Monday, March 24, 2008

Is it coming together?

Yesterday was my first scheduled marathon pace (MP) training run. The training plan called for a 15-mile run, with 12 miles at marathon pace (which, for now, is 8:00/mile, +/- a few seconds). We were away for Easter, so I had mapped out the run from my brother-in-law's place in Maine on I plotted a 15.1-mile loop, and the elevation profile did not look too bad, with two hilly sections in the middle. I should know by now that such profiles can be deceiving.

I was coming off my highest 7-day mileage total ever, having surpassed 50 miles for the first time (total was 52+ from March 16-22, with a grand 8-day total of 68 miles). I'll admit to being a little intimidated about heading out to run 12 MP miles on such tired legs. The plan was to run a slow mile, settle into MP, then bang out the 12 miles, leaving a 2-mile cool-down. As with so much in running (and life), I had to adjust the plan.

Interestingly, my body was more than ready to run "fast", having logged lots of sllllllloooooooooow miles recently (long slow distance = LSD). While those slow miles do have an undisputed training benefit, they can also make one wonder about having the ability to go any faster. No sooner was I out the door, though, than I started "cheating up" from slow warm-up to MP. So much for the warm-up mile, which - despite efforts to reign myself in - I ran in around 8:30.

Because I was in an unfamiliar setting (at least in terms of running in that area), I had written the directions (turn-by-turn with distance notes) on a card, which I put in a zip-loc baggie along with some paper towel (runners understand why) and $10. I put the baggie in the front pocket of my running pants, and at about the 1.5-mile mark, I reached for the card to see where I'd be turning. Yes, you guessed it, the card had fallen out, so I backtracked and found it, covering a total of about an extra 0.75 mile, but losing my rhythm in terms of getting into the MP groove.

With directions firmly in hand, I forged ahead at goal MP, fighting some tough winds and realizing that the uphills were more significant than I had expected. I tried to relax about it, and sought to run on MP "effort" if not actual pace. My running software told me later that the temp was around 29, with average winds over 17 mph and maximum winds of over 20 mph. Ironically, I somehow ran a loop where it seemed that the wind was in my face for 80% of it. How can that be exactly? I know the running gods have a perverse sense of humor, but I figured that I had to catch a break with the wind sometime before my last couple of miles.

All told, my MP splits were slower than I had hoped, but not abysmal. Although during the run I considered myself to have run only 11 MP miles, looking back at the splits, it was more like 13+, given that I went out fast and finished fast. The average of the 13 "full" MP miles was exactly 8:20, a tad disappointing, but given the wind and elevation issues, along with having just done my highest mileage week, I'm optimistic about meeting my sub-3:30 marathon goal in May. The other encouraging part is that after cresting the final long hill (a 300-foot elevation gain over about 2 miles). I managed to string together three miles at or below goal MP: 8:04, 8:03, 7:48.

So, perhaps things are coming together as they should. This week is a relatively easy one, though Wednesday calls for some speed work (8M with 5x600 at 5K race pace), which will be the first time I've run at that pace this year. So, despite the chronically sore hip (and a strange calf issue that arose Saturday morning, after we'd had a Mojito party on Friday where I uncharacteristically had more than one drink, leaving myself dehydrated), I'm feeling pretty good about where my training is at the moment. Now, if we can get some real spring weather to arrive (and stay), I'll be one happy runner.


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