I hung up the phone after talking to my coach, Darren, about the Detroit Half-Marathon, and I was so excited and scared I was shaking. He thinks I'm ready to run a 1:45.
My half-marathon personal best is a bit over 1:56, and that was run well over a year ago. My longest run in this training cycle was a slow 10 miles. My right hamstring is twingy (though happier right now thanks to a massage and the taper), and my back, while it's much better, hasn't been tested in a race yet. Right now, it's a little before 4 a.m. on the day Dan and I are flying out for race weekend. I've been awake since 2, mulling this over, trying to quiet the butterflies in my stomach. Not sleeping.....isn't so good ahead of a big race.
It seems so strange that someone (even someone as experienced in these matters as Darren) thinks I can pull out my fastest half-marathon ever with all of that working against me. But this is why I needed a coach.....
.....so I'm going to keep trusting him...and go for it.
Here are my goals for Detroit:
A Goal: 1:45
B Goal: sub 1:50
C Goal: beat my old PR
So how is this to be done?
The first thing I have to deal with is getting into a faster corral. My bib number (17555 for those who want to track me) has been assigned to Corral L--which is the very back, near the "last chance" pacer, who will be shooting for an 18-minute-per-mile pace. I've emailed the race organizers about this. They told me to pick up my bib and head to the "Solutions" booth to try to get that corral changed.
The second thing I plan to do is join the 1:45 pace group, which is in Corral C. Darren told me to watch the pace carefully at the beginning, checking in not only with how I'm feeling but also with how fast the pacer is going. We should, Darren said, be sticking to a range between 7:55 and 8:05. Any faster than that, he says, and I am to drop back out of the group and stay as close to 8 minute miles as I can, as long as that feels good.
And he says it should feel good. On Tuesday, I ran five four-minute tempo intervals, all under a 7:45 pace, with four of them, including the last one, under 7:40. My heart rate mostly stayed in the tempo range of 164-168 through all of them, spiking to 170 at a couple of points but no higher than that even once. Going 20 seconds per mile slower than that, Darren said, "is huge." Plus, he reminded me, I will be at sea level.
So what if 8-minute miles don't feel good? In that case, he wants me to drop back and run with the 1:50 group, staying with them unless I start to feel stronger, in which case I try to push back up to the 1:47 and 1:45 groups again. (The Detroit Half is with the full marathon for 13 miles, so we have the advantage of sharing the marathon pace groups.)
Other things: warm up, and then try to keep my heart rate higher before the gun goes off. One thing I've learned about myself through heart-rate training is that I'm a slow warmer-upper (and you can see this in the first mile of almost every race I've run). Doing strides in a giant race like this, where we'll have to be lined up in corrals early, could be tough. But I'll do my best.
During the race, I'm supposed to watch my pace and how I feel, not worrying about heart rate. That said, it will be really interesting to me after the race to see how my heart was doing at various points.
I'm also going to try to enjoy the weekend leading up to the main event. Kathy, my old friend and Houston Marathon compatriot, who is running the full marathon in Detroit, has been an amazing hostess already (and we--myself and several members of her running group--aren't even there yet). She's picking many of us up at the airport, and there's a tasty dinner planned at her in-laws house on Saturday night (not to mention a BBQ feast planned for Sunday night after the race). So once I get the corral issue dealt with, I'm hoping to relax, enjoy some kid-free down time with Dan....and hopefully get lots more sleep than I'm getting right now.
I'm scared, but I'm excited. Darren knows what he's doing, and I know what to do. Now I just have to do it.