Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Surprise Finish at the iWalk Half Marathon

I came into this one very unsure of myself. I hadn't ran much at all and felt entirely out of shape. Add to that that I have gained 5 pounds in the last month and a half and I had no expectation of doing well at all. In fact, I was in for a gruelling day. The only reason I looked forward to this race was because I knew it would do wonders in a crash course for the 50k coming up in two weeks. What a surprise it was, then, that I ran it well.

iWalk Half Marathon - 1:52:59 (8:37 pace; 23/108)

I didn't get much sleep, but I really didn't care. This race was meant strictly to break the legs back in for the Stevens Creek 50k. A banana and a Gatorade later, I was waiting at the start line on a brisk and windy morning. Perfect weather for running.

I ran this race last year. The start and finish festivities, such as registration and food and drinks, wasn't too well run, but everything else was spot on. A flat out and back that had 9 aid stations and 1 self serve table, so there were plenty of places to hydrate yourself. This was the most I have ever had for aid stations, and one of the reasons I like this race.

So I started out at a conservative sub 8 minute pace. Normally no problem, but I knew it might be a little difficult. The first 3 miles remained sub 8, and the next 3 were at 8 or a little above. So the first half was well on pace, much faster than I had expected. Soon enough I reached mile 9 and I was not only feeling good, but I also was on pace to run a sub 1:50, which has only been done once before during the first half of the Napa Valley Marathon. I was stoked. I couldn't believe how I was feeling. All I had to do was run a little over a 10 minute pace and no problem.

Mile 10 came around and I had slowed a little, having now to run a little under a sub 10 pace. Huh? Didn't feel that slow, but I know this is certainly doable. With 2 miles to go I now had to run a 9:30 pace. Okay, slipping, but still in my grasp. Try as I might I couldn't speed up for some reason and began taking more and more walk breaks. 1 mile to go and a little under a 9 minute pace and I would have it. But then, just as I thought it was in my grasp, I remember there was also another .1 that I didn't account for, which deflated my morale, and I was resigned to not running a 1:50 pace.

All in all, I am very pleased with how I ran. A 1:53 is my 3rd fastest half marathon (out of 7, and not counting any of the marathon halfers) ever, which blew me away. Perhaps I am in better shape than I had imagined, and perhaps I will be better prepared for the 50k in two weeks. Notch another great halfer, one I wasn't prepared to succeed at.

PS My calves are the only thing that is telling me that I was under trained, being extremely sore after the short drive home, and very sore the next morning. I must say, I love being sore, cause it tells me I'm doing something right... not to mention feeling more alive with muscle s that feel used.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Let the Trial by Fire Begin

It's been a while since I have last posted, or frequented the blogosphere for that matter. I had pretty much limited myself to only blogging about my races, and sometimes about my running in between, because it was taking more time than I wanted to spend on it. Add that to the bad weather, smoke and pulled muscle in July, then I have most certainly not been active. In fact, I have only ran a combined 48 miles for last month and this month (30 last, 18 this).

It is amazing how long it takes to get yourself in to shape to be able to run a marathon and half marathon, to improve your pace and run comfortably. What is even more amazing is how quick you lose the endurance and fitness. For me, even though I have run intermittently, I feel as though I have returned to my pre 2007 fitness and am running an uphill battle again.

So I have had to not run the Headlands 50k coming up this weekend, even though I know I could finish it. It just wouldn't be fun at all, and would probably be painful. So I am running a crash course training. I ran earlier this week in the the trails around Lexington Dam for 8 miles. It has been a while since I have ran hills, and it showed. It took me 1hr31m to finish, something that had previously taken around 1hr20m. So on paper it looks slower, but not too bad, but in reality it felt a lot worse. Very out of shape. But it felt great none the less.

So instead of the trail 50k this weekend, I have opted for a flat half marathon in Mountain View. I've ran this before and it took me 1hr50m, my previous best for a stand alone half (with only the first half of the Napa Valley Marathon coming in faster). I am certainly not expecting to set a PR, which would also be a Course Record (CR). What I am intending on doing is giving my legs a crash test and shock them into condition. Why? Because I've got the Stevens Creek 50k coming up on September 7th, one that I most certainly will run since this 50k was my very first 50k I ever ran last year. I would be doing myself a disservice if I did not return to the scene where my virgin trail ultramarathon legs were broken in.

Hopefully this time I will not get lost for an hour and find myself wandering around steep hills wondering where I went wrong.

I love trials by fire. I did this with my first marathon in 2006, and with my first 50k in 2007, as well as my first triathlon in 2007 (with a mountain bike). Should be fun.