The title of the blog is a saying I have kind of adopted as my running mantra over the past 9 months or so. It's about going for it. Having confidence in your abilities, training and will power. Pushing yourself further when the shit is about to hit the fan. I could go on, but I am having a hard time finding time to write this as it is, so we'll get back to the idea behind balls on the table at a later date.
Two weekends ago, we took a trip down to Jackson and Nashville, TN. The half marathon was on Saturday. After a pretty successful 8 and half hour drive down, we pulled into Jackson. Isla got a little feisty the last hour to hour and a half, but all thing considered, not bad for a 13 month old being strapped in car seat for all but a half hour - when we stopped for lunch. Tiffany deserves all of the credit in the world for pulling out all the stops to try to keep Isla sane in the car.
We basically relaxed Friday night. Isla decided she wasn't going to sleep in the Pack-N-Play, so she slept in Michael's bed with us. He was kind enough to sleep on the couch and give us his bed. She actually slept in it by herself until we came to bed. She was a little sick earlier in the week, so the sleep hadn't been good for much of the week as it was. Fun times!
Saturday, I went out for 3 miles with some strides by myself and then Michael joined me for another 2.25 with a few more strides. Jackson features some nice rolling hills, which would be awesome for training. However, the sidewalks and streets were a little rough, so you take the good with the bad, I suppose.
We left for Nashville a little after 1 and got there in about 2 hours. We checked into the hotel. Our La Quinta room, a mere 3 doors down from Michael's would been more appropriately called La Crappa. I wouldn't have given Bosley a bath in that tub. His room was much nicer, complete with a microwave and refrigerator. Then we headed to LP Field (home of the NFL Tennessee Titans) to pick up our race packets and spent a little time downtown along with thousands of drunken SEC fans. The SEC Hoops Tourney was in Nashville that weekend also. Great timing. After getting out of downtown, the search for food for dinner became a bit of a challenge. We eventually found a suitable place after some wayward driving.
After dinner, we headed back to the hotel and took care of a few things. This was Michael's debut race. I had devised a training plan for him that started in early January and peaked around 32 miles two weeks out from the Half. He was basically starting from scratch so it was slowly building a mile or so every week, typically on the long run. Throw in a cutback week every 3 weeks or so and hope for the best.
I checked in on his race wardrobe selection and offered up a couple of spare items of mine I brought along for the trip. He said sure and wore the running shirt and shorts I gave him. Good move.
The race started @ 8:30 on Saturday morning, so we headed downtown and got there in plenty of time. It was a little raw outside. It had rained the night before and was a breezy 45 degrees. Not great conditions, but not terrible. Shortly after that, we said goodbye to Tiffany and Isla and I got in about a mile and half warm up run. Legs felt fine and I made my way to the start line. I realized I forgot my Gu at this point also. I could hear some bagpipes for some reason, so I thought the race may turn out to be pretty good after all. Michael found me in the corral and I offered up a few last minute tips to him: Don't go out too fast, take it easy the first mile or two, and above all, have fun.
The gun sounded and we were off. I saw Tiffany and Isla about a 1/4 mile in, gave them a wave and smile and began the trek.
I had to pass a decent amount of people early on as we started about 30 seconds back. It wasn't bad at all though, because I had a pretty clear path on the left edge of the course. My idea of a goal for this race was if things broke right, to be somewhere in 1:25's, which is close to the 6:30-6:35 pace range. I wasn't really sure I was in shape to run that fast, but decided to see how the race was going to play out and just see how I felt. If nothing else, I wanted to PR which would have meant running better than 1:28:25.
I wanted to make sure I didn't go out too fast, so I was pleased to hit the first mile marker at 6:39. I felt fine as we headed into a gritty mile of Nashville before hitting a path that ran along the river. Somewhere in this mile was the first water stop. Some dude who had clearly gone out too fast - arms were pumping quite a bit, cuts over from the right side of the course and reaches out for a water in front of me. Ok, no big deal, I can get around him. He proceeds to float back to right, slow down and start drinking his water. I give him a nice shove to the right shoulder and pushed him out of the way. I may have yelled "Heads Up!" to him also. Pretty sure there were no profanities used.
There was a gradual hill in mile 2, so when I hit "lap" at the 2nd mile marker and saw 6:38, I thought I was doing pretty good with the hill thrown in there. We picked up the path/trail in the third or fourth mile. I hit mile 3 in 6:40. Okay. At least it's consistent. Maybe that's going to be today's pace, I thought to myself. I thought I increased the effort a touch over the last mile. Didn't translate into anything on the Garmin though. The path went over a few wooden bridges. They were a little slick from the rain and a little bouncy. Had a brief inner ear/vertigo-type feeling near the end of the first one. More good times.
I decide to try to pick it up a little bit in the 4th mile. To my delight, there's some Vanilla Gu being handed out there. Why not, Gu it up. I down the Gu and some water. Shortly after that, I hit the mile marker and I see another 6:39. Damn. Okay, let's try this again for mile 5 - 6:39. Hmmm. I guess this is the pace today. I am passing people with regularity during these miles, so I guess pacing is an issue for them. During mile 6, I can start to see some of the runners coming towards me after the turnaround. I yell a few encouraging words to a few of them, including a couple dudes wearing official Boston shirts. I hit mile 6 in 6:33. Better.
