Sunday, April 27, 2008

Country Music Half Marathon... 2:00:14

4:45AM came awfully quick! The weather man had predicted rain for the morning and he did not disappoint. The rain was steady but the spirits could not be dampened. After training for hours upon hours, day after day, week after week, for what seemed like forever, race day was here and a little shower would not interfere with the plans. I have never raced in fowl weather. Some have been cold and windy, others hot and muggy, but I never have I experienced a wet, rainy race. How will I react? How will I perform? What will the water and wind and cold do for the race and the runners? The puddles? The roads? So much was added to the pre-race gitters. At one point I remember thinking: "If I can run as fast and steady as my mind is going now, I will be okay!"

Upon arrival to the starting site, the rain was still coming down steady. Again, the weather man had predicted that he showers would end by 7am. As time approached the rains moved out! It was time for me and the other 30,000 runners plus to get serious about the task at hand. So off it goes, the elites take off and the race is on. Being corralled at number 16, it would be another 36 minutes before my turn, so it became a hurry up and wait situation.

Then there it was. All the preparation, all the expectation, all the build up and jitters would finally be put to test. But as I crossed the starting gate, one thought came to mind: "this is just another race... take it as such and you will be alright!"

That's what I did. With every step taken I would be one step closer to realizing my goal. And as with every event past, my goal still very simple; I just want to finish! A respectable time would be nice, better than last year would be awesome. I carry with me Garmin that helps me keep in pace. Not to fast, not to slow... just steady. If I get anxious and push, it'll remind me to slow down. If I get lazy and slow, it reminds me so crank it up a bit. The only other aide I bring with me is my mp3 player. Although I cannot tell you what was playing while I was running, I can tell you that it kept me going.

As the miles passed I began to realize that alll the work leading up to today was paying off handsomly. I hydrated as needed, I fueled as planned. My body was responding as I hoped it would, it was time to push, to see what I had.

Somewhere along mile eleven, give or take, I realized that finishing in two hours, which would be 27 minutes faster than last year, could actually be a reality. I would have to run the last strech of race in under nine minute mile pace. And that I did!

I do not pretend to sit here and tell you that every step taken came without some sort of pain, sometimes physical, sometimes mental... because there was plenty of that throughout. However, the memory of approaching the final stretch towards the finish line, having thousands of cheering supporters helping you through, and amongst those my daughters, wife and her parents, was the ultimate motivator. Again, I was not disappointed, it was everything I had remembered and expected it to be. Unbelievalbe to most, one of my thoughts at that moment was not that I had made it through in two hours flat, it was the thought that I couldn't beleive that the race was over, that it would be a year before I could do this again in front of family and friends.

Have you ever wonder if you can do this? Have you ever wondered if you have it in you to run a race like this? Have you ever wondered if you have the discipline to train and dedicate some of your time to do something as crazy as this? All I can tell you is that it is within all of us. There are people of all walks of life participating, and from what I managed to gather when talking to some of the participants is that we all have one thing in common; the desire to put our mind to something, something we never thought we could do, and doing it! And by a unanimous, albeit unofficial poll, once you do in once, you'll come back again and again.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Just hours to go!

With this year's Music City Half Marathon just around the corner, my mind has been racing just as fast and steady as my body has. The prelude to last years event, being the first one of such magnitude that I had participated in, brought few questions of little concern, mostly regarding my conditioning at the time. "Will I have enough gas to make it through"?, "Will I pace myself accordingly"?, not knowing what to expect, all I really thought about was if I would make it to the finish line... if I would make it standing up... if I would make it that same day! Because things went as I hoped they would I was more than pleased.

This year, having that race to refer to, my mind has been quiet busy. What ifs, mostly. What if it rains? What if my back doesn't hold out? What if my ankle betrays me? What if I didn't train properly? Most of these questions will be answered once the race begins... in the first couple of miles for the most part. This has been the norm for every training run I've had this year. I expect that if I have done the proper things to prepare myself, I will be fine. I must keep in mind that my goal is to finish the race in a respectable fashion. I would like for the time to be under 2 hours and 15 minutes... but that's just a wish. I must remember to push myself just to the point of a little anguish but not past it.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

9 minute mile

To say that this experience has been easy, would be a stretch. As each day passes, miles have to be logged; miles have to be logged because, well... miles have to be logged.

Yesterday's 10K (6.2 miles) at a 9 minute mile pace, in Nashville was sort of a test. Needed to see where I stand in-as-far as running in a competitive environment. I do not wish to compete against others, for me this will take the fun out of what I'm doing. I do, however, wish to compete against myself. I need to see improvement in both times and conditioning. Self imposed goals, if you will.

As I hit the pavement, I am quickly reminded that my back and my ankle are dictating much of what I have to do. I have learned that with proper technique and diligence, I can not only prevent future strain to both, but I can help improve their condition.

I have a quote posted on my schedule board, it says: "The pain may last a day or two, but regrets will last a lifetime." I have this embedded in my head, and each time I'm no the track, the road or the water, I have to pull it out as a reminder, and it helps me through, not the physical pain, because there really is not any, but the mental anguish has a tendency to try to take over here and there.

The biggest challenge I am facing at this moment is keeping pace with the race. The natural reaction when the race or the training session starts is to take of like a jack rabbit. The pace has to be methodical and planned. I think I am coming along nicely on this. I have two weeks to get this down right.

This coming week, there's more large miles in store for my training, culminating on the weekend with a 11 mile long run. After that it's mostly recovery and allowing the body to get ready for the half marathon (13.1 miles) to be run on the 26th.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Moving along nicely

Another fine week! Two great accomplishments during the past couple of days: yesterday's long run, 10m... was a nice surprise, not because I feared the distance or my conditioning, but because it felt good, no - it felt great! Weather conditions were less than desirable with gusts of cold air in my face most of the latter part of the run and temperatures in the 40's early in the morning, made it for a challengeable run. But at the end I was within my desired pace margin for the entire distance.
Second, on Friday I had another great swim session with my new coach. Great improvement from week one. Still need to work on breathing technique but I'm encouraged by his words for he believes that learning this should be no problem for me. I feel the same way. Just need to make sure I find myself in the water several times per week.
As of this writing there are just 19 days till the Half Marathon. This coming weekend however, I will be running a 10k in Nashville; a preparation race of sorts. I'm looking forward to see how my race pace and form is coming along.