When I finished Ironman Canada last year, my coach gave me a very cute little home-baked package of “PB biscotti”. Those tasty little peanut butter biscotti didn’t last long. Personal best biscotti!
After some really brutal wind and rain on Saturday, we were lucky to get a perfect day to race the first half marathon of the year (well, February in Vancouver perfect that is!). And despite being early in the season, the fast course did not disappoint…it was a PB biscotti kind of day!
I have not had an ideal start to the 2011 season, with two bouts of the flu and less-than-stellar work ethic - my heart just is not into cold weather riding and running. I signed up for the First Half as an early season benchmark (and because it is a great race!), but did not specifically train nor taper for it. This week was a 10 hour quasi-recovery week of training and included a miserable two hour ride in the rain the day before the race. Given the lack of training and taper, my “reasonable expectation” was to run close to my PB (1:35) and my stretch goal was to go a little under this. I knew, however, that averaging a sub-4:30 per km pace was ambitious.
I felt good on race morning so the plan was to try to hit 4:15 to 4:20 for the first half of the race then hold a 4:30 the remainder of the race. I did not want to torture myself with the math (4:20 multiplied by 21.2…argh!) and also was aware that the heavy lifting would come in the last 4k of the race so I tucked my watch under my glove and ran with abandon (actually I was rocking out to my i-Pod if you must know the truth)! Fabulous calm weather and the comfort of running the seawall, which is a route I run at least twice a week, made for really good fun.
My RPE was around 85%. I felt comfortable and was very capable of making small talk, so I was totally shocked when I took a little peek at my 310XT at the 10k mark and saw 42 minutes. I panicked a little. First thought was that I had accidentally stopped my watch but then realized that I was properly measuring distance so that was not the case. Next thought was “oh shit”. I had just PB’d my open 10k time by over a minute. Totally awesome, except for the obvious problem that I had eleven more kilometers to go…..
For the next three kilometers, I waged a little inner battle over pushing to the limit versus running more conservatively. I swear there was a little red devil on my shoulder yelling “faster”!!! I hung in at roughly 4:20’s for the next three kilometers and evaluated the situation. I felt great, but I had a long way to go. At third beach and roughly fourteen kilometers, I made the conscious decision to (a) slow down to roughly 75% RPE and (b) stop looking at my damn watch because it was stressing me out! I am admittedly conservative towards the last third of any race and am quite scared of blowing up….this tends to be the source of post-race regret from time to time, but it’s just the way I work.
When we transitioned onto the gravel around lost lagoon, followed by a series of short ups and downs through English Bay to the finish, I was glad that I had turned down the intensity and had enough in the tank to started passing people along Beach Avenue. This is usually where I completely fade. At 19 kilometres, I peeked at the watch again and saw an hour 22 elapsed. Two kilometers left, and I was solidly in PB range. All I needed to do was hang together two easy kilometers and I was there. 10 minutes, max.
I realize that the five-minute-kilometer conservative thinking is self-defeating, but for me, envisioning the worst-case scenario provides a little safety net. When I am in the “what if I start running fives” safe zone, I know I can comfortably dial back to my steady state run pace and not disturb the relative outcome of the race. It is an interesting mind trick, however, because I was still managing 4:30’s despite having it in my mind that I was running fives. Somehow I think that telling myself to run slower just calms me down. Even if my legs aren’t listening!
Resorting to this approach miraculously gave me enough energy to sprint to the finish and I outran two other women close to the line. It felt good to finish this way instead of suffering. I know my conservatism cost me in total time, but it was ok by me. I finished with a very unexpected 3 1/2 minute personal best at 1:31:29, and felt great. Asking for any more (or in this case, less!) would have just been too gluttonous in the PB department.
I am really proud of my brother-in-law for finishing his first half marathon. Peanut butter biscotti for everyone!!
(Note**: Coach Calvin's lovely wife Leanne is the one who bakes the yummy PB biscotti. Coach Calvin is strictly in charge of Quality Control and Distribution.)