What Goes Well With Humble Pie?

By: Brad Deel

Allow me, if you will, to interrupt my series of blogs challenging some of running's most cherished conventional wisdoms for this race write up.

If you have been running for any length of time, you know that there are days when you have good runs and days when you have not so good runs.  Usually, there is an obvious reason for a bad run such as lack of sleep or stress at work or a hot day.  Sometimes though, bad runs happen for no apparent reason.  I often joke that those random bad runs are payment the running gods demand for random great runs.  Everything must balance.  The same thing goes for racing and I have had some great races and some not so great races but, fortunately, never a bad race.  On Sunday, April 29, that changed.

Since I work at the University of Charleston, I was excited to run in the inaugural UC Half Marathon.  The race was a struggle from start to finish.  Initially, I tried to blame it on the running gods.  I ran a marathon in March and that was one of the best races of my life.  Thus, it made some sense that the UC Half Marathon was nothing more than a payment to the running gods for my terrific performance in March.  That would be a comforting thought but it would also be avoiding reality.  The reality is that my lousy performance stemmed directly from me being egotistical enough to believe I could continue to PR at every distance no matter what I did in training. 

When I first started running, I made those rapid improvements that new runners make.  I could do nothing wrong.  No matter what I did, from March, 2008 until May 2012, I always ran a PR in every race (assuming it wasn’t a hilly course or something like that).  Leading up to this half marathon though, my training was extremely suspect.  After the March 18 marathon, I was so sore that I had to take 10 days completely off before I could run again.  Then, I spent a couple of weeks with reduced mileage until my legs felt ready to engage in any kind of real training.  On top of that, I didn’t taper at all for this race.  I thought I could PR (or at least come very close) even with this being my 3rd 60+ mile week in a row.  And I had done a fairly hard speed workout on Wednesday. 

My warm up for the race felt fine but by Mile 3, I knew it was going to be a long day.  I felt more like I was running at 10K effort than half marathon effort even though my pace was slower than my half marathon PR pace.  I never, ever got into a good rhythm.  Around Mile 5, two runners who had been behind me passed me and I was in no mood to try to keep up with them.  At Mile 7, I decided to run the rest of the race as a fartlek workout.  I would run one mile hard and then run the next mile easy.  Finally, at Mile 10, I seemed to find my racing legs and picked it up over the last 3.1 miles.  Although my overall pace was 6:51, I ran the last mile at a 6:28 pace.  I even managed to re-pass one of the runners who had passed me at Mile 5.  But, lesson learned.

I cannot just go out and race on any given day of the week and expect to run a PR.  If I want to race well, I need to train for a race and taper for it as well.  If I “train through” a race, I can expect a performance that’s OK but nothing great.  (My PR is 1:26 and I ran 1:29 and finished 4th overall so it wasn’t a complete blow up).  Shock of shocks but all of those things that apply to world class runners such as peaking and tapering apply to me as well.  Whoda thunk it? 

From a larger perspective though, I shouldn’t be too upset.  Here sits a nearly 50 year old guy who was an obese chain smoker a little over four years ago and he can still run a sub 1:30 half marathon on a bad day.  That probably puts me in the top 1% of people my age in terms of fitness.  (Not the top 1% of runners my age but the top 1% of all people my age).  For that, I am extremely grateful.

Now, I’ll take suggestions as to what should accompany humble pie.  I’m thinking something along the lines of Brooklyn Brewing Black Chocolate Stout.

See ya out there.

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