The past few weeks saw strong workouts in the gym and forced paces on the roads. Workouts were measured by heart rate and time, and it was difficult keeping the heart rate below 130bpm at a decent pace. In addition, tight-legged runs alternated between five minutes of running with one minute walking. Overall the training effort wasn't as consistent as it needed to be; a source of concern heading to the START line.
We lined up at sunrise in the cool February morning, electing to start with the "Under 2:00:00" crew (knowing none of the five of us were going to make that time). Beginning in darkness, three of the guys in our group started fast leaving us behind, which was fine with me since this was only supposed to be a "workout run". My greatest challenge was getting my head in the right place to view this as a workout and not a competition to show everyone how fit I am. After all, prior to the race it became known I am training to run the Boston Marathon and which involves a qualifying time of 3:25:00 equating to a 7:49/mi. Fortunately, all understand the challenges I've had with my Achilles - so I get a hall pass for this race. While I may not be strong enough to run with the bulls in my group, I AM strong enough to not try. As a result, I stayed with my neighbor running her first half marathon.
The course consists of one loop around a small island for the first five miles before sunrise with inconsistent street lighting, then an out and back along the water on Bayshore Boulevard as the sun rises. The adrenaline of the beginning was balanced by my understanding of the need to start steady, and my heart rate hovered around 135bpm for that first loop at a pace around 10:30-10:50/mi. The heart rate rose with the sun and by the eighth mile it stuck around 150bpm. By that time, tightness pulled on the arch of my right foot and left calf, and I became a bit concerned, knowing we still had five miles to go. At that point, my friend needed to walk because of pain in her feet. A couple minutes at a walking pace solved the problem, and we continued on, finishing strongly with a few other walk breaks. In the end, I definitely could have pushed harder, but definitely glad I didn't. With the strong finish was some leg pain, and soreness that remains three days after the race.
While I'm not proud of the time, I'm proud of the effort; particularly considering the steps taken to get there. A weekend with friends and family is a weekend well spent, especially in the context of achievement. My core strength carried me through, and it is just the beginning. Garmin Connect says I set a PR for a half marathon (obviously - it was my first - 2:25:43, which is under my unwritten goal of finishing under 2:30:00), and for a 10K time (1:06:15).
Now what? I hit the gym Monday and today, and walked 30 minutes yesterday. I entered the lottery for the NYC Marathon with the drawing on 3/3. If that doesn't come through, I'll enter the drawing for the Marine Corps Marathon. And since both of those are extremely tough to draw, my last two choices are either the Philadelphia Marathon or Space Coast Marathon here in Central Florida. My next two events are the BattleFrog obstacle race on 3/14 and the Central Florida Navy League 5K on 4/4. My coach sent me the beginning of the next training plan which begins tomorrow. The goal for BattleFrog is to finish with pride, and the goal for CFNL 5K is to get an "old man" PR for that distance. It won't be an all-time PR since I ran that distance far faster than I can today when I was younger, but I'll look to finish at a pace closer to 8:00 per mile (last year, I finished at 9:00 per mile).
With that said, the Achilles Recovery chapter is complete and we now begin training for Boston - with several steps between here and there. One step at a time . . .