It was fairly obvious that mentally, I was in bad form all week.
After my total suckfest at Virginia Beach last week, I knew I needed some sort of racing rejuvenation before heading into Wineglass. I personally think that at least 20% of the marathon game is mental, and I was afraid that going after my big BQ goal with that craphole race in my brain would sabotage my efforts.
I also knew that I wasn’t fully recovered from VB, and that 6 days was probably not enough to be able to go out and fully race another half marathon.
In the end, I took Laura’s advice and crafted a super secret plan. I figured if I could run 7 slowish miles, and then run the ARC half marathon at GMP (goal marathon pace), it would be a great workout and restore faith in my overall goal. I also thought about the fact that my Garmin is, more often than not, my enemy. Every single “failed” race this year has come from trying to hit splits that should be attainable – under perfect conditions – while failing to account for the actual conditions. I figured that by wearing my watch, I would run the risk of either seeing a fast split and trying to maintain pace, or seeing a slow split and beating myself up. Either way you slice it, it likely would’ve ended up with me burning out mentally and being disappointed in the result.
So: 13.1 miles on a slightly hilly course with no watch at perceived marathon pace. Let’s do this thing.
My plan was to run relaxed at what felt like a low-8 pace until I was over the hill at mile 7, then just focus on picking people off the rest of the way. Concentrate on my breathing and effort level and try to keep it comfortably uncomfortable, if that makes any sense at all.
It was hard to not charge off at the start but I made myself hold back. I planned to practice race day fueling and since I had already done 7 miles, I took a gel at mile 1 of the half. I got some strange looks from other runners near me, but whatever. I ate it slowly, making it last for almost an entire mile – this worked really well for me. I didn’t have even the slightest sign of an upset stomach during the race.
The hills were actually not too terrible. That hill around the 6ish-7ish mile mark did seem to last forever, but I was talking and joking with other people around me as we climbed which was a pleasant distraction.
I took another gel, hammered through the downhill, and then true to my plan, just tried to focus on the next person ahead of me. I knew I was picking up my pace a bit and was happy that after the hills, I still had some energy in my legs. Miles 10 and 11 got a little rough because I was running by myself – couldn’t see a single runner ahead of me, and couldn’t hear anyone behind me. Finally though, the turn and the sight of the finish line – I couldn’t wait to see what the clock would say.
Once I was close enough, I saw a 1:42:5x and was extremely thrilled. I ended up finishing in 1:43:27.
Oh yeah – that guy came up out of nowhere and dusted me right at the line. Thanks dude, where were you when I really needed someone to push me a few miles earlier?!
All in all, I’m really pleased with the way the race went. The thought of running without a watch was scary but honestly? I enjoyed the race so much more because I wasn’t stressed out. My average pace (7:54) was a little faster than what I was targeting (8:05-8:10) but I didn’t sell out for it – I wasn’t too sore and seem to be recovering quickly. I ran a few cooldown miles after because I was still feeling good. I may not have PR’ed in the half this year, but completing a 22 mile long run with 13 miles at GMP-15 pace is a confidence boosting workout and one I will keep reminding myself of on October 6th.
Game on, Wineglass. Game on.