"It's a little self indulgent..." - My mom
"After I read a sentence, I get mad at myself for caring what you're doing." -Karl Dusen

Monday, November 21, 2011

Fundamental failure

I had an opportunity to run a great half marathon this morning and I blew it by not being aware of where I was less than three minutes into the race.

I took Thursday off when I came home from work feeling exhausted. I ran a solid 10 miles the next morning on the Steelers loop at 6:28 pace. Got to sleep kind of early, then up at 8 Saturday to do a Fisherman's loop. The trip to Philadelphia with Dart, then the Millers, went smoothly, as did the packet pickup and dinner. I got to bed at nine, slept well until five, and felt great when I got up and warmed up to the start. I jogged a bit with Drea, Dart and the Butcher of Damascus, then waded around in the maroon corral (who was it who kept pronouncing it "coral" last year?).

After an unexplained delay, we got started. I had a significant blockade of women in the way, so I swung out to the right to get around them, but I was somehow behind some stupid little guy with his hair sprayed to look like an eyetalian flag. I caught up to a pack of dudes and settled in, and felt nothing out of the ordinary. I saw Wager, so I inched up to him and whispered "send 'em" and we exchanged a quick five. I slide back a little, and suddenly saw the first mile mark and looked at my watch- 5:02. JESUS H. CHRIST.

I immediately dropped back, terrified of the hole I had dug for myself. But in dropping back, I was firmly putting myself in no-man's land between the fast half-marathoners and the marathoners. This wasn't a situation like the GMU 5k, I made the right move in not trying to run with them. There were just so many guys up there, I didn't think they could all be running the half- I figured the majority of guys would be running the full to run 2:18. My plan was to just sit in a pack with them and cover real estate. I literally had no idea how fast I was running inthat first mile. I thought I might be cold and stiff from standing in the corral for so long and 5:17-5:19 was that fast. So, I ran by myself for four miles. 5:17, 5:19, 5:23, 5:31. I was pretty much on my five-mile goal time, but I got there the wrong way.

The group of guys chasing sub 2:19 passed me and I maybe hung on for 30 seconds, but I was tying up already. I hit another 5:31 and a 5:25 on a long straight. A pair of guys gapped me briefly, but I reeled them in and pulled away from them on a long uphill in mile eight, which I hit in 5:43. I was alone most of nine, hit that in 5:40, and thought I had a chance to at least match my 10 mile PR (54:24) with my 10-mile split, though my original pacing plan would have been more than 90 seconds ahead. Nope. Long uphill, mostly by myself, though I saw three guys in red ahead of me. Then, running down the road, with no pothole, my left ankle gave out and I yanked the hell out of it. I came though the 10th mile in 5:54, 54:50-- my second-fastest 10 mile, but not by much, and at this point, I consider my 10 mile PR to be my second softest, after the marathon.

The 11th mile was almost all downhill, but with my ankle probably sprained, I could bear only a 5:31. I came across a 180 turn, which, for some reason, this marathon/half-marathon had. That's ok in a little community 5k, but not in a metropolitan marathon, that's just lazy and unimaginative. I saw Curt Larimer, who I figured was doing the marathon, but did the half. Baressi passed me and I quietly encouraged him, but I was toast by this point. He was running the full, and him passing me was rough--he's very talented, but I should have been well ahead of most guys running the full marathon. I tried to hang, but it wasn't happening.

I thought maybe, with an 11-mile split of 1:00:21, I could keep things together for a pair of 5:30s and at least get in under 1:12. Nope. 5:48, 6:24 with the .1, and I lost ground to a guy in red in the last half mile. As it turned out, I had a healthy (90+) second lead over him at Freedom's Run.

It was just poorly done all around. One of the 13 splits was right. One was 15 seconds fast, the others were all slow. I was disappointed, but more embarrassed that such a stupid mistake, such unbridled enthusiasm led to my downfall. I was, for a while, a cockeyed optimist, thinking I could still run sub-5:20s on my own after a 5:02, but no. I tied up more and more as the race went on, and the last three miles, after stumbling, my calves got extremely tight, and following that, my shins. When I finished the race, I couldn't jog over to watch the marathoners go by.

