On Friday I said I doubted I would PR at this race because I hadn't seen any 7:xx paces on anything longer than 600m since marathon training started. I was sort of okay with that, knowing it's all for a good cause (running a marathon, yo!) but it's kind of a bummer to get up at 5:30am to race when you know you're not going to PR.
This was one of my two tune-up races for NYCM. In Advanced Marathoning, Pete Pfitzinger describes the two race strategies one could have before a tune-up race:
- Train through it and treat it as an all-out effort done while fatigued. "This provides an excellent training stimulus as well as a mental challenge that will help steel you for the marathon." But he cautions that "Racing while tired...brings the danger of believing that your finishing time...represent your current fitness level" (p 29).
- Treat it as a fitness benchmark: Do a mini-taper and then spend a few days recovering.
Well, I definitely wasn't tapering for this thing, so I chose the first one. I figured I'd just do my best and suck it up if it got hard.
There was an awful accident on the highway so I didn't arrive at the race until thirty minutes after the start. The Midtown people were also hosting a half marathon and a 5k and I hoped they might let me cross the start line anyway, since I was still bound to finish before most of the half marathoners. Fortunately, a friendly race official said yes, and I was off!
The course was an out-and-back that starts in an ugly parking lot but quickly turns on to a bike path after the first mile. I sailed downhill, feeling kind of fearful about having to climb it on the way back. It doesn't look that steep on the elevation map, but this was a killer hill.
The humidity was 100% but it wasn't raining, and the path was slick. My clothes were already soaked from the air. It was gross, but I was just glad I didn't miss the race completely. The problem with starting so late was that I was completely alone -- people were coming "back" on the out-and-back, but no one was still going "out."
I was wearing my Garmin but chose not to look at it at all. In my mind, I thought I'd gone down the hill in about 7:40, and was holding a low-8 pace on the greenway. Once I hit the turnaround, some of the fast half marathoners began to catch up with me. At first it was exciting (rabbits, finally!), but I quickly realized I couldn't keep up with them. Being passed a dozen times in the last three miles of a 10k kind of sucked.
I ran without music and data, so I was just hanging out, trying to stay mentally tough and be consistent.
After it was over, I realized I was running stronger than I thought:
I guess if I had glanced at my Garmin even once I would have seen I was on track for a PR and maybe I could have pushed to get one? But honestly, I suffered up that hill and I'm not sure any amount of motivation could have made me move faster.
My 49:11 official time was 1 minute, 12 seconds off from my PR and good enough for an age group win (?!) and 4th overall woman! I've never won anything in my AG before, so that was so fun. My prize was $10!
I woke up that morning thinking racing on tired, training-fatigued legs would be a drag, but Pfitzinger was right -- this race made me really start to believe in my training. I can't wait to see how I feel after three more weeks of training and three weeks of tapering.