Thursday, October 30, 2014

Ten Meaningful Miles

This is today's answer to #WhatMakesYouSoar.

It is another Thursday night and I am sitting in the ice rink.  This has become a Thursday evening habit as my middle son skates during the free style session with the Baltimore Figure Skating Club.  It is a great time to chill out.  (No pun intended as I usually sit in the lobby rather than going into the rink.)  I chill after dinner.  I chill after a hard day at work.  And I get to chill after a hard workout.  The other habit during this marathon training season has been hard workouts on Thursday.  I have run a combination of track workouts and progression runs on Thursday.  This week was a progression run.  A ten mile progression run.  One that I had done well on but not executed exactly in my multiple attempts to do so.

The plan for today was to start at an 8:15/mile pace.  Then to speed up at each mile marker so that my pace would get faster by 0:15 per mile until reaching 7:15.  Hold the 7:15 for a second mile.  Then work my way down to a 6:30 before cooling down with an 8:00.  And I planned to meet a training partner who had paced the Marine Corps Marathon this past weekend. She was going to help me keep up the pace, despite what she had more or less just run.

So, I left early enough to put gas in my car and be at the Dunbar track in downtown Baltimore shortly after 5:15.  The officer had already opened the gate, so I knew we would be able to use the track later in our workout  My partner arrived shortly after that and we began our run just after 5:20.  I was in shorts and a t-shirt.  She was in longer running tights and a thin long-sleeved layer.  We each know what to expect of our bodies when it is about 45 degrees.  (At least that is what my Garmin report told me the starting temperature was.)  

We planned to run on a course that we had run nine days earlier.  On that day we had run 7 miles.  a 6.5 mile course on the streets of Baltimore followed by a half mile on the track.  Today we were going to go 14 laps or 3.5 miles on the track.  So, not all 40 laps or 10 miles, but a lot more than the 0.5.  That was fine.  We headed north along Ensor, turned left to go west on Madison, and chatted.  It had been about nine days since the last time we had run together with another partner.  So we had things to catch up on including running plans, work, and her experience at the Philadelphia Back on My Feet Bash and the Marine Corps Marathon.  As we headed past the prison facilities on Madison and then turned south on Fallsway we were at a comfortable pace.  We hit mile 1 just about at St Vincent de Paul church at President and Fayette with an 8:04.  Nice start.  A little fast but not crazy.

So, we had to pull up at Fayette for traffic, the continued down President Street, hung a left on Baltimore St, south on Exeter, and west on Aliceanna.  Always love the smell of the H&S Bakery, especially on cool, pre-dawn mornings.  Second mile--7:38.  A little overzealous so we decided to be careful on the third mile.  

We continued onto Boston Street.  Chugging along the street by the harbor.  Not too many runners or others on the street that morning, but what seemed like lots of cars.  Third mile 7:45.  Right on target.

As we headed into mile 4, we turned up Ellwood.  We reached a point at which we were not talking that much.  It was time for the hard work to begin.  Ellwood crests before the south side of Patterson Park.  I do know that one comment during mile 4 was the observation that mile 5 would involve the run uphill on Baltimore Street.  That was yet to come.  Mile 4 was run in 7:22--8 seconds below the target but not out of control.

We picked it up as we ran downhill a bit to Baltimore Street and turned west to run along the north side of Patterson Park.  The climb really begins at Linwood.  We have run this a lot of times.  Today, we ran it in 7:12 as we reached Patterson Park Avenue.  Doing pretty well.

As we moved into mile 6--the last one that would be completely on the road, began by finishing going up on Baltimore Street, then headed down toward Central Ave.  The mile did not end until we had turned north and headed across Fayette and toward Orleans.  We had to stop at traffic lights a couple times.  The downhill added speed and we ran a 7:04.

We continued north on Central and turned left on Monument to run along the south side of the Dunbar High School athletic facilities outside the iron fence.  We went back up along Ensor to the entrance to the entrance to the track and ran just under 2 laps on the track.  As we had entered the track area, we were running a 7:08/mile pace.  Over the course of the two laps we sped up a little at a time and pulled some time off the pace.  As we reached the near end of the bench (in the direction you run) on the north side of the track, we found we had run a 7:01.  That was the first time we had a "slow" mile but it was slow only by 1 second.  So, no stressing over that one.

We had been running side by side throughout.  During mile 8 an ever so slight gap opened up.  We train with partners to benefit from each other.  But we also train with partners who understand when we need to meet a goal.  My watch signaled the end of mile 8 slightly before I returned to exactly four laps from where I'd begun.  So, I hit the lap button again when I reached the exact lap point, and when I added up the times later had a 6:45. Right on schedule.  Now was the real test.  I had never gotten much lower than this all summer and fall thus far, except on a treadmill.  No treadmill today.  Just the need to keep pushing.

So, with four laps at pace, I picked it up some more.  Each lap went by easily.  I don't know where all the energy came from.  But I watched the average mile time go down.  My watched beeped at a 6:20 but that was a little early.  I was running faster than in mile 8, but even if it had taken me the same nine seconds extra as in the eighth mile, I would have still run a 6:30.  That was a crowning achievement in my marathon preparation.  

Final mile at what seemed like a really slow pace was still below 8:00.  The total time was 1:13:09.  That is exactly the same time in which I ran my first 10 mile race back in June 2011.  What a long way I have come.  

So, I had finally executed a progression run with the goal of finishing at a 6:30 not on a treadmill at the proper time.  That combined with my excellent 22 miler 12 days earlier really gives me a shot of confidence about the Philadelphia Marathon in 24 days that I didn't have before.  

My training partner is quite confident I can run a sub-3:10.  The person who developed my training plan says maybe even 3:07ish.  Either would be amazing.  But I take nothing for granted.

I have to earn a marathon finish.  I have to earn an PR--even just running a 3:14:24.  I have to earn that 7:20 pace (an improvement to 3:12-something.)  I have to earn the 3:10.  And I would have to earn the 3:07.  These will be earned (or not) on race day. But they are also earned every day when I take a series of steps on the road or on the track or on a treadmill.  They are earned by missing some sleep and awakening at crazy hours and sacrificing other things that could be done.  They are earned through focus, strength, ambition, perseverance, and love.  They are earned by being me.

And if I complete it will show, once again, that I can complete something I begin.

I am looking forward to this marathon more than I ever would have imagined.

I am now at 1864.3 miles.  Somewhere on County Road A020 in Corona, NM.    

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