May 12, 2009

Turning back the clock: March 12, 2009 Run

I started working on this post almost immediately after posting the (rather depressing) 25K race report. a much more positive vibe.

I haven't written on this blog about Rockland Lake too much lately, probably because reports my daily routine training runs have largely moved to twitter where they belong. But let's not make any mistake: when I feel want to run a flat stretch of asphalt, I head straight for congers because Rockland Lake is about as good as it gets. Before I got heavily into trail running, I usually referred to it as "my favorite place to run" and that sentiment still holds true for road running. It's scenic, busy but not crowded, traffic-free, and about as interesting as a flat 3-mile asphalt course can be. I love running there.

I'm started exercising in rockland lake in the winter of 2004-2005, back when my weight was probably over 350, and my first mention of it on this blog was June 2005 (4 years ago - holy crap!) I wrote about when I started running this course.
Whereas when I started I couldn't even run the 3-mile lap around Rockland lake, I am now pretty close to breaking the 30-minute mark. When I first got to the point where I could actually make it all the way around the lake without walking, I was doing it in about 40-45.
and also commented about a goal i would have for years
When I break 30 minutes on that Rockland Lake course, I'm going to have some sort of gluttonous celebration.
I think I finally broke 30 minutes in fall 2007. I don't appear to have posted anything about the accomplishment on this blog and I don't have a log of it in motionbased, so I don't know exactly when. I remember being very excited. It took years.

Since then, I've been using the course to test myself. It's a little far from my house, so I'm not using it as much as I used to - Usually head for other courses for most of my day-to-day running. Occasionally, however, I'll make the 20-minute drive over and treat myself to a run there and I almost always do it hard to see where my fitness is. As a rule of thumb, I figure that if I can break 30, I'm doing ok.

And 30 minutes was what I would have been happy with on March 12, 2009. I've had a pretty successful winter and my mileage has been rather high (for me). It was about a week and a half after a 50K PR and a month after the DNF at rocky raccoon 100 where I went 60 miles. I had run trails the day before, about 850 feet of gain on a technical 4.5 miles in 55 minutes. I was running well, and figured I'd probably break 30, maybe hit a PR which, as I recall, was 29:15 or so. As a goal, I mentally figured 29:00.

29 minutes for a 3 mile flat asphalt course. It was an aggressive goal but possible. If someone had told me I could run 28:30, I'd respond "I'd have to have a real good day." Sub-28:00 I would have said "no way" and sub-27:00 was downright unthinkable. impossible. laughable.

My time running Rockland Lake on March 12, 2009 was 26:08.

I often look at the GPS log, because I still have a hard time believing that I ran the course in this time. It's unreal.

Here's how it happened:

A half-mile in, I looked at the pace per mile, saw 8:30, and started kicking myself for going out too fast. What was I thinking?? I backed off to what I thought was about 9:15 and continued. After a mile, I was still running sub 9:00 and was starting to wonder when I'd crash. Yeah I felt fine - No way I could sustain this. "What the hell was wrong with me?", I thought. I'm usually very good at controlling my pace.

After a mile and a half, the damage had been done. A sub-9:00 mile probably would keep me from finishing at even a sub-10:00 pace, but at least I'll have the 30-minute finish in the bag. There really wasn't anything to lose at this point, so I kept pushing it hard. I finally started feeling the pace at about the 2-mile mark - but by now I was wondering if I could sustain this? Or at least something close to this? On top of a tiring body, my brain was doing calculations - I was running right at 9:00 - If I can maintain it, perhaps I can finish under 28:00? That would be cool.

By mile 2.5 I was really huffing an puffing, but it was time to finish. Instinctively, I picked up my pace for a finishing kick. My head was still calculating and it became apparent that I would probably finish in under 28:00. The timer said 22-something! I didn't know exactly long it would take, but it wasn't 6 minutes at this pace, even if I backed off. Which meant - that 27:00 was in the cards? Couldn't be. No way.

Still, I ran - hard - and these mind-games were keeping me going despite the increasing pain. Sometimes it's like that - me vs. the watch - and under the right circumstances, even the most inspiring or mean or effective coach can't move me the way this little piece of electronics. The circumstances were ideal and I pushed through it. The finish line became visible about a quarter-mile out and the time was right around 24:00. And I ran the one of the most difficult quarter-miles of my life. 25:00 came and went and I was turning the corner for the final stretch. Pushing as hard as I can, my mind was still in disbelief. Something went wrong.

So.. two months later my training has dropped off dramatically and I have a lot of work to do to get to where I was - but the reality is that it happened. By march 12th, several months of consistent training, plus every right factor - weather, nutrition, attitude - apparently came together to create such a dramatically improved time. It's exciting.

-steve