Saturday, April 17, 2010

A new PR

Anyone ever been to Groveton Texas?

Me neither. Well not before a few weekends ago anyway. I can now scratch that metropolis off of my list of places to see before I assume room temperature.

I have this amazing friend who is from that area and she invited me to come home with her and run the Davy Crockett marathon. I, of course, jumped at the chance to take a road trip and spend the weekend with someone special and their family. The opportunity to run another marathon was the icing on the cake.

Fate had different ideas though. Remember that whole Run-a-hard-marathon-when-I-didn't-really-expect-to thing I wrote about a few weeks ago. Well that little race, no matter how wonderful it might have been, took a lot out of me and I just couldn't bring myself to run a full marathon again that quickly. Oh, and there was an itsy-bitsy problem with my knees. They hurt. Quite a lot actually. So I decided to run the Davy Crockett half marathon instead.

So we packed up next to nothing and jumped in the car on Friday afternoon and headed south. I adore road trips and I loved this one even more because my new car (yes, I gave up the truck) has a very cool radio that includes an LCD screen where you can watch DVDs! Completely illegal and really quite dangerous but still very cool. Good thing Texas is flat and the roads are straight. We watched Seinfeld episodes the whole way. Made one quick stop at Whole Foods in Dallas because it ROCKS and made it down to Chester TX later that night. I'd like to tell you where Chester TX is exactly but I'm really not sure myself. It consists of about 4 houses and a barn loosely grouped together to form a town.

So the next morning we get up and head to the starting line which is on a high school track surrounded by dirt roads. It wasn't until I made my way to the starting line that I realized I might actually be a contender for this race.... brief intermission for a movie quote.... I could have been someone, I could have been a contender...... Ok, I'm back. So the race starts and I'm like in the lead pack. The lead pack consisted of me and 2 other people BTW! So now I'm really freaking out because I start thinking about my horrible lack of experience at being the lead runner! What if I get lost? Holy crap!

Luckily this young guy wearing a full body leotard looking thingy takes off and leaves us in the dust. Whooo, thank goodness. After a few minutes it's just me and one other guy running together for 2nd place. We wind our way through the country roads and out onto a state highway. We're running a good pace of about 7:30-7:40 per mile which feels amazingly comfortable for me. I eventually talk to the guy and he turns out to be really nice. We chat for most of the rest of the race.

By the turn around (it was an out-and-back-course BTW) the leader is looooonnnngggg gone in front of us and there is nobody within striking distance behind us. Now I'm wondering how how the race with this guy is going to go. Neither of us seemed to be fading so I figured he'd be there with me until the end. Factor in the fact that I have no kick and have ZERO experience in actually racing and I was making myself content with 3rd place for most of the 2nd half of the race.

Somewhere about mile 10 I start to hear footsteps behind us. At first I thought it was just the wind or something but eventually I'm convinced someone is catching us. DAMN! 4th is unacceptable! I can't get this close to actually placing in a race and miss it by 1 stinking spot! I start to get upset as my whole strategy of cruising in to a 3rd place finish goes out the window and I have to actually consider racing this guy for 3rd.

This little segment of the story is for all my female friends out there. I hope this motivates the crap out of all of you!!!
Those footsteps I heard were actually from the first female runner! Remember when I said no one was in striking distance of us at the turnaround? Well, I wasn't lying, she wasn't close at the turn around. It seems she was taking the first half easy and then kicked in the afterburners for the second half! She blew by us like we were standing still. She threw some words at us as she passed us but I cant remember what they were. She was amazing!

So that left the 2 of us guys with our now deflated egos in our hands to race it out for 3rd place. Around mile 11.5 I was really cramping up and was struggling just to hold our current pace so I decided that racing just wasn't going to happen. I had a marathon in a few weeks and there was no need to hurt myself just for a 3rd place finish. I let the guy get a few steps ahead of me as we turned off the state highway back onto a dirt road headed towards the finish.