Scott dropped out when I saw him, cramps forcing him to confront the misery of trying to push throug 13 more miles. We walked around, got some dry clothes and watched the finish. I saw Greg Byrnes, Brandon G., Michelle M., Dart, the Burhams, Mindy S., Katie Sheedy, Sam Howard (who qualified by a few seconds), and Jeff, though apparently I missed Cavanaugh, and left 30 secondds before Ali Belicose came by. I went back to the hotel, took a hot bath, packed and met the GRC people for a few minutes before Michelle Corkum and Andy picked me up. Michelle was eyeing a trials qualifier, having run 2:48 in LA earlier this year, but a last-minute cold left her feverish, achy and miserable and she dropped out at 13. Emily Ward thinks she broke her heel, and she was out at 14. Michelle M. felt the race slip away early and was out of it. Drea PRed in the half, and Dart PRed by more than six minutes, though she wanted to be two minutes faster. No men qualified, Kevin Pool once again coming close. In the marathon, the only person I think who made it was Sam Howard-- Liz Graham's protoge.

That all goes to demonstrate two things- Philadelphia is a hard course, and qualifying for the olympic trials is hard. As it should be. It's not something you can do on a lark, as a girl I met last year seemed to think when she said she and her sister were going to do it. You need to know exactly what you'll be dealing with as the race goes on, and I am positive that means overdistance training, a 30-mile long run. That all said, Hallinan and Blood ran under 1:05 in the half, which was pretty good.
That's disappointment right there
I rode in the backseat of Michelle's car, heading to Pittsburgh, knowing I let a great fall's worth of training, along with the summer full of misery while building my base, go to waste because I didn't figure out where a half-mile marker was so I could be sure I was going out appropriately. Part of what appealed to me about the race was that the marathon and half started together and shared the course for almost 13 miles. That seemed great to me, because I could run with Karl -- he'd have a good feel for the pace, and I could keep him company, help with the pace and he'd keep me calm. When he fell ill, the first thing I should have done was ensure that I had landmarks to check my pace, because I wouldn't know who was running 5:17s otherwise. It was simple preparation, and it was just as imporatant as the long runs, the track workouts, the moderate runs and progressions. A 5:02 mile, when I wanted to be runninr 5:17s, was devastating. I sat in the car, which was way too warm, wondering if I got too excited about club nationals after Richmond and lost focus, or if my heart went out of it when I found out Karl wouldn't be running--maybe I wanted to take responsibility for helping him out so I wouldn't focus on how easy it is to give up.

To be clear, I don't think I gave up, I think given what I did in the beginning miles, dealing with wind along the Delaware River in mile three, plus the trauma I put my legs through in mile nine, I was going about as fast as I could. And, in the end, I was 16 seconds off my PR. I should be happy that considering how much went wrong in several phases of the race, that I was a little more thana second per mile off my PR, but I just can't be happy with it. I was ready for more, much more, than I accomplished today. That PR, which I set when I was sick ,running alone in a cocurse that barely had a mile of flat stretch, let alone the 6.5 this had, in the rain, was from the hard 13-mile run Steve prescribed, it was more a time trial than a race, and I picked that course over Buffalo Creek because I wanted to be sure Philly wouldn't be harder and I would run faster if all went well. Getting congratulatory messages from well-wishers was tough, because if they took the time to care, I wanted to give them something worth seeing when the looked up my results.

Madeline suggested I peaked too early. Absolutely not, I feel like my training was spot on, but I just made the dumbest mistake possible, one that I had several opportunities to prevent, and the regret I feel going forward and the missed opportunity will go a long way toward ensuring I don't do it again. It will also haunt me until I take another crack at the half, probably in Pittsburgh. It starts on Thursday with the Gutbuster. As Mike Tomlin, whose quotations I relish for his locution, said after some boneheaded playing cost a few games in 2009, I'm about to unleash hell. That second loop is toast.

The fall is by no means a failure, I ran a great, strong race on my own at Freedom's Run and fough pretty hard in Richmond. If I had a blase attitude at all toward the race because I was looking ahead to nationals, well, time to seriously focus on that. It's a chance to make up for my failings in Philly.

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