This was my big tune-up race for the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. I always run a half-marathon at this point in the build up to the Monumental to get a final big fitness boost, a reality check on where I am at fitness-wise and, if all goes well, probably the most important aspect is the confidence boost that I get. I got one heck of a confidence boost yesterday, 10/25/2015, at the Valpohalf Half-marathon in Valparaiso IN.
Valparaiso is about 2 hours from home which is kind of right there on the line of driving on race morning or staying in a hotel the night before. This time we decided to get up and drive. Valparaiso is on central time which puts it an hour behind us. Meaning the 8:30 AM start was really a 9:30 AM start for me. Making the decision to drive that much easier.
I have been dealing with some issues on the top of my right foot, which is probably extensor tendinitis, for the last couple of weeks. I saw my soft-tissue guy last Friday. He worked on it some and got me feeling quite a bit better and then I spent 2 and a half days loading up on Advil. The end result was that the discomfort was completely gone or masked for this race and became a non-issue.
I have noticed that before big workouts/races I spend about 16-24 hours in a kind of melancholy state questioning why I do this and in this case why the heck I am driving 2 hours to go run a half-marathon. I think it is how I deal with the stress of knowing that I am getting ready to put myself through a great deal of suffering. The melancholy aside, Everything went as planned in the morning. We got out of the house on time, the drive was smooth, and we arrived in plenty of time for check-in and warm up.
Standing at the start line I am going through a lot of self-doubt, a lot of internal bargaining, trying to get out of what I know is about to happen and just wishing we could start and get this over with. Racing hurts and when you are racing long distances like the half-marathon and marathon you are in for a long and grueling mental and physical battle. The start signal was given at about 8:32. 2 Minutes late, not bad.
The primary goal at this race was a new PR in the 1:20:xx (old PR was 1:21:07) and the plan was to go out about 6:10 for the first few miles and then start tightening the screws to get to an overall pace of 6:06, finish strong and break 1:20 if everything was perfect.
Mile 1 -- (5:45) The course is looping around an industrial complex to come back by the start line. I lead for about the first half mile. I had no intention of going out this fast, in fact I studied my other half-marathons both good and bad and talked to myself about controlling the first mile and not blowing up. This is exactly what happened at Sam Costa back in March and that race ended bad and I missed a PR by less than a minute. But, the pace honestly doesn't feel that bad. I tell myself to bring it down before it's too late. About 1/2 mile in another guy takes command of the lead and I'm happy to let him. I'm already ready to ditch my gloves and I toss them right at the 1 mile mark.
Miles 2 and 3 (5:54, 5:50) Mile 2 is still in the industrial park and then the course heads out on a long stretch of a highway access road. I'm still too fast but I don't really have anything to gauge my pace with and it still doesn't feel bad. I'm still running in 2nd place. I'm starting to worry that I am going to blow up big time. I remember back to my last big workout. I found that repeating to myself "All day, every day" calms me down. So when my mind starts to wander to the negative I just tell myself "all day, everyday" until I feel calm again. But I still want to slow down a little closer to goal pace. I pass a grave yard and offer the race up as a sacrifice for the souls of the bodies buried there.
Mile 4 -- (5:52) I pass a small gathering of spectators. The guy in the lead is probably a good 1/4 mile ahead of me and I have no idea what kind of gap I have on 3rd place. I don't look back in races. It's a mental thing that admits vulnerability. I'm not giving you that if your behind me. So in small races I rely on hearing, seeing shadows, and the crowd. I listen to the crowd after I pass to see how long before they are cheering for someone else. Here, I didn't have to wait, the crowd said "Good job guys" so I knew someone was close and then I hear him and see him in my periphery. He glides by me like I'm standing still.
Miles 5,6,7 (6:00, 6:05, 5:58) The course goes out on some long, lonely country roads. There is absolutely nothing to distract me from the harsh realities of the accumulating lactic acid in my legs and the distress of my cardiovascular system . The pace is slowing down, the real suffering is beginning and I am starting to get worried.
I remember something else in mile 6. I have always believed there is a reason that I run. If you know me and my history it doesn't make sense. I have always felt that God gave me this and that He is with me when I run. I don't know why yet, maybe I never will but I truly feel like it is something that I am supposed to do. John 15 Jesus tells us that without Him we can do nothing but if we stay with Him whatever we ask shall be done. I pray to God to be with me and to help me and I acknowledge that I have become the runner I have because of Him.
Miles 8,9,10 -- (6:03, 6:17, 6:11) This is a very tough stretch and I'm basically praying and repeating my mantra and bargaining. It goes something like this. God I can't do this, help! "all day, everyday", "1 more strong mile and you can shut it down and cruise in." I panic when I see my time in mile 9. I don't want to blow up. I don't want to go home disappointed. "Damn it! I knew this was going to happen." Then I think back on a recent training run and remember something very similar. I obstinately dug in and got back on pace. I do the same here.
Miles 11 and 12 -- (6:08, 6:07) With all of the "time in the bank" I know the goal is with in reach. The distance left is manageable in chunks and my hope is renewed. Right about mile 12 I take control of 2nd place. The guy who initially lead in the 2nd half of the first mile is crumbling. He had already surrendered 1st and now was unable to rally and cover when I passed him. This renewed me yet again. With a mile to go there was no way I was slowing down and giving him the opportunity to retake 2nd.
Last 1.1 in 6:50 (6:05/mile) Feeling thankful the end is just minutes away and knowing I was going to break 1:20 easily I start to feel elated. I make the turn and see the finish. A look at my watch tells me if I dig in here I could even break 1:19 and crush my previous PR and the day's goal. I dig in hard. My whole body is on fire and my stomach is revolting. It doesn't matter. It's literally less than a minute to the finish line. I cross the finish 2nd overall to a fist pumping 1:18:55.
All-in-all I was very pleased with the day and confident in my ability to meet my goal at the Monumental. The fitness is there and I have developed some reliable mental strategies to get through the rough patches, rally and to get back on track. I am disappointed in my lack of control early and hope to really focus on that at the Monumental.