Sunday, August 05, 2007

Notes to future self

Warning: excessive sport-related content!

I've been having ritual gnashing of the teeth this afternoon, because after all of my musings the other night on goals, guess what my time was in the race?!?


Arghhh... eight seconds from the at-my-level-of-running blissful dream of a sub-two-hour half-marathon!

Actually it's like a lesson to me not to obsess about details. I ran as well as I could, and I finished pretty strong.

There are a number of places where I can see that I lost some seconds.

(I walked through all the water breaks in the second half, for instance, which I had not meant to, but trust me when I say it was just needed if I was going to keep on running pretty fast the rest of the time!)

Notes to future self:

#1 Check the footpod battery the night before the race!

I meant to, but forgot; and realized when I went to turn it on that I must have left it off after my last run on Thursday, it was totally dead. In a way this was a good thing--I actually really like the purity of running by effort, to the extent that I wonder whether I didn't half do this on purpose (it is not like me to forget to check). I didn't miss it at all for the first ten miles, I just pressed the split buttons at the mile markers and didn't pay too much attention to the details, which were at the outside edge of my acceptable slowness range and therefore did not deserve contemplation. But I could have used it in the last three--it's almost like cheating!--but it would have helped me focus on those seconds I needed to make up.

#2 It is a pity that you have a bladder the size of a walnut!

Arghh--I must have peed at least three times already between when I got there at 5:45 or so and quarter to seven, usually before long runs I just don't drink anything but I had a very 'dry' run as it were on Tuesday evening and realized it wasn't a good idea; but around when they started getting ready to raise the barriers between the different corrals, I suddenly had to again join the rather long line for the toilets, and the result was that I lost several thousand places of advantage--you only get timed once you go over the start line, so it's not actual time, but if I had started where I was before I am guessing that's pretty much exactly the sort of eight-second difference I needed, if you start with runners slower than you you waste some energy speeding up and veering around them till you find the right pace group.

I was aware at least from mile three that it was going to be very tough to break under two hours, and I guess I have to say that I ran as hard as I could on that particular course under those particular conditions at my current level of training. I would call it, actually, a very good race--I felt like I was running very smoothly, my legs and core and stuff were all good, but the breathing/heart-pumping effort level right from the start felt way higher than it should have for that speed. The last three miles, I was well aware of how close I was to the two-hour possibility and how likely I was to miss it, and all I can say is that I ran pretty much as fast as I could!

(It was blessedly non-humid by New York summer standards, quite acceptable, but of course it really is rather hot, especially by the end--certainly high 70s, maybe really into the low 80s.)

Final thoughts (for now!):

There's nothing like experience when it comes to these things. The couple friends I've been mostly training with had considerably more frustrating races than mine--and the fact is it takes a while to get really good at this stuff. It is not surprising that I cannot yet race a half-marathon in the way I feel I should be able to, I have done a total of two twelve-mile training runs and two half-marathons in my entire life, I should wait till I have another year's worth of doing very regular twelve-mile runs before I think I should somehow magically be able to run at my very best for that kind of duration!

Hmmmm--really we all learned from reading fairy tales that you should never make a deal with a stranger who comes offering riches of one kind or another, but I must say that it would be very tempting to me at this juncture if the devil appeared and charmingly offered me a nice dose of running speed and stamina....

The answer to all this is MORE TRAINING! (Steady training for more time rather than more volume, that is.) At least it's clear--rationally I did pretty well today (and we had a lovely friends-and-family brunch afterwards that was especially enjoyable because a number of us had just been however frustratedly striving to the utmost, these races are special days, it was really good)--and if I am sensible and diligent then next year I will be able to do a lot better!

I'm running three more half-marathons this year--one as a training run for the second, which is in early October, and then the last as a purely enjoyable run with my brother and sister-in-law and whoever else wants to join in. And somehow I am betting that the greatest day is going to be the last one, where I will not at all care about what time I come in at and will spend the two hours plus having the kind of good conversation that you sometimes get in cars also, where it is strangely psychologically beneficial to be facing in the same direction as the person you're talking to rather than looking them in the face!

