Sunday, April 10, 2011

Training Week Fourteen Recap (75 days to go!)

After last week's huge weekly mileage PR, I was due for a cutback week. I also begged Andy, my coach, to let me race the Go! St. Louis half marathon (he talked me down from my pre-coach plan to run the full 26.2 miles). I was surprised when he agreed, especially since the half comes only six days before the Double Chubb 50 kilometer trail race. This will be my first half marathon since May 2009, when I set my PR of 1:20:08 at the Indy Minimarathon in Indianapolis. That was a two plus minute PR at the time, and I regret I haven't had a chance to go after it since then. I know I'm in better shape than I was two years ago, but a PR was not a given, since I am dealing with tired legs from training is is a lot more intense than my typical marathon training. Here's what I did in Week 14:

Monday: 3.26 miles. Andy's plan for Monday was "6 or off." I went for the middle ground on that one.

Tuesday: 12.03 miles. After a 30 minute warmup, I did 6 up and downs on Skinker Hill in Forest Park. The half mile intervals averaged about 3:20 on the ups (but I did drop a 2:59 on the final one) and 3:03 on the downs. I could feel it, that's for sure.

Wednesday: 10.02 miles. A nice and easy run from my office around Forest Park, with the pleasant surprise of meeting up with my friends Andrew and Leigh for a couple miles at the end! Good luck to them in Boston next weekend!

Thursday: 8.14 miles. Off the the track, where I had a 2 mile warmup before launching into my 4x1600 with 2 minutes rest. The splits were more consistent than last time at 5:44, 5:33, 5:34, and 5:37. I was pleased with this workout.

Friday: 8.15 miles. I was supposed to speed up for the middle 5 miles, and I guess my splits support that. I just wasn't fast.

Saturday: 6.06 miles. I took the dog for one mile, then got another 5 easy miles in later in the afternoon. Raceday was less than 24 hours away!

Sunday: 15.78 miles. Up at 5 am and out the door at 5:45 for the 7 am start. About 8 miles down the road, I realized I left my Garmin back home. It was just close enough, to home, and before I got on the interstate, that I decided to turn around and get it. As a result, my mom got to hear me cursing at the top of my lungs at traffic once we got downtown. Traffic was moving so well that I actually put on my LunaRacers while the car was in park on an exit ramp from the interstate.

When we finally parked six blocks from the start line, I could hear the National Anthem playing. I took off for the start, leaving the key with my mom, only to realize I still had my long sleeve shirt on. She took it from me and threw it in the trunk so I could get up to the front corral. I only got into the corral by hurdling a fence meant to stop me from getting into the corral. Oh well.

The good news for me was that the race got a late start. I also found myself standing within arm's length of runner extraordinaire Bart Yasso, the Chief Running Officer of Runners World magazine, and a great guy who I'd met a few times at races past. Before I knew it, though, the gun went off and with the smallest amount of stretching I'd ever had, we were off. Temperatures were over 70 degrees at the 7 a.m. race start, and they rose to 80 or so by the time I finished. The strong wind that kept blowing head on regardless of the direction we were running didn't help either.

My first mile was too fast, in about 5:45. I was hoping to keep a 6 flat pace. By the middle of the second mile, the groups had sorted themselves out enough that I realized I'd be running in no man's land...too slow to keep up with the guys in front of me and too fast for the group just behind me. Like so many other weekends lately, I ran alone. There just happened to be 14,000 runners on the same path.

The course has changed up since my last Go! Half in 2009. It largely followed the same streets, but the two loops that make up the course were reversed. We headed over to my former 'hood in Soulard, running through the AB campus and past a big pajama party hosted by the neighborhood (as Beth pointed out, 7 a.m. is very early for this party-hard area).

Circling back toward downtown, I saw my mom running the way I just came. I was happy to see she made it to her corral! I ran by Busch Stadium, making a left turn onto Market Street near the Ballpark Hilton...only to nearly be run over by a Hilton shuttle somehow turning off closed Market Street onto Broadway. I gave him a polite salute and tapped his passenger window, and volunteers ran over to put an end to the madness.

The next stretch took us through downtown St. Louis, through the biggest crowds, and I heard the cheers of my friends Andrew and Leigh (the same two from Wednesday's run). We made a few turns onto Olive Street, about 6 miles into the race, and I enjoyed the cold refreshment of holy water strewn on me by a (not Catholic) minister. I've run up Olive plenty of times on training runs, since my old office was on it, but never westbound in a race. I forgot how hilly it was! There were 3 or 4 huge hills, one almost a mile long, and my legs were feeling it after the hard training and the high temperatures. I kept reasoning with the part of me wanting to step off the course, that the last quarter mile split I had wasn't too bad.

Around the seventh mile, I felt my right shoe loosening. At the Mile 8 marker, it was untied. I had no choice but to step to the curb and tie it. Three runners passed me by. I later passed all three, including one in the final half mile who told me afterwards that he was impressed by the comeback, that he figured I was a goner after the shoelace incident.

Somewhere in here a guy with a loudspeaker made fun of my sweatband. Specifically, he shouted, "Go guy with a sweatband! I love the sweatband!" Yeah, me, too. It keeps my sweat out of my eyes.

I took a Gu around Mile 9, and as we headed to the turnaround out near Saint Louis University, I started counting the runners going in the opposite direction ahead of me. I was in 21st place when I hit the turnaround, and I quickly passed that group of 3 or 4 I couldn't quite hang with early on.

The route back along Market was equally hilly, and I quickly dropped in with the female leader and the shoe lace commenter as we battled the hills and headwind. They'd pass me on the downhills, and I'd work my way past them on the uphills (thanks, Greenrock Trail!). When we reached the final 1 1/2 mile stretch, no more than 2 big hills and a small uphill to the finish in front of us, I made another push uphill, passing the female leader for the final time. I urged her to latch onto me, so I could help her fight the wind to her payday, but she couldn't keep up. When I reached the crest, she was about 30 yards behind me, and she ultimately finished 30 seconds later than I did.

I kicked and kicked some more, and the hills started to take their toll. When I finally dipped down and back up across the finish line, the announcer cheering me on to a sub-1:20 finish, I felt good, in a miserable way. I finished 14th overall, 3rd in my age group, in 1:19:47. It wasn't the perfect day to race, but it was a PR...of course, it'd been two years since I'd run a half.

I was surprised when a race official grabbed me and ushered me to a VIP tent. I found a huge breakfast buffet set up there, but my stomach wasn't going to let me consume anything other than some fresh fruit and juice. I rehashed the race with the other runners for a bit before striking up a long conversation with Bart Yasso again. We talked my upcoming Western States run, the horrible weather, his admiration for the event (which is a first class event and only getting better with age), and the upcoming Boston Marathon and my friends' pre-race gathering that we had the joy of having Bart attend last year. There are few better ambassadors for the sport...thank you, Bart!

After a little cooldown run, I went back to find my mom, who ran a great race not far off her PR. She's going to rock Grandma's Marathon in June! I also picked up my awesome plaque for finishing third in my age group, pictured below. Week Fourteen was over. Total miles: 63.44 miles. Six days until my 50k!

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