Nashville seems like it was months ago--since I've been home, I've sat on the sidelines of a soccer field for about six hours, finished two work assignments, celebrated my 39th birthday, made 10 school lunches and cleaned up too many puddles of dog urine, compliments of my aging dog that has a bladder infection—-so I won't bore you with a full race report.
But I will say this: I, as usual, went out way too fast and couldn't hang on.
I threw in the birthday line above to slyly reference how old I am. To modify a phrase I say at least daily to my kids, I should know better. I should know that the human body can't do something it isn't trained to do. I should know that the "wow, this feels amazing!" sensation--the sky is blue, the hill is down, the race is new, I am fast--that gets me to about mile 2 doesn't last for 11.1 more miles, despite my always thinking it will. I should know that 20 minutes does not a 2-hour race make.
Alas, I do not.
In other words, I suck at pacing. I fly and die. I guess I could look at it optimistically: I have so much faith in myself, I think I can keep up 8:15 miles for a half-marathon, despite having never come anywhere near those splits for the past year. Or I could look at it realistically: I don't have the mental control to physically hold myself back at the beginning, nor do I have the mental toughness to physically push myself at the end. Either perspective ends the same: namely, walking way more in the second half than the first, and watching my formerly low splits blow up like a pregnant woman.
I've got another shot at the 13.1 distance on May 21 at the Ogden Marathon. The time between races isn't long enough to, thankfully, have speedwork pay off, but it may be enough time to amass a thimbleful of race smarts. So I set out to try something novel for me on Saturday: a negative split, or when you run the second half of your race or run faster than you run the first.
I didn't want my Garmin; instead, I wanted to rely on my (non-existent) sense of pacing and the mile markers on the path, which I'd clock with my trusty Timex. I planned to run somewhere between 6 and 8 miles on an out-and-back course; I'd keep the pace steady and doable on the way out, and when I turned for home, it would be time to let 'er rip.
So I start, and of course, the first mile always feels great. I run the first mile in just under 9:00. (My time in Nashville was 2:02, or about a 9:20 pace, so--surprise!--I'm going out too fast again.) I consciously slow down, which is as easy for me to do as changing a flat tire on the minivan or making bread from scratch. Which is to say, not in my wheelhouse of skills; I usually just slam on the brakes and walk when I can't run anymore.
But I do think slow and steady--I'm aided by a bland Fresh Air interview--and at 35 minutes, my half-way point, I stop, suck down a Lemon Sublime GU and put on some tunes to propel me home.
I set out, guns blazing. Probably running a 7:xx minute mile. Definitely cannot hold it for more than 800 meters or so. Despite being fairly smart in my pre-children year, the fact I'll be running for about 35 minutes simply does not register in my admittedly now less-sharp brain. I feel so good right now! What's three more miles!? My first mile back clocks in around 8:20. Great on one hand--always nice to see low numbers--but really, not so great. My only goal is to come in under 35 minutes on the way back, not send myself into anaerobic shock.
The next mile? Oh, a 9:30 or so. Dang it. D.A.N.G. IT! And, to add insult to injury, I'm wiped. I stop my body and my watch (yes, that's cheating), adjust my playlist and catch my breath. I set off again, and keep asking myself, "Can you run a little faster? Just a little faster?" Not Kentucky Derby fast, but just a small nudge up my speedometer. My legs respond accordingly, and I hit stop on the Timex at 1:09:04 to finish my run.
I ran a negative split by 56 seconds.
It was far from a perfect exercise--I actually cheated twice on the way home--but I think I felt more proud of that run than I did of my half-marathon effort. I did what doesn't come naturally to me, and tasted success; that combination, whether it's starting running, hitting a new distance, or trying to coax your body to run slower or faster than it wants to, is always a tasty boost to the ego.
Let's hope there's another bite waiting for me in Ogden.