Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Pain and Perseverance

Date: 10 February 2008
Event: NYRR Bronx Half-Marathon, 13.1 miles/21.08 kilometers
Weather: 18F/-7.8C; Winds: 25-28mph; Skies: Overcast

By far this was the smartest race I have run to date. Just two weeks prior I ran the NYRR Manhattan Half-Marathon with the goal being a two hour or less finish time. I was warned that this was a lofty goal as my previous half marathon time was 2:29:49. I was determined and trained hard. I started out too fast - I always do. There were a lot of runners that day and Central Parks' roads were halved to accommodate runners, cyclists and walkers. I hate being crowded when I run especially by some big oaf who thinks he's an elite athlete. Every time an over competitive runner got too close I would sprint ahead depleting necessary energy that would be needed around miles eight or nine.

At mile nine the lactic acid started shooting pain in my thighs. I was still on schedule to reach my two hour goal but there was a major hill coming up at mile eleven. By mile ten my quads were killing me. Because it was very cold and wet I didn't hydrate or eat enough. Another painful lesson: eat and drink on a schedule.

At the base of the hill I told myself that it was now or never and to,"attack this hill." I always like to find one runner who runs slightly faster than myself and use him or her as my pacer for the last couple of miles. My intention is to overtake the 'pacer' right at the finish line. By the time I crested the hill I thought that my lungs were going to pop out of my chest, as I was pushing my maximum heart rate at 180 beats per minute.

I know that my mind will always give up long before my body and I did a lot of praying to Hermes, "Please give me strength!" When the twelve mile marker came into view, the thought of running on legs of lead for another 1.1 miles seemed impossible but I wanted to reach that goal. I knew that I would pay for running this fast, (8:52 pace per mile is fast for me) at the end of the race especially, with another half-marathon coming up in two weeks.

Turning the corner towards the finish line I felt like I was going to collapse until I saw my wife cheering me on. I crossed the finish line in 1:56:22. Wow! That's 33 minutes faster than my last Half. In the sport of running, an improvement of a few seconds is fantastic so, I was really impressed with the ability that the human body can get stronger and faster in a short period of time.

I did beat my 'pace' runner and was very happy with the results of all my hard work and training
. Yes, I paid for not pacing myself from the start. I could hardly walk down stairs for two days after the race. I vowed to use the Bronx race as a training run, pace myself from the start and use a schedule for hydrating and eating. It worked. I experienced no leg pain and only a slight amount of stomach discomfort. Four miles into the race I became competitive with myself and turned up the speed. I finished in 2:03:22. Not bad given that the head winds were so strong on the hilliest part of the course hampering everyone's finishing times.

There are five NYRR Half-Marathons that take place in each New York City Borough over the course of 2008. I plan on running all five just for the experience. Besides, they give away great shirts. The NYC Half-Marathon is 27 July and I'll let you know what my new goal will be after I do some more training.

Lessons learned: Set the goal, train hard, don't listen to negative thoughts, ask for help, and most importantly, increase and improve in small increments.
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