It's been a few days since I ran the Poppy Half, my 4th half marathon. It was one where I had hoped to FINALLY break the 2 hour mark after coming so close in Dublin. I had all kinds of grand plans!
However, I went into the race knowing it wasn't my time to break any records. A bad cold with only four weeks until the race left me unprepared. It took a while for me to ramp back up again and I struggled with any kind of speed the week of the half. So while disappointed, I heeded the advice of the wise Twitter running crew. I ran the Poppy Half for enjoyment....not to try and break my PB.
I have to admit that (like before any race!) a teeny weeny part of me thought some miracle might happen. That on Sunday I'd surprise myself and break 2:00 without even trying. But of course, there were no miracles. On a beautifully sunny Autumn day, I ran the Poppy Half in 2:11:57. Not horrible considering I was unprepared, but a good 10 minutes off my personal best.
My simple race strategy was to find a steady, comfortable pace and stick to it. If I felt good at the end I would try to speed up a bit. I never felt miserable during the race, but it was up and down. There were stretches where I felt quite good, followed by ones where I felt tired, like I was dragging. I was still hoping that I could really push it the final lap, but it just wasn't in me. I just tried to stay consistent and mustered a little sprint the final few yards.
So a slow race for me....but in some ways a good one. Why, you ask? It was a great learning experience, and I realized 3 big things:
1. Getting enough training makes a real difference. I guess this seems pretty obvious but this race really illustrated it for me. Comparing Dublin and Poppy, and the number of miles I ran 4 weeks before each race (not counting the taper week):
Looking at the simple numbers, it's not surprising that I ran Dublin much faster. My running volume for Poppy was about 43% less.
2. The speed wasn't there that day, but it's in there. No one likes to run a race 10 minutes slower than the last one, no matter what the reason. Especially me. But after the Poppy Half I really thought, wow. Compared to my run today, I must have been going SO MUCH faster to get that PB in Dublin. Ten minutes is a big difference, right? Feeling as I did on Sunday put my other race in perspective, and made me all the more proud of my PB. I CAN go faster. I HAVE gone faster. I WILL go faster!!
3. I love running. Maybe I'm stating the obvious again. But there was a time in my life when I never thought I'd run a half marathon at all...and now I'm running them for enjoyment! Looking forward to the half, planning to just have fun as I raced, running with less-than-ideal preparation. The Poppy Half reminded me how much running is now a part of my life and--despite the bad days--how much I love it. Why else would you be happy to run 13 miles for fun? :)
Now it's my 'rest' week. I'm getting a few runs in to prepare for another race on Sunday, the Old Deer Park 10K in Richmond. I decided to enter just a few weeks ago since a friend of mine was doing it. The offer of going to brunch afterwards was too tempting!
So the Poppy Half a week before and still trying to get up to speed, I expect this 10K will be a slow one. Nowhere near my 10K PB. But at least I know I'll have a great time and learn about myself as a runner in the process. And that can only be a good thing, right?