As I write this, I’m three days out from the Old Port Half Marathon, which I intend to PR in. Depending on when you read this, I could be on my way to Maine, having a panic attack at the starting line, trying not to barf and/or lie down at mile 8, or enjoying a post-race pie. Not a slice of pie, mind you. A whole pie. The flavor is TBD.
So the question folks like Coach Christine, acupuncturist Laura, various local friends, and online runner buddies like Lisa and Erica keep asking is: are you ready? Note that I didn’t mention my kids in that list. Their primary question on this day and every other day since they were capable of speech is: what’s for dinner? And my beloved spouse doesn’t ask because he knows the answer already, which is, “Sure, I guess. Why not?” because this is my standard response to questions that require a much longer answer than I’m certain the asker really wants to sit through.
Am I ready to run a 2:30 half-marathon? Sure, I guess. Why not? I’ve hit 90 percent of my paces and distances during training runs. The exception would be my last long run Saturday before last, where I had to run 13-14 miles with the last two at race pace of 11:22. The distance I accomplished — it was almost 14 by the time I got home — but I only managed one of those miles at race pace. After clocking a blistering (for me) 11:20 pace in mile 11, I stopped to take on some water and never could get back up to that zippy speed. Still, I count it as a training win, if only because it was a complete confidence boost to be able to move that quickly that late in a double-digit run.
As for the other 12+ miles of my long run, eh. They were fine. I had GUs of many flavors and podcasts of many types. The hills near my house made the first five miles a slog but were a great afterburner for the next five. The weather wasn’t too hot or humid and the rain held off. Don’t get me wrong — it was a push to run that far but it could have been much worse.
So, yes, in terms of my physical running engine, such as it is, I think I’m as ready as I can be.
The larger issue, however, may be my brain. It has long been the weakest link in this whole three-year running adventure.
I was not an athletic kid, nor was I an athletic teen or young adult or adult-adult. I’ve never been a big fan of “outside.” My only sport could be “competitive reading,” if such a competition existed. I read like Shalane Flanagan runs: long, hard, and fast.
…that’s what she said.
But when it comes to any vaguely athletic endeavor, I’ve got nothing to draw from to feed my mental game. I didn’t have all of those formative years as a kid where I had to dig deep and trust my body to do what it had been trained to do. I don’t know how to compartmentalize physical suffering in order to achieve a larger goal. I don’t have that drive to win or the innate need to “leave it all on the field.” In fact, that just sounds messy and unpleasant, especially when I could just go back home and crack open a book.
When the running gets to the point when I have to choose to surrender to being physically uncomfortable in order to reach a goal, I tend, simply, to panic and slow down. As a late-onset athlete, pushing past my comfort-zone is a hard sell, especially in the middle of a half-marathon and especially when I’m not in the lead pack. Or, even, a pack that can see the lead pack.
I don’t know how to train that part of my brain. While past success with four previous half-marathons lead me to believe that I’ll cross the finish line eventually unless my feet fall off, those same previous races all contained a moment where I fell off of my goal pace and never bothered to push to see if I could get it back. The closest I’ve come was a 2:32 in Syracuse last fall and only hit that because a) the course could not have been flatter or the weather more ideal and b) running buddy Lisa wouldn’t let me slack off. And, yes, that is the same Lisa I’ll be running with on Saturday.
Even if I rely on someone else to push me harder than I want to go, like BAMR and pacer Erica who already has a handful of motivating phrases ready to go, my brain still isn’t sure that such a pace is possible because I’ve never run it before. And, of course, I haven’t run it before because my brain doesn’t believe that such a pace is possible. You can see the problem here.
So am I ready? Sure, I guess. Why not? I’ll let you know how it goes.
If you take actual sports out of the discussion, what would your “sport” be?