Feb 28, 2010

An unbelievable day for me

Today I ran the Last Chance for Boston half-marathon, in Dublin, OH. I was hoping to accomplish a few things:

1) Set a new PR My current PR is 1:47:38, set in Chicago in 2008. This PR has bugged me ever since I ran it. You can read below about their mistake in measuring the official course. It was also the last time I ran a half-marathon, healthy. I was nursing a sore groin when I ran San Antonio, in November 2008, and at mile 8, I knew my day was essentially over.
2) Establish a time that qualifies me for start corral C, in this year's Chicago Marathon.
3) Get a clearer picture of my current fitness level.

Went up to Columbus on Friday night to relax, away from home, with my wife. She also ran today, the 10K, in preparation of her half-marathon in Nashville. It was a nice weekend. We haven't had much time together, just us, lately.

Today, I woke up at 4AM in order to have breakfast. Went back to bed, got up at 6:15AM, and prepped for the race. I was feeling quite good, and best of all, I had no lingering soreness, or nagging injuries. I was definitely ready to go.

My goal was to run a 1:42 (7:47/m), but hoped that perhaps I could run 1:40 (7:38/m) if I ran perfectly, and felt good at the end.  So I set my target, overall race pace at 7:45/m. The race course is a flat, 1-mile loop. I ran this race in 2008, so I knew exactly what to expect. While running laps doesn't sound like fun, it's actually not bad when in a race environment. If it were for training purposes, multiple times per week, I couldn't do it. For one race? No problem. The half-marathon runners and 5K'ers, they set up 0.1 miles behind the start/finish line, have you run outside the finish setup your first time by, in order to avoid the timing chip mats, and then you run the loop as normal. So one nice thing about the setup is you get mile splits when they post results.

For a 7:45/m pace, my plan was to run the first 0.1 miles in 45-50 seconds, the first full mile at 8:10-8:15/m, the second mile at 7:55-8:00/m, and be at 7:45/m race pace to start my 3rd loop. I'd run that pace until I had 2 laps/miles to go and then let loose, if I had anything left to give. If all went well, I'd make up the time I gave up during the first two laps.

Good day to run, but not great. At the start, it was 30 degrees, overcast, with a 10 mph wind blowing. Once the race got started, I got through my first 0.1 miles in 42 seconds. Fine. Now I have thirteen, one-mile laps to run.

First full lap, I ran in 7:42 (8:24). Too fast. So now I'm really focusing on keeping it nice & easy. I don't want to run hard, at all.

Second lap, 7:44 (16:07). OK, not the end of the world. It felt like a good pace, I was very relaxed, breathing easily, running easily. So let's just keep it there, if we can.

Third lap, 7:43 (23:50). Good. But wait a minute. I'm honestly thinking this is TOO easy. One thing I've noticed in my training is that my lactate threshold pace seems to be considerably lower than my current plan called for. It just so happens, my training plan LT pace is b/w 7:38-7:48, very similar to what I want to run today. But I've thought during training runs that that pace doesn't actually feel like an LT run. I've had to run them harder than that to really get the effect I'm looking for. Closer to 7:15/m. And this is exactly the thought I'm having right after my 3rd mile.

Fourth lap, 7:37 (31:26). Yup. I think I've underestimated my race pace. I may pay for this at then end, but I'm going for it. I plan to continue running strong & steady, but just a bit faster than I have been.

Fifth lap, 7:30 (38:56).
Sixth lap, 7:22 (46:17).
Seventh lap, 7:25 (53:42).
Eighth lap, 7:27 (1:01:08).

I'm really gaining confidence now. I'm feeling great, I'm running well, and it seems to be coming almost effortlessly. By how much did I underestimate?!?, I'm beginning to wonder.

Ninth lap, 7:23 (1:08:30).
Tenth lap, 7:22 (1:15:51).

3 miles to go. Start turning up the heat now, or wait? I decide to wait one more mile.

Eleventh lap, 7:22 (1:23:13).

OK, let's pick it up a little and see what happens.

Twelfth lap, 7:08 (1:30:20).

YES! Bell lap, and I think I have a little juice left. I start the final mile with a big push. I look at my Garmin, and see that I'm at 5:50/m pace. But before I hit the 1/4-mile mark of the lap, I know I can't keep this up. I bring it down a notch and just try to hold steady until the 1/2-mile to go mark. When I get there, I start to gradually pick it up again. Before I know it, I'm 1/4-mile from the finish and I keep pushing. I make the final left turn, see the clock, and push as HARD AS I CAN. I throw my body through the finish line.

Thirteenth, and final lap, 6:35 (1:36:55).

Final time: 1:36:55 (7:24/m). Wow! I can't believe it. A new PR by 10 minutes, 43 seconds. That put me 26th out of 159 overall, 8th out of 30 in my age group.

I accomplished all 3 goals I'd set for this race, and I learned a lot too. My suspicion that I am in better condition than I give myself credit for, is true. This is especially true of my lactate threshold level. I felt like I could have just kept cranking out miles in the 7:30-7:35/m range without compromising my form or risking crashing into the wall.

I probably left a little bit of time on the course today, specifically during the first 3.1 miles. Not sure how much. Had I run 1:35:59, or better, I could have gotten into corral B for Chicago. That's the best I could hope for this year. So, did I leave 56 seconds out there by NOT running at my appropriate pace the first 3 laps? Maybe. Maybe not quite. It would have been really close. But I'm not going to worry about it. I'm beyond happy with my performance.

One PR taken care of. Next on the list...15K, 4 weeks from today. Then, full marathon in Nashville, 8 weeks away. BRING IT!

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