Sunday, August 29, 2010
I've struggled a bit with the 10-week program I've been following to get myself ready for the Rocky Mountain Half Marathon. The first 4-5 weeks were great. They felt easy, I was highly motivated, and I could run farther and faster than the program required. Then the music school weeks happened, and the peak of the summer heat, and beginning around week 6 and 7 (which I had planned to stretch over two weeks each anyway, due to lack of time) my motivation sagged. To cap it off I had a really tough long run last weekend. I had just given up coffee, and maybe my body was missing it. Maybe trails, even fairly sedate ones, just are that much tougher than road running. Or maybe I was just having a bad day, to cap off a few bad weeks. For whatever reason during the last half of my 26 km my legs felt like lead. And the first half didn't exactly feel like a lively romp in the woods either. It was only the second time since April I'd run more than 17 km. I wondered whether my body had lost its taste for distance. Was I now destined to hit a wall at 14 kilometres?
But this week has been better. My interval run was fast: really fast (for me). I was able to run 6 x 1000 metres in the heat of the day at well under 5:00 per km. On the trails. My tempo run, in my Vibram Five Fingers along a trail with a long gradual climb, felt hard but was reasonably fast. My shorter runs this week have felt easy. But I was still worried about today's 20k run. It was the closest I'd get to the Half Marathon distance (21.1 km) between now and the race.
It was supposed to be a "race simulation" of sorts, with the first 10k run at an easy pace, to deplete one's glycogen stores, I imagine, and the latter 10k run at one's desired race pace, to see how much is left in the tank. I ran up the highway and back down, which of course amplifies the difference in the first and second half paces. But I ran based on effort, not pace. I ran "moderately" on the way out, and "moderately hard" on the way back.
You can read my pace for each quarter-kilometer off the graph above. You can see where the steep sections are -- the purple-top bars are the grunts up the steepest stuff. Overall there was 400 metres of climb which is a lot more than the 50-odd metres on the course I'll be running the race on.
I arrived home feeling pretty good, feeling like I had more in the tank if I had needed it. I know I could have run the first half faster if I'd wanted. And the handy-dandy McMillan running calculator predicts a finish time just three minutes over 2 hours, based on today's overall pace.
I can be pretty self-competitive. I've had this dream goal of doing my first Half in under two hours. A year ago my goal was 2:15, but this spring I started wondering if I could break two hours. It's stupid, everyone says, to have a time goal in your first-ever race, especially if it's a longer distance run. But secretly, I still have this hope. I figure I'll be okay with just finishing feeling strong. If that gives me a 2:25 or whatever, so be it. But after today's run I can see that if everything goes right, that two-hour goal might just be achievable. If everything goes right.