Monday, May 06, 2013
These past few months have been filled with nothing but firsts: first time running all the way around the local park without walking; first time running all the way around the local park without walking AND without feeling like dying; first time doing five miles since I was 24 (6 years ago); first time reaching my since-January goal of 6 miles; and up and up they went until I reached my new first: longest run I've ever done. 11 miles (My GPS says 11.5, but I'm pretty sure it got a bit wacky around mile 6 searching for service or something).
This weekend's goal was 10-11 miles. This was my last super long run, as next weekend I begin tapering and the following weekend is the half marathon. It was a "now or never but please God don't let it be never because I really don't know what I'll do if I realize I'm way unprepared" kind of run. I was nervous because doing a successful 10-11 miles would not only indicate what kind of half marathon I can (hopefully) expect, but it was also my only time to really test my new running gear for the big day.
Friday night I went to a running store and picked up a Flip Belt and a handheld Nathan water bottle, some Hammer energy gels, and new running shorts. This marked my first time ever a) running with a belt and b) consuming energy gel. I was nervous about how these elements would factor in, especially since I have a pretty sensitive stomach and usually feel out of wack for the first few hours after a run.
The verdict? The belt is great for holding my phone and the gels and I will use it on race day. I was planning on only using the water bottle for my solo long runs and leaving it at home for races (using the water stations when I need them), but I really liked the weight of the water in my hand and the convenience of sipping whenever I needed it. I think I will fare better this way, because this means I will be able to completely avoid the water stations and hopefully save time.
As for the run itself, I had my typical first few miles thinking over and over "why am I doing this? How will I be able to do this for 11 (or 13 miles?)" After the little half mile uphill in my first loop around the park, I gave myself a 30ish-second walking break - enough to get my brain out of panic mode (and believe me, it's ALL mental, my body was completely fine). After those 30 seconds I thought to myself "you're being ridiculous, you don't need to walk this early." So I picked up the running again and continued to run another 3-4 miles, until it was energy gel time.
I slowed to a walk to again give my brain a bit of rest and to fumble around with my Flip Belt (I discovered it's easy to remove energy gel, but a pain in the rear to check my GPS mileage). By this time (54 minutes in), I was starting to feel that "running on empty" feeling. My legs were feeling tired, not from overuse, but just because I needed that extra kick from the energy gel. The gel didn't kick in as soon as I would have liked, so I think I will take it a tad earlier on race day. Regardless, by mile 7 I was feeling better, and by mile 8 I was feeling FANTASTIC.
Mile 8 was the marker of the third loop around my park (FYI I did one inner loop of the running trail, one outer loop around the park exterior, and one inner running loop again) and I KNEW I would be able to run most, if not all of, it. Somehow I ended up getting mixed in with a NYCRuns 5k, which provided some fun motivation. I only gave myself one walking break, again at the "hill from hell", but halfway through the hill, I decided I was silly and started running again.
And the end result? 11 miles in 107 minutes, which averages to roughly 9:43 minute miles. Much MUCH better than I was expecting, and I am pretty sure I had it in me to do the extra two running. I really thought I would have had to walk more than I ended up doing. Pre-run I was thinking I would average 12 minute miles. I really only walked for probably 2 minutes total, at most.
I'm feeling optimistic now. While I was once worried that 3 hours, or 13:45 per mile (the time restriction for the race based on when the last runner crosses the starting line) might not be enough time, I'm thinking I'm now capable of finishing it not only under 3 hours, but by running most the distance at my normal speed. So yes, my focus is still on finishing the half marathon, but now I'm hoping to get it done in somewhere around a 10:00 mile pace.
Less than two weeks to go. Bring it.