Lately, I have been second-guessing my BQ attempt. Training is going flawlessly, but I am not seeing the gains in speed that I had hoped for. I did just set two PRs in the half marathon and the 5K, but they weren't significant enough for me to really think that a BQ was in the cards for me.
Now, my confidence has been restored.
This morning, I ran 17 miles. The first three were slow warm-up miles and then the remaining 14 were at marathon goal pace. I was aiming for 8:23-8:24 as my target. I did just run 13.1 miles at an average 8:17 pace in Richmond, so it seems like this training run shouldn't be an issue. However, that was in the context of a race, with race-day adrenaline and a mini taper. This run comes after having run 90 miles in the first 12 days of December, including two 12-milers just this week.
It was cold and sunny, with the occasional 15 MPH wind gust. It was about 31 degrees at the start and probably around 36 at the end. I wore the shoes that I am planning to wear in the marathon, my beloved Brooks Adrenaline GTS 6, which have been discontinued for two years, but I have a few remaining pairs, which I reserve for occasions like this. I won't wear the shoes again until race day.
As I began the run, I realized that I was wearing an extra 3-4 pounds of clothing, not to mention the water bottle I was carrying. I felt weighted down and I was wondering if I could actually hit target pace with this extra clothing. After the three warmup miles, it was time to start running at marathon pace. I sped up to something that felt noticeably harder, but still comfortable. I clocked the first mile at 8:32. I typically start all my runs slower and end faster, so I was fine with this pace for the beginning.
I picked it up during the 4th mile, because I knew I had to, and I was finally warmed up to my new faster pace. It didn't feel easy and I was seriously doubting that I would be able to do the full 14 at this kind of pace. But, I reminded myself that usually my runs don't feel good until I am 5 or 6 miles into the run (which is why I am horrible at 10Ks)! Sure enough, I did start to feel good during mile 5.
I ate sports beans at mile 5 and mile 10. I typically do not use any sort of fuel on my long runs because I want my body to learn how to burn fat for fuel. But today was an exception and almost like a rehearsal for the race. It was also good practice in eating the beans while maintain the target pace.
Interestingly, I did not have to stop for traffic at all during this run. There were three spots where I had to cross busy intersections and I was extremely lucky that I had the right of way each time. I was looking forward to my forced stop at mile 12, but it didn't happen. Which is for the best, anyway. I threw away my empty water bottle and cranked out the last three miles.
The 8:11 was a surprise. I felt myself slowing down, but I think I must have mentally told myself that I really couldn't afford to slow down, so I overcompensated. And then I knew I could nail the last mile at a sub-8:00.
The average pace for this run was 8:20, which is the pace of a 3:38 marathon. The total time was 1:56:40. Yay!
The great thing about this run was that my legs didn't hurt or get tired. After having running so many miles in the past two weeks, my legs felt awesome. I think I might have some minor soreness tomorrow, but I will definitely be ready for another 50+ week next week.
Only two weeks of hard training remain, and then I begin my taper. I am so very thankful that I have managed to complete all of these training runs without getting injured. I just need to make it to Phoenix in one piece and the weather has to cooperate! I would actually prefer to race in weather like today (35 degrees) then something in the low 60's, which is what Arizona is typically like.