After running a PR at the Fargo Marathon this year, I’ve been kind of running aimlessly. Sure – I’ve had a few races, but no real target race the way that the Twin Cities Marathon (and the pursuit of a sub-1:30 half marathon last summer) or trying to get a BQ and narrowly missing this year at the Fargo Marathon.
My training since May has been incredibly consistent, but overall, probably lacking focus. I’ve been what I would consider 80% diligent in doing the small things (eating relatively decent, hydrating, getting sleep, etc). I’ve done long runs, I’ve done speed work, and I’ve averaged 57 mpw for the 17 weeks since the full. But to be completely honest with myself, I’ve done a lot of running for the sake of building a big running base rather than focusing on a specific race. Up until race day, I wasn’t even 100% sure I’d be running this race as my wife is what the doctors call “super duper pregnant” and I wouldn’t have been surprised if we were making a trip to the hospital rather than the starting line last weekend. I was also dealing with a nasty cold from Monday through Friday that I thought was definitely going to affect me coming into the race. Thursday night (aka – the most important night of sleep before the race), I spent the evening running 8 miles around a hilly cross country course cheering on our XC team in 85 degree weather while not eating, definitely not hydrating, and getting home from the meet at midnight.
Coming into the race, I had no real time goal. Just run hard, hopefully PR and see what I’m capable of. In the past, I’ve come in with pretty specific time goals for the first few miles or what I was hoping to average for the run, etc. It felt strangely relaxing and strangely confusing to go into the race not having a plan, so to speak.
Mile 1 – 6:43 – Goal was to go out comfortably, but obviously not go crazy. In my head, I was thinking something in the 6:50 range. Had to almost slow myself down and wound up with a 6:40 which I felt really good about.
Mile 2- 6:29 – Whoa… was pretty pumped about this mile because it felt like I was way holding myself back. It’s probably the fastest mile I’ve run in a half marathon (I think) and it felt super easy.
Mile 3 – 6:42 – Again, felt really easy. In my head, I’m thinking that I can hold this pace through 10-ish miles fairly easily. Of course, my head forgot that miles 5-13 are all rolling hills while the first 4 are relatively flat.
Mile 4 – 6:43 – In a nice groove. Caught up with two runners and we’ve got a nice pack of 3. I feel like I’m not working too terribly hard, however I get the feeling I’m not quite as fit as they are.
Mile 5 – 6:42 – This is one of my favorite spots on the course. 11 out of the 13 miles are basically around a lake. We’re out in a residential area and we aren’t yet to some of the crappy rolling hills that are coming up.
Mile 6 – 6:43 – 5 out my first 6 miles are within 1 second split and I’m still not feeling like I’m working too terribly hard. It’s tough not to be pretty excited about how my race is going. At this point, I’m not thinking “PR” but I’m really thinking by how much!
Mile 7 – 6:41 – Maybe my first misstep. We had a massive downhill on this mile and I tend to run the downhills really fast compared to most others around me. I wound up putting a decent gap on the two guys I’d been running the past 4 (or so) miles with rather than just hold back and try to hang with them. I think I might’ve woke the sleeping giant a bit because they went by me maybe 200 meters past the end of the hill. But they didn’t go by me running the same speed we’d been running the whole race at. They went by me probably running 15 seconds per mile quicker than we’d been going. I was still in my groove, but I knew I probably couldn’t maintain what they were doing, so I sort of let them go. (Spoiler: they both negative split the race… I did not).
Mile 8 – 6:57 – Lots of small ups and downs are starting to get to me. Having let go of my “group” is starting to get to me. I still feel relatively alright, but it’s starting to strain a little more than I’d like to be with 5 miles left.
Mile 9 – 6:49 – Was proud that I was able to turn the tide around a little bit and running a faster mile. Didn’t feel particularly strong, but I was fighting fairly hard not to fall off.
Mile 10 – 6:51 – Got passed by a runner and then a second one on this mile which kind of made me mad. Didn’t realize that one of the guys was a relay runner (which later made me feel better).
Mile 11 – 6:58 – I am dying. My dreams of a monster PR are gone. In my head, though, I’m still thinking sneaking into the 1:28s is do-able, but it’s going to take an effort. There is nobody near me (closest guy is about 40 seconds ahead and I can’t see ANYONE behind me). Put the head down and grind.
Mile 12 – 6:50 – These miles aren’t getting any faster, but I suppose I can feel good that they aren’t getting any worse. By this point, I’m about 30 seconds “off” of course miles but I didn’t feel like manually adjusting the Garmin.
Mile 13 – 6:51 – Saw my family again on this mile for about the sixth time. It’s so awesome that my daughter (who’s 4) gets so excited to give high fives. It always gives me a little boost. They did a great job of going to all the right spots on the course and they were able to see me about 6 times which really helped. I’m pushing, but I’m dying.
Last 0.1 (plus another 0.1 for GPS inaccuracy) – 1:10 – Gave a good but not great kick. Tried to go a little more and felt my left calf starting to lock up (which is a problem I have quite frequently when trying to speed up at the end of races).
Official time – 1:29:13 – A new PR by a whopping 11 seconds. It’s amazing that I’ve run well over 2,000 miles since my PR last October to cut off less than 1 second per mile. But the total time doesn’t really tell the full story. This course is what I consider moderately difficult (I’m not going to compare it to some mountain trail half marathon or anything). The course I set my half marathon PR on (which I’m running in five weeks) might possibly be the fastest half marathon course in North America. I’d estimate the course is 2:30 to 3:00 faster on average given similar weather conditions. At the beginning of the year, I randomly made “sub-1:27” a goal that seemed achievable. Can I drop 2:14 seconds off my time in five weeks? I hate to be overly optimistic, but it seems like a very realistic goal to shoot for. The one thing that I’ve learned in the past 13 months – which has included 6 running PRs – is that you can never taking a PR for granted. I think in my mind, I’m occasionally guilty of building a PR race up as if it were a Hollywood movie. After the ideal taper, I’ll feel wonderful, and I’ll naturally just take a big chunk of time off my previous PR and feel like I’m on top of the world. The reality is usually much more gritty. It never feels easy and I have to fight my inner monologue which is screaming at me “…who cares about a PR, JUST SLOW DOWN!” PR’s are really, really tough which is why I celebrate each and every time I do it.
We’ve got a new member of our family coming within the next few weeks (or next few days… or next few hours… who knows!?!) and I can’t imagine my 2015 training will be better than 2015 has (I’ve heard rumors that these small individuals called “newborns” have some trouble sleeping). So my next 13 months might not be the time I set 6 more PRs. Or maybe it will. Either way, I’ve worked really hard and sacrificed a LOT to run 11 seconds faster than I did last year which is cause to celebrate.
After the race, my daughter did the kids race (maybe a half mile). Seeing her smiling ear-to-ear might be the one thing in this world that makes me the happiest, so I had to enclose this picture of her from the finish line after the race. This might be one of my favorite pictures of her ever!