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Albuquerque Half Race Report - Justin Wiens

Albuquerque Half Marathon 2016
A rarely write these things but just need to express myself sometimes . . . Shout out to to Tony Clement for writing several of these and thereby inspiring us to do the same.

It was cold and blustery at the start, forcing me to consider running with a long-sleeve shirt and gloves. After a 15-min warmup, the wind miraculously died down, making me realize a) I didn't need the long sleeves and b) what the heck was I thinking not wearing a Dukes singlet?! I switched to the singlet and milled around the start, talking to various folks about their goals for this race. If there was just one thing I love about our sport, it's the fact that you can lift people up and encourage them to succeed, no matter where they are in their journey. I welcomed a guy from Sports Warriors and he said he'd be running around 1:14 so I figured I might have someone to run with for awhile/compete with. I didn't expect much better than low- to mid-1:13 given I tapered just three days and ran a ton the week prior.
The horn went off and the usual jackrabbits cranked out the first half mile but, surprisingly, everybody pretty quickly figured out they could not possibly hold that pace for 13.1 miles. I passed the Sports Warriors guy at the first turn and dialed in a perfect 5:35 pace for the first mile. Being a marathoner, I knew that 12+ miles remained to crank up the intensity if my body could hack it, so I settled in for awhile. At 3 miles I looked back and saw a small chase pack 20 seconds back, which was good for me to keep competing.There were plenty of turns ahead which were well marked, thankfully, because after 8 miles some of the turns had no course marshals and I had been running alone for pretty much the entire race. Miles 4, 5, and 6 were all 5:27 to 5:30, and my breathing was so relaxed I knew my aerobic system was not being taxed too much. The question concerning me was the durability of my legs. I passed 6 miles at 32:48, on pace for a 34:00 10K. My all-time 10K PR was 34:24, run last year . . . Amidst lots of turns and passing cars, I found myself trying to pull over just a bit so as not to get hit--probably slowed me down a bit. After mile 10 things got dicey, being forced to run into a 15 mph headwind and rain, so I gutted it out and turned up the heat on the last mile to finish in just over 1:12. In retrospect a race to the death probably could have gotten me another 30 seconds in that last 5K (maybe I should have imagined an opponent by my side), but alas I never run halves and am not too familiar with the appropriate pain/performance ratio for that distance.

My original goal was to break 2:30 in the Green Bay Marathon May 22, but I would hate to settle for less than my ability, whatever that is at the time. I am now gunning for around 2:23-2:25. Everything needs to be perfect for me to reach that performance, but it's possible.
I truly cannot believe how far my training has come in the last five years. Ten months ago I got a stress fracture, yet managed to be healthy enough to run Portland last Fall. I gave up competitive running in college to focus on studies and try to get enough sleep. The stress of graduate school got me back in the grind, and moving to Albuquerque has only been beneficial. I rarely do actual workouts (though I wouldn't mind!) with the Dukes, unless you count the last 6-8 miles of Sunday long runs. Even so, these friends have provided me with the friendship and support I need to achieve my potential. Hopefully the feeling is mutual! I love the fact that our group has people of all abilities and talents, which makes this sport truly worth doing and reminds me that running is largely about other people. The better I get, the more I realize that we should look up to better runners for their character, not just their abilities. (A reminder to check myself!) We compete to build up--not one-up--each other. I was glad to see Natty Plunkett after her race and especially glad to get a ride back to my car from another one of the Sole Sisters.

That's enough to say. I praise God for the healthy body to do what we love to do, and pray that we continue to recognize the blessing we have been given, a gift meant to better our communities and world.
Post race smiles with Natty! 

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