Well, this week is finally here. THE week in the marathon training schedule - where it's tough mentally, physically, but come Saturday afternoon (and a 20-miler), I'll be on taper mode!
Instead of running two, 20-milers leading up to Prairie Fire Marathon, Coach Jenny adjusted my schedule to go with a tune-up half marathon race that I had registered for earlier this summer. Instead of two Saturdays in a row with 20-milers, she thought it would be tougher to do a half-marathon race on Sunday and six days later conquer the final super-long-run of 20 miles to enter into the "blissful" taper time.
I gladly obliged - CJ is so smart! - and entered into the race hopeful for a sub-2 hour finish time goal, putting me at about 9:00 min/miles, which is a bit faster than my training runs this summer by 30-40 seconds per mile. It's also a pace that I'm comfortable with at half-marathons, with a vast majority of my times hovering between 1:55-1:59 throughout the years.
Enter race morning, where it was a beautiful 60 degrees (albeit windy with 15 or so mph winds), and it was like running in the air conditioning! I knew that the relief in weather would help lighten my step after training in the heat all summer. It also felt good knowing that it was "just" 13 miles instead of 16, 18, or 20! (Amazing perspective, huh?! Remind me this next year when I'm back in 10K/half-marathon training mode.)
I'm really working on starting the race at a comfortable pace instead of going guns a'blazin'. This always has been a racing weakness of mine - start out super fast, slow down to a doable speed, and then get tired toward the very end because I went out way too fast. In the past I've been able to push through and usually get within goal times. It didn't feel great, but I gutted it out.
However, that hasn't been the case this summer. Add a combo of surgery in April followed by weeks of recovery time - not to mention a slew of hot/humid races - and it's been a very, very humbling realization that I have no choice but to be smarter at the start line.
I felt pretty strong through the first 8 miles, averaging most of them 8:45 min/mile. After the 8-mile aid station, I came to the conclusion to walk a minute or so per every mile marker from here on out, as well as walking through and taking aid from the final two water stations, which I had done the entire race.
This helped tremendously and I was happy that I could kick it in at about 12.75 and continuing increasing speed toward the finish line.
I finished 1:57:51. Could I have probably gone 1-2 minutes faster? Sure. Could I have gone 2-3 minutes slower? Maybe. But I'm happy about the "training" simulation race today and hopeful about the final 20-miler this year.
It's been a long winter, spring, and summer filled with super duper long runs. It's time to embrace this last one (last 20-miler for a LONG while, I'm sure!), and finish the training strong leading into the 26.2-mile trek in just a little less than a month (eek!).
Dig Deep....because is there really another option?