Second - Tomorrow I will be using up at least 3 or 4 of my 15 minutes.... You can chew on that and I'll have LOTS more to say about it in 24 hours or so. For now: Just VERY excited!
Okay... The Vortex!
One of the problems in long races (well, probably in any race, but I tend to do long races so that’s what I know for sure) is the Vortex. You’ll have to pardon me because I’m not 100% sure if calling it this is an original idea of mine or not. I tend to think not, but I can’t remember where or if I have heard it before.
Anyway, at the start of the race, you can easily get caught up in the Vortex of Fast. You’ve had a week or longer of easy runs. Your body is itchin’ to Go-Go-Go. The bodies all around you are feeling the same thing. So, in the early miles, that’s what you do. Many times to disastrous results. Well, it’s relative, I suppose. Disasters in a road race are not generally comparable to, say, disasters on the Space Shuttle. But, if you get sucked in the Vortex of Fast, you will be hurting long before you should be. You will kick yourself (figuratively and maybe even literally if you’re pooped enough!) for not sticking with your race.
Meanwhile, in the second half of the race, you can just as easily get caught up in the Vortex of Slow. You are chugging along, hurting a little, and you catch up to a runner or two. They are moving at a speed that feels good and you, consciously or not, join them. No wonder the speed feels so good! It’s SLOW! If you don’t have a watch that tells your pace, you could easily slip :30 or more seconds in your pace without even feeling it. (I know this because it happened to me briefly at my most recent half marathon…. I was running with my watch in my pocket and when I caught a group that seemed to be my pace, I stayed with them. I looked at my watch and I had slowed WAY down without even realizing it.)
All this being said, I think the Vortex might be good thing during training runs. You might discover a better training pace for yourself. You might discover your body can do things you didn’t know it could. You might discover the joys of going slow sometimes.
But, in a race, either of these Vortexes can be a problem. If you are hoping to run a PR or make some other goal you have set for yourself. It’s worth saving up for a Garmin or other costly gadget to keep you on pace.