Monday, January 22, 2007

Diamond Valley Lake Half Marathon

Diamond Valley Lake near Hemet (near the base of the San Jacinto mtns) is the largest water reservoir in SoCal. The two earthen dams (each nearly 2 miles long) were built from 1996-99. It took until 2002 for water to fill the reservoir. For comparison, DV Lake is a little larger than Lake Havasu on the Colorado River.

On September 4, 2001, I signed up to run the inaugural marathon around the lake scheduled for November of that year. This looked to be a fun event because it was the closest marathon to my house (only about 25 miles away). Little did I know but one week later the world as we then knew it changed irreparably. The race was cancelled due to security concerns for drinking water.

This is the first chance I've had to run any of the races at Diamond Valley Lake. I ran the Half Marathon on Saturday morning (January 20, 2007). It's a great course, mostly flat, dirt road around part of the lake (only a few slight hills). It's out-and-back for the half (circle the lake for the full marathon). Small crowd (120+?) for the half. I wasn’t sure what to expect since this was my first time to run any of the races there (they also have a marathon and 5K). Weather was perfect (40s, sunny, slight breeze). Since this race is so close to our house, I really wanted to run this race even though I knew there would be only a small crowd. I didn’t even have to leave the house until 7am which is normally when I’m finishing my daily run!

At the starting line, I was looking around to see with whom I might be running. I could tell there weren’t a lot of faster people in the race because there was plenty of room near the starting line (most of the crowd was about 10’ back from it as if to indicate they had no plans to lead the race). No Kenyans either.

I asked one guy on the starting line what he hoped to run. He said under 1:40. He asked me. I said just under 1:30 (my actual goal was 1:28:25 or 6:45 pace, but based on my recent 6-mile tempo runs I honestly wasn’t sure if I could hold that pace for that long).

The race started and two guys shot off ahead of me and 1:40 guy. After about a half mile, we caught up to them. I was hoping they were shooting for the same time so we could pace together. I asked them what time they hoped to run. They said, “Two hours” (which is about 9:00 per mile pace). I thought, What the heck are you doing out here in front running 6-minute miles? But I didn’t saying anything. Me and 1:40 guy dropped them by the first mile.

Mile 1 – 6:22. Oops, too fast. 1:40 guy is still with me. It’s just me and him, and I can’t help but wonder, can he hold this pace or was he just sand-bagging when he said 1:40.

Mile 2 – 6:43. That’s better. 1:40 guy is still with me. It's just the two of us. The course is beautiful. A winding dirt road surrounding the lake. What a beautiful day.

Mile 3 – 6:42. Nice pace. Feeling good.

Mile 4 – 6:45. This is going great so far. I think to myself, “My 15K PR last summer was at 6:42 pace. I sure hope I don’t crash around 9 miles… but so far, so good.”

Mile 5 – 6:46. 1:40 guy starts to drop back a bit.

Mile 6 – 6:24. A little fast but it had a slight drop down to the west dam of the lake and then flat pavement for nearly a mile across it. 1:40 guy starts dropping further back.

Turn-around – I didn’t hit the split on my watch because of a Gatorade station at that point. Made a mental note: 41:52. The turn-around seems to be too early for being 6.5 miles. (Note: there was an extra .1 mile spur beyond the start line at the end of the course so the turn around should have been exactly at 6.5 miles.)

Mile 7 – 4:19. Yep, that mile marker is way off. Even Ryan Hall didn’t run a 4:19 mile when he ran a new American record for the half marathon last weekend in Houston!

Mile 8 – 6:28. Back on track. Good mile. I can’t help but see that split and think, wow, that’s 40-minute 10K pace… this from a guy who’s never run a sub-40 10K in his life. So far so good.

Mile 9 - ? Split is messed up. Something like 7:28. There is no way that I ran that slow for that mile because my pace and effort hasn’t changed much at all. I didn’t even hit the split timer on my watch because I knew it was off.

Miles 10.0 to 13.1 – I don’t even bother hitting the splits on my watch. I should have just so I could gauge my pace better. I ran 34:46 from MM8 to the finish (6:49 pace per mile). That seems accurate for those 5.1 miles.

Meanwhile, back to the race itself. After the turn-around, I meet 1:40 guy about 30sec behind me. I then pass a teenager another minute or so behind him. He’s looking strong. He’s tall and has long legs. I know if I fade, teenager guy will probably catch me and win the race.

I’m far enough ahead that I can spot the runners behind me only when I come around some of the bends of the lake. I estimate that I’ve still got 1:30 to 2:00 on teenager guy. 1:40 guy has faded to third, a couple of minutes behind teenager guy.

It’s fun being out in front. I’m just not used to it though. All the runners coming the opposite way cheer me on. There’s no one with me. No race vehicle, no race director on a bike. Just me and the breeze… my own personal time-trial.

I come around the final bend, turn the corner, and go down through the chute. 1:25:15. Overall winner. Nice. Teenager-guy (actually a XC runner from Hemet High) finishes in 1:26:56. 1:40 guy finishes in 1:30:05. Great runs for both of them. They both are nice guys and I got to talk to them some after the race.

1:25:15 would be a new PR (personal record) for me for a half marathon. But I’m 99% sure the course was short at the turn-around. Based on my splits, I think I ran the equivalent of a 1:27:40 on an accurate course (if I add about 2:25 to that 7th mile; 4:19 + 2:25 = 6:44 which was about the pace I was running). I’ll know for sure when I run the Palm Springs Half in a few weeks. I have a feeling that it will be painfully clear that I didn’t run 1:25:15 on an accurate course. But hopefully, this is still a good indication of my fitness level for the Boston Marathon in April. [Correction: after talking with the RD, I now realize the course was a full 13.1 miles as it was supposed to be, but some of the opening mile markers were too long which resulted in mile 7 at the turn-around appearing way too short.]

Sorry for such a long story. I'm just not used to winning races, even small ones in obscure corners of our world. BTW, for winning, I got a plaque with a wooly mammoth statue on it (not exactly sure the significance of that… maybe an indication I need to shave?) and a gift certificate for a pizza. Mmmm. I look forward to that.