Woke up in Vermont on Saturday morning and ran 6.5 miles through Ludlow. Very cold and brisk morning - and I think the cold helped me. I also had a running partner, someone who has run three marathons, who surprised me when she said that she needed to walk the last half mile. She hadn't run in a couple of months - but still, I guess I am improving.
That sentiment was confirmed on Monday when I did my standard 3-mile lap around rockland lake. For two years, I've been trying to finish this lap in 30 minutes. Last year, I got down to about 30:20 and was probably only a couple of weeks away from the goal when I turned my ankle on a run, which knocked me out for a few months. By the time it healed, I was into winter.
I didn't resume running again until June, and I began at a point where all I could jog, even at a slow pace of 13-14 minutes per mile, was about 1.5 miles. It took about 3 runs before I could slow-jog the entire 3-mile lap. After that, I tried increasing the speed, and it was another few runs before I could complete the lap at lactate threshold pace. After that, I started lengthening the distance of my runs, and did not focus on speed.
However, among all those 6 and 9 mile runs were a bunch of 3-milers, and each time I'd do one, I'd run it as fast as I could because it was a pretty good benchmark of my improvement. Predictably, my times went down - and before long I matched last season's time. However, improvement after that seemed slow. Overtraining and life got in the way, not to mention summer heat, and times fluctuated around that 31-minute mark. Then, about a month ago, I ran while they were setting up for a marathon that was to be held there the next day. The Self-Transcendence marathon consists of almost 9 laps around rockland lake, and they have markers at every mile. Turns out that the track around the lake is actually about 100 yards short of a mile - and so all my times I mentioned above have to be adjusted accordingly. So I never ran 30:20, but instead I ran 31:00. Fortunately, the marathon has permanent markers painted, and now that I know what they are, I now have accurate mile measurements. I can run from mile 12 to 15 and say I ran an honest three miles.
Anyway, I had one intention with monday's run - breaking that mythical 30 minute barrier. Alex was there with me and she walked the opposite direction as me. I started at mile marker 18 and went out very fast, and was pretty tired at the end of the first mile. Since my time at that point was 9:40, I slowed down a tad to conserve energy for the second mile, which seemed to last forever. Alex and I passed each other at the end of mile 2 for me (mile 1 for her), and I was at 19:40 - a 10 minute pace for that split. I just had to maintain that pace and I'd have 20 seconds of leeway. I was very tired though, and I couldn't help slowing down just a little. Doubts started creeping in that third mile because I'd disappointed myself so many times in the past. As tired as I was, however, it went by quickly and I automatically entered a finishing kick. I crossed mile marker 18 where I started in 29:15 - and if it was only this that I completed in under 30, I would have been thrilled. But I wanted the honest three miles - so I really dug deep and maintained the pace. Crossed marker 21 in 29:45. I made it! 3 miles in under 30 minutes! It was very gratifying.
I don't have any 5Ks coming up, but I'd really be interested in seeing if I could complete the 3.1 miles in under 30.. the race setting tends to have you run a little faster than you would otherwise. Maybe I'll enter one.