Spring is just around the corner (allegedly, I have yet to see any evidence of winter’s end) and I have three “races” under my belt so far this year. So far this year, I’m secretly disappointed.
I keep reminding myself that I have loads of good and bad excuses: a concussion, an injury, a polar vortex, continued low mileage, training through races, laziness.
The excuses don’t help. I’m still running the same times / slower that I was running last year and the year before. Which kind of sucks.
three weeks post-concussion, I ran an ‘easy’ half marathon at marathon race pace (4.30/km for a 1.35 half). You know, in case I ever run one again I need to be prepared. I ran the pace, spot on, as planned. Except it wasn’t easy running into a 50k headwind, drenched from the torrential downpour that soaked the start of the race, with a monster headache. But I did it. It should’ve felt easier than it did.
Two weeks later I ran another half marathon. The forecast was awful so I went in with the same pace plan – marathon pace, this time with a 5k warm up and 4k cool-down for 30k for the day. I had a hard week leading into the race with three tough interval workouts, including 12×400 hard with minimal rest (15-45 sec) the day before the race. So I purposely went into the race on fatigued legs. I figured the best I could do on snow covered roads in freezing temps would be marathon pace, so practicing race pace on tired legs would help prepare them for the rigours of a marathon.
As it turns out, it was super cold, as always, but the roads were clear. Wet, but clear. My feet were so cold it hurt to land for the first 5k, at which point I either stopped noticing or they warmed up. I didn’t lose any toes, so it must’ve been the latter. All that to say conditions were better than expected and I came in at 1.29 and a few seconds. Not a PB, but close, and consistent with my recent half times. The run felt way easier than the slower marathon pace run two weeks earlier. I know I didn’t go in with the intention to run a PB, but conditions were good and psychologically I really could’ve used one. I’ve only run in the 1.28s once. Feels like a missed opportunity to repeat that feat. I’m stuck in the 1.29 zone and can’t get out.
I know I need to get this stubborn half marathon time down to 1.27ish if I hope to break 3.10 in the marathon. To get my half time down I need to do something I’m not already doing, like mileage. Or actually train for a half instead of always training through them. I don’t know. Plateaus suck.
The following weekend I ran a super fun 5k. It was a club event, we all go every year to kick off spring and hang out. It’s the best day. The race ends at a bar and a friend is usually playing (I’ve mentioned his rad song All for the Run before), so it’s a bit of a party. The 5k is a net downhill because of a pretty significant 1 mile drop; as you can imagine times are fast, but the race destroys your legs. This year the 1 mile drop was into a head wind (actually most of the course was into a headwind), so times were slower than in past years.
I don’t like 5ks, but I ran. Actually I raced, which I rarely do. At the 1k mark there were four women in front of me and one beside me. I know I’m not a strong downhill runner, so if I had any chance of winning I had to separate myself from the other women before the downhill. So I just ran and tried to create distance. You know how when you pass people you can kind of tell if you might see them again… of those women most were already falling off their starting pace by 1k, except there was one woman who didn’t immediately respond to my movement, but I thought I needed to watch out for her. I kept running and for a long time the only footsteps I heard come up from behind belonged to one lone guy who worked with me down the hill. Then suddenly, 400m from the finish, that woman I was worried about reappears and busts by me without a second look.
Now I don’t have a killer instinct, I’m an only child loner and tend only to compete with myself, and when I’m passed – even if it means losing an overall placement – I tend to be more “way to go girlfriend” then “grrrr”. I truly wish I had more of that competitive spirit. I’d be faster for sure. I was never good enough for team sports, so I think that part of my character is underdeveloped.
But, this time I found the fire. I thought, I did not lead this race for the last 3.5k for you to pass me 400m from the finish and win. Plus I kind of guessed the prize was shoes and I really wanted the shoes. A good old “oh hell no” went through my mind and I picked it up. I passed her again and ran as hard as I could assuming she was right on my shoulder. I was expecting it to be a sprint finish across the mat. Although we were side by side with 400m or so to go, to my surprise I finished 8 seconds or so ahead, so it wasn’t an all out race at the end. And I won! Shoes! I haven’t won many races, so this is still a thrill for me. My time was under 19min, not sure of the exact seconds. Slower than my time two years ago by about ten seconds. I know that this is mostly a race to wake up winter legs, shake it out and get some turnover and in that respect, mission accomplished. On the other hand, a course PB would’ve been awesome.
So four weekends, three races, no PBs. I’m still not sure what to do with the rest of my season: work on my half marathon time, run my first marathon in over two years (feels like the first time all over again and I admit, I’m a bit terrified to run one again), or something else. Truthfully, I’m feeling a little lost. I still have my marathon goal for 2014, but it’s feeling a little far away at the moment.
Until then, I suppose I should just do what I like to do when I’m not worried if I’m fast enough or good enough or improving enough and run.
Title: Talking Heads – Road to Nowhere. 1985.