Thursday, February 9, 2012

Will I ever learn?

When one asks such a question it tends to be rhetorical. Yet in this case, it would appear that it is not, and I will not learn.

Last weekend, I was feeling strong, my legs weren't -- for the first time in weeks -- bugging me and the weather was prime for a PR in Davis. But as you know from any other race recap I have ever written, I go out too fast, over shoot and slow down toward the end. And thus without reading further you have the short version of The Davis Stampede recap.

Here is the longer story.

It was cold. Mid-30s but completely still in the predawn hours last Sunday. I climbed into my buddy's car and we drove off to Davis from Sacramento. When we arrived in Davis, runners were warming-up and doing their pre-game rituals. I said good-bye to my buddy who went to read and then watch the finish line festivities and I took in a warm-up mile. The sun graced us with its presence bring the route to a perfect upper-40s-ish gun time temperature.

As we lined up for the race I found the 1:45 pace leader and that was where the trouble began. Asking what her plan was she told me she was aiming for a 7:50 to 7:55 m/m for the first 10 miles and then provide a 30 second buffer on the big hill* and then cruse to the end at about 8 m/m.

That is the wrong way to do it but, I was a) feeling good and b) stupid, so I followed her. The right way is to negative split, or for those of you sane readers, run your slowest miles first and speed up as you go. But as we were going, I thought I could hold on for the long haul. WRONG.

The first two miles were in Downtown and South Davis and were fun, easy and flat. Then we hit the Davis Loop and a number of other bike paths that weave through the not-so-studenty part of town. After a few more miles of bike paths and we hit the roads again and then up and into the nature buffer around Wildhorse golf club.

And this is where I started to fall apart.

The gravel path got narrow. There was a small crash near a water station that put me further behind the pace group than I would have liked. The gravel made my gate inconsistent and difficult. Around mile 7.5 I really started to feel it and my pace slowed considerably to 8:30ish. Once off the gravel, I never really recovered.

Over the big hill which was pretty hard to deal with at mile 9 and change, I was into the final push and I should have taken my second Power Bar Gel. This regularly happens to me: run hard and at about 9 I say, I am so close I don't need another gel. I now direct your attention to the title of this post...

So the final mile, which I was hoping to clock at about 7:45 or so, was closer to 8:10 and 9 through 12 were solidly 8:30s. I was totally gassed.

I did have a little kick for the last quarter mile and my buddy did get some great film of the run by with about 200 yards to go.

Thanks to the photographers, I couldn't see which finish line signage that directed me to the half marathon finish and I started yelling; this outburst resulted in some fantastic pictures.


So, in the end I crossed just 24 seconds shy of my PR. This was after a sort of bonk and I will take it gladly. I had fun, I am not (too) hurt and I got my first race of 2012 under my belt.

Perhaps I will listen to my brain as I toe the line next time as opposed to my gut. Running is a sport of strategy and self-awareness. You cannot be talked into being faster, you must work for it and know before you get out there that you have it. Simply put: I will train my ass off and hopefully learn my lesson.

Now for the next one. Any suggestions? I am looking for 1:45 before I come to NYC in November for the ING New York City Marathon...let me know what you think.

*In Davis the big hill is an overpass.

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