On Saturday morning, I hopped aboard the Brooklyn-bound subway for a little four miler in Prospect Park.
Mangled bib … from running so fast?
Even though I wanted to do well, this race served as a training check-in point. Throughout the past six months, I’ve been working with Coach Pat to get my run dialed in, and for the past four months or so, I’ve been doing legitimate speed workouts. And yes, I did the Philadelphia Half-Marathon in November, but the Al Gordon 4 Mile event is clearly more in-line with the distances I’ll be covering as a short-course triathlete this season.
Shorter means faster, and when Coach Pat passed along the race pacing plan, I freaked out at first: ‘Coach Pat, you want me to go fast!’ But we talked it through and identified some key facts: training has gone extremely well, I’m developing at a great rate, etc. Above all, I trust Coach Pat. He’s not going to steer me in the wrong direction, and if he lays out an aggressive goal with seemingly fast-for-me splits, then he clearly believes in me—and I trust his plan. Plus, this was an exciting opportunity to see how much I’ve improved and see how precisely I could execute.
The race itself was a blur for the most part. Miles one and two (7:38 and 7:27) came and went pretty quickly, and even though both were a few seconds slower than the targeted splits, I remained calm. My brain remained “off” for the entire race, and shortly after mile two, everything clicked: it felt like a second wave of energy surged through my body. Muscle memory took over, and my legs began turning over even faster. ‘Smooth and strong. Smooth and strong.’ Cardiowise, the pace felt effortless. And when I looked down at my watch and saw 6:57 (mile three was 7:07), I could not believe it. ‘Just wait until Coach Pat hears about this!’ I tried not to become emotionally attached to the number and focused on the feeling instead: I was excited, I was happy, and I was grinning like a moron. ‘I LOVE RUNNING! THIS IS SO MUCH FUN!’ I felt like I was flying, and from miles two to 3.5, I caught that elusive, invincible feeling. And it was awesome.
I rode that high until mile 3.5 when my legs started screaming. That lactic acid buildup burned, and even though I associated this good type of pain with speedwork, I’m still building the leg strength and mental race game to work through it. (I know how to process it on the bike, which is because I have more experience on the bike. And Coach Pat says more VO2 max workouts will help too.) So I rode the pain train for the last half-mile, and my pace slowed, but I still eked out a 30:17.
So what am I thinking overall? I’m satisfied. I executed pretty well and posted a decent time. And I had so much fun. Above all, this outing gives me confidence heading into triathlon season. My opening miles felt incredibly sustainable, so hopefully this translates to solid miles off the bike.
What’s your favorite distance to race?