I felt good going into the race this year on February 23rd. I wasn't training for Boston like the previous two years so I was a little fresher for the race this year. My goal was to repeat as winner and break 1:20. I've ran seven half marathons and four of those were under 1:21 but not under 1:20. I even ran 1:20:16 at this half in 2010 and followed it up with a 1:20:17, just one second slower, in 2011.
The race started at 8:04 AM and I was out fast. I kept my sunglasses and rainproof North Face hat on. I run in sunglasses in the rain because I wear contacts and I've had contacts almost come out on runs in the rain before. Thomas and another guy started pulling away from me after the first quarter mile. For a guy that was battling achillies injuries, Thomas started out fast. I thought my Timex Run Trainer pace was off because it had me at sub 6:00 min/mile pace and it didn't feel like I was running that fast. I ran the first mile in 6:03 and felt good.
I came off the bridge and was now in Atlantic Beach. I still felt good and picked up my pace on the flat roads. I ran mile six in 5:53. Water was standing on Fort Macon Road and it was hard to avoid all the puddles so I just ran through them. The leaders were staying a consistent distance ahead of me. I decided to take a gel at 7.5 miles. I've never taken a gel in a half before but decided might as well try it today. The chocolate raspberry GU Roctane is delicious and I hoped the caffeine would give me a kick. I chased it with some water at the next aid station just before the turn around on Fort Macon Road.
The headwind was getting stronger but I passed through 10 miles in 1:00:31. I made the right turn off of Fort Macon road and headed back towards the Atlantic Beach high rise bridge. This was when the wind was at its toughest. I tried picking the pace up but the wind was unrelenting. As I neared the top of the bridge I could see Thomas walking. As I passed him I said "I hope you're ok" and he said he was. I felt bad for him, he had over 2 miles to get back to the finish and his achillies had to be bothering him if he was walking. It took way too much effort to run mile 11 in under 7 minutes but I was now in second place.
I knew I wasn't going to catch the leader unless he greatly slowed down so I focused on chasing the clock and a PR. I came off the bridge and made the right turn onto Arendell Street at 11.5 miles. I ran mile 12 in 5:31, my fastest of the race. With 1.1 miles to go I had a shot at a PR but unfortunately I didn't have another gear in me. I finished in second place overall in 1:20:20, just four seconds slower than my PR. So close to a PR even in the wind and rain. I seem to run well in bad weather conditions. I just don't let the weather ruin my focus and I attack it.
I was disappointed in my time but I still ran a good race and I felt strong. I wish we didn't have to battle the strong headwind from 8-11.5 miles. I want a sub 1:20. I will keep doing this half because it is a great race. They race directors, volunteers, staff, and timing company do a wonderful job with this race. Everyone is very nice and I highly recommend doing this race. Numbers were down from last year but that was due to the weather. Mother Nature just doesn't like the last Saturday in February for some reason.