November 2, 2008

A Miss as Good as a Mile

Today, I woke early (although not as early as you'd think thanks to the blessing of daylight savings) and drove to my favorite half marathon.

According to my training logs, after all of the speed training since the SF marathon, I was in just as good of shape as the last half marathon PR I set, back in March.

I hoped to beat that PR, even if just by a little tiny bit (although, foolishly, I thought I'd clear it relatively easily because the weather would be so cool).

The weather did appear to be cooperating--after pouring torrential rains all day on Saturday, Sunday was the racing ideal of overcast, cool (although surprisingly warmer than expected) and misting.

So, I parked at a garage near the start, realized I wasn't going to freeze, changed from running tights to shorts in the car, jogged to the start, ditched the mittens I'd purchased from GoodWill to keep my hands warm, and lined up with expectations of a PR.

Ah-hem. Apparently, I haven't been running long enough to realize what a difference a course can make. I should understand this. It is basic. Work equals Force X Distance. In addition to the force necessary to move a mass forward, the force of gravity is against you as you go up. And yet...

At the start, I went out fast, just like I did in March (on the flat course), a nice easy 8:05 mile to start. Then an 8:10 mile. And then, at mile 3, as we started to climb, I realized I had to slow or I would wreck myself. The fourth mile was almost a minute and half below my goal pace. And all of a sudden, I realized how silly I was being. This is my favorite half, but I've never come close to setting a PR on it. It's not my favorite because it's fast -- I like it because it is local, it is beautiful, and *parts* of it are breathtakingly fast (like the downhills on the GG bridge and around the edges of the bridge), but other parts are slow and painfully uphill. This, you see, is because, it is *hilly*.

After I saw the 9:33 read out at mile 4, I doggedly climbed the last hill to the Golden Gate Bridge and passed a guy who said, "You can't ask for more than that" and pointed to the full-arch rainbow over the first span of the bridge.

Indeed. You cannot. This would be the main reason why this is my favorite half marathon -- small, local, well-run, no frills, gorgeous, demanding race.

So, the rest of the race was less about a PR, which I realized I would not make, and more about pushing myself in a way that was intelligent so I would have a good, strong race.

I did.

Even though I finished more than 5 minutes after my low-end goal, and more than 10 minutes after my super-speedy goal. I felt very pleased with the overall effort. I didn't stop to walk except at aid stations. I kept my pacing more even than normal for me (which is still horrifically uneven, I saw 7:10 as my pace on the Garmin at one glance down, while at another point I saw 10:17). Most importantly, I set a *course* PR by more than 1m50, which, thanks to what I learned today, is going to be how I measure these things from now on. In hindsight, setting a goal of more than 12 minutes improvement on this course as my super-speedy goal was ridiculous.

In other news, I'm somewhat relieved to report that I'm no longer considering pushing myself to try to qualify for Boston in March. Until I clear 1:45 on a half marathon I don't even want to try to accomplish that goal. So, oddly, today's slow performance is liberating.

After the race, A let me shower at her place, and then she took me out to brunch and we had a delicious meal while catching up. It was a perfect end to a nice day and I was so thankful that she was available to hang out.

And now I'm home: More sore than I would have expected; Tired; And excited that I get to work on medium length speed and to focus on my half marathon PR for another several months before I even think about whether or not marathon speed sounds like fun.

No comments: