Sham Rocked III
If I can take a non-racing approach to every race, I might just be able to get back to my 2007 form pretty quickly. Despite being 23 seconds slower than last year and just less than 5 minutes off my PR, this year's Shamrock Half Marathon is by far my most satisfying race to date.
In looking back at last year's race report and several posts leading up to the race, it's easy for me to realize why I'm happy with this year's time of 1:49:30 -- last year all I thought about was breaking my PR from 2007 (which came just before I started blogging). This year the PR was not important. It did, however, cross my mind around the half-way point. But I know my body and I knew that I wouldn't be able to maintain my pace or pick up the pace to set a PR. I didn't exactly fully back off the gas pedal - I just settled in and stayed focused on beating 1:50, doing the math in my head each mile.
This race started out fairly cold. The low the night before was 30. Instead of wearing long sleeves, I cut holes in the bottom on two old socks and used them as sleeves for much of the race. I also wore gloves that stayed on until about mile 11 or so. It was frosty for much of the race, but, thankfully, there was no wind. A rarity for this race.
Like usual with the Shamrock, the first couple of miles started a tad slower than I had hoped, but with the mass amount of people it's out of my control, plus it's probably a good thing to be in a group that's at a steady pace. I wonder if the organizers should consider having smaller corrals to spread out the field a little more at the start.
The first 5 miles of this race were perfect. Each mile was better than the next and it was at this point the thoughts a PR crept in my head. My mile times were 8:34, 8:22, 8:13, 8:06 and 7:58. In the next couple of miles, I kept a steady pace with times of 8:03 and 8:05. At this point, being a little more than half way and the miles just ticking away with no problems, I KNEW that I could not keep that pace. Or could I?
I backed off a little bit intentionally the next mile because I could feel myself getting tired -- legs, lungs, everything felt tired. I wanted to slow down enough to have a recovery and then see if I could pick it back up. When I hit mile 8 at 8:22, I did the math in my head to a PR and knew that physically it wouldn't happen. So I pretty much ended the race in the opposite way I started -- slowing down for each mile. It's as if I started a recovery before the race ended. I didn't want a repeat of last year when I had to stop and stretch. And I didn't want the rest of this month and April to be like last year in which very little running occurred.
I said heading into this race that I wanted Shamrock to set me up for a good rest of the year, and all this came back to my mind in those last few miles. I hit mile 9 in 8:31; mile 10 in 8:32; miles 11-12 were in 17:17 (I forgot to hit the lap button at mile 11 due to a water stop); mile 13 was in 8:36; and the last tenth was in 49 seconds. As I rounded the corner to finish the race on the Boardwalk, I knew I was going to break 1:50. After a year of injuries and running not going anything like I had wanted, all I could think about was how great this race had gone.
Also during this race I thought a lot about my son, Conner, who is just 4 1/2 months old and seeing the beach for the first time. Four months or so ago, this race was kind of a stupid thing to just think about doing. But, as I've mentioned on this blog before, one reason I decided to do this race was because of him. It wasn't always easy getting to the gym at night, or going out for an after-dark jog with my dog, or running in nearly a foot of snow in Ohio in January and here earlier this month, but I did it. This experience of doing a "big" race as a new father is the most satisfying experience in all the running I've done in the past five years. My time means very little to me right now; the experience is priceless.
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As for what's next, that's an easy answer. I'm doing the Ukrop's Monument Avenue 10k this coming weekend. Details to come in the next day or two. For now, I'm enjoying a brief, but enjoyable, two days of no training, no working out and no worries about what food to put in my mouth.