“Gatoradeee!! Water!” The sudden enthusiastic cheer after a period of silence was hard to miss. Looking up, I saw the 10k marker. I looked at my watch and I was about to PR a 10k. Except that I was not running a 10k. I was running a half Marathon and with more than half of the race still ahead of me, this was bad news.
Post NYC marathon last November, I was happy to have run my goal race in a good time. I knew I was hitting my upper limits with the Marathon, and without focus on shorter distances, I would not get faster. I focused religiously on the Tuesday tempo and Thursday speed workouts with the Dashing Whippets central park group. It was inspiring to see the people training for Boston Marathon putting in incredible work during some difficult months.
This season’s training posed many challenges, primarily freezing temperature, snowstorms, breakups. Every time I stepped out the door and breathed in the icy air into my lunges, everything inside me wanted to get back inside and wrap myself in a blanket. But the workouts had a way of enforcing discipline into my life. For Saturdays, I made the commitment to keep showing up and sometimes challenge myself by going with a slightly faster group.
The group kept me going. If everyone else have no problems showing up and putting in the work in dark and cold, I have no excuses not to. When I was in the pain cave during the Jersey Half, that was what going though my head. I am in the deep end, but I owed my 600 mile training cycle a good performance and take responsibility for strategic mistakes early in the race.
As I realized my mess up during the Jersey half, I realized I needed a baseline pace or I would fade. My inner voice said don’t fade, every second counts. So I found couple runners putting down 7:15 miles and making it look like cakewalk. Later I learnt that they were running the marathon. Talking to them helped me get some boost. After that, I found another pace group, and hung with them all the way to the end.
The value of this race as a developing runner is that it answers some lingering questions. How fast am I? Am I capable of taking my progress in training and convert it on race day? Am I training with the right group of people or just tagging along with faster runners for dear life. That’s what this half will mean for me, that I have improved this training cycle and while my strategy and mental game needs work, I can enjoy the following week knowing I made progress. Progress where I used to think there is no way I can hold a 7:09 pace for 13 miles but there is now data to prove otherwise.
So that was the Jersey Half. I am very happy with the result having converted a 10 minute PR. However, I would like to get there next time more gracefully and not feel totally wrecked at the end.