Sunday, November 2, 2008


Paula Radcliffe just won the New York City Marathon for the third time. Well actually, it happened several hours ago, and I saw it on the NBC recap a little bit ago. My only real goal for my long run this morning was to finish before noon so I could watch the marathon coverage. I even resisted looking up any results on the internet beforehand.

Paula's first New York City Marathon (and win) was in 2004, after her disappointment in the Athens Olympic Marathon. Then last year, she won less than ten months after giving birth to her daughter. Today, after again suffering a disappointment in the summer Olympics, Paula again sailed through New York to finish in 2:23:55 (unofficial time). Watching her with her daughter right after the finish, with the Union Jack draped around her shoulders, I was so impressed at how calm and collected she looked, and certainly not as though she had just run 26.2 miles at an average pace of less than five and half minutes!

That means that Paula's pace for the whole marathon was about half of my pace in a few of the slower miles in my long run. (My 12.6 mile, less than a half marathon long run.)

But since I am in no competition with Paula Radcliffe or any elite runner, I find that comparison rather amazing, rather than discouraging. I know I'll never run even one mile in five and half minutes. I am awed that anyone can do it for 26.2.

But other than being non-elite caliber, today's run was pretty satisfactory. After about 5K I paused for a moment to take a few pictures with my phone of the fall foliage in the Arboretum. Then I took another ten minutes or so (that could have been an extra mile!) sending a picture with a text message to a friend (I am so lame with texting).

The rather long break in the Arboretum did allow my warmed up legs to cool down, and mile 4, out of the Arboretum and back onto the road, was my slowest at 11:02. I also noticed that perhaps the reason the first three miles had seemed relatively quick and easy was because I'd had the wind at my back, as I headed south into a brisk breeze.

I hadn't decided how far to run today, planning somewhere between ten and thirteen miles, depending on the weather, how I felt, and of course, how much time I had to get home before noon. As I hit downtown at about six and a half, seven miles and continued south, all these factors seemed to be coming together to suggest turning around at nine miles or so would be a good plan.

There's something about running through downtown that works for me. Maybe it's because I'm usually past the five or six mile mark when I get there, and that's the point where I start to go into the zone, and really want to keep running, instead of feeling like I have to, just to meet some arbitrary distance goal. So I flew (relatively speaking) through downtown, hampered only by the streetlights which persisted in turning red as I approached. South of 41st I hit a big hill, which I momentarily resented ("Las Vegas is flat, I don't need to be training for hills"), but also realized would give me a big break on the way back.

Nine miles took me further south on Colby than I'd ever been running, which was an interesting experience. If I'd gone much further I'd be well on my way to the mall! (Whoop-de-doo.) (This also illustrated how difficult it is to rack up mileage just running around town. Everything is so much closer than you think.)

So I turned around at a light on 52nd, and figured I had about a three mile, mostly downhill route to get to Starbucks near my house. So, although I hadn't intended this in advance, this seemed like a good opportunity to turn this into a sort of "progression run," or more accurately perhaps, a 3/1 run as described by Hal Higdon.

So keeping in mind that the first nine miles covered a pretty good spectrum between 10:06 and 11:02,* I picked up my pace for the remaining three. With the assistance of gravity, and a little bit of push, here were my final splits:

Mile 10—9:09 (Half marathon pace)
Mile 11—8:45 (10K pace)
Mile 12—8:32 (8K pace)

Mile 10 turned out to be the exact pace I would need for a two hour half marathon. The 10K and 8K paces in 11 and 12 are my average pace for those distances, although I have been faster in some of my better 10K's. I had no idea those times would turn out so coincidentally. I was just trying to run a decent pace, hopefully under a nine-minute mile.

There was a minute or so during Mile 12 where I was convinced that the Garmin had totally lost it. Or the satellites had, or something. I've felt that way before, when I was running what felt like a moderately decent pace yet the Garmin showed a 13-14 minute pace (impossible). This was the very opposite. Against my better judgment, I kept glancing at my wrist and was shocked to see the pace as 5-something... which was, I can assure you, totally inaccurate. A few moments later it was 6-something. Then 7-something. Finally, in the 8-something range I felt that perhaps sanity had been restored. That was the mile that ended at 8:32, which I think was fair. I'm keeping it, anyway.

Unlike last week's 8:37 final mile, this time I did not feel wrecked after that final mile (possible because of the boost I got with the downhill grade). I actually felt like... keeping going. I'm sure that even easing back a bit, which I probably would have done, I could have done another mile or so around the nine minute pace. But I was on a time schedule, and I was at my destination, and there will be plenty of time for more miles on other days.

I had to run a little bit off route to finish the twelve miles before stopping at Starbucks. So by backtracking, my running distance to Starbucks was 12.16 miles. I walked home from Starbucks, which added half a mile. The Garmin told me the run used up 1,481 calories, so I didn't feel too guilty about the delicious cinnamon scone** I took home with me to eat while I watched the marathon.

I got home at exactly 11:55, just in time! (And, in another display of amazing speed, managed to take a shower during one of the commercials.)

I wonder what Paula Radcliffe is doing this afternoon after the marathon? Playing with her daughter and eating a good meal? Having a massage? Taking a long nap? I'll bet she's not cleaning house! Well...unfortunately...neither am I.

*And it was definitely not progressive.
**Starbucks says 410 calories and the other website says 510... I prefer Starbucks' data! Although regardless, it all pretty much depends on the size of the scone.

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