(One more further thought: I cannot wait till I am at the stage where I can appropriately do a half-iron distance triathlon! Probably two years from now, due to the bike limiter... In my opinion, 13.1 miles is pretty much the perfect distance to run, more than that is somewhat excessive [in a good way, but still!]--but two hours is not nearly long enough for a really satisfying race, I would not have wanted to run further today but I was sort of full of energy still afterwards, I want more! Marathon next year for sure, and hopefully quite a few more marathons in my future, but the half-Ironman race seems to embody my particular ideal, I have a strong though perhaps irrational conviction that it will be remarkably well-suited to my strengths. Mmmm.... half-Ironman....)

(One last further final thought: Swimming! I love it. I'm going to pay it a lot of attention in the next two months, put the running somewhat on autopilot and let it steadily progress I hope but lavish a little love on the water thing. I had a funny post-run conversation the other night with B. and D., two good runners from the group I've been training with. D. I've known since the fall, when we ran a lot together in the beginner's group; B. is a lovely New Zealander I only met in the class this summer. D. happened also to do the same deep-water running class I took in the winter and the level I swim clinic this spring, she's a great athlete--much better than me--but she just kind of didn't like swimming. And she accusingly said to me as we stood there talking at the corner of 72nd and Broadway, "You really took to it!" And then she and B. started questioning me as to whether I liked swimming or running more! And it was funny, I had to pretty much admit that there is a large place in my heart for both. Where I live, running's kind of just better, you can go out and run in the world in a direction and it's lovely (in a strenuous and sometimes horrible but mostly exhilarating way); if I could just go out and swim like that, as Lynne Cox does in those ocean swims she describes in Swimming to Antarctica--an excellent book BTW--it would be a hard call.... On the other hand, a hard-core swimming workout is the most lovely thing! You can't do track workouts like that if you're just a regular old runner, you can do them now and again but you'd get injured if you worked out like that all the time, and in any case running super-fast for short distances does not give me great pleasure, more just a sensation of queasiness that tells me I've crossed my lactate threshold. But you can do swim workouts all the time! You go as fast as you can on those swim sprints and the blood's just pounding in your whole body and even if you slightly feel light-headed and black-outish--like a cartoon character whose heart's actually jumping out of his chest!--it is in the most enjoyable possible way--and you're moving through water, which is the most delightful medium in the world! And if I am lucky and work hard, I will feel this way about biking too... but that might take a bit more of an act of grace!)


  1. The wonderful thing about biking is how much ground you can cover, and how fast -- and, for me at least, compared to running, it's so easy! You get to coast down every hill after all.

    Nice job today!

  2. Thank you!

    The part where I go really fast down a hill is one of the things that makes me most nervous--I think that temperamentally I'm more on the "work incredibly hard going up a hill" side of things...

  3. Great job out there, Jenny, and a wonderful race report!

    - forgetfulness is also a taper symptom (feel free to blame the taper)
    - more training and more racing!
    - see Spokane Al's post re: bladder activity
    - some people will tell you it's all about the bike ;-)
    - swimming rocks (but I'm a little biased)

    Keep up the good work!

  4. Re: last pre-start line-waiting, I was hemming and hawing and eying the crowd moving forward and said out loud "Oh, maybe I just nervously THINK I have to pee!" but the woman next to me quite sensibly observed that I would regret it later if I didn't pee now...

    Thanks for good links...

  5. Well done!

    No way to fully learn to race but to race. Hope obsessive studying of splits (& heartrate?) tells you something - nice that you have a full calendar for the fall.

    Yes, seeding signficantly behind your pace group costs 8 seconds and more!

  6. Yes, lunatic. But I will say 1) walking in water breaks is not a good idea--I slow significantly but keep running, which would probably have taken care of the seconds. Also I take every water break but only one big sip each (yes, I have my OCD side too). 2) What is absolutely delightful about the half marathon is how it leaves you with energy. That's why it's my favorite race.