It’s been a long time since I’ve posted to this blog. I’d like to say it’s because I’ve been too busy [running] to post. But the reality is that sometimes I’m so afraid to be uninteresting, that it keeps me from posting at all. I have two drafts started on other topics, but haven’t finished them. I’m going to have to work on that.
My half marathon is this Sunday. Which means I’m finished “training,” I’ve done all the prepping that I can, for better or for worse, and I’m tapering for the week. In case you’re reading this and you’re not a runner (assuming I even have readers) , tapering means significantly lowering the amount of miles you run over the course of a week or more (depending on the distance of the race), following the height of training. The whole point is for your body to be rested, primed and refreshed by the time race day hits.
My last long run in training was my longest, fastest, best performance thus far. Up until then I’d been pushing against a wall of 12:00 miles. I swear, every time I’d look down at my Garmin I would see an 11 on the pace meter…but would still turn up pretty much exactly a 12:00 pace by the end, every time. It was frustrating. I know, I know, a lot of folks will click their tongues and say that for a beginner distance runner, 12 minutes is a fine pace. But I felt like every long run had some setback that kept me from running as fast as I knew I could: either I hadn’t eaten enough, was running hard trails, too many hills, had a sore something-or-other, or got too winded from chattering with a running partner (more on that later). This last run did have one setback: I brought my Boxer, Oscar, and even though he’s been known to run pretty endlessly with me, he just didn’t seem to feel up to snuff that day. I’m not sure if he was tired, feeling yucky, sore, bored, or if his backpack was chafing. I was practically dragging him behind me for the last 4 miles. I felt bad, but I was 4 miles from home, it was too cold to walk, I was too prideful to call for a ride, and besides the dog wasn’t showing any outward signs of needing to stop (i.e. limping, panting, excessive water consumption, tail between legs). And I was averaging an 11:15 minute mile, so I wasn’t willing to give up my personal best for a pooch who was just being stubborn.
(For those of you who might be worried about Oscar’s well-being, don’t feel too bad…once we got home he happily ran figure-8’s around the yard for twenty minutes).
Anyway, even though 11 miles was the most I’d ever run, and even though the last mile was pretty mentally rough, I got through it in my best time: 2:04. I beat my 10-mile pace by 7 minutes and I was pretty darn satisfied with myself. I also didn’t take a walk break on the “colossal hill” that gets me every time. Not even for a second.
The upside (or perhaps, the down-side) to having done so well that day is that now I have a mental time goal for my first half. I know your only goal at your first half marathon should be just to finish it, but I can’t help myself. My current comfortable running pace is about 10:45-11:00. My best long run was at an 11:15 pace. If you factor in race-day adrenaline (the same adrenaline that let me finish 5 miles in 52:00 at last year’s Turkey Trot – a pace I have yet to ever match over that distance in training), then perhaps that can get me down to an 11:00 pace. And an 11:00 average pace will get me to the finish line in 2 hours 23 minutes.
I’m trying really hard not to hold on too tight to that time, but I do believe wholeheartedly that, barring any major catastrophes (injury, sudden unforeseen energy depletion, energy gel mishaps, runner’s trots, etc.), I should hope to be able to finish in less than two and a half hours. I am running with two friends of mine, one who is in much better shape than me and will likely spend the entire race pretty much just pacing me (that is, unless I can convince her to try for a better time, which I know she can do – she just isn’t as competitive as me, a.k.a. she is sane). The down side to that is since she’s in such wonderful shape, it won’t be a problem for her to converse heavily throughout the entire 13.1 miles. But if I’m trying to maintain an 11-minute pace, I don’t want to waste too much energy pushing hot air out of my lungs. I think I learned on my lone training runs that while it is much lonelier to run without a buddy, it’s much easier to put out my A-game. Unfortunately for me, she’s fun to talk to and it will be difficult to 1. tell her I don’t want to talk without feeling bad about it, and 2. actually not talk. Maybe I’d better bring my headphones just in case. Heh.
Race-day jitters aside, I feel pretty accomplished that I even finished training for a half marathon at all. I mean, isn’t that the hard part anyway? You can’t run a distance race unless you’ve put in the hours of training (or unless you’re a running demi-god, like my friend Meg Fox). I know – I hope – that one day I’ll look back on my peak running weeks during this training (20 miles) and think it’s not a lot of miles to run in a week at all, but at this junction it has been a big challenge. Just like last September when running a 5K race was a great challenge for me, and when 4 miles was my long run. The expectations get bigger as you move forward, but the mental challenge never diminishes.
I live for those moments in life when you realize you’ve just gone and done something you never thought you could do. Up until a couple of months ago I never thought I could run a half marathon, but on Sunday I will. I can’t wait.
Stay tuned for the race report!
In case you were wondering, yes, I did name this post after the song by Europe. And yes, the hook has been stuck in my head ever since. (video contributed by Larry Gibbons)