On April 2, the morning after Cherry Blossom, I had a chance to reflect on the race and a chance to determine what, if anything, I had to work on during the next 2.5 months in order to properly prepare myself for the USATF Half Marathon Championships in Duluth, MN. Of course, I DID have things to work on. My endurance, for one, was weak. I had gotten myself in shape quickly for the ten mile distance, but I obviously had trouble during those middle miles. An additional 5 kilometers could be trouble. Also, my 5k speed was about 50-seconds slower than PR-shape. So, I had a two pronged attack:
1. Uptick the mileage.
The problem – too much mileage might cause an injury relapse.
The solution – gradually increase the mileage, hold it steady, and press the pace/push the cardio instead upping the mileage total too high.
I am pleased with how I tackled this issue and, although I may not be “there” yet, I am confident I made solid gains in this department. Since Pikes Peek 10k, I’ve taken only one day off (last week during the start of my taper) and have averaged over 70 miles per week, or 10 miles per day. I ran hard long runs, sometimes back to back, in an effort to get tougher. Some of these runs (including 20 at 5:57 pace) made me question whether I might be in better shape for a full marathon than a half. At the end of the day, I did as much as I possibly could given the time allotted and given my knack for setbacks.
2. Get faster
Here is where I failed, sort of. I stopped doing track workouts due to re-occurring hip pain. It was determined that running too many ovals (fast) might have something to do with this. Instead I took to Cabin John and ran half mile hill repeats in an effort to emulate the work of my peers. After all, as Frank Shorter once said, "hills are speed in disguise". Despite all that, it was impossible for me to mimic fast running by myself in the woods. Then, I attempted to run a couple of low-key races, but neither were fast courses. So I got a good workout, but not that fast leg-turnover I craved. Maybe it didn’t matter and maybe effort trumped speed, but the clock don’t lie and the times were what I was after.
Duluth is now less than a week away. The only thing between me and 13.1 miles is the taper. Thankfully, I’ve always been pleased with how I taper. I am not afraid to take days off and would rather go into the race too rested than with too many miles.
Am I ready? I'd like to think I am. There is something magical about lining up at the starting line for a race you've been training for for months.