And let the marathon training begin!
Ok, well, almost. Today was the first 'race' in the Marathon Readiness Series. Basically, we have 5 running races every fall that are meant to prepare runners for the Honolulu Marathon in December. The 15K was today, then the distance goes up by 5K every couple weeks, maxing out at 30K like 7 weeks prior to the marathon.
I should start by telling you that my goal is to run 3:30 at Honolulu. And just saying that is a bit crazy to me. If I'm honest, I'll admit that this is an ambitious goal for me, but why set goals if they are not ambitious?
I vividly remember sitting on my friends couch several years ago and talking about running... were we talking about marathons and running times, etc and I said, "Oh I could never run a 3:40 marathon..." His response? "You're right you can't. You know how I know that? Because you think you can't."
I kind of thought he was crazy for telling me that... In my head I was thinking... you just don't know me that well.. I'm just not a good runner... blah blah blah... But I've never forgotten that conversation.
So fast forward to today and here I am shooting for 3:30. 10 minutes faster than I said I could never do. Never say never. :)
Anyway, having read several books that I really like on running and marathon training, I feel like I've got a pretty good idea of how I want to train. And my plan is to use each of these Readiness Series races as opportunities to run marathon pace for increasing distances as the months go by. The idea is that I need to gain confidence running 8:00 pace, since that is marathon pace. But I'll be honest. I haven't done a lot of running at 8:00 pace. Haven't done a ton of tempo training at all yet, really. I've got plenty of miles at 8:45ish pace, and have been at the track pretty consistently running 7:00ish pace there... but marathon pace? Not much (yet).
So my goal today was to run 8:00 pace for 9 miles. I wore my HR monitor, but more for collecting data than anything else. I wanted to be keenly aware of what 8:00 pace felt like... how hard is the effort? How high is my HR at that effort? Would it drift ever higher as the miles ticked by? This was a perfect opportunity to find out since it was a 'race' situation and the miles were marked and there were a couple of aid stations along the way to help us out... And it was on some of the same roads as the Marathon course.
After a short (read: not enough) warm up jog, Nalani and I took off cruising when the gun went off. The last thing I wanted to do was make the mistake of taking it out too fast but of course then we erred on the side of too slow. Came through the first mile at 8:15. Whoops. Though I'll be totally honest, it wasn't as 'easy' as I'd hoped... 8:15 pace felt like <8:00 pace for sure and that was not a good sign. And on top of it, there was this Heavy Breather Guy wheezing right behind me with every step. I mean, it was LOUD. Out of control. Everyone else around us was cruising in control, and this guy sounded like he was trying to break the world record in the first 3 minutes. At one point I actually turned around and shot him a look that clearly said, "You're driving me NUTS with that breathing..." I didn't mean to look so mean, but oh my he was like full on sprinting. And had a lollypop in his mouth. Yep.
Here's some free coaching advice: Don't start off sprinting when you are running 9+ miles. And, um, don't race with a lollypop in your mouth.
He actually said something about how he is a 'heavy breather', and I was just thinking, Yep. We are ALL heavy breathers when we're running 2 min/mile faster than we are actually capable of... I knew that eventually we were going to lose this guy and tried to shift my irritation into curiosity about how long he was going to be able to run 8:15 pace? Well, we had to run up and over Diamond Head in mile 2 and that was the end of Heavy Breather Guy. Phew. But crap. 8:24. Are you kidding me? Nalani was still right beside me and sort of smirked when she looked at her watch... I just shook my head and thought that I was full of crap for ever thinking I could run 8:00 for a whole marathon. I couldn't even do it in the first 2 miles of this measly 15K! Ugh. I suck. Marathon goal out the window... blah blah blah.
My HR was not very high. Perceived effort told me I was right where I needed to be, but HR was on the low side and pace was a good bit slower than I was shooting for. I was 40 seconds in the hole after only 2 miles! Grrrr. But mile 3 was a bit downhill and we hit it in 7:59. Ok, that's more like it, but it was downhill. I still thought I was screwed.
But then something magical happened. How about this? I was warmed up! Hit mile 4 at 7:53. Perfect. That's better. Mile 5... I felt like a machine and ticked off the steps... 7:46. Mile 6... legs were just clicking over... 7:37! HR was still just fine but increasing a few beats and I reminded myself that my goal today was not to take myself to the wall, it was to run MP for 9 miles. I was still with Nalani, though I could tell she was just itching to GO. She looked at me and said, "Can I go now?" And with a smile I set her free. It was like letting a puppy off its leash at the beach... she just took off! I backed off a bit and settled back into my 8ish min pace. Back uphill a bit 8:07. Uphill some more 8:08. Last mile down some 7:39. I felt steady and rock solid and came across the finish line with a big smile and feeling totally in control. Avg pace for the 15K was 7:59. Perfect.
In his book, "Run", Matt Fitzgerald talks about how we need to have confidence in our ability to run race pace... but not just mental/emotional confidence... but actually creating Physical Confidence by physically running race pace at distances increasing ever closer to goal distance. Showing our brains that our bodies are capable of running X miles at X pace... then come race day you don't need a bunch of magic or luck... you just need to go execute what you've been practicing. I totally subscribe to this idea. And today I proved to myself that I could stay in control while running MP for 9 miles... I'll build up a bit more in training and then try it for 15 miles next month.
Truth be told, I'm looking forward to letting my bike collect some dust while I focus on running this fall... but that'll have to wait another 4 weeks... I have some business I want to take care of on the bike and in triathlon in the next 3-4 weeks. After that, it's all about the Run. ;)