Tuesday, October 21, 2014

New PRs Are Possible (even when you're old)

This past wekeend I ran the St Louis Rock & Roll Half-Marathon. My personal best for this distance was 1:33 set in Madison, WI way back in 2000. I was fast back then and I ran a lot of road races (5Ks, 10Ks, half-marathons, and marathons). In 2000, I was getting hooked on trails too, but the ultramarathons were still in my future. Now in 2014, I was a bit frightened of the challenge a half-marathon presented. It's a tough combination of both speed and endurance. And the St Louis RNR half was on roads. I'm now a solid trail ultra guy. Roads are not my thing.

I signed up for this race a long time ago--about 6 months ago because of "the bet" I had with Joe at work. We challenged each other to train consistently and toss in some speed work. This race would be the "final test" of our training. Yeah, I did some reasonable mileage, and I did incorporate a little speed work, but my focus has always been on the ultras. Only recently did I shift more toward tempo and progression runs with some 1-mile repeats. Would it be enough to win the bet? Enough to not embarrass myself?

Race morning dawned with cool temperatures, calm winds, and a rising sun. It was going to be a fantastic race day. Not sure if I'd make my goal (1:35) for "the bet" with Joe, but it seemed possible. We walked from our hotel to the starting line together. The sun was coming up from behind the Arch. It was pretty sweet. Could this be my day? I knew I'd be fine to about 10 miles, but the last 5K might turn nasty if my pace was too fast in the first part of the race. My mantra for the race was "Hold back, stay steady, finish strong." 5 miles easy, 5 miles strong and steady, 3.1 miles hard.

First 5 miles. When the starting gun sounded, I took off. I knew I had to remain under control, but everything felt good. My first mile was 6:44 pace. Does that count as "holding back?" Yikes. Then 7:18, 7:09, 6:50, and 7:09. The multiple hills made it very difficult to maintain consistent pace. I went for consistent effort. It worked. Average HR each mile: 163-163-162-162-161. Perfect. Faster pace than expected, but about the right heart rate. Maybe I was holding back just enough...even with a 7:02 pace for first 5 miles.

Second 5 miles. I felt great at the 5 mile mark and I had a fantatstic cushion toward my 1:35 goal. Keep steady, stay strong. The hills came and went. My mile splits: 6:55-7:04-7:21-7:14-6:59. Again, hard to keep consistent pace on the darn hills, but effort was steady. Average HR for each of these miles: 160-159-161-160-162. This section had an avaerage pace of 7:06. Still below the 7:15 needed for a 1:35 finish. Excellent. I slowed just a bit, but I stayed strong.

Last 3.1 miles. Oh my...I knew I was almost certain to hit my 1:35 goal. And my 1:33 personal best seemed within reach too. Was I too ambitious? Would I crash and burn? Could I actually "finish strong?" My heart and lungs were still in the game, but my legs were starting to feel the pounding. They wanted to let up. Instead of resilient limbs, my legs were turning to lead beams. Heavy. Inflexible. My brain was telling me to slow down. I'd still get the 1:35. What's the rush? My mind fought back. Only a couple miles to go, hang in there, increase the effort, hold the pace. 7:04-7:01-6:54. (Heart rate: 163-164-173). I ran the last 1/10th mile fast. It was a sprint to the finish! Done. 1:32:35. 82nd overall out of 6,361 finishers (7th out of 298 in my division). Most importantly, I won the bet and I SET A NEW PERSONAL RECORD!

Old dudes can still set new PRs.

Less than 4 weeks to the Tunnel Hill 50 miler. I plan on setting another new personal best at that race. Bring it on.


wyldrunner@Through a Running Lens said...

Congratulations!! That is an awesome accomplishment, and it gives all of us "old" runners hope. I have started training and racing by HR monitor as well and am hoping that I will see some new PRs in the upcoming year.It is great to see it working for you.

Chris Ⓥ said...

Thanks. I'm excited too! I see more PRs in my future. Best of luck with your training and racing.