After worrying about it for the last month or so, race day came around with perfect weather and everything went super smoothly!
We stayed in a hotel downtown within walking distance from the starting line and woke up and walked the 1/2 mile or so and were at the starting line about 30 minutes early. It rained overnight but cleared up and the temperature was in the low 50's with a light east wind.
There were TONS of people!!! The race was capped at 18,000 entrants and hit the max a week or so before the race. The biggest race I'd ever run in before was around 300 people so it was amazing to see all the people.
Here's my view of the starting line.
The gun went off and we crossed the starting line about 5 minutes later. I had located the 4:00 pace group for the marathon and my plan was to try to hang with them for the first 8 miles until the marathon split off, but I ended up getting about 400 yards behind them by the time the runners stretched out getting started. I was wearing my heart rate monitor and wearing my bluetooth headset in one ear, but I just had it set to give me my audio cues on pace and heart rate, I wasn't listening to any music. I got a little concerned when I started out, because the audio didn't start out working, but it worked at the first 1/2 mile mark. I was right on a 9:10 pace so that seemed perfect where I wanted to be. I wasn't making much progress on catching up to the pace group though so I tried to pick it up just a little. The 1 mile mark rolled around and my audio cue matched up just right with the mile marker and I was starting to catch up to the pace group. My split for the first mile was 9:05 and my heart rate was at 164 which was a little higher than I expected so soon, but nothing terrible yet.
I kept after the pace group and caught them somewhere in the next 1/2 mile or so. My 2 mile split was a little fast catching up to the group at 8:41, heart rate was up to 168, not bad but I was hoping it wouldn't keep climbing that fast. I hung with the pace group pretty much for the next 6 miles. They must have been planning on running a little faster than the 9:09 that would get them in at 4:00 on the dot because the splits ran closer to 9:00. Mile 3 was a 8:54 split and my heart rate was up to 170. A little higher than I was hoping this early, but I was hanging with the pace group though and didn't want to slow up. Mile 4 split was a 9:06 and my heart rate actually dropped down to 167 so that was pretty encouraging. Mile 5 was another 8:54 split and my heart rate was still dropping down to 164 at the end of mile 5. I was feeling really good and the miles were flying by. Some clouds had rolled in and the already perfect weather even got better.
I'm still not sure what happened on Mile 6. My pace blew up to 9:25 for that split, but my heart rate was still dropping, down to 163 at the end of mile 6. We ran through a park there with some turns, but no idea on the pace. I think I had a crowded water stop in there, but I don't really remember. Mile 6 was where I stopped to walk for the first time in my 15K race two weeks ago with my heart rate pegged up in the 180's and I was running faster today and my heart rate was over 15 beats lower this time! Mile 7 split was back down to an 8:53 and my heart rate was back up to 167 which was pretty good for this far into the race. I was expecting it to be in the low 170's for sure by this time. Mile 8 went through Churchill Downs which was neat, but the pack was till pretty crowded at this point and there were several narrow spots that really tightened things up. My split for mile 8 was an 8:49 and my heart rate was back to 170. I pulled my phone out and took a picture as we ran through in front of the grand stands, but didn't take any pictures of the horses working out on the track.
After Churchill Downs the marathoners split off and my pace group went with them. I was feeling really good and my overall pace was still under 9:00 so I decided to just try to keep that going for a while and see where it got me. Mile 9 split was 8:55 and my heart rate was up to 173. Still not bad at all. Mile 10 split was 8:47 and my heart rate finally got into the upper 170's with a 177 at the end of mile 10. I was still feeling pretty good and just had a 5K left to go so I decided to see if I could pick it up just a little bit. Mile 11 split was 8:28 and my heart rate finally hit 180. On my 15K race two weeks earlier it had hit 180 within the first 2 miles! Amazing what some tapering and some cool weather can do! I tried to keep that pace and Mile 12 split was 8:24, my heart rate was climbing a bit now, hitting 186 by the end of mile 12. The crowd was really great the last mile or so (they had been really good the whole way though) and I started passing people like crazy. I was feeling really good, but knew I still had plenty left in the tank. I wasn't really paying attention to my splits or time by this time, I was way ahead of my goal by then and just wanting to give it my best shot for the last 1.1 miles. I was shocked after the race looking at my splits to find out that Mile 13's split was 7:43! I don't know if I've run a mile in 7:43 anytime in the last 10 years or more. My heart rate at the end of mile 13 was 187 so I guess I was putting out the effort by this time anyway. The split on my phone shows 8:08 for the last .1 miles, but I forgot to stop my phone when I crossed the finish line and my phone showed 12 seconds more than the timing chip for my overall time. My heart rate was 190 at the finish which is right at my max. My phone also showed 13.23 miles instead of 13.1 miles, but if you do the math based on my official time of 1:55:43 for 13.1 miles that comes out to an average pace of 8:50 which is WAY better than I was hoping for.
Did I mention that the weather was AWESOME! I still ended up getting plenty warm and dumped water over my head at 3 of the last 4 water stops. I went through most of the water stops and drank powerade at 3 of the stops as well. The course seemed pretty flat to me, but my phone showed 579' of total elevation gain over the entire course, which was more than I would have expected.
I think this turned out to be a perfect first half marathon for me. The crowd was great, plenty of runners but not too many, weather was PERFECT, course was pretty easy, everything was great. My wife started with me, but she hurt her leg playing volleyball a month or so ago and was just getting back up to speed so she only ran about the first couple hundred yards with me before slowing down. She ran a 2:10:15 which was pretty good for as little as she has been able to run the last month.
The race seemed very well organized to me as a first timer and everything went super smooth. I felt great at the finish and feel like I probably left something out there in the middle of the race. My avg heart rate was 169 which is lower than some of my training runs. Did I mention that the weather was PERFECT?
Today was my wife Cathy's birthday and she said the best present she's had in a long time was seeing the smile on my face when I told her that I had made my time. Kinda hokey, but that's what she said. She's been running marathons and half marathons for over 15 years so she's excited that I was running my first with her. Here's a picture of Cathy and I after the finish.
I'm sure I've missed some of the details, but I had a great race and it was a great day. Hopefully it will be the first of many. I finished 2,540 out of 12,104 overall, 1,751 out of 5,165 males and 264 out of 745 in my age group.