Thursday I woke up to run into work, trying out the Bluemont Junction Trail between the W&OD and Custis trails, and I liked it, even though I had to cross Wilson Boulevard. The first mile or so of the Custis Trail is unpleasantly steep and usually perilous with the number of commuting bikers.
Alex and I took to the streets to the north for a 5.25-mile afternoon run.
Friday, I slept in and did all of my running in the evening. I ran into Lisa Sikora on my way to Hains Point, she was headed there too, but the other way, so I joined her for about four miles, which gave me six days of running with other people, a high for me. With her detour, I ended up getting 10.75.
I stayed out a little too late on Friday and slept in on Saturday, and ran 7.5 miles, I can barely remember where, Saturday morning. I stayed at the Dusens' that evening, for ease of getting to the Rockville Metro station for the start of the Parks Half Marathon.
Saturday was absolutely gorgeous, so it was appropriately disappointing that when I woke up around 5:30 Sunday, the rain was pouring. We had to sprint through the downpour when Jordan picked us up, and I became less enthused with the race as we approached the start. We took a short ~mile-long warmup total and before we knew it, it was time to go. The rain slowed to a drizzle and I actually felt alright.
I was careful to let the lead pack get ahead of me early- there was no need to go ridiculously fast early on, especially if I just wanted to run my goal marathon pace (5:40). The downhill first two miles made it a little tough to hold back, try as I might, through 5:33 and 5:25. The third mile was a little more varied, and certainly had more turns, and I was back to a more reasonable pace at 5:40, and the fourth mile more varied still at 5:42. The fifth mile started to give me a little trouble, and I found myself working way too hard for a 5:47. Though I was still under my aggregate goal pace, I was well aware the last few miles were uphill, so I hoped to at least maintain a margin for error in case I didn't have enough to keep me going. By the sixth mile, I was clearly in trouble- barely getting by under 6:00 in 5:55. I was starting to notice things that don't cause a problem when I am running well- the puddles, mud and gradual rain. Thanks to the rain the night before, many parts of the course were under water, and my shoes and socks seemed to soak up more of it than when I am on distance runs. The mud was a little more hazardous and reflected Karl's concern about slipperiness on the way to the race. He was worried more about his shoes on the pavement, and I dismissed that, but I was having genuine trouble staying on my feet when I ran through muddy sections. After slipping a few times, I decided it was time to call it a day and hopefully make it through the race with my body, spirit and enthusiasm for running intact. I slowed considerably and tried my best to stay out of people's way as they passed me. Twice, I stopped to take my shoes off and fix my socks, which had sagged under my heels. When I got to water stops, I stopped and drank the Gatorade they offered while standing still- if time was no longer of the essence, I might as well enjoy myself, though I wasn't likely to do so on the whole.
Toward the end, I stopped enjoying the experience and started ruing the decision to run. I clearly wasn't recovered enough from my long run the previous week to seriously attempt a long race like this.
I probably stopped enjoying it around mile eight, when people started to pass me. I tried to get out of their way, and felt terrible that the comped entry was going to waste. I didn't drop out because I wanted the finishing numbers to reflect the extent to which the MCRRC recruited runners, in fact the race was sold out. I am not sure if they figured people not showing up into the participant limit, but surely someone who wanted to race but couldn't would not be thrilled to see fewer than the maximum number of runners participate.
The race event itself was nice, the MCRRC couldn't do anything about the rain, just as they couldn't have changed the heat and humidity the morning of Riley's Rumble.
In short, I am disappointed that I have yet to run a good half marathon. Just running my marathon goal pace would have meant a four-minute improvement on my second-softest PR. It's not like I am incapable of running fast for 13 miles- in my marathon, when I clowned around for a good chunk of it, I ran faster than my Parks time for twice as long. Granted, the circumstances were not great, but I should be able to handle 5:40 pace for a while, based on the work I have put in.
The challenge here is considering my mountain workout the week before to be a more accurate indicator of my marathon readiness than what I did in Maryland. It would be too depressing if all the emphasis I put on running turned out to not only make me mediocre, but less than what I had done in the past.