Sunday, February 27, 2011

A confidence boost

Today was an absolutely perfect day for running — well, at least it was between 7 and 9 a.m. — it's supposed to get up to 78 degrees later today, so I'm glad I'm finished. The temperature when I started running at 6:20 was about 45 degrees, rising to 55 by the end of the run. The plan was to do 16 miles, with the last 12 at marathon race pace, 8-minute miles. This would be the fastest I've ever run this distance.

Since I only had 4 miles to run before meeting up with the group, I decided to go iPod-less, and was rewarded with the songs of birds for the length of my solo outing, at an easy 9-minute pace.

I cruised back to our meeting point by 7, to be joined by Chad, Jeff, Chris, Terry, Tim, Matt, and Rodney. We agreed on a 12-mile route and headed out. I wanted to try to keep up with Matt, because I knew he was one of the faster runners in our group. After a couple of 7:40-ish miles, he asked if I wanted to slow down a bit, and I was glad to be accommodated. About 8 miles in, Matt and Tim started pulling away, and I joined up with Chris. On most DART runs, we stop every 4 miles or so to regroup, but Matt and Tim didn't seem interested in stopping. Finally at Mile 10 (Mile 6 for the group), we all took a break, mainly because Matt and Tim didn't know where we were going. I was still on pace, but some big hills were looming.

Matt, Tim and I headed off together up the hills and onto Shearer Road, where Chad joined us because we were about to pass the home of a notoriously aggressive unleashed dog. Fortunately the dog wasn't out that day, and we continued to push the pace up the hill. At about Mile 13, we made one last stop. The last few miles had some dramatic hills, and Matt and Tim headed down the first one at a very quick pace. I tried to stay with them, but my legs were sore and I let them build up a 20-yard lead.

We were at the bottom of a long hill, and Matt and Tim headed up the next hill, the biggest on our route. I thought I might be able to catch them, since I was familiar with this route. But familiarity doesn't equal fitness, and while I kept up a strong pace, they were faster. There was just over a mile left, mostly downhill, but I knew there was another hill between us and the finish. There was no hope of catching Matt and Tim, but I wanted to finish strong. About halfway up the final hill, I completed Mile 16 in 8:00 flat. I had finished my planned workout -- as it turned out, I averaged 7:51 over those last 12 miles, even faster than my goal pace! But I was spent, and decided to just jog it in for what turned out to be another 0.8 miles. Matt and Tim greeted me at the CVS, looking quite spent as well -- and they had only run 12.8.

Here's a graph of my splits for the day:

Overall I averaged an 8:12 pace, including the warm-up and cool-down miles. Not bad at all! After a week with basically no fast runs, it was great to see that I still have a bit of speed in me, and important to realize that I can run at race pace after over 2 hours of running.

Week in review:

6 runs
65 miles
3,202 feet elevation gain
534 feet average elevation gain

Although I didn't do any really long runs, three medium-length runs can still add up to a lot of mileage -- that's my second-longest week yet. Next week will be a bit of a break, with a long run of just 15 miles, and 57 total miles planned.

Details of today's workout are below.

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