Sunday, March 29, 2009

Running Would-Be

Today I didn't run Whidbey. Instead I ran Would-Be. As in, I would be running the Whidbey Island Half Marathon, except... except... that I'm not.

Up until about twelve days ago I was registered for the Whidbey Island Half. I fully anticipated running the Bath Half, holidaying in England, flying home, and running another half marathon just over a week later.

I was crazy.

After I ran Bath, doing another half marathon again soon seemed so, so impossible.

There was my distinctly mediocre performance in Bath. Now it's one thing flying to England for a destination race, where the race day is only 10% of the entire trip, and you're staying in charming hotels and sightseeing and eating scones and cream, and doing lots of stuff that's just as fun as running. (Possibly, just possibly, more so.) And if your time in this faraway race is less than admirable, well, the important thing is that you've run a half marathon in England and everyone is 5000 miles away anyhow.

But Whidbey, on the other hand, although a lovely place, is too close to home to be a destination race, but is far enough away that you have to leave home at the crack of dawn to get there. And if you did decide to spend the night before the race up there to save on the drive, it wouldn't be in a charming inn (such as Captain Whidbey), but in a motel in Oak Harbor, as close to the start of the race as possible.

And moreover, Whidbey has baggage. Or more precisely, I have Whidbey baggage. That being my half marathon PR from 2007 (1:54:30) and a pretty darn good time from 2008 (just over two hours even). The idea of most likely finishing so much slower this year was a little hard to bear. Plus I know at least two people running this race, who I would have been competitive with in better days, but would undoubtedly beat the pants off of me this year. Hard to take.

I know that last paragraph sounds terribly whiny and self-indulgent, but I think it's legitimate. I do believe that part of building myself up again includes not dragging myself down by doing things that make me feel bad about myself. So I've put races on hold until I get my act reliably together a bit. That may only be a few weeks, or it may be longer. I'm taking it one day at a time.

Obviously, that does not mean not running. I can't run better if I don't run. So this afternoon I set out on my Would-Be long run. One advantage of Would-Be over Whidbey: start time. Whenever I want. And that turned out to be mid-afternoon, after I finished Eclipse and when the sun was truly shining brightly. (But luckily, not too warmly.)

I thought I'd do eight miles, maybe further, at a moderate pace. Without judging whatever pace that turned out to be.

The first mile was 10:59, okay for mile 1, and of course, not to be judged. But after that I leveled out to around 10:30 miles, or a bit faster. My average pace, at the end, was 10:24, which included the first slower mile, and the last mile and a half at sub-10 times.*

And how many miles did my eight mile run turn out to be? Actually, eleven. I did the Anthony's waterfront loop, but squeezed in a couple of extra miles in the first half of the route, so that I was already over six miles when I left the marina area. I decided I would check the distance when I got to the top of Broadway, to decide whether I should complete the Riverside portion of the run or just go straight down Broadway.

Well, by the time I got to Broadway I was over eight miles, and I knew if I went into Riverside I was looking at more than ten miles, maybe closer to the full half marathon distance. I didn't feel that was necessary, or advisable at all!

So I just veered onto Broadway and followed it south toward QFC. Even with this shortened route, the distance was adding up. I hit ten miles somewhere around 16th, ten and a half by 23rd. It looked like eleven was going to be the magic number.

I had consciously increased my pace on Broadway, noting with some gratification that there was just the slightest downhill slope going south. (That is, after going up two hills in the north end!) I rounded the corner at Everett Avenue, pushing myself north again on McDougall. I hit eleven miles just past Starbucks, and immediately stopped the Garmin and turned back to walk into the QFC parking lot. I walked for a moment to cool down and check my splits, then headed into QFC and Starbucks.

I ordered a latte, and decided that my eleven mile run could absorb a cinnamon scone.** Normally I would walk home and eat it there, but the sun was shining and warm enough, so I sat down at one of the outdoor tables to eat and drink some of the latte. Luckily it doesn't take me too long to eat a scone, though, because after the running heat dissipated from my body I started to feel a little bit cool in my sweaty clothes.

I walked the half mile home at a leisurely pace, trying to shake off the stiffness that had settled in during my short sit. What hadn't worn off, happily, was the pleasure and satisfaction from a good run, and even, dare I say, a few lingering endorphins. The Would-Be run was a great success!

*10:30 miles are not desirable race pace, but that was the pace I was doing for long training runs during "better days" last summer. So I feel good about it.

**This is why I am not thin. I eat up my running calories in treats.

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