This time last year I was now just one week into my recovery from the Run for Dom double. The Boston and Pittsburgh Marathons 13 days apart were “educational” for me to put it mildly. I survived the challenge and was able to exit both races healthy.
Now “healthy” for a marathoner after a race doesn’t mean “feeling great”. It is usually a couple of weeks later that I would choose those words to describe how my body feels. But I was injury free and that was truly a blessing. It meant that I had managed the nagging shin splint issue that I had throughout my training cycle well and I was going to be able to apply the things that I learned racing 52.4 miles for Dom into my training.
Boston taught me that I needed to get stronger on hills. Both up and down.
Pittsburgh taught me that I needed to get faster. 7:37 pace per mile was then and remains for one more year my Boston Qualifying time. In 2013 both my age group and the Boston Qualifying standards will be changing.
After the 2012 race, my last Boston as a member of the 40-44 year old age group, my qualifying time will rise to 3:25:00 as a 45-year-old. A new “standard” will be established. I will need to run 7:49 pace in the marathon to qualify for Boston.
That 7:37 split was something that I could run fairly comfortably a year ago. But I realized at Pittsburgh that if I was feeling a little off or the weather was bad, high humidity, high temps, high winds – 7:37 was difficult for me to deliver.
I needed to get faster so that I could make 7:15 feel as easy as 7:37 did. Getting stronger climbing and descending hills was going to help, but I was going to have to do some up-tempo work to get faster. With the Texas summer on the immediate horizon, I felt like I had a great opportunity in front of me.
Pounding out 15,16,18 mile long runs in the Austin heat made little sense with my next marathon not until February.
I was going to run shorter stuff and run it faster.
I was going to race.
Starting with the Congress Avenue Mile in May and ending with the IBM Uptown Classic 10K in October – I ran my first “Summer Race Season”.
1 Mile Race
7 5 K’s
All in the span of 100 days. One race every 10 days or so.
The more I raced the more I was able to push myself harder and longer. No matter how hard I feel like I am pushing on an up-tempo training run, there is nothing that compares to the adrenaline and rush that comes from racing.
Week after week I searched out races and incorporated them into my summer training plan. I stumbled upon a 5K race series that takes place weekly called the Summer Sunstroke Stampede – a 12-week series that alternates weekly between a trail along town lake in downtown Austin and the Brushy Creek Trail behind my house where I train.
These are chip-timed Wednesday night races held at 7:00 p.m. for $10. Hard to beat that price anywhere – especially given the type of workout the races provide.
I discovered the series in week #5 and was only able to participate in three races. Over that 4-week period my 5K race time on the Brushy Creek course improved from 20:23 to 19:44 to 19:28.
The Brushy Creek Course is a tough one, it includes a 4/10 of a mile climb up to the top of the Dam where I have run hill repeats in the past. A 4-5% grade lasting almost 1/2 of a mile over the final mile of a 5K race does not make for fast times. But seeing my improvement week to week, race to race helped me to keep pushing.
Just one month later I was able to break through and run my 5K Pr of 18:12 at the NOCC Balance 5K the day before Landry was born.
So all that racing made a huge difference last summer. This week, summer race season begins once again with the first Summer Sunstroke Stampede race on Wednesday night.
This first race will be a good litmus test to see where we are from a fitness standpoint still working our way back from our 5-week “vacation” from running due to that knee inflammation. I’m not expecting that we are going to see huge gains like we did last year, as I think a lot of that improvement was just me reaching some of my untapped potential.
But steady improvement over the next 90 days would be welcome as we start preparing for the NYC Marathon this November.
No longer is 7:37 per mile a number that we are fixating on. Nor is 7:15. The goal is to get down to that 7:04-7:06 range as a comfortably hard pace, so that the leap from there to a possible 3:05 Marathon in NYC is within our grasp.
We were in that kind of shape in February for the Austin Marathon, but lady luck and the weather did not cooperate. Hopefully we draw a different card the next time we toe the line at a marathon. In the meantime, we’ll be doing a little racin’. Gotta love it.