This time, however, I am HERE FOR IT. Sure, I still have time left to get in a few good workouts to top off my fitness but I think for the first time in quite a while I've arrived at this point in training with more confidence than questioning. In past cycles I've always felt generally positive about my training three weeks out, while at the same time wishing I had done "X" better or run "Y workout" stronger.
I have not had a perfect training cycle. Still, I've been working towards this particular goal of mine long enough to know that reaching this point in training with all my pieces in working order is an absolute gift. I know I've done the work. I also know I've made some adjustments that will hopefully help bridge whatever gap that seems to always pop up between me and a true "breakthrough" race.
Last weekend I ran my third 20 miler of this cycle. I rolled it into the Chicago Get Lucky Half Marathon and planned to run 10 of those miles in my goal marathon pace range. This was the first time in quite a while that I didn't go into a half marathon intending to race "all out" and for some reason just knowing I wasn't pushing it to my maximum made me feel like running 20 miles was no big deal. I mean, I do know in my brain that 20 milers are never easy but something about being in a race environment while not really racing took a load off me mentally.
The plan was for 4 miles easy just before the race, run the half marathon, then knock out an easy cooldown 3. I was also instructed by my coach to go out the first 3 miles at a pace that was about 30 seconds slower than my marathon pace, gradually speed up every couple of miles, then finish all out as fast as I wanted. This is kind of advice I always give myself but somehow am never able to execute.
Until this race!
I don't think I've ever felt so good at a half marathon. Sure I wasn't racing full out but I also wasn't slumming it either. I was pushing it by the end, just that slow start made all the difference in the world. From mile 3 to the end I consistently passing people- and I'm not really sure if I was even passed at all. What a huge confidence boost that was! I never really think about racing other runners at events but it definitely helped me mentally to run so strong. Even a brisk headwind throughout all of the second half of the race couldn't take me down. *pew pew*
After finishing the race I took a couple of minutes to refill my water bottle, stuffed my medal in my pocket, and headed out for my last 3 miles. Bing bang boom.
Now all I have to do is execute with the same precision on April 1st! Obviously easier said than done (my race history a case in point) but after last weekend I feel like I've acquired a new skill to help get me there.