I earned my wings today. And my reward is two weeks of tapering until the Rock n Roll Half Marathon.
Scheduling didn’t allow me to run with my running buddy this weekend. I was on my own for this long run – a first for this training cycle. Twelve independent miles. No music (I quit running with my iPod a few months ago). Just me, my breath, the sound of my feet hitting the ground and 12 independent beeps from my Garmin.
When I realized our schedules didn’t line up this weekend, I was nervous. I’ve slowly built my mileage from 6 miles to 12 miles over the course of the summer running with my friend every Saturday morning. Our morning conversation has set the pace for every run. When one of us got tired, the other kept us going. Today I only had myself to rely on. While I was nervous at first, I knew this was a great mental hurdle to conquer on my last long run before racing. I needed to define my own level of strong based on only me.
As I headed out to run, it was muggy. The world wanted it to rain, but it only released a few sprinkles. As I found my way to the boardwalk, I was greeted by a gorgeous sky. I knew my run was going to be a good one. My legs felt fresh (that’s what happens when you only run twice during the week). I headed north on the boardwalk and for the next two miles, I ran side by side with a pod of dolphins. Every few paces, a dolphin’s fin would appear. This run was going to be a great one.
Mile 1: 10:34
Mile 2: 10:23
When I saw my mile splits on my watch, I panicked. Too fast. We’ve been averaging around 10:50 for all our long runs with negative splits. Our last HOT 12 mile run was at an overall pace of 11:10. I ignored the panic. The nice thing about running without music is that you have nothing to distract you. I was completely in touch with what my body wanted. My stride felt comfortable. My breathing was easy. This is how I’m supposed to be running. I reminded myself to ignore my watch and continued listening to my body.
Mile 3: 9:56
Oh no! Way too fast! I do not see 9s on my long runs. I made the decision to slow myself down because I still had 9 more miles ahead of me.
Mile 4: 10:10
I turned into the park for the next portion of my run. As I made my way into the entrance, it started to sprinkle. I never got to enjoy the rain because the trees kept it all to themselves. Instead I was greeted by a swarm of bugs that loved the muggy weather (and me!). My pony tail lived up to its name as I used it to swat the swarm of bugs. I’m pretty sure a few horse flies and dozens of mosquitos had brunch on my back and shoulders. I made it to the boat ramp as my watch hit 6.2 miles. I just ran my fast 10k post baby – 1:03 something.
Mile 5: 10:24
Mile 6: 10:04
It’s hard not to panic when you are running fast for you on your longest training run. When I stopped to snap a few photos of the gorgeous Board Bay, I sent a text to my running buddy and my husband. I went out too fast.
As I headed back to the park entrance and eventually back to my car, I reset. Stick to the plan (Ignore the panic): 5.75 miles to run. Listen to my body. Ignore my watch. Just run.
Mile 7: 10:15
Mile 8: 10:20
Mile 9: 10:12
When my watch beeped for mile 9, I needed a mental change. Things were getting tough. I was in a new territory for me. I have never maintained this pace on a run longer than 10 miles EVER. I crossed the street to run on Oceanfront Avenue to daydream about the beautiful oceanfront homes. Before I knew it. I was back on the boardwalk.
Mile 10: 10:20
The last two miles were hard. I tackled each one 1/10th at a time. It was honestly the only way I felt like I could I finish without mentally feeling defeated. Physically I still felt good. My legs felt good. My breathing was under control. Mentally I was tired.
Mile 11: 10:14
Mile 12: 10:20
The fishing pier was my finish line today. I have never been so happy to hit stop on my Garmin.
Twelve Miles. 2:03:20. 10:16 overall pace.
Once I gathered myself after finishing, I realized I was being cheered on by another pod of dolphins. This time there were at least a dozen dolphins playing in the breaking waves. Besides my family, I can’t think of a better cheering squad to start and finish my run.
I had no idea I had that in me today. If the weather cooperates on race day, I have a feeling I could surprise myself (it’s really hard to not do the math and block the numbers from my brain!)