Sunday, April 30, 2017

Highlander Half Marathon Plan B - facing the facts

Plan B for the Highlander Half Marathon was me facing the facts, as Trevor recently discussed in his blog post after his Boston Marathon for which he adjusted his training. To me part of his point was that sometimes inspiration can only take you so far, and there comes a time to face the facts. For me it was an epiphany I had during a mid-week commute run on the way to work. This was my last day of running before the Highlander Half and it was a partial race simulation to see how a 7 min. mile felt. After a couple of warm up miles I hit about 7:15 and that was about all I could muster. My body (and quieted ego) were speaking to me: "Time for Plan B."

Plan A was to run the race in under 1 hr, 30 mins. It was definitely "aiming big" as Trevor calls it. But again those pesky facts! I was not ready to push myself to that degree and stick to Plan A, and my legs and cooperative ego were telling me so.

Back side of mile-splits
wrist band I wore
The entire idea of a plan at all (with a mile-split band) was something I had stumbled upon, so having 2 plans was also novel. It had to be a challenge but I wanted to be smart about developing my new plan. After several fiddling sessions I came up with Plan B. Plan A was still there: I literally made a 2-sided wrist band with mile splits for both Plan A and Plan B on opposing sides.

That mid-week run guided me, and I was listening. I felt I was at 94% or so in terms of recovery from pacing Blue Ridge. But 94% is not where you need to be to achieve a big goal, no matter what the stage-coach driver in your head is telling you. Have the dream but hold it for another day. It was not until sometime Friday morning that I decided to accept my Plan B strategy and I tried on my band, B-side-up. I had reviewed my own running data from similar races; I studied the elevation and course map, and I even invested time going over the route virtually using Google Earth. Plan B was becoming solid. And Plan B was still a stretch.

Scouting out the race route,
Wildwood Park on Friday
And Plan B was still just a theoretical waiting to be implemented. Having a plan may be smart but carries no guarantees. My wife and I actually were able to scout out part of the route prior to packet pick-up, so that helped solidify my decision. And I spoke both A and B aloud. Perhaps that is when I confirmed that my mid-week epiphany was on the right track. Plan A was unrealistic. Even at 100%, successfully implementing Plan A would have probably taken more months and definitely more pain, as we are talking a full 5+ minutes faster over 13.1 miles. That may not sound like much but that works out to about 30 secs faster per mile on an unknown, inaugural course.

Race day on Saturday was excellent with over 250 runners, fine weather, and lots of enthusiastic volunteers. After a teaser false race-start, we were off. Along with several potentially faster, adrenaline-inspired 8k racers, I held on to that holdin-on feeling, eased back the throttle just a bit, and followed my wrist mile-splits. Mile 1 and 4 were purposely slower to account for the half-mile uphill sections. As I had prepared my Plans I had also become familiar with the route - a very wise strategy in this case, as the leaders made a couple of wrong turns, and others missed turns along the way.

Trail at about mile 6.5
Wildwood Park, Radford, VA
As we split from the 8-kers, we approached the river and were welcomed by cool breezes: right on track, cruising along the water. Through the tunnel and then into Wildwood Park, a section we had scouted out the day before. Running through neighborhoods, we were greeted by volunteers and police officers who instilled confidence at the intersections, and by supportive locals cheering for us. Mile 8 is where it started to hurt a bit so I glanced again at my watch and wrist band and dug in for each split.

Mile 10 was a peak. That was the last aid station and I even gulped a shot of Powerade, grabbed 2 small cups of gummy bears and a handful of some sort of jelly candies ... sugar = good! Muscles responding as I locked in to the runner ahead - dreams of catching him - Aim Big, why not? Right on track. I didn't know what place I was in - I just knew I had to keep digging in to stay on track. I kept him in sight, slowly decreasing the distance between us. Then at about 12.5 the guy took a wrong turn ... I kept going as we tried to discuss it between gasps to keep us on track.

Plan B executed for a 3rd
Place, 4 seconds faster
than my goal
I passed him. The race marshals dwindled at the end with very few race markers present ... which made it that much more challenging.  Focus. Run the splits. Follow the Plan. Hit the final turn around cone and dig in.

As I peaked the final ascent and saw the clock reading 1:34 something or other, I thought, "Could I make it?" Sprinting, pushing, hurting, cross the final mat and hit my Garmin-watch stop button. Plan B had my splits so I would finish in 1:35:25. My time was 1:35:20.7. Nailed it again!

Plan A is still waiting. I have lots of time to evaluate it. But it was Plan B that got me there - and with surprising results.  I was not thinking of places, or medals, or anything but B. Got it done by 4 seconds ... very happy with that, and I felt great. Plan A would have me running along, ignoring the facts. On race day Plan B was mine. Plan B was what I created as a result of creating Plan A, and as a result of listening to my inner voice, accepting that gut feeling, and adjusting accordingly.

Hanging out with other runners,
savoring our accomplishment together
Why run? Because we can. Chose to move your body, and do so in a way that inspires and invigorates. Share your experiences and tell others about it to pass on that inspiration and to inform your friends and family of some of your inner thoughts.

Why write about my accomplishments in a small, local running race? The answer may be the same as that for the question, "Why run?" To me, this write up affirms the importance and value of introspection and of listening to that "inner voice" and heeding the resulting decision one makes after listening.

Why listen? Because we can. Because we *still* can learn. And I am still learning as I chose to listen to those fleeting thoughts and subtle feelings (and insightful friends) to help guide me along the way. Whether it be creating a race plan, actually running the race, or accomplishing other life goals, the plan for a Plan B will ever be in my arsenal.

No comments:

Post a Comment