When I signed up for this race back in..............April?, I had hoped that it would be my next shot at the sub-1:50 I was gunning for at the National Half (in case you're new here, debilitating back injury 2 weeks out, very very cranky about it). But then it took me much longer to get my butt straightened out than I had hoped, and that plus a few other minor twinges had me deciding in late July that this would simply be a training run for the 70.3 that came two weeks later. When I started working with a coach, he laid waste to my race schedule, but (very reluctantly) allowed me to keep this race, with the provision that I run it exactly as he laid out - i.e. a very slow training run. Early last week, I got an extremely detailed race plan for the race, but it essentially boiled down to walking 30 seconds at every mile marker. I had to hold it way back until mile 6, and then I was allowed to slightly increase my effort until mile 10, where, if I was feeling VERY strong, I was allowed to increase my effort again. I wasn't given HR zones to follow, but to me that said: Z2/low Z3, Z3/low Z4, Z4 up to my LT (lactate threshold). I'm not sure I understand all of this HR business yet, but I would guess that if I wanted to PR the crap out of my half marathon, I'd spend most of my time in Z4 and up. Just a guess.
Amy and I drove up Saturday afternoon. We headed to the expo for packet pickup and happened to bump into Kara, who begged us to take a photo with her. All right, Kara, since you asked.
I do not have the ability to screen anything that comes out of my mouth, especially when around uber-girl-crushes, and I'm pretty sure that I told her that she should make a scary face because she was probably tired of smiling. Sigh. We wandered around the expo for a bit and then headed to dinner with CAR, which was both fabulous and over really early so we could bust it out to the suburbs to get to bed. Despite taking the long way home, we were at my parent's house and tucked up in bed by 9pm.
Race morning was pleasantly not a 4am wake-up call. We woke and dressed and ate and got on the road before 6:30am. There was a tiny bit of traffic and trouble finding an open parking garage, and I turned into a slight stressball, but we ended up at the start line with plenty of time to spare - I even managed to squeeze in another porta-potty stop. The corrals were packed, so I just waited on the outside of the fence while the first few took off. And then we were on our way.
I had been debating all morning about whether or not to carry music, and I ended up stuffing my shuffle in my pocket when we left the car. While we were waiting for the corrals to clear, I turned it on to listen to Al Pacino's speech from "Any Given Sunday." I listened to this when I was crossing the start line at the National Half back in the spring, and it was exactly what I needed that morning. Listening to it Sunday morning made me realize how far I've come from then. I've managed to get up and over the top of this ridiculous cycle of injury, and while I'm not 100% healed yet, this may be the healthiest I've ever stepped up to a starting line of a race in my life. And when I crossed that start line yesterday, I was listening to Al say, "the inches we need are everywhere" and you know what, Al? I didn't need inches yesterday, I didn't need to claw with my fingernails for that inch. I had everything I need, and knowing that put a huge smile on my face, one stayed on my face for over 2 hours of running.
I had set up my Garmin to show time of day (so I could see the seconds clicking by for the 30-second walk breaks) and my HR zone and that was it. I didn't want to see splits, I didn't want to see elapsed time, I didn't want to do anything except watch my HR. This wasn't a race, it was a training run, and it didn't matter what time I finished. I started out very easy, and most of my corral left me pretty quickly. I had set my watch to auto-lap, so when it buzzed for the first time, I reached down and cleared the split without looking at it and started to walk. When 30 seconds had passed, I started to run again, and this is what I did for the rest of the race. I didn't have a good grip on how far behind gun time I was when I crossed the starting line, and I deliberately ignored all of the race clocks on the course (except for the 10M clock, which I caught by accident). Run, buzz, click, walk, run. That was my race. I took a look at my HR every once in a while to make sure that I was staying in the correct zone, and I made sure to NOT look at the time of day because I didn't want to start calculating. When I got to the 5K mat, I knew that my crossing would send a split back to the poet, who was tracking me at home (along with the tracking pro, Elizabeth!). I didn't have any idea what the split was, but I tried to send a message along with the split to the poet, "I FEEL AMAZING!" I threw a little dance party right there in the street, because I was so happy to be running and to be feeling so good. And then I glanced down and saw that my HR was in high Z4, so I quit that shit and went back to running easy.
