Last week I blogged about my body forcing me to rest and the profound insight resulting from that rest (details here). At the end of the week of forced rest, about two weeks ago, I ran my bookend running race to conclude my focused season of running only. I still have some running races planned for the summer, but the focus past April leading into May and June shifts to Triathlon.
Last Thanksgiving I ran my first half marathon distance race. I did not plan to run this distance for another year but at the beginning of November I had began to run double digits and on a whim I believed a half marathon was doable (details here). I finished that first emotional half marathon in a total time of 3:13:01. Since that first half marathon, the winter months have been focused on the run. Starting 2014 I setup a detailed training plan and worked to increase my weekly and monthly mileage. I scheduled three half marathon races as my big goals for the year, with this one being the primary focus because it would mark the beginning of the shift to triathlons.
Some plans changed and I began to run trails as well as road. Due to cost and time considerations I found myself dropping one of the three road half marathons, instead adding a trail half marathon only six days after a road half marathon. The road half marathon was ran in a 3:14:00 time(details here). The trail half marathon a week later proved to be a very different challenge that took some deep down pushing to finish in a grueling 3:46:00 (details here). Overall I felt confident to finish the half marathon distance around three hours and fourteen minutes.
After being side lined by my body for a few days I did not panic, instead I used the time to recover and taper a bit for my final Half Marathon for the beginning of the year, the inaugural Peach Jam Half Marathon. This half marathon had only eight feet of elevation change and was ran almost entirely on board walks erected over protected wetlands. Due to the forced rest I only managed a single five mile trail run in a day or two before to help loosen the legs up and get my mind baqck into the act of running.
The morning of the race was dark and bleak. The night before it had been raining and storming. This weather carried over into race morning, fortunately it let up to a mild sprinkle. The air was moist and on the verge of humid. Come time to race I was ready to get running, with a week of rest I was eager to run and race. We lined up at a made up start line. The race started and I eased into my pace. I felt good and strong and just steadily eased into my three hour running pace. Deep down I wanted to get a better time than three fourteen so I stuck to my 1:30/:30 run to walk ratio and tried to run moderately hard. There were a few areas on this course where there was a one or two percent incline that seemed to last forever, but it felt uneven with very little down hill to gain some fee time off of.
After a couple hours I started to feel tired in the legs. I had pushed the entire race and stuck with my pacing. The lack of downhills and variety really started to take their toll. While the sky remained gray and hid the sun, the surrounding wetlands were very scenic and I am sure on a day when I am not running thirteen miles they are worth stopping to look at. Eventually I was down to the home stretch, just a mile or so to go. It was easy to figure out remaining distance as a good deal of this course was composed of adjoining out and backs. As I came out of the woods and onto the solid cement path that would wind itself toward the track where the final lap and finish line I could feel the push in my legs, but the excitement of nearing the end pushed me onward toward the final quarter mile and the finish of the race.
After crossing the finish line I made sure to stop my watch and Strava apps and I felt tired and exhausted. I realized having little elevation gave my legs very few breaks and I had been pushing it hard for three hours. I was fearful to look at my finish time as I did not want to be disappointed. When I finally looked at my finish time and my official finish time I had actually finished in 3:07:36! I could not believe I had beat my best time by nearly six to seven minutes. I really do not think it was the lack of elevation as I had to move at a constant pace for most of the run, which means I had few opportunities to gain some free speed from down hills.
What a way to finish three hard months of work to improve my running and what a great way to head into my triathlon season. I am still slow as a raging tortoise but heck I shaved off some major time in a few months of work! Til next time.