Sunday, March 10, 2013

Lesson Learned

This is a long entry.  Sort of like a race report, but I didn't race yesterday.  At least not against anyone.  I did, however, race against all the ghosts of runs past that turned out not quite as strong as I'd expected.  

So, at least since I first trained with John Shafer at Charm City Run for the Maryland Half Marathon in 2011, people have been telling me in different forums to try to run constant or negative splits for long races.  And for all that time, I have gotten out to starts that were too quick then faded at the end.  Yesterday changed that.  Now I can say the lesson has been learned.  Experiential learning is great. Experiential learning is one reason my wife and I send our kids to the school that we do.  Now, I, too, have experienced it in a big way.

So, here is a link to the run.  This was done five weeks and two days before Boston.  My friend (and, more importantly to this conversation,  running mentor) and I had been discussing how I could get in a really strong race before Boston.  The DC Rock n Roll Marathon and Half Marathon are next weekend, but I did not have a strong desire to try to get into a race in DC.  The B&A is also next weekend, but by the tie we actually looked into it the half had already filled up.  It always fills up early.  So, a few weeks back we picked a Saturday and planned to meet on the NCR trail just to see what I could do.

Yesterday was great as my 8 year old's hockey season was over so I didn't have to be done too early.  It was the last day before daylight savings time so the sun was up.  

As the day approached, we changed our plans a little bit.  My friend's last two track workouts at which we crossed paths were not bad, but she was not 100%.  So, we had talked about instead of trying to get me to break the 7:00/mile average barrier or even shoot for a 1:30, just going out and running my marathon race pace (7:20/mile) as a good, long tempo run.  That was what we planned to start and after we finally met, and jogged a little to warm up and had one final bathroom stop, we set off.

We started right at mile marker 1 so that we wouldn't have to rely on the Garmin too much for distance. We ran and chatted quite a bit and when we passed the 2 mile marker looked at our watches and realized we were running just over 7:00, in fact 7:05.  That surprised as it didn't feel that fast.  For the second mile, we ran 7:12 which was closer to the pace we had discussed for the day, but still a bit quick.  We were feeling good and brought the third mile back down to 7:04.  It was then that it was clear that we woud not likely be slowing down to 7:20 for the rest of the run.

Miles 4 and 5 we ran at 7:00 and 7:03.  Still feeling good.  My friend, clearly feeling better than she had recently and me simply enjoying the great temps, nice sun, and lack of need for nutrition or water as I was going along.  Mile 6 led us up to mile marker 7 just shy of the building at Monkton (running 6:59 for mile 6), and I said that we should go just a little further (to 6.05 miles from where we had started according to my Garmin) so that we could get the full 13.1.  I was feeling good and thinking that while we were still running above 7:00 average 6 miles in we could do something that would be a PR for me.

Turn arounds on straight trails are always slow.  So, we made the turn around and headed south.   Mile 7 was run at 6:55.  At that point an entire mix of emotions and ideas was running through my head as I realized once again the grace of God and the joy of running.  The song "Time for Me to Fly" (old REO Speedwagon but a totally different context from long distance running) popped into my head.  My other running friend who is now dealing with a femur stress fracture who had asked me to run strong on her behalf popped into my head.  Having a good friend by my side was much appreciated.  

Mile 8 was the game changer.  That was run in 6:47 and we finally had our average down to 7:00.  Five miles to go.  Feeling really strong.  Checked to make sure that my running partner was feeling okay and planned to hold pace.  Ran mile 9 in 6:52 and mile 10 in 6:54.  At that point, I had achieved a sub-70 minute 10 miler.   One of these days I want to achieve that in a race.  Last three miles were run at 6:45, 6:41, and 6:39 holding the final 0.1 of a mile.  So, I had managed a better first 10 miles than the B-10 last year and a better last 5K than the GBMC Father's Day race the next day. 

It was an amazing day.  It was a day of learning self-control--not to go out too fast--and believing in myself--that whatever I set out to do I can and sometimes I just have to believe that I can go.  It was a day to learn that starting with self control leaves me strong to finish.  It was too bad not to do this in a race, but I may actually perform worse in a race.  There was no pressure and no strings attached yesterday.  Just out for an incredible run with a friend and mentor.  The day was full of meaning.  I look for meaning in each run and usually I find it.  Many lessons about not taking things too fast in life in general as well.

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