As I was easing up to give my legs a break I noticed that I was now catching this guy! I know for sure I was slowing but he was slowing more! I eventually caught and passed him and that really boosted my spirits so I pushed passed the pain and picked up the pace again. This was my one shot to beat this guy and I had to take it. The dirt road was his demise but it was like heaven to my aching knees. That soft dirt took away the pounding and I was able to run those last miles faster than the ones before it.

My friend dropped completely off the pace and I cruised home to my first ever TOP 3 FINISH!! It was extremely cool to actually compete for an overall position and it felt wonderful to actually RACE! I was on cloud nine for the rest of the trip. I still get goosebumps thinking about it.

My finishing time was 1:32 which was a 6 minute PR for me. I hadn't run a half marathon in awhile so it's not that shocking of an improvement but I'm very happy with it.

So guess what? I'm back on the half marathon plan again. I'm planning to take the summer and try and break the 1:30 barrier for the half. No marathons for me until the fall, probably Tulsa.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Thanks for listening

Friday, April 2, 2010

Just when I've got a plan

Over the last few weeks I had been thinking about dropping out of the marathon routine and concentrate on 1/2 marathons. I had (notice the past-tense) many reasons for this decision. Included among them were:
1) I'm tired
2) My last couple marathons have taken a larger toll on me than the ones before
3) I'm tired
4) 1/2 marathons are only 1/2 as long as full marathons

Backed by these iron-clad reasons I decided that after the OKC marathon I would take the rest of the year off of marathons and train for 13.1 mile races.

All that went out the window, though, at about mile 4 of the A2A marathon last weekend. You see, the A2A marathon is a point to point course that runs Southward and we had a 30-40 mile-per-hour North wind on Sunday. This wonderful, God-sent, wind was pushing me along nicely at a 7:44 minute per mile pace and I was feeling great! Feeling great at a marathon I had only planned on running for training and hadn't considered ever running hard! So of course I had to run the rest of it hard. I had no choice. The running Gods had given me perfect conditions and I've learned over the past few years that you just don't cross the running Gods.

So I decided that I would attempt a PR and I set my mind on the task at hand. It was WONDERFUL! I felt like a marathoner again. I was pushing myself and myself was responding. I found a new running partner around mile 9 and she pulled me through to mile 19 at a wonderfully fast and steady pace. I went through 20 miles in 2:44, which is my fastest 20 miler ever!

I set a 20 mile PR during a marathon!!!! It was deliciously painful. The harder I pushed the more my body responded. I hadn't felt like this in over a year. It was just like I remembered and it was intoxicating. I had a PR in my grasp and was seriously considering the possibility of breaking the 3:30 barrier.

That's when my legs finally woke up and realized that they were taking a beating. Remember that I hadn't really put much thought into this marathon? Well part of that non-thinking was the decision to wear shoes that were 2 years old. They are wonderful shoes and I've put tons of miles on them so I figured an easy 26 more miles wouldn't hurt. I didn't anticipate running this hard and the toll that would take on my legs without having some good cushioning between my feet and the road.

So after mile 22 each step I took starting sending sharp pains from my knees to my hips. As I continued on the pain got sharper and my pace slowed to a crawl. Even at that crawl my lower body was screaming for me to stop. It's funny how easily my mind slipped out of the euphoria of a possible PR and into survival mode. My finishing time didn't even enter my thoughts those last few miles. All I could think about was how much my legs hurt. In hindsight that was probably a good thing since any mental depression would have added to my pain and it would have been harder to make it.

The race finished on a high school track and they made us run a complete lap to reach the finish. The problem with this was that Paula told me we had run 26.2 miles well before entering the track! That last quarter mile put me at 26.6 miles and my legs did NOT need any additional mileage that day. I finished in 3:37 which is my second fastest marathon.

So here I am with a great race under my belt and that old feeling of joy that comes from a nice, painful 26.2 miles. Just when I decide on something I have to go and have a good race! Oh well, I'll roll with it and see what OKC brings. If it goes well, I may be forced to continue with marathons this year.

On the plus side, my knee hurts now and I can't run for a week or two. Maybe this break will put me back in the 1/2 marathon mode. Oh, who am I kidding, it'll heal quickly and I'll be running again soon. Heck I'll probably break that 3:30 barrier this year. Shucks...

Thanks for listening