Sunday, September 18, 2011

Saturday Long Run: Half Marathon, Full Speed

I won the Manchester Half Marathon, yesterday.

Unfortunately, it doesn't really exist.

Yesterday's long run, according to the venerable yet-often-ignored Hal Higdon, was to be a half marathon. I assume, since the plan said, "half marathon" and not "13 miles", and officially had the long run on Sunday instead of Saturday (which I ignored due to schedule), that I was intended to simulate race conditions or actually run a real half marathon.

I wasn't sweating it. 13 miles is a distance I covered on several occasions during the summer, and the weather was supposed to be gorgeous (by which I mean cool and overcast). So, a nice, relatively non-challenging (compared to last week's muggy 15), probably even boring long run to kick off a very busy weekend. No problem. And so no problem that, in reaction to a very stressful week, probably had a little more pizza and beer on Friday night than I should have. After all, I wasn't going to race this.

Except, I raced the hell out of it.

13.1 through Manchester in 2:02:56 -- my second fastest 13.1 ever! It was slower than my half-marathon PR in 2010 at Philly (1:59:34) but a few seconds better better than my 2009 Philly Half (just over 2:03) and 4-7 minutes faster than any other 13 mile run I'd taken all summer. At one point, I felt like I had a shot to go 10 miles in under 1:30, which I've only done once since spring of 2009 -- this summer in Montreal, where I died on the super-hilly last 3 miles and finished 13 in 2:07.

I fell a short of my 10-mile stretch goal, coming in at 1:34, which is still faster than I've been most of the summer, but it meant that to come in at 13.1 under two hours I would need to run what for me is an average 5K, but as the last three of a half marathon. In Philly last year, where the last two miles of the course are downhill or flat, I was able to lay down a very good last three miles to considerably exceed my expectations, but in hilly Manchester I just couldn't quite pull it off.

Having been running faster than my usual pace, I hit a wall at the end of a mile 11 in which I'd tried to recover speed, and had to dial it back during the 12th mile. I might have been able to then "sprint" the last 1.1 and finish a bit faster, but without a realistic shot at coming in under 2 hours (I would have needed to run faster than the fastest mile I'd ever run), and with a long, fun day of walking in Philly ahead of me, any potential reward wasn't worth the cost.

I don't really know this one came from. I didn't go out with a goal of running it as fast as I could. I didn't feel very strong or fast for the first four miles and it wasn't till I'd finished six that I realized I was going faster than my usual pace. As I've said before, I care a lot less about my marathon pace than I do in shorter races -- I'd rather keep a slow, steady pace and be able to run the whole thing than burn out too fast and crash on the wall...kind of like I did at Shamrock (I'm still going to partially blame injury!!)...but this was a fun run and it wrapped up the most enjoyable week of running in quite awhile.

Next Saturday is 17, and the following is 18 (which will tie my 2nd-longest run ever). Slow and steady will be the goal. We're getting into the part of the training schedule where I've really never really been before. Last time, my injury robbed me of a whole month and I recovered as best as I could, but only got a single 18-miler in before I had to taper. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous as hell, but I'm excited, too.

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