Monday, February 10, 2014

Breakthrough and Mogwai: Kaiser Half Marathon Race Report

Having a breakthrough is like finding a mogwai. With great speed, comes great responsibility.
It was a stormy night, and I was in China Town buying presents for the family when I came across this strange shop where I bought a mogwai for my son Billy. Oh. Wait. Slightly different story...

It was a stormy morning along the Great Highway of San Francisco when my running buddies and I arrived for the Kaiser Half Marathon. Despite a temperamental quad/knee issue, I had signed up for the race, and didn't want to miss out. After all, it doesn't hurt to run! The strange Chinese man with one blue eye told me that I should be aware, go slow, and stop as needed. (Ok, the strange Chinese man thing didn't happen.) My goal for this half marathon was to use it as a training run, enjoy the Chi, and put one foot in front of the other. No pressure.

My running friends, one from England and the other from Ireland, made me hold my proverbial California tongue about running in the rain and cold. After the drought we've been having in California, the rain was a good thing, except I may have been slightly under dressed. Only one of us (not me) came prepared with a garbage bag. A garbage bag is this awesome invention that is meant for carrying garbage, but actually makes a handy throw-away jacket for the rain and cold. Make a hole for your head in the top, and you have a some schnazzy outerwear. Luckily, volunteers were handing our bags out in the bus shuttle line.We also figured out that a swim cap is an excellent rain repellent for an iPhone. These inventions should really be re-branded.

I have digressed.

There were thousands of runners out there in Golden Gate Park, set to run this early season half marathon. Good crowd. I seated myself at the front of the eight-minute mile pack, expecting that everyone would pass me in the first few miles, and I was mentally prepared for that. After a gospel rendition of the National Anthem, we were off! Mile one was good, at mile two I ditched my garbage rain coat, at mile three I got a little cramped, and by mile four I was moving along just fine.

Blah blah, moving on. I had an awesome race. Every mile except mile three was below an eight-minute per mile pace. I have been hovering around 8:02 and 8:09 for years. Granted, the course had a lot of downhill, but when I reached the halfway mark, feeling feisty, I knew I could set a personal record if I could just keep up the pace. Running along the Great Highway was flat, but runners also caught a headwind, which was mostly to our backs in the other direction.

I saw my entire track workout pace group from the turn around (around mile 10) until the finish. It made me proud to know that I hang with the right people at track workout once a week: Jimmy, Debbie, Matt, Gemma - we were all there within a minute or so of each other. Debbie, and two totally random girls picked up their pace for the last three miles, and I tried with all of my might to stay on their heals to the finish....

For a Personal Record! 1:43:52 (7:55 per mile pace)

Better yet, a PR in February, while I'm still losing holiday weight, and am injured. If this is any indication for how the rest of the season goes, I'm stoked. (Knocking on wood in fear of bad luck.) Honestly though, I got lucky. I was mentally prepared for anything, but broke rules that I wouldn't normally break on an important race day.

The rules I broke are similar to the rules of the mogwai:

1.) I'm not very "light" right now (holiday weight).
2.) I was wet (cold), didn't wear the proper gear.
3.) I ate pizza pre-race, after midnight.

Now, the pressure begins. I know I can maintain a sub-8 minute mile on a flatter course. But there is such a difference between 7:58 and 7:35. I'd like to get to that 7:35 pace and maintain it over 13 miles. Can I get there? And how?

I need to be more careful. With great speed, also comes great responsibility. Ability to improve is like the mogwai, and not caged up at a strange shop in China Town anymore. I need to give this new mogwai love, but also figure out how to live with it, and mostly, don't mess it up! I was forgiven this time, but I know the reality.

It's going to take a lot of careful training and foam rolling . . .or I will have to return the mogwai.

Injured Mogwai is prepared for battle.

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