2012 Nice Semi-Marathon

Overall Time: 1:23:40
Pace: 6:23
Place: 82 of 2979
AG% : 70.73%

Weather: 60 degrees, cloudy morning / sunny finish
Start Time: 9:30am

Splits: 6:19, 5:54**, 6:13, 6:23, 6:06, 6:17, 6:17, 6:22, 6:21, 6:24, 6:26, 6:34, 6:22, 1:45

(**Garmin watch lost connection while going through an underground tunnel. This split is incorrect.)

The 2012 Nice Semi-Marathon (half-marathon, for those in the US) marked my return to road racing. Since finishing the 2011 New York City Marathon in November, I hadn’t raced a single road event due to to my training for the Atacama.

My goals for the Nice Semi were a little ambitious. My B-Goal was to PR (anything under a 1:23:09). My A-goal was anything in the 1:21 area. I knew it would be difficult, for two reasons:

  1. I had experienced a strange calf pain / tightness / strain two weeks before the race. It meant that I got in no speed workouts or quality workouts before the race, and in fact I was forced to take a few crucial days off.
  2. I hadn’t raced in 6 months. I was nervous. What if I didn’t have that racing mentality anymore? What if I had lost the ability to remain both physically and mentally tough? And I hadn’t put my body through a race, so how would it react being forced into trying to PR all of a sudden?

With 4 days before the start of the race, my calf calmed down and I was able to get in three test runs to make sure I could finish the race and not injure myself. The doubts in my head were still there but there was only one way to find out what kind of shape I was in, and that was to race.

The Nice Semi-Marathon course. There are many turns through narrow streets, and two 180-degree turns to make you work for a good time. However, running through Nice and along the Promenade was a great experience.

I wanted to race this a little conservatively by going out at a fairly controlled pace from the start and that is exactly what I did. My first miles were a splattering of miles in the 6:13 – 6:23 range. The variation in the miles is mainly due to the number of turns in each mile. Sometimes there were many, and sometimes there were none. This was a course through a relatively small city, and before the path along the Promenade des Anglais it meant that we had to run through narrow European streets and lost a lot of time making some very sharp turns.

Like so many other races, this half marathon had a 10K component to it as well. The 10K runners started with the half-marathoners, but pulled off and finished just before the halfway mark for the half. This meant that I had to check to see (read, “judge”) who I was passing or getting passed by in the first 10 kilometers of the race.

Around mile 5 / 6 I realized that this was going to get hard. Originally I had planned to follow up my controlled first half with a faster second half to negative split the race. By mid-race I realized this would be an uphill battle and I had to just hold on. There was also a very real chance that I wouldn’t even do a 1:23, and that I would have to settle for a very disappointing 1:24 or 1:25.

Luckily I managed to find someone who was near identical with my speed. I think we both realized at the same time that we should run together, so we tucked into a nice rhythm around the 10km mark and never let the other slow down or try to do something silly like surge mid-race. At the same time that we were competitors, I think we wanted to push and pull each other to a good race.

Around the 13 km mark, I saw the race leaders coming my direction. There is a 180 degree turn at km 15 which sends people heading against traffic on the other side of the Promenade. Not only does it allow runners to see the leaders coming back to the finish (located near the start line), it also allows faster friends to see their slower comrades, just as many out-and-back courses do. In my case, it meant that the first person I would look for was my friend MS. He and I had similar goals for the day, but I was struggling and I figured that he wasn’t. Sure enough, on my “out” portion of the final leg of the course I saw him on the “back” portion. I looked at my watch – 1:00:00 exactly. At the turnaround I looked at my watch again: 1:01:00. That meant he had a 2-minute lead on me at this point. I was happy for him that he’d more or less reach his objectives for the race.

The turn-around was around km 15, and I knew I had just over 6 kilometers to go before reaching the finish. The sun was coming out now; it was past 10:30 and the temperatures were rising steadily to make the already-humid air fairly uncomfortable for me. I’m not sure if it was a plus or a minus, but there was a light headwind in the final stretch to the finish. While it may have slowed me a second or two per mile, to be honest it cooled me down a bit and I was grateful for it. I was starting to fade but having gone through enough races I knew that could hang on for the just-over 3.5 miles to the finish. As a bonus, I was cheered on by several other Front Runners (from Nice, Lyon, Cologne, Paris) who were behind me and running toward the turn-around at kilometer 15. I will admit to losing focus at some point and recording my slowest mile here (6:34), but I was able to pick things back up for the final mile (6:22) before crossing the finish in 1:23:40.

There was some disappointment in the time; I hadn’t PRed and I certainly hadn’t achieved my A-goal. That said, it’s a fairly decent time for me and it’s a good return to road racing to start my 2012 season. The course was a little difficult with all the turns, and the sun/wind in the last 6km did prove a little difficult. That said, it does give me confidence that I will only get faster from here and I am looking forward to running more races in France.

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