On Monday, I crossed the finish line of my third marathon of 2013 and, for the third time this year, I crossed the line in 2:01.
While I was using the Oak Brook race as a supported and safe training run during a weekend getaway, I had hoped to also work on pacing and negative splits to come in under 2 hours. I wanted to start out controlled, come up to pace from miles 5 to10 and bring it home in the last 5K. I wanted to break my post-baby rut of plus-2 half marathons.
It was a sound plan and one that seemed to be working, sort of, as I started the race. I was running what felt like reserved miles for the first 5 miles and I kept it strong till at least the 10K mark when I saw my favorite spectator, Bobbi. But come the 10-mile mark, the time to hammer, I had nothing. My legs were tired, I felt dehydrated and the thought of fueling made my stomach gurgle. During the last mile or so, I thought I was going to throw up at least two times and tossed my beloved Salted Caramel Gu, unopened, to the wayside because I was tired of holding it. I still cringe thinking of my wastefulness.
As each mile ticked by, I slowly saw the 1:58:XX race I was on track for slip away. I tried hard in that last 30 minutes, telling myself not to "lose it" so close to the end. I told myself not to let the work slip away. I told myself to be relentless.
The mind, though strong, could not help the body to find another gear. I came in with an official time of 2:01:05.
While I'm comforted, slightly, by the facts of the day -- it was just a training run, the course was hilly, I was only a week out from HTC, I needed more in the tank (Nuun + Gu) -- I can't help but wonder whether I need to accept that I might be a 2:01 half marathoner and stop getting disappointed when it doesn't happen.
I've ran eight races at the distance and only one was under two hours, my PR at the 2010 Fort4Fitness. The other events have ranged from 2:18 to 2:00:XX. Five of those races have been post-Miles and no matter how ready I think my body has been to break the barrier, I have yet to see it follow through and it might not ever ... or so I'm starting to think.
It makes me almost sick to write that, more so to consider accepting it. There are thoughts ... maybe if I worked harder, ran more, ate better, did X, Y, Z, I could break 2 hours again. Yet, I wonder if by not accepting this possible new reality is setting myself up for failure as there are legitimate reasons to support the theory.
1. Despite some mediocre-to-good efforts, I am not at pre-baby weight. When I ran my half marathon PR of 1:54:12, I was 10 pounds lighter. I know that I am more muscular now than I was then and Kim v. 2010 might have been too thin but I can't deny what the scale says. The heavier a person is, the harder the body has to work to move. It's why marathoners are so sinewy. It does not help that I have gained a few LBs in the past couple months, contributing to a failure to get speedier and less than stellar image of myself.
2. I'm not following a specific plan to break 2 hours. While I've been focusing on the Veterans Marathon, I've been doing pace runs and higher mileage rather than the mile repeats and tempo repeats. It's that intense, shorter speed work that helps strengthen fast-twitch muscle fibers and build endurance - both essential to a fast half.
3. I'm training less with Mark. Pre-baby, Mark would run most of my long runs with me as he was training for the same events. I was running those double digit miles at sub-9 pace and, eventually, feeling comfortable with it. I am (for good reason) training slower and not bringing those faster paces to any part of my long runs. It's as if my body forgets how to run fast over a significant distance. When Mark does join me for part of my long run, I'm often cranky and tired and definitely not in the mood to push sub-9. Don't get me wrong - it's happened - but not with any frequency and consistency worth mentioning.
I know that none of this makes sense with my hope to break 4 at Veterans Marathon and my relentless belief that I have that time in me. Maybe it's my nagging hip or fear or some bubbling self esteem issues planting seeds of doubt. I don't know. This idea, this feeling ... well, it was something I had to put down. Something I had to face.