I was trying to count how many people were in front of me. I stopped at 50, thinking it would be too hard to keep track after that. I would guess by the time I got to the turnaround around mile 6.5 or so, there were 70. I hit the turnaround and tell the volunteer I was going to take his Coors Light on the table. In his best Tennessee accent, he says "go fer it!" Mile 7 is a 6:36. I see Michael looking pretty good in the next mile and shout a little something to him. Mile 8 is a 6:37. Mile 9 is 6:35. I know I am working harder as my HR is now in the mid- 180's. I am still continuing to pass a fair amount of people each mile. Among them are two girls in mile 9, one with "Mudy" on her back. More on her shortly. I know the path essentially ends around mile 10. There's also more water, so the free Gu I grabbed back around mile 8 was calling my name. I down the Gu, the water and am late hitting "lap" by about 5 or 10 seconds. Mile 10 says 6:48, but I know it should be a 6:38 - 6:43.
After the late lap button, I know 11 should be a good one. We hit the same hill from the second mile. For some reason, I am not getting good speed going down the other side. I was expecting to see 6:10's-6:20s on the downhill, but much to my chagrin, it was staying in the 6:30's. The wind had become a factor as we were now back in the open. That's not an excuse though. I was starting to break down. Mile 11 was a 6:48. But I passed a handful or more of people. They must have been slowing down more than me. Crap. Right around there Mudy flies by me. Flies.
I try to pull it together, but the wind isn't helping and I am running out of steam. And I have no one around me anymore. A guy 50 yards behind me and a guy 100 yards in front of me. Damn. Mile 12 is a 6:38. With a good last 1.1 and just under 1:19:48 on my Garmin, I can still go sub 1:27.
The last 1.1 miles
I decide to give it all I have. I feel like I am working hard. The course makes a couple turns outside the stadium before hitting the steep declined entrance. It was really steep. My quads were on fire as I am trying to figure what the hell I am supposed to be doing to make it hurt less. It goes away as it eventually flattens out and I run onto the field. As I exit the tunnel and hit the grass, I raise my left arm and point, as if I'm the guy everyone was there to see. Pretty funny, I know. I hit the grass and realize I am going to have to hit this pretty hard to come in under 1:27. The football field seems pretty small when you are running on it like this. I make the second to last turn and am humping it. I make the final turn (think - coming out of the end zone) and have 50 yards to go. I see the camera man while I am taking the turn and give him a solid point. With about 25 yards to go, I see Tiffany and Isla and give them a wave and a smile. I hit the finish line strong (7:08 the last 1.1) and the Garmin reads 1:26:56. An overall pace of 6:38 and some change. 7th in the Age Group and 44th overall (of 1120 something)
AHR: 168 /174 / 173 / 176 / 177 / 181 / 182 /183 / 184/ 184 / 184 / 187 / 191 (peaking at 197)
I meet up with Tiffany and Isla and we see Michael come in shortly after that in 1:43:08, an awesome debut. He looked good making his lap inside the stadium.
Mudy finishes as the third overall female, beating me by exactly 2 minutes, so she snapped off a couple of 5:30 miles to close out the race.
Some Post-race Thoughts
I don't know what to think of my performance. It was a PR by 1:29, so that was solid. The wind didn't help my abilities to turn it on the last 3 miles, as I had hoped to do. It could be a pretty accurate reflection of where I am at right now. My Boston training cycle has been very up and down and very inconsistent, due to a variety of factors. I didn't have a killer "I need to run a 1:25" attitude, so I just ran it by feel and tried to run the best race I could on that given day. I originally had intentions of cracking 3 hours in Boston, but I am not sure I have put in the work to do it. Perhaps my lack of confidence in my training made me hold back a little bit, knowing that blowing up in this Half could be far more detrimental for me mentally than playing it safe and running 6:38's most every mile. The irony is that in the first post of "Balls on the Table," I talk about a race in which I didn't put my balls on the table.
I ran an 8K last year at this time in iffy conditions that netted me a 6:44 overall pace. So, it's all relative. If you would have told me last March I would run a 1:26 half in 12 months, I would have laughed in your face. I know and realize I have improved a ton and I am grateful for that. McMillan says a 1:26:56 equals a 3:03:21 full, which is about 2 minutes faster than my Chicago time.
I am going to work my ass off these next couple of weeks before tapering 2 weeks for Boston. I wouldn't put my chances of going sub 3 in Boston very high. 20% maybe? I am not completely giving up hope on it, but at some point reality does call and you do have to pick up the phone. I am thinking of seeing how things go in Boston and if I am feeling good that day, than I'll give it a shot. That would mean a half time of 1:29. Boston's hills in the second half most likely set you up for a slightly positive split. This would also possibly mean running a type of race there that people say to avoid - don't go out too fast or the hills will kill you in the second half. If you look at a bunch of people's splits from last year, the second half is much slower than the first. I always tell people that when you set a goal that possibly overreaches your abilities, you have to come to terms with yourself that the result could end up ugly. If you accept that then by all means, go for it.
I'll do my best to post weekly from now until Boston.
To see more pictures from the trip, go here