A few times after the 5K mat, I looked down and realized I was taking it a bit too easy, which is an awesome thing to see in a training run. I ended up with two walk breaks in mile 5 - my slowest split of the day - one scheduled and one through the water stop, where I accidentally grabbed Cytomax and had to spit it out and find water instead. When I got to the mile 6 marker, I couldn't believe that I was already there. I decided that I was indeed feeling strong and upped the effort just a tad. My HR had been in high Z2 for most of the first hour, with a little bit of low Z3. I decided I would ride in high Z3 for a while and see how I felt.
These miles head out along the river, and I was able to look across the river and see red-shirted people flying back down the other side, and I was hoping that they were my CAR friends crushing PRs left and right (spoiler: over 20 PRs set yesterday!). Especially this girl, who took her PR out back and shot it in the head:
Before I knew it, I was on the bridge crossing the river myself. I didn't even feel tired yet, at all, and while my HR was starting to creep into low Z4, I felt like I was holding form and effort very consistently. I did happen to see the race clock at mile 10, and it was about 5 minutes faster than my (admittedly very old and extremely horrible) 10M PR. But I had no idea what I was really doing because I didn't know how far back I was from the clock. Per instructions, I started to increase my effort level again. I decided I would try and hold right underneath my LT until I got to the mile 12 mark, and then I could zip in if I had any gas left. The race route was very cool and well-shaded until right about mile 11.5, and then we baked in the direct sunlight for the rest of the race. My mom came out to cheer me on, which I loved - this is only the second time she's come to a race and I was so happy to have her there! I love having someone to look for in the later miles - it makes the race go so much faster. She took some awesome photos, and she snapped this engaged-glute prize-winning gait shot right before I hit the 12M mark:
LOOK AT THAT SWEET SWEET ASS. 12 miles in and I'm still rocking some pretty brilliant form and a very Liz-esque race smile. I was still thrilled to pieces with how good I felt, how far I had run, and how well my HR was behaving. When I saw the 13M mark took off for the finish (up a giant hill, RUDE).
And that's basically how my longest training run of this cycle went down. From the 1-mile mark onwards, I took a 30-second walk break every time the watch beeped. In miles 5, 9, and 11 I took an extra walk break to grab some water (I grabbed water at all the stations, but those are the times I had to slow to navigate the water stations). When I was working through these splits on my watch post-race, I was pretty pleased, but when I came home and started working through the detailed data, I realized how strong of a run this was. If I subtract the walk breaks, I was running in the mid-9s for the first hour. The next hour brought mid-to-low-8s, dropping steadily, and the last .9 of the race, minus the quick walk break, I was running around a 7:44 pace. (Obviously this is all Garmin-based unicorn math so it's just an approximation of pace).
And in all of this, I only spent 12 minutes over my lactate threshold. I'll freaking take it. I'm so happy. Both about how well I executed this and how well the rest of my team did.
Once I found everyone and heard about all the sweet PRs set, it was time to rob the finish line before getting in the car to head home.
When I finally arrived home, the puppies immediately started assisting with recovery.
And today? Today I feel like a million bucks. I'm slightly more tired than I was after last weekend (1:45 run, 4:00 ride plus :40 T run) but not wiped out. The outside of my right foot feels a bit bruised after beating it on the pavement for 2+ hours, and my swim this morning was decidedly creaky, but that's the extent of the carnage. I ran a tough training run after no taper to wrap up two solid weeks of peak training, and I can't stop wittering about how I feel about racing a 70.3 in a few weeks. I'm itchy and twitchy and can't WAIT to see what happens when I actually taper and then can really let those race demons loose. Yeah. You'd better run.