Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The runs that made a believer out of me

I went out with purpose Friday and Monday: Hal Higdon said to run fast on the former, I decided to target half marathon pace on the latter.

Both were achieved. Couch time and cookies were definitely earned.

I almost whiffed, though: On Friday, I checked and rechecked the weather widget in hopes it would say something different than still-below-freezing and strong wind gusts. It never did. 

"But how am I gonna run faaaaast?" I wondered petulantly. "Should I go tomorrow morning, even though I work the night shift tonight and have an earlier start tomorrow and the temperature is expected to drop?"

Yeah. I shut up and went. First on a half-mile warmup, which served my head well (in knowing when the wind was going to punish me later) and my legs even better.

The first 1.5 mile of my out-and-back was slightly downhill and with the wind at my back, so I was happy but unsurprised to see an 8:30 average pace at the turnaround point. Now for the wind to be in my face before I hit the uphill section. Gulp.

I did stop once, and I did experience a minor technical error (to be discussed in a later post), but as I surpassed 2.75 miles, I realized I was in a race against the clock ... that I could win. The seconds ticked toward 26:00; the hundredth-miles slipped away at what felt like an agonizing slow pace but was somehow faster than MapMyRun's timer.

End result: 3 miles, 25:48. Had I continued to a full 5K, I wouldn't have beat my PR — I'd averaged 8:35 – but I beat my previous three-mile PR by at least a minute. That's including the time I spent but didn't record. 

More importantly, I'd shown myself that last fall's 8:29 wasn't a fluke.

And most importantly, I'd shown myself that with weeks more of practice, 8:22 isn't beyond possibility.

My next run was successfully delayed by the weather ("But it's icyyyyy!"), but also ultimately successful (when it happened a day late). 

I headed into the five-miler hoping to stick around 9:30 per mile, my ambitious goal for April's half marathon. The end splits: 9:26, 9:22, 9:04, 9:04, 9:24, for an average of 9:17. Bonus fact: This route included my least-favorite hill (an overpass, actually), other elevation variation and wind in my face for half the run.

Just like with Friday's record-setting run, the muscles at times were reluctant, the stomach complained on occasion, and the lungs burned once in a while. And yet I came back with all the numbers I sought.

Right now, I couldn't attain either of the goals I set for myself in January. But after only two full weeks back running, I'm greatly encouraged that I can come near, if not attain, those goals once I've put three months of work in.

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