Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Plan B

Something that you quickly learn in distance running is things go awry. There seems to always be something during a long run that will surprise. The trick is figuring how to deal with the unexpected. The most frustrating mishaps are those that are self-inflicted. I'm feeling that way now. I planned to run the Philadelphia Marathon. In the back of my mind, until recently, I worried I wouldn't be able to do it because of my Achilles. So I procrastinated on the very basic necessity of marathon running: signing up for the race. You can imagine where this is going. The marathon is now sold out. So I'm moving on. I'm bummed because a few good friends are running the race, and I had plans to try to keep up with my friend Tom, who is on his way to a sub-three hour race. I was an idiot. No use dwelling on it.

Plan B is the Harrisburg Marathon. I think I went there once during a field trip. Maybe. It means moving up the race two weeks and compressing training. I'm fine with that. After the race on Sunday, I just want to get to the start healthy. I have enough time to add some needed endurance with a couple more 20s. Harrisburg is only three hours from NYC, and the race seems alright. I kinda like smaller marathons, although there are drawbacks. The major one is running alone. I love running alone most times, but it slows me down during races. I noticed in Indy and New Jersey times when nobody was around me. I have a feeling it'll be that way in Harrisburg. Still, I'm excited to run a new marathon and see a city I'd probably never see otherwise. Onward to Harrisburg.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Very Good Day

I haven't posted here in a while. Since the triathlon, I've gone back to running mainly, only I'm trying to cross-train more. It's gone alright, although I still have pain in my Achilles. My plan has been to cut down on junk miles and concentrate on four or five quality runs a week. That's worked pretty well.

Today, I put my fitness to the test. It's a little less than two months before the Philadelphia Marathon. I wanted to see where I am. The NYRR 18-Mile Marathon Tune-up was perfect for that. The day went better than I could have hoped. Going in, considering my 1:38 in the Brooklyn Half, I figured a 2:15 would be a good result. In the back of my mind, of course, I wanted to do better, particularly since I had a couple nice runs in the past few weeks.

I awoke to find a steady rain. This doesn't bother me too much, other than water sloshing in my shoes and some slippery lines in the park. Waiting around in the rain pretty much sucks. Since I ran the race pretty fast last year, I got put in the first corral. This worried me a bit because I'm not in that kind of shape. The first mile includes the Great Hill and came in at a respectable 7:26. I figured this was a nice pace to do for the first loop, then see how I felt. But then I started to go faster. The next mile was 7:14, then I dropped to 6:56. The thing is, I felt fine, just a little worried I'd blow up halfway through the race. The rest of the first six-mile loop went that way, as I locked in on a pace a bit over 6:50, depending on how hilly the mile was. I expected to slow down the second loop. Didn't happen. Most of the miles were sub-6:50. I started getting confident here because I'm always best in the middle mile. For whatever reason, I feel strongest then. I did the second loop faster than the first. I began to slow a bit in the last loop but surprisingly didn't give up too much time. Miles 15 and 16, for instance, were 6:46 and 6:47. I eased to a 6:52 for 17 before, incredibly, doing the final mile in 6:35.

The final result: 2:04:05, 6:53 pace. 75th place out of 3534. 20th in my age group.

Why? That's the question I keep going over in my head. I'm not training a ton -- my typical week tops out at 50 miles. The Achilles still isn't healed. Here's what I've got so far in my investigation:
1. I've allowed my body to heal more in training with swimming and sometimes cycling.
2. I'm eating better and dropped about five pounds since the tri. Ana doesn't like it, but carrying around less weight helps lots.
3. The Achilles isn't healed, but it is better, at least to the point where I'm not worried about pushing myself.
4. I've had some good quality runs lately.
5. I had an accidental taper because of a trip to San Francisco.
6. Being in the first corral put me with some fast people.
7. I had a couple great night's sleep.
8. The rain was annoying but helped me keep cool and ward off dehydration
9. I ran in lightweight trainers
10. I just had a good day.

That's the thing, the last one. I've run for 10 years now, and some days are great and others suck. There have been marathons I've run during both good and bad days. When things are good, they can be incredible. Today I felt light. There are very few feelings better than feeling strong after running 14 or 15 hard miles. There were times today when I felt apart from my body, almost observing it running. That hasn't happened in some time. The mystery is how to time the good days for race days. I don't have the answer to that.

The open question is what does it mean. That time works out to a marathon, naturally, slightly above 3 hours. Can I go under it finally? I'm not ready to say. But it's not outside the realm of possibility if I can train well over the next six weeks and avoid aggravating the Achilles.