Moving across the country together didn’t seem to up the ante enough, so we added household coaching to the mix. He signed up for CIM in July and handed the reigns to me: “Let’s see what you’ve got, Coach”. His previous marathon PR didn’t come close to justifying his running capabilities, so I set out to change that. MAF-style.
Here’s how round 1 turned out, from his perspective…
Most of the time a PR is cause for celebration, confirmation that the effort, training, long runs, watching what you eat, and staying in every weekend was all worth it. But sometimes that excitement and satisfaction is accompanied by a nagging “what if.” What if I had taken it out slower? What if I had just pushed through the pain? What if I hadn’t let the pain win? What if I had trained just a little bit better?
This was how I felt after the California International Marathon in Sacramento.
I was ready for this race. I had trained for 6 months. I had PR’d my half marathon 6 weeks earlier on a challenging course. I had mostly listened to my coach (aka Heather, aka “dietitianontherun”). I had stopped just going all out every run, and learned to train strategically. I thought I was ready for that Boston Qualifying time.
I needed to break three hours and five minutes, or run 26.2 miles averaging 7:03 per mile. I ran 3:10:26. At the end of the 26.2, I was relieved, happy even. It was over. I had crushed my previous PR and actually felt okay doing it.
But days later, the more I thought about it, the more disappointment crept in. Should I have listened to my coach (and her coach) and taken the first 10K a little slower? Would it have made a difference?
Mile 1: I went out and patiently ran with the 3:10 pace group—ironically the pacer who would rush past me in the last half mile of the race. I let everyone else take the first mile fast (it was all downhill), while I cruised, found a rhythm, and didn’t trip. I kept my pace, even when the competitor in me said “don’t let that guy pass you!” I stayed patient for the first 10K. After that I slowly upped the pace, reaching cruise control at just under 7:00 minutes per mile. For the next 10 miles, I thought I could hold that pace forever.
My breathing was controlled, even as I passed people already laboring. My heart was cool, calm, and collected. Peaks on the rolling uphills, calm on the downhills. It was echoing what my coach would say, “easy peazy man – you’ve got this.” I got a boost seeing THE dietitianontherun.com (and Katie) at mile 12 where I swapped water bottles (with Osmo).
Mile 13.1: At the halfway point, the 3:05 pace group was within sight.
Then the race before the race started. Miles 15-20: not quite close enough to think about the end, but you’ve been running for 15 miles and you’d like it to be over soon. Those around you are starting to labor. You start to wonder if, in fact, the miles are actually 1.2 miles long. You don’t see many smiles among your fellow runners at mile 18; you’re a little tired of all the people encouraging you on the side of the road, they look comfortable and happy. The number of racers on the side of the road stretching out tight muscles – or walking – is rapidly increasing.
Fortunately, the miracle of Osmo, dates (yes, real fruit!), Clif Shot Blocks, and good ol’ fashioned H20, kept my body from completely revolting for this period, and the entirety of the race.
When I had the pleasant surprise of seeing Heather again at mile 20, I gave her a nod and a “We’ll see,” recognizing that 10K was a long way, and my body was starting to ask “can we just lie down?” Since this was marathon #5 for me, I knew – and every 7th sign along the race course said it – it’s a 20 mile warm-up followed by a 10K race. But, man, you are never ready for that race.
Miles 20-26: My pace began to slow, first 7:10, then 7:20, then 7:27. The mohawked, neon yellow-clad dude I had passed at mile 15 caught back up. He was shooting for sub-3:00 but had long ago recognized that, today, it was not meant to be; he decided to run with me as we acknowledged “this f***ing blows.” Soon, I was completely off the saddle: 8:00, 9:16, and 8:47. See you at the finish, neon-clad dude (he finished in 3:08). We’ll talk later, Boston.
The 3:10 pacer blew by me, with none of the posse that had been with him over the first few miles. (Where did they go?) Even he didn’t look like he was having fun.
Finally, after another .2 miles, it was over.
My joints survived. My muscles didn’t feel terrible. I was just happy to lie down. It was over, and I had done well.
How could I not be ecstatic? I blew away my previous PR of around 3:58 by about 48 minutes. Maybe it was the acknowledgement that there is still so much to learn about running strategically. Or maybe lingering questions if I was, in fact, fit enough. Or, if only nerves hadn’t had my heart knocking 95 beats per minute for the two hours preceding the race, I could have come in 5 minutes and 28 seconds faster.
In the end, my disappointment was not in the result, but in the recognition that – Oh crap, now I have to do this all again if I want to run Boston. Yes, I would have to run another marathon just to qualify to run…another marathon.
After a few days/weeks off of running, and getting to go to CrossFit as much as I want (Coach, you can’t stop me!), I’ll be running the same old route back and forth. It’ll be back to the heart rate monitor, hour-long runs at 150 beats per minute, and nothing but my water bottle plus PTI and BS Report podcasts to keep me company.
I guess I’ll see you in Eugene, with sights set on breaking three hours.