It’s taper time once again

With only six days left before the California International Marathon, the taper is in full swing.  Reduced mileage, fewer intense runs all in an effort to get to the CIM start line with fresh legs and a confident head.

This training cycle has been a great one, and it has me going into the race with confidence that I can reach my goal:  3:25:00 or better.  Based on the plan I have for the race, I think I’ll end up right in between 3:20:00 and 3:25:00.  If the stars completely align for me, I believe I’m capable of a 3:20:00 finish.  Having had a great race at the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon a few weeks ago and the results of a bunch of of difficult training runs give me the data my left-brained personality needs to feel this confidence.  I’ve made the mistake of going into a race simply “feeling” like I could achieve one time or another and it’s never ended well.  When I’ve had numbers to backup a goal time expectation, I’ve hit those marks very consistently.

In the middle of this past summer, I made a tough decision to take a bit of time off from training.  It took me a full month to even make that decision, so you can imagine how I agonized over it.  Was I being too soft?  Unwilling to work hard?  Or was I being smart and listening when my body was telling me, ‘enough’?  At the time, I had no idea, but I knew something had to change, and “pushing through” wasn’t working.  As I sit here today with less than a week to go before my “A” race this year, I am so glad I took that time away to get fresh and get my head back into training.  It’s hard for me to believe that this training cycle would have been this good without feeling ready for it from the beginning.

And so, I’m off to make my first bid at Boston Marathon qualification.  I feel confident, prepared, and yes, more than a little nervous.  But, knowing my wife will be there cheering me on as I try to BQ will help keep things positive.  She’s been there for me on this whole 18 month journey, giving me time to train, “crewing” for me on the long runs, making me great food so I was fueling rather than just eating, and generally just being the supportive, loving woman she is.  I wouldn’t have made it to the start line without her.  While my two boys won’t be in Sacramento, I know they’ll be rooting for me from Ohio and I plan to keep them in my heart for the whole race.  I can already hear the post-marathon conversation in my head, just like after every run:

“Hi, Dad!  How was your run?”

“It was great, buddy.  Really, really great.”

Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon race report

As I had written previously, this race was not one I planned to “race” all out, but to use as a dress rehearsal for CIM in December.  Having said that, I did want to make this an honest effort and do my best.

Since Indianapolis is only a two hour drive from Cincinnati, I can’t even call this a race weekend, because when it came down to it, I wasn’t even there for a full 24 hours.  But the time I was there was lots of fun. I met up with running friends Jenny J and Luke S (both running the full marathon) the night before the race just before dinner.  Since they had arrived in Indy from St. Louis earlier in the day, they picked up my race bib and goodie bag from Expo by the time I arrived, so we immediately went to grab a bite to eat before settling in for night.  For Jenny, “settling in for the night” meant deciding, changing and redeciding on the proper race-day outfit.

Myself, Luke and Jenny before the race

Race morning came bright and early (as it always does).  A frosty 35F to start, but the weather was to warm up just a bit as the morning went on.  We found our places in the correct corrals, then soon enough, the gun went off.  One of these days, I’m going to actually remember that my Garmin lies for the first half mile or so, but race-day was not that day.  Sure enough, I went out a bit too fast and clocked my first mile at 7:21 or about 25 seconds faster that I should have.  My plan was to run the first ten at marathon pace (7:48) as a rehearsal, then go hard with whatever was left in the tank for the final three.  As I said before the race, my mantra was “Run smooth, no PR.”  But, now I have to fess up.  The night before the race, my “settling in” was spent laying there wide awake so I starting doing time math in my head to see just how fast those last three would need to be if I were to PR.

Although I went out too fast in that first mile, I did a decent job of getting back on plan for the rest of the first ten:  7:39, 7:37, 7:47, 7:43, 7:42, 7:38, 7:42, 7:35, and 7:34.  The weather really remained colder than I expected.  In fact, it felt to me like it was actually getting colder as the race went on.  I was fine, but I thought of Jenny and Luke doing the full marathon and hoped the weather wouldn’t make a turn for the worse.  When I got to the end of the tenth mile, I started to push.  When I got to a place that felt difficult but sustainable, I just kept trying to hold that pace.  I glanced at my watch, saw that I was hovering somewhere near 7:00 miles, so I just kept it going as long as I could.  I made the last turn before the finish, kicked as much as I could and crossed the line in 1:38:29, a new half marathon PR by about a minute and a half.

Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon finish
Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon finish

I’m very happy with this result, not so much because of the PR but because it points to good fitness for CIM in less than a month.

After I finished, I made a quick trip back to the hotel for a hot shower, then I went back to the course to cheer runners, especially my friends.  Just as I walked out the door of the hotel, it began to sprinkle.  After a while, that sprinkle turn into a solid rain, then later it turned to sleet.  I felt bad for the runners out on the full course having to deal with some nastiness.  I did get to see Luke and Jenny finish their races too.