The weather seemed great in Rosslyn as I warmed up for a half marathon that some running store or something held. I felt loose, light and ready to go. Robbie Wade and Mike Wardian were there, so I expected to just tuck in behind them. The horn went off and we headed right down the hill and onto Jefferson Davis Highway...and I was in front. Whaaaaat? I thought about stopping dead in my tracks until the other guys caught up to me, but I decided to just keep rolling and try to stay relaxed. I came through the mile in 5:15, despite trying to jog.
The other guys caught up to me and I was ready to let them go to work. 5:22. It was starting to get windy. A quick out and back showed me that this dude in a Calvin College uniform was closing in on me. He passed me in the third mile, but I tried to focus on him for a while. 5:31. Hmmm, things don't seem to be going my way in terms of keeping the pace under 5:25. I started to run into the wind, though it was coming at an angle and we turned a bit. When I hit the fourth mile in 5:37, I figured my shot at sub 1:11 was over, and I would just try to keep running at a decent pace. 5:43, as I took it easier and enjoyed a long turn on an interchange onto Wilson Boulevard, where I felt the true strength of the wind, right in my face.
The next 1.5 miles were miserable. It was starting to hit me just how well this wasn't going and how quickly it got that way. 6:03 for my sixth mile, during which another guy passed me and I fell into fifth place. I hit the halfway mark in 36:59- 5:38 pace. As I approached the turnaround I thought, oh, if I can repeat that I can break 1:14. A second after the turnaround, I knew I was wrong. I managed to repeat the 6:03 at mile 7 and dip under at 5:58 for eight, and I thought I could power through the last five miles, but I couldn't. All alone at this point, the wind was wearing me down, now somehow coming from all sides. I slowed down to 6:15 for the ninth mile, then pushed for a 6:07 to break 58 for 10 miles, which I did in 57:58.
After that, you would have had better luck preventing a mess by filling a 12-year-old up with a mixture of orange juice and warm milk then strapping him to a merry-go-round in an Oklahoma stockyard. I hit 13:03 for the next two miles and 6:36 for mile 13. A volunteer yelled "good race!" to me and I deadpanned back "no, it's not." She responded, "oh, well then I'm saying it to the guy behind you." As poorly as I was running, my bruised pride was still technically pride, so I kicked it in, finished, and turned around to see the guy was much farther behind me than I expected from the way the girl was talking. I ended up 1:18:19, still not what I want for a half marathon PR, but it's better than 1:29:14. Though I didn't need to go to a medical tent this time, I was exhausted, and had to lie down for a bit and just breathe a little. I stretched my legs out to make sure I didn't pass out or fall asleep, grabbed my bag, and went right home. Blue Powerade never tasted as good as when I finished.
My diagnosis: I tapered too much. My training volume in April dropped off too much from a great February and March. My weekly mileage went as such: 75, 80, 75, 80, 80, 81, 72 (took a day off), 74, 63, 60 (took a day off), 55, 42 (Pittsburgh), 56. My last long run was the first Sunday in April. The two weeks after Cherry Blossom were seven and six miles, respectively, on the Sundays. That just wasn't enough. It wasn't tapering, it was atrophy. I forgot what it was like to run 13+ miles on a regular basis. That's going to be my medium long run from now on. I have no trouble imagining that if I was hitting my splits in Pittsburgh or today through 10 miles, I would have just fallen apart.
I now have three months until my next serious race, I'm looking forward to taking a long-term approach to developing speed and endurance for the half marathon and getting ready for a serious attempt at a full marathon. It's time to become a long-distance runner.