After yesterday morning’s 12.4 mile (it was supposed to be 12 but I made a wrong turn) slog through humidity, sun, and rain, we sat at the coffee shop planning our long run distances for the next couple of weeks. I’m still super excited about the Irish race I’d just signed up for, and I got to wondering how many people might be expected to participate. I mean, the town is pretty small and I think this is only the third year of the race. So I went to their website and looked up last year’s half-marathon finishers: 242. Oh, well that’s …. small. Then I looked at finishing times and realized that only one person finished slower than my half-marathon PR. Well shit. Now I am worried about coming in last.
So then I started working on a speed strategy.
Speed is relative when you have short legs.
One, now that the time is changing, spring has sprung, and daylight lasts longer, S and I will return to running our post-core class three-milers on Mondays. We’ve been running two-ish miles before class, but it’s been rushed and less intense as my hamstring recovered. I’m convinced that I nailed the big hill at mile nine of my 10-mile race last fall in no small part because every Monday, on top of an hour-long core workout, we pushed for negative splits over three miles–an extra challenge because the second half is uphill.
Two, now that my hamstring is healed I need to move beyond just completing the Tuesday mileage and focus on hitting whatever workout paces our coach has planned that week. I think I’m off to a good start there–this past week I ran 6.2 hilly miles at a pace that was supposed to be HMGP–and if I can sustain it for just over twice the distance, it will get me a four-minute PR and might stave off that last-place thing.
Three, my coach was talking the other day, and I don’t remember the exact numbers, but it was something about how much time a person gains for every pound (ounce?) lost. My lowered activity levels thanks to my hamstring injury magically corresponded to a slightly higher number on the scale, a fact that displeases me. According to a chart I found in this article, I could improve my half-marathon time by more than two minutes
simply by dropping five pounds. I’ve got the world’s slowest metabolism and have never been one to lose weight easily, but here’s some incentive to clean up my eating a bit and fit in more cross-training during the week.
And four, which is less strategy and more distance-from-the-equator, is weather. Yesterday’s run was in the mid-60s, and since winter this year was one weekend in January, I expect I’ll be running in increasingly warm temperatures between now and my trip. But Ireland’s mid-June average temperatures range from 10-17*C (which translates to 50-63*F… also known as “November” in Texas) so I’m hopeful I’ll get a little bump from training in warmer temps and racing in something cooler. If nothing else, it’s likely to rain on us–Google tells me Ireland gets rain 21 out of 30 days in June, on average, and apparently last year they ran in a deluge. Call me crazy, but for a distance race I’ll take rain and cold, no problem.
And hopefully all of that will offset the jet lag–the race is four days after we arrive, so I don’t have a lot of time to adjust. But on past trips I’ve generally been okay flying east. It’s the return home that kicks my butt.
One last bit of positive thinking: this is the first year they’re adding a full marathon to the race events. There’s an early start at 8:00 and the main start is at 9 (which is 90 minutes before the half) so surely there will be marathoners still on the course when I’m finishing, right? And since it’s only the third year, perhaps participation is still growing. In 2015 there were 96 half-marathoners, so 146 more people ran it the second year than the first–if that trend continues, it could give me more of a people-buffer.
But I don’t have control over any of that. I can only control my own efforts. I have a little more than three months (the race is the day after my birthday!) to put in the work if I want any chance of reaching that goal.
Sometimes my students struggle when I ask them to start writing something–they just stare at the paper. To break the anxiety about it, I tell them, “This isn’t Hogwarts, your pencil isn’t enchanted, and this thing is not gonna write itself.” I give them a few sentence starters (usually goofy ones like “Once upon a time there was a frog named Fred….”) because the act of moving their pencils will trigger more ideas in their brains. They think I’m nuts, but since I won’t let them get away with staring at blank paper, they try it. Lo and behold, it works. But they have to take that first step, whether they want to or not.
I ws thinking about that advice this afternoon–48* and rainy–as I got out the door to run three miles, then did a 30-minute upper-body workout when I got back. Take that first step, write that first sentence, get those molecules moving. And hopefully in June I can say Mischief Managed.