In one of my last blog entries I mentioned a coaching training tool that I started using in February. A running coach/physiologist named Jack Daniels, PHD developed the tool which contains sections from other running and physiology experts as well. I told you how this tool gave me the motivation to work harder on running and to continue my weight loss mission because it theorized that my finishing times in various races could drop significantly by losing weight and following suggested paces for training runs.
I entered the Atlantic City Half Marathon yesterday. According to the Jack Daniels spreadsheet that I used to do my training, my goal time for the race should have been 1:42:29 which was 8 minutes faster than a half marathon I did in November 2011. That was based on me running a 22:26 5K at 195 pounds on March 11th. If I got down to 190 pounds for the half marathon yesterday I could do a 1:41:35 with a heart rate averaging 170, so says Dr. Daniels. I did drop to 189 a couple of days before the race and made its way back to 190 because I cut back on running in the taper preparing for the half marathon.
I decided to be conservative and go out at the 1:42:29 pace of 7:53 per mile regardless of the 7:45 pace Dr. Daniels said I could average at 190 pounds. I was still a little bit apprehensive about being able to knock off 8 minutes from a November half marathon I did, all based on what an Excel spreadsheet told me. Other factors affecting time would be course difficulty, weather, and nutrition. I set off and dialed in my 7:53 pace. Weather was ideal for running and the course was as flat as could be. I feel that I did the right balance of nutrition leading up to the start. I felt nothing should stop me from trying the 7:53 pace and my attitude was great, nice and confident. I went out watching that my heart rate didnít climb into the lactate threshold range too quickly which would burn too much energy too soon.
I found a woman running at the same pace so I ran along with her, I never said a word to her nor did she to me, we just kept pace with each other. We even had the same cadence going so it made it easy to move along with her. I caught myself slipping off pace once or twice and saw her pull away but caught back up and she did the same once or twice as well. I was really in a zone concentrating on my cadence, form, and breathing. It was a beautiful course along the Atlantic Ocean on the boardwalk for a few miles before turning off into a couple of pretty beach towns. I really didnít notice much due to my concentration. I did notice a huge statue of an elephant along the road, apparently in front of a restaurant named Lucy from what I can gather. Other than that I just ran. At the half way turnaround I glanced at my watch and it said 50:50. I laughed at first at the thought of what that could mean. Should I play the roulette wheel after the race in one of the casinos? Then I started on the math and doubled that and thought I had a shot at beating my best half marathon time as a Masters runner (over 40 years old) which was 1:42:48.
Knowing I had a legitimate shot at the Personal Record (PR) I increased my stride length to pick up a little speed. The woman who ran along side of me surged to keep up but soon she dropped off the increased pace I was now running. I found a new person to pace with but he fell back after a mile or so and I kept picking off one runner at a time. Once I got back onto the boardwalk on the way back I started calculating my estimated finishing time. Each mile I repeated that calculation and each time it motivated me to go faster. I could now see the tall casino buildings off in the distance where the finish line was and I really picked up the pace. I did my last mile in right around 7:30 and actually got under that pace in the final 300+ yards to the finish. Right as I was approaching the finish line I heard someone call out my name. It was a family that used to live two houses down from me until they moved away 10 years or so. I smiled and waved back at them.
I finished in 1:41:29 six seconds faster than Dr. Danielsí spreadsheet said I had the potential to run this race in. My heart rate averaged 170, exactly the heart rate Dr. Danielsí tool said I would run at this pace for the half marathon. I had been sold on this tool for my training before but now I am really convinced in the science that makes runners go. Some runners donít like to worry about heart rates and pace times, they just like to go out and run. They say they have more fun that way and thatís great. For me, I have way more fun seeing how the physiology works in my running. If I didnít have goal paces and heart rates to shoot for it would be boring for me.
I did have perfect race conditions with the flat course and ideal weather. I felt I gave it all I had and yet not like I was totally drained or hurting. I havenít had that feeling for decades. I was so satisfied with how I ran. ďI just ran my perfect raceĒ, I thought to myself as I walked away from the finish line and gathered my finisherís medal, water and recovery food. Right at the end of the chute I looked up and saw my wife taking my picture, she smiled and it was so good to see her there to share in my feeling of achievement. She did the 7K and finished in time to get in position to watch me finish. The age groups for which they used to award prizes were 10 years apart, not the normal 5 year groupings like the bigger races normally have (there were almost 3,000 runners according to the timing company). I came in 9th in the 50-59 year old age group out of 74 runners. If they had a 5 year age groups (55-59) I would have won 1st place. Oh well, I still ran the same regardless of an award or not and am completely satisfied.
I havenít been this happy in my race performance for a very long time. I havenít finished this fast since my 22 year old son was 10 months old. The renewed spirit for running that I picked up in February has just grown even higher. After I recover from this race I will hit the training hard again with hopes for bigger and better things. After all, according to Dr. Daniels, I should be able to finish a marathon at this fitness level and weight in 3 hours and 30 minutes which would qualify me for the Boston Marathon by 10 minutes. Itís time to start thinking about that seriously. Itís been in the back of my mind for many years but now I can feel it. I wonít do it if I canít feel 100% into it. A marathon is a whole different animal than a half marathon. You donít train exactly the same way and it takes everything going perfect and injury free for at least 6 months to train properly to qualify for Boston. And then if I do qualify I would have to train to run Boston.
If I decide to go for it I wonít try to qualify for the 2013 race. That would mean I would have to find and train for a marathon before September of this year. I want a full year of injury free running and not have to train for it until after I get to my goal weight so that I can eat properly. If I do it I think I will take a stab at it in spring 2013 for the 2014 race and then if I donít qualify then go for it in the fall of 2013 for the 2015 race. I donít want to make it where I donít get to do all of the fun half marathons, 5 and 10 milers, and 5Ks that I have grown to love doing with family and friends. Iíd rather never run Boston than to miss out on what truly makes running fun for me. In the meantime I canít wait to see what the rest of 2012 brings me, hopefully fast races and good times with family and good friends.