Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Revenge of the Angry Chicken

If you haven't heard my story its short and sweet. I trained to run Boston, my first marathon, this April and ran 3:45. Although good for a first marathon, I hungered for a better time. I thought I trained hard for Boston. This summer I showed I took it easy for Boston. I set out to qualify for Boston under the standards of 3:10. During the summer I ran more than I thought I ever would. I ran hills, I ran tempos, I ran long, I even had a 70 day streak averaging 10 a day.

I picked the "easiest" marathon I could find before the registration date in Pocatello Idaho. I had a hell of a PR of 3:16. And so “the Pocatello Kid” was born. And although I should have been happy with the results, there was something still itching that I could of done better. That I choked. Among people I train with, going into the race it wasn't whether I would run a sub 3:10 marathon, it was how much under 3:10 it would be. The only one who didn't believe it was myself.

Post Pocatello I changed things up. I had plans to run another marathon, but I was going to change my philosophy. First off, no pressure of trying to peak for a certain race. I was going to try to have the marathon fit in when I was at my peak. Would it be Baystate, Cape Cod, Roxbury, who knows. Since it was for myself and not for any qualifying standards, no one needed to know my plans. This would keep the pressure off. Third, I was going to train to run FAST (well at least according to my standards).

I typically run around 7:40s per mile unless it is track or a tempo workout. Long are even slower. Recovery even slower. Mentally, the discrepancy between that pace and running a marathon at 7:15 has always been a challenge for me. Not only is a marathon longer than any distance you would train at but it is faster. All conventional wisdom says this training style works and it probably does. But I planned to change the rules.

I decided going forward that every run I could possibly get under 7:15 pace, would be under 7:15 pace. Even if I couldn’t get it under I would try. If I could run sub 7, then even better. 6:30 pace for 6 or 8 miles ok perfect. I put no governor on what speed I would run at. I stopped fearing track and tried to keep up with the fast kids. I brought my monthly average pace from the typical 7:30-7:40 down to 7:18s. At first even I thought I was crazy. But then it became my easy pace. I would go out for an 8 mile run at low 7s and it just felt like a conversational pace. Then I ran Mill City Relay the 9.5 leg at a 6:20 pace and I knew it was time for a marathon.

I was heading to DC for a conference on Employee Benefit Audits (wait to you see my write up on this conference) and there was a race I found in Delaware that Bui could get me into on late notice. Rehoboth Beach Marathon. Perfect. I was all in. My sister and my niece came for the trip which was even better.

Going into the race, I had little worry that I couldn’t average 7:15s for the first 20. In Pocatello I did it for the first 22. The question was when the 20 mile warm up was over could I mentally still race a 45 minute 10K. When the race started, I knew I had to keep the pace slow even though any pace would feel easy. I ran a real structured beginning of the race keeping a very close eye on my pace. I kept thinking about how many times I heard people say “take it slow the first half”. The first 20 miles pacing was a work of beauty. You would almost think I was running with a pace group. The course was hell of windy but because it was out and back it didn’t seem to factor.

Then the race began. I kept telling myself how this what people always say that the last 10k IS THE RACE. Well what people fail to mention is how you feel like hell at this part. Your knees hurts, your breathing is heavy, you have so much lactic acid in your legs it is pouring out of your ears. I kept telling myself “hold the pace for one more mile. 23 and 24 I struggled but the wheels never came off, I never hit the wall (Even though I was hardly diligent about Gu or water) At 25 we were coming up a trail to get back to the main road in Rehoboth and I was chipping off the half marathoners who had not finished and a few marathoners. I don’t want to be the chipper, but it felt nice to chip rather than be chipped for once in a longer distance race. In fact I don’t think anyone passed me in the last 12 miles of the race.

I crossed the finish line at 3:04:30. I had one of those blackout moments where you scream and you don’t even know what your saying something along the lines of I cant believe it. A volunteer walked over “ I know your very excited but you should put the tin foil on its cold.”

This race is why we run. It’s not to set PR’s, win races, or qualify. It is to do something you thought wasn’t possible.100 years ago people thought you were likely to die from running a marathon. 40 years ago it was believed women couldn’t run marathons. Now millions of people flock to these races to do something they didn’t think was possible. Two years ago I set out to run a marathon. I never had ambitions to run this time. I thought Sub 4 would be amazing. Even when I stepped on the line I was thinking at best 3:09:59.

And to think this all started like Forest said “One day I decided to go for a little run….”

1 comment:

  1. James

    This was great read! I like how you've mentioning for a while that you might sneak another marathon before the year's end but you never publicly disclosed the when or where(good strategy).Congrats on your progress...you've come a long way...

    Luis E.