Just what I needed…

This weekend’s runs were just what I needed following a bad 20-miler the week before.

After carb-loading on Friday night with pizza at Grimaldi’s with Josh, my cousin, and cousin-in-law (I just like saying that); by the way, I think I have been carb-loading for the last eight months straight; I knew Saturday’s run was going to be a good one.

I had grand plans for Saturday – I wanted to sleep in past 6 or 7AM for the first time on a weekend in almost a month, eat breakfast casually, go for an easy 10-mile run, get a massage, and finally, work on my final research paper for a graduate class that I am taking for “fun” that was due at the end of the day. The day worked out perfectly!

I ran along the Hudson River on the New Jersey side; I figured 5-miles up and 5-miles back. The weather was gorgeous and not windy at all; I wore a t-shirt with tank underneath, shorts, and my hat. Lately, I have been using my heart rate as an indicator of pace and on this run, I did the exact same thing. My heart rate was averaging around 165 bpm the whole run, my stride felt comfortable, and my breathing felt strong. I finished 9-miles easily and knew that I had it in me to run more if needed. Instead, I sped up for the last mile pushing my heart rate closer to 170 bpm. After the run, I looked at average pace and it was slower than probably what I would have expected given the distance, but it was pretty darn close to marathon pace, so that was all I needed, an easy run at a pace that I could potentially hold for 26-miles.

This run reminded me of why I fell in love with distance running last year and why I am still on this journey. This was the exact run I needed coming off of the crappy feelings I had from last weekend’s 20-miler and the runner’s high I needed to head into the New Jersey Marathon mentally sound and strong.

That high carried me into Sunday for the 4-mile NYRR Run as One race in Central Park. I was anxious about this race for over week. I was worried about the distance, not because I wouldn’t finish it, but how to pace it. The last time I raced a short distance was Coogan’s 5K in March but I knew that was a hilly course so I didn’t think too much of it. Run as One was different because it was in Central Park and I know the course like the back of my hand. I was overly worried about going out too fast and then not be able to sustain it. 4-miles is just too long of a race to sprint completely but too short of a distance where you need to be conservative.

I could barely eat Sunday morning and I was so anxious on the way into the city that I played Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now recorded by Starship on repeat the whole way. Music has a way of doing that to me – helping me tune out my emotions. It wasn’t until I made it to Columbus Circle that I finally calmed down a little. As I was walking out of the subway, I stared into the sun coming over Columbus Circle and Central Park and at that moment, I realized how lucky I was to be able to run regularly in arguably the best city in the world, so why am I freaking myself out. After meeting up with my teammate and New Jersey Marathon training partner, we headed into park for bag drop (which is so smooth now with the new clear bag process, it stinks though that it was implemented due to the events in Boston) and into our corrals. The horn went off, 7-minutes later, I was on my way. I spent the first mile dodging people so I was pretty surprised that I ran a sub 8:45 mile. As soon as I had my groove, I just went; I tried not to look at my pace on my watch too much but instead just focused on my heart rate. It stayed around 172 to 178 bpm the whole race and while it felt hard especially during the uphills, I knew I could sustain it for the distance. To me this was just a really long speed workout with no recovery in the middle. It wasn’t until I crossed the finish line and looked at the elapsed time on my watch that I knew I did pretty well. My watch recorded 4.06 miles (I think I’m getting better at running tangents!) in 34:33 with an average pace of 8:30 per mile. I don’t think I believed I actually ran that fast until the official results were posted on the NYRR site showing that I ran the 4-miles in 34:31 with an average pace of 8:38 per mile.

This was the first time I raced 4-miles so I had no real comparison except that almost exactly a year ago, I raced a 5-miler in Hoboken through a fairly hilly course up to Stevens. In that race, my pace was 10:38 per mile. A year later and I realize a shorter distance, I ran 2-minutes faster per mile. Training really pays off, huh?

Enough tooting my own horn, but this weekend was exactly what I needed. The runner’s high, the excitement of running, and the results to show that time and dedication I am putting in is paying off. I am excited for my last week of tapering, but I know that I will be anxious all over again Saturday night into Sunday morning so I will just try to soak up these happy thoughts as much as I can now.

P.S. As many know, there is a proven theory that Josh gets sick after he exercises. It started with him going to the gym with our friend, D in college many years ago to the Wii Fit episode, there are a number of examples. However, he has been running off and on with me over the last couple of months and has been fine. This past week, completely on his own initiative decided that he wanted to go for a run after work. Unfortunately, I couldn’t go with him, but he still went. I was very proud of him. The next day, he got sick. So I am revising my theory now, it is not when he exercises with me, it is when he exercises without me that he gets sick! I am happy to report that he is feeling better today.

P.P.S. Another theory, my cousin (Margaret) and her husband, my cousin-in-law (Drew) who I mentioned eating pizza with on Friday run a lot in Hoboken and they are always wondering when they will run into me. Today, we ran into each other on our runs! I am proving that I actually do run in Hoboken! I am disappointed that I didn’t run further than 0.25 miles with them, but next time, I will go for longer, I promise… don’t want to add extra miles during taper week!

Do you have pre-race jitters? What do you do to overcome this?

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