There is a point where you make that leap from just getting along, just doing enough to get by, to actually trying to succeed. To try to do better, through a little bit more work, effort, sweat. I made that leap last night.
My online beer-buddy and coach Annabelle de la Tortuga through her vixenly ways, has coaxed me back to distance running; back to Broad Street. My training program has been one of trying to merely survive the ten miles. I figured that if I could train enough to get halfway, five miles to City Hall, I could make it to the finish on guts alone. After hearing her training regimen ...
"My plan between now and the race is - every other day running (at least), two long runs - an 8 mile and a 10 mile and three speedwork sessions. I guess that I am thinking 9:20s (?) with a handful of jellybeans every three miles and a fantastic running partner"
... I realized that doing an easy 4-mile morning run in about half an hour, three days a week and maybe a once more on the weekend, wasn't going to do it.
I needed to push myself beyond the five-mile / 40-minute limit. I needed to go and go long.
My morning routine doesn't accomodate a long run during the week, and my weekends have been filled with birthday parties, visits from the social worker for our adoption agency, and just run-of-the-mill housework backlogs. If a long run was in order - which it was, with less than a month of runway left - it had to be on the Bally's track.
I got there at the usual time: 6:30. By my calcuation, after changing and Punk Yoga, I would be on the track at 7PM. Six miles at 9:00 per would bring me in at 7:54. A brief cool down - no bike tonight - back to the locker room, out and home by 8:30 or so.
I had on a Magic Hat Brewery T-shirt. Annabelle's favorite. She was with me in spirit, watching my progress, keeping me safe and looking good.
Bally's track is 12 laps per mile. If you do the math, you will figure out that to measure your pace, you can divide your lap time in seconds by five and get your pace in minutes per mile. Thirty-five seconds around and you're flying at a 7-minute pace. Conversely, if you wanted to hit an 8-minute mile; a 40-second lap time is your goal. I was looking to achieve Annie's 9:20 or there abouts so I was going to hold my usual :40 down into the 45-47 second range.
The first couple laps were a little hot. I tried to figure where on my watch the laps should end. It came to me that, if I were performing to spec, the elapsed time would count backwards in :15 second increments - :45, 1:30, 2:15, 3:00, etc. But three times through the alphabet seemed like such a long way.
I didn't mind that the people I usually fly by, were now jogging alongside me. Yes, I said jogging. I had backed myself down into the "old man shuffle." Not really, but that's how it felt. Once I got into the groove, I decided that come race day, I would be able to hold this pace pretty much all day if need be.
I got through the first three miles in EXACTLY 27 minutes. Annie would be happy. I stopped for some water, adjusted my glasses (the were starting to slide down) and stepped back onto the track.
Within two laps I found myself behind someone I used to run with a couple of years ago. He too was carrying about a nine-minute pace. I tucked in behind him and cruised along. He must have sensed my presence, and felt threatened. He began to turn it up a little. It was only another lap or two before we were in a racing situation. Not a very FAST race by any means, but there was the air of competition about. The part of me that wanted to just shuffle through six miles with my imaginary girlfriend had been left behind by the part of me that wanted to "just win, baby"
I finished mile 4 in 8:06. I was now nearly a minute ahead of schedule.
As much as I tried to bring my final time down by back-pacing slower traffic (running just fast enough that the person behind doesn't catch you; but not getting away from them too fast, either) and tucking in behind a very nice pair of green cotton sweatpants with a cropped T-shirt, I still managed to finish in 53:24.
In spite of my early finish, chatting with some friends, put me in "getting home late" trouble.
"A beer would be so good right now," I thought to myself, "but I think all I have is green bottles and I don't have time to stop."
As I got in the car, I reached for my phone to let my coach know how I did. The red light was lit.
"Randy, stop and get me some Koonunga Cabernet on the way home."
Sure, I will. And while I'm there ....
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