Up until this evening’s run I was very worried about the half marathon I am running in less than a week. Now I am only moderately worried.
Last weekend I ran the 18k Manotick Road Race. Despite the great course and well organized race, I was not at my best. Actually I was at my best for about 10k, then it went downhill (though I seemed to be spending a lot of time going uphill) from there. On the surface it doesn’t look all that bad, after all a 5:49 pace for 18k is nothing to be ashamed of. But the fact is I ran it badly. I felt great for the first part and just couldn’t seem to slow myself down. Logically I knew I was going to run out of steam on my first hot weather run of the season but I chose to keep up a fast pace anyway. For the last half of the race I just got slower and slower and I had to take three walk breaks (one less than a km away from the finish line!!!) when I would normally not take any at that distance. Could it have been worse? Sure. But it could have been much better. Hopefully the lesson has now been driven into my brain, I need to take it easy during the first half of the run in order to run my best times.
So why the worry about the upcoming half? I read somewhere recently that if you are a runner over 40 years of age like me you are in the “masters” category. I would love to say that means I have mastered the sport but of course it really is just a nice way to say I am past the prime running stages of life or put more simply, I am on the old side. Apparently what this also means is I can’t expect to recover from races as quickly as the younger runners. I hate to admit it, but there is some truth to that. I am very lucky in that I am rarely stiff or sore after long runs, including the half marathon distance. I usually feel like I can run the next day but I always give myself a couple of days off after a race for recovery. So a few days after the 18k race I headed out for an evening run. I felt great, no pain or stiffness, mentally ready to run. I ran for a bit and thought I was probably running too fast, after all it should just be a recovery run. I glanced at my watch and was slightly horrified to see that my “fast pace” was 6:40. I wouldn’t have minded that pace if I knew and felt like I was doing a slow, easy run, but I honestly thought I was running at race pace or faster. I actually stopped my watch and restarted it, so convinced was I that I had to be running faster than 6:40. No matter how hard I tried, I never managed to see anything faster than an average pace of 6:20 that night. After a couple of km I realized that my head might have been ready for a faster run, but my legs were not going to cooperate.
The rest of my runs this week did not go much better, although each run seemed to get a little faster. But tonight, finally, I felt like my legs finally decided to step up (bad pun) and do their job. As a result I feel there is some hope for my half marathon, but since I am now into my taper week (it is a little tricky trying to go from a recovery week to a taper week but still somehow be prepared) I will have to wait until race day to see if I can run a better, smarter race than last week.