is definitely one of those times when having a coach would come in handy. :P

No comments:

Post a Comment