This Sunday, I’m running a mile-marker of a race for me. For the past three years, I've done the tabletop-flat Cascade Half Marathon with the specific intent to lower my personal record. Starting with the 2008 race, I religiously followed a 10-week training plan that worked its magic every year. I shaved at least 90 seconds, often more, off my PR from the previous year's race, then that record would stand through the rest of the year's half marathons until I clipped off more time at the following Cascade Half. In 2009 I specifically hauled butt just to have a sub-1:50 PR to tout in the intro chapter of Run Like a Mother. (Come on: I'm the competitive, bordering-on-bragodocious one of duo!) A year ago, I skimmed nearly three minutes off that record.
I doubt, however, I'm going to have bragging right after this year’s race. After running--and recovering from--the Philadelphia Half in late November, I jumped onto the tried-and-true training program at, gulp, week 6. Then, unlike years past, I wasn’t nailing my workouts. Not sure whether it was the toll two marathons plus four half marathons in one year had taken on my 40+ bod or my untreated Achilles tendonitis, but my results were disappointing. My intervals and tempo runs were slower than they had been in years past. In week 7, for instance, I had an awesome track workout—6 x 1000-meters at 10K pace—then my tempo run a few days later was a slog. The following week, I flip-flopped: Lousy times at the track, but I rocked the 6-mile tempo.
I was glum about my prospects for a 1:45 PR. Then, just as the rains stopped in Portland, the clouds dissipated over my workouts: I had banner times at the track and in my tempo run. Like the weak winter sun that shone down, I had a glimmer of hope I might be able to do well on Sunday.
But I’m being a realist: I'm not feeling a personal best is in my grasp. And that’s tough for me to emotionally reconcile. I was fine running 1:57 in Philly because I did that race as a lark. But Cascade is my half, my time to shine. I guess all I can do is my best—whatever that might be right now.