Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Steady Pace

The first three miles of the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon last month in DC had taken my training partner Lia and myself from the Washington Monument across the Potomac and back and up Rock Creek Park getting the two of us free of the constricting masses at the start of the race, to where we had more room to run.  We settled into a quickening pace where Lia was now leading the two of us in picking off runner after runner instead of me leading us in gliding from tiny open space to open space.  (We passed by the Lincoln Memorial, pictured during a summertime training run, twice in the first three miles, with one more passage by it coming up in the latter part of the race as we headed for the dreaded Haines Point.)

Going the next three miles up Rock Creek Park we noticeably got under a nine-minute per mile pace, which boded well for breaking two hours in the 13.1 mile race, which requires a 9:09 pace or better, to where we had a two or three minute cushion already in our quest.  Lia made me smile when upon seeing the turn-around cone up ahead she said, "Now our work really begins because we'll be going uphill on the way back."  (I had practiced running around the desolate Haines Point, pictured during a training run in May, but I always hated it because of its length and the wind blowing in unpredictably off the water.)

I assured her we would now be going downhill, or downstream, as soon as we rounded the cone and she immediately started attacking the race at that point, taking advantage of the downhill aggressively, a superior tactic that I would not have done on my own because I was getting tired by then and starting to flag.  I hung on following six feet behind her for the next couple of miles as she barreled past runner after runner, always looking for someone else to pass.  (Lia running strongly during a training run in April.)

By the seventh mile I was used up though and I caught up with her one last time and told her to go for it and leave me behind, to make the race her own now and break two hours if she could sustain the pace.  She somehow increased her pace further and soon she was out of sight ahead of me, and I settled into getting through the grueling middle part of the race, slowing down necessarily due to fatigue but hoping I could hang on to break two hours myself, watching runner after runner pass me, and I passed the ten-mile marker at 1:26:44, an 8:40 pace, formerly a common mark for me but one that was now undreamed of by me ever since suffering my injured ankle, a chronic injury, five years earlier at the 2009 ATM.  (As the race crossed by the Lincoln Monument the third time beyond the eight-mile mark, I was trying to hold onto a sub-two hour pace while my training partner was long gone enroute to smashing her PR by a staggering amount.)

No comments: