Sunday, October 30, 2005

Feet Didn't Fail Me Now

Ran the Silicon Valley Half Marathon this past Sunday morning at 7 a.m. in San Jose, my second attempt at the 13.1 mile distance. I ran a faster time than my first half in May (Avenue of the Giants in Humbolt), but overall my SV race wasn't a good one. I flat out got passed by 10 or more runners that I had a minute lead on–can you say c-h-o-k-e? The problem? I went out too fast (6:18 first mile) and couldn't settle into my goal pace of 6:30, or even nail a comfortable mid-way alternative such as 6:45 per mile. Instead I floundered about the course like a kite in the wind, and had nary an ounce of consistency in my legs.

Although the course was challenging–a winding asphalt bike path along the Los Gatos Creek trail, mostly shaded, but a snoozer for the eyes–it was no more daunting than the Ave Half was. The creek trail did include some leg-crunching ups and downs, but no significant sustained uphill climbs (whew!).

The tale of the tape–that is what my splits were per mile–gives a clear picture of where the heartbreak began: mile 1: 6:18 (early-race jitters?), mile 2: 6:22 (easing back the pace, but still too fast), then 6:26 (OK, getting a feel for the correct tempo), 6:32, 6:28, mile 6: 6:37 (the early speed catching up to my legs), mile 7: 6:51 (ouch, starting to slow down, get passed), 8: 7:02 (was that a wall back there? I must have hit it!), mile 9: 7:11 (I'm vulnerable now, recovery nearly impossible), then 7:16 (so this is what a lamb to the slaughter feels like...), 7:19, mile 12: 7:20 (a teammate comes up on my sholder and says "keep your focus"), it works, but I'm spent, mile 13.1: 8:11. Race over, chip-time: 1 hour, 29 minutes, 45 seconds.

So, I'm supposed to be happy. I was 2 minutes faster than the race in May. But my lack of discipline and, well, guts left a distaste as sour as Equal in my mouth, and frankly the post-race selection of beverages (Vitamin Water only) blew as well.

(not me, but I like the socks)

Any runner will tell you, experience is everything, and I learned more this time about pre-race training and focus than I have in the last three years of racing. Humility is a teacher, but neither did my feet fail me. They kept moving, one after the other as they were directed, so I can't complain. Next time, they just need better marching orders.