As befits my procrastinator personality, I waited until the last minute (actual day) to run 8.25 miles in honor of the birthday girl. Actually, to give myself credit, I could have plucked 8.25 miles out of any of several runs in the last week, but I really did want to run the 8.25 on 8/25. Because I am geeky that way.
I even carb-loaded last night with dinner at Lombardi's. A great way to justify eating pasta! (And, um, bread....) It was also the last day for my free birthday dinner coupon, so I enjoyed my $18.95 plate of Spaghettini with Dungeness Crab on the house. (And my accompanying salad on my folks' tab!) I have a little bit of leftover pasta for today, too.
I had all sorts of good intentions of getting up extra early to make sure I got the mileage in without making myself late for work. (Even though 8.25 miles is a typical weekday distance for me, I figured I'd want a warm-up before and cool-down after, making the total running time longer than usual.) I even woke up before 5 a.m., thinking I'd hit the road at 5:30 or 5:45. But I started reading my book, and cuddling with one of my cats (who, for once, wasn't using me as a pincushion but was instead just snuggling up with me, creating a barrier between me and the floor), and before I knew it, it was almost 6 a.m.
So I finally jumped out of bed and threw on some running clothes (wisely set out the night before). I pre-fueled with half of a peanut butter & chocolate PR bar (setting the stage for a morning of chocolatey-ness) and a few chocolate-covered espresso beans. I strapped on all my gear, set the Garmin, and stepped out the door to our pleasant late-summer upper-50's coolness. (It's supposed to get to the mid-70's today and then be cooler over the next few days. Our humidity is about 50%, which I guess is about the perfect level, because it doesn't feel humid at all but doesn't desiccate you like the desert does either.)
I knew I had to do some kind of warm-up before I started "counting" my distance, so I decided to use the first half mile or so (which covers the first hill) to get the early morning lead out of my legs. If that wasn't enough I could extend the warm-up to a mile, although I really wanted to get going on the real race!
I modified my usual running route to start out going south for a couple miles before doubling back, therefore adding extra distance at the beginning instead of the end. The downside of this is that those first couple miles are gradually uphill...the upside is that I then get to go back down!
My intention with this race was to use it as a tempo run, a "comfortably hard" effort that I could sustain throughout the run (although I could not manage a pace that I would consider an acceptable 10K or 15K race pace).
One of the differences between a "real" race and virtual race is (at least for me) that in a virtual race you don't have the adrenaline fueled starting kick of a race with actual competitors. You know, that kick that makes you go out way too fast and (sometimes) record a first mile split that is faster than any of the following ones?
Well, in this race I was apparently still warming up for the first mile, even though I thought I was giving it a strong effort. Mile 1 - 9:27.
In order to help give a boost to my overall pace, I decided to employ a strategy that has worked to speed me up a little in the past. For each mile I ran .75 at the aforementioned "comfortably hard" effort, then for the last quarter mile I would step it up a gear and try to run as close to 10K effort as possible. This worked best on miles where the last quarter did not happen to be uphill!
The first mile and a half was gently climbing, and then my route switched to slightly downhill until the end of mile 6! (That is, with a short uphill stretch, about a quarter of a mile, at the beginning of miles 4 and 5.) Miles 2-6 - 8:55, 9:03, 8:50, 9:07, 8:54. I thought that my effort seemed a little bit hard for what was essentially "easy" half marathon pace (or goal marathon pace), but on the other hand, at least I was averaging sub-9.
In miles 7 and 8 I was repeating part of the climb from the beginning of my route, but I was staying strong and, in fact, sped up a little in mile 8, my final full mile of the race! Mile 7 - 8:53, Mile 8 - 8:43.
My final quarter mile was all downhill and I threw it all out there—.25 mile at 8:02 pace. Okay, maybe it wasn't all out there. If it had been, my pace would have been solidly under 8:00.
I jogged the remaining quarter mile to Starbucks, giving me total mileage for the morning just over nine miles.
At Starbucks I got myself a mini-mocha to celebrate the end of the race and toast MCM Mama! (Sorry the print is so small. Time to get yourself a pair of readers....!)