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All I could think about in the days leading up to this race was what a bad idea it was to have even signed up. It was so cold. I was so tired. My legs – they ached. And I was going to race? What had I been thinking? (Aside from that I had missed signing up for another half the month before . . . .)

But I had “trained” for it. I knew I could do it. And, in fact, I would have been out for a long marathon-training run anyway, so I might as well get a shirt and a mug out of it.

The course itself was almost exactly what I would have been doing on my long run: 4 laps around Prospect Park. Which meant 4 times up that hill that has been giving me trouble. As we toed the start line, I tried not to think too much about it. I was going to treat it as a training run. I would ignore the clock as much as I could – even if I have told myself that I would do my long runs at an 8:00min/mile pace.

And then I also gave myself as many outs as I could: When was the last time I got more than 6 hours of sleep in a stretch? Didn’t I just come off my first intense speedwork (5 800s) 36 hours ago? And didn’t I run 5 miles just yesterday?

That thought, of course, led to the next one which was this: part of marathon training is learning to run on tired legs, push through pain, and keep up the pace.

Great, so this was going to be a physical and a mental training run. Perfect.
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And, actually, it was.

Micah and I ran together (he did the “minimalist” training plan) and, as always, he pulled me through the tough parts. I gave it all I had that last mile, and when we crossed the line, I was pretty sure I’d done it: run a sub-8:00 average. My Nike app confirmed what we suspected, although the race timing didn’t factor in the late start Micah and I got (we were near the back of the starting corral), so our “official” time had us at an 8:02 pace.

I am more than a little surprised at how good I felt about it. This was 8 minutes slower than my PR. Certainly I should be feeling slow and disappointed? But no. I feel really good about running so well on tired legs. I feel great about keeping my pace. And I feel awesome that my last couple of miles were my fastest.

I’ve never run a “tune-up” race in the midst of training for another race before, but now that I’ve done it, I can see the benefit. Even if it was slow and even if it was hard, it gave me a lot of confidence that I can run well when I’m tired, that my legs are getting stronger, and that I can run in poor conditions (so cold, lots of ice).

So, two nearly-frozen thumbs up for the Hot Chocolate Half. I might even do it again someday – just not any day soon.

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