Ten Meaningful Miles

from Business and policy through an Economist’s Lens at http://bit.ly/1rXPbK8 on October 31, 2014 at 12:27AM

It’s another Thursday evening.  I am sitting at the Mt Pleasant Ice Rink in northern Baltimore City.  This has become a habit on Thursday evenings when I am available.  My middle son participates in the Baltimore Figure Skating Club session from 7-8.  And I have a chance to just chill.  It is great to just chill after dinner.  It is great to just chill after a long day at work.  And it is great to just chill on the day of a vigorous run.  Thursdays have been either track or progression run days all training season.  Today was no different.  Today, I found yet another answer to #WhatMakesYouSoar in the context of marathon training. 
Today’s plan was to run 10 miles starting with an 8:15/mile pace and increasing the speed at the end of each mile so that the pace would get faster by 15 seconds per mile for each mile until I reached 7:15.  Then, the plan called for holding the 7:15 for a second mile before running 7:00, 6:45, 6:30 and a 8:00 cool down.  I have been running this type of progression throughout the training season.  I have hit a 6:30 pace on the treadmill whenever I do a workout like this one at the Y.  However, in multiple attempts out on the road I had not achieved a 6:30.  After a recent exceptional 22 mile run that I also discussed in detail, I was hoping that this run would go really well and it would help to increase my confidence.  Particularly since Tuesdays treadmill workout was only so-so.
So, I left home and met my training partner of the week by the Dunbar track at 5:20 AM.  No, we did not plan to run 10 miles on the track.  We could but that would have gotten really boring.  Instead, we use the same 6.5 mile course we have been using for more than 18 months for tempo and progression workouts and then ended with 14 laps on the track.  Still a lot—but with the progression I was not worried about getting bored with 3.5 miles of work.  I was glad to see that when I pulled up to park the officer had already opened the track so that we would be able to use it a little less than an hour later. 
My training partner—former student, great friend, incredible runner, and person who share 5 stones with me last week with the words focus, ambition, strength, perseverance, and love on them—arrived shortly after I did.  I was in shorts and a t-shirt.  She in a light weight long sleeve shirt and running tights.  Not quite decked out for winter, but we obviously (a) anticipated different temperatures and (b) each understand how our respective bodies react to the heat. 
In the chilly morning air with the temperature at about 45 degrees (at least that is what my Garmin report told me), we began.  Heading north on Ensor to meet Madison and turn toward Guilford to run by the prison facilities at an easy pace to start.  With an 8:15 goal pace the first mile was a bit chatty.  We’d seen each other for a run the previous week.  She had paced the Marine Corps Marathon since then.  We spent some time catching up as we ran down Fallsway past Health Care for the Homeless.  We had to pause at Fayette Street for traffic to go by.  First mile—a relaxing 8:04.
We continued to Baltimore Street, turned left, headed right on Exeter, and left on Aliceanna toward Boston Street.  Commented on the lovely smell as we ran past the H&S bakery and the smell of bread filled the air.  Still chatting a bit as we ran a slightly overzealous 7:38 for mile 2.
We continued along Aliceanna and then Boston street headed toward Ellwood.  As we got to the third mile mark we had settled down a bit coming through in 7:45.  Right on for the third mile.  Relaxing run along the street that borders the Harbor.  Not too many runners or others out on this cool morning. 
We turned up Ellwood.  First real uphill of the course.  A little chatting at this point, but not too much.  It was time for business.  As we climbed and crested a bit south of Patterson Park, we were able to hold the pace we had intended and then some.  We accelerated a little as we continued past the east side of Patterson Park and hit 7:22 for mile 4—eight seconds under target pace.
Mile 5 included the climb along Baltimore Street on the north side of Patterson Park.  A runner here.  A pair of runners there.  Everyone seeming to be concentrating this morning.  When we hit the crest on the west side of Patterson Park we had finished mile 5 with a 7:12—now just 3 seconds under the target pace.
The street evens out some and goes up just a little before going down as we head toward Central to turn north again.  Just focused on keeping pace with each other and now wanting to be careful not to go too fast.  Wen accelerated but then ratcheted back just a bit so as not to over exert too soon.  We came through the mile 6 mark after a few stops and starts for traffic lights at 7:04.  Substantially under target pace this time, but a good downhill can do that. 
Much like 12 days ago when I ran my 22 miles, I was worried when I had one mile in which my pace slowed, today considered the history of my progression runs and wondered if I could make it.  It is often in the effort to run 7:00 or below that I would miss.  Today with a friend (and faster runner most days) at my side, I was determined to hold it.  We ran the start of the seventh mile continuing up central to Monument, turning left on Monument, running down the side of Dunbar’s athletic field outside the iron fence, through the gate and onto the track.  We hadn’t really been pushing all that much and were at about 7:08 as we got on the track half way through mile 7.  As we went the first almost two laps around the track to complete mile 7 we picked it up and slowly but sure took seconds off the average pace.  It is always fun running around Dunbar’s track in the morning as they have the big stadium lights on.  My partner and I were the only two runners this morning.  There were probably about half a dozen walkers.  They stayed in lane 2 or further out.  And we hauled ourselves around the track on the inside lane.  Mile 7 was complete just before we reached the benches on the field on the north side of the track and we had hit 7:01.  First one that was any amount “over” but it was only one second, so I did not stress, but I knew it was time to pick up.
Continuing for four laps around the track, I picked up the pace slowly but sure.  This is not something I have been able to do when starting from 7:00 and running that distance many times before.  In fact, one of the few times was with the same running partner our on the NCR trail prior to the Boston Marathon to give me confidence at the half marathon distance.  In any case, I continued to pick up and a slight gap emerged between me and my partner.  My watch signaled a mile just a little early so I hit the lap button again when I reached the point of exactly four laps.  We had run a 6:45 mile.
Now was the time to see what I had in me.  To see if I could, for once, pull off the entire plan as planned.  So, I ratcheted up a bit more.  And as each of the next four laps went by the average pace on my watch continued to decrease.  The watch signaled 6:20.  It was a bit early.  I tried hitting the lap button but missed.  Even if it took the same 9 seconds between the end of the “Garmin mile” and the end of four laps, I would still have run under 6:30. 
The last mile was under 8 much to my surprise.  I had thought I would not be able to hold it after pushing that hard, but I did.
My training partner thinks I can run sub-3:10.  The person who has helped me to develop my plan and corresponded with me throughout training thinks I might be able to shoot for 3:07ish. 
I take nothing for granted.  I still have to earn a PR.  I still have to earn my 7:20 pace (2 minute, or so, PR).  If I get that 3:10 it will be earned.  And if somehow I manage to get the 3:07, I will have earned that too.  Earned on that day.  But also earned by every step taken on a street or on a track or on a treadmill at some crazy hour of the morning alone or with a training partner or partners. Earned through ambition, focus, perseverance, strength, and love. 
At this point, I know one thing—the journey has been an incredible one.  Peaking at the right time.  Able to pull off workouts that have eluded me throughout a training season just before the taper starts.  Looking ahead to a 5K in which maybe I will run my best in adulthood.  And one that has given me a taste of achieving a level of running efficiency and proficiency that I have not felt in almost 30 years.  One that will allow me to celebrate the last time for a long time I will be able to dedicate this much time and effort.  And one that will hopefully bring me another opportunity to run in Boston if I choose to take it.

Total for the year: 1864.3 miles.  On County Rd A020 in Corona, NM.  Winding my way toward Truth or Consequences.