This week I learned that I did not get into the 2009 New York City marathon, which is actually a blessing. I will now almost certainly not run a fall marathon, and will get the chance to qualify into NYC, either with a sub-1:30 half-marathon or sub-3:10 full. That sub-1:30 will be my fall goal.
In the nearer future, my sights are set on running the best possible time I can on August 1st at Beach to Beacon. It's a great race by any standard, with a gorgeous setting, a real mix of elite and recreational runners (with some legends of the sport thrown in for good measure) and where I have some serious redemption on tap, given that I ran it 5 minutes slower last year than I did in 2007. My 10K PR is from the 2007 race, and it's time to lower it. Sub-40:00 is my current goal, but if some shorter-distance-focused training takes root, I'll make an assault on sub-39:00. That would be a delicious result after last year's 48:00+ and 1000-somethingth finish.
Since Sugarloaf, I have mostly not told every single person I meet that I've recently qualified for Boston. I never told anyone from my running club directly, but thanks to Facebook and some folks' own curiosity, everyone seemed to know by the time I saw them again. The sense of validation in the eyes of all runners, from slow and not-so-serious to competitive, is palpable. It's like I've earned my way into a prestigious club, where my membership was justifiably in doubt for a long time. I'm liking it so far.
My first week post-Sugarloaf was a mess, in terms of having a crushing workload, visiting family, my son's birthday, and additional work commitments on my wife's end, too. I ran about 16 easy miles total, though I felt like I could certainly have run more than that.
Last week was a bit better, and I ran about 35 miles, with one track session in preparation for this past Tuesday's two-mile time trial with the running club.
The time-trial is a twice-a-year affair, with one in the spring and another in the fall, so that we may all ostensibly see how much we've improved. The club founder owns a successful race-timing company, and he provides professional timing and age-graded results.
Goal-setting proved challenging, but it was nothing compared to executing my strategy successfully. After some deliberation, I decided that I would like to shoot for a time between 11:30 and 11:45. I had it in my head that the splits should be along the lines of 5:50/5:45. This is much faster than I've ever run before, so we're talking uncharted territory for me.
The Thursday before, I did 4x800 at the track, and I was able to do all 4 repeats at 6:00 or better pace. My legs felt mostly recovered from the marathon. When Tuesday rolled around, though, I never got into a good rhythm. I ran about a 1.5-mile warm-up, then ended up in a holding pattern as the first two heats did their thing. The 3 heats were (1) 8:00+/mile runners, (2) 7:00-8:00, and (3) sub-7:00. We all acted as spotters, to give the timers the one-mile splits. That meant not being able to warm up very well, as I was watching one of my club mates as she ran in the second heat.
When that group finished, I did a few sprints on the grassy infield, and lined up with the fast folks, some of whom I've known for a while, others of whom are new to the club. We were off, and I found myself in the third position within 200 meters. I elected not to look at my watch. That was a mistake. I had wanted to hit each lap split in about 86 seconds. The first one was around 80 seconds, and the guys who I knew would #1 and #2 were way closer to me than they should have been. I tried to make myself slow down, but the second lap was not a whole lot better, and with six more round-&-rounds left, I knew it would not be pretty. I could tell that I was slowing to a 6:00-ish minute pace, and my mouth was as dry as I ever remember it feeling (which affected my breathing and made me even more uncomfortable overall).
I ran the first mile in 5:40, but I went into survival mode after that. I thought of the next mile one lap, then half a lap, then a quarter lap at a time. I tried to hold off the one person I could sense behind. I thought of how my Gatorade, despite simmering in the warm late afternoon sun, would taste when I was done. So, I continued to put one foot in front of the other, until the misery ended exactly 11 minutes and 42 seconds after it started, for second disappointing mile of 6:02. My follower passed me with less than 200 meters to go. I might have given chase, but I was mentally checked out of race mode by then.
Still, that's nearly 30 seconds better than the last time I raced a 2-miler, and it's not bad for having done very little fast-paced running in recent months. Marathon training allowed me to hang on to salvage the overall time, but it was a lousy way to get there. I need to learn how to go out at 6:00 pace in a 5K (perhaps 6:20 in a 10K) if I'm going to make my shorter distance goals this summer. As with all things running, we'll have to wait and see.