Oct 29, 2009

Excuse Me Sir. I Think I'll Have Another.

Yes, that's right. I've knocked out more beers than miles in the last six weeks. I've traded my runners for a nice tall IPA, and I feel pretty good about it. The off season starts off the same way every year. I usually spend the first week catching up on lost social time. I always over do it in the first week... but that's how I like to do it. After nationals, I spent a good deal of time sleeping and catching up with friends. A few weeks after that last race, I felt the need to do something more with my late season fitness. I wasn't totally satisfied with my race at nationals. It took some time to convince myself, but I decided to put in 2 weeks of running and 1 week of rest before the Columbus Half Marathon.

My plan was to run mostly easy miles with two specific workouts and two "long" runs. I started it off by "racing" the Natures Bin 5k on Saturday. I knew there wasn't going to be that many fast runners, but I hoped to put down a decent 5k by running on Brian Stern's shoulder. I ran on his shoulder all the way until the last quarter mile. I blew up and he went on to win in 16:21. I finished 7 seconds later. On Sunday, I ended up doing an incredibly hungover 10 miles with the NDC boys. The next week, I toughed out the cold, rainy weather and ran 10 x 800 @ 5:30-5:40 pace on the towpath. I really wanted to put down one more hard race before I submitted to the debauchery that is the off season. After two weeks of 30-35 miles, I figured I was ready to throw down a decent half marathon. I wanted to take this race seriously, but it was hard to let go of my off season rituals. A few nights before the race, I found myself at Mug Night at 1:30AM. So much for resting this week. I wasn't too concerned. This race was all in good fun.

I worked all day on Saturday before I headed down to meet Herzog in Columbus. I grabbed a 6-pack and met him at the hotel. We ordered a pizza and he watched me drink a couple beers. I told him it would calm his nerves, but he thought I was crazy. It was going to be 35 degrees on race morning. There was no need to worry about dehydrating myself by drinking too many beers. Race morning came and it was COLD! I tried to stay warm, but I was shaking until about mile 3. My approach to this race was incredibly relaxed. My main goal was to improve on my 1:17:21 at the Cleveland Half Marathon in May. My dream goal was to run under 1:16. I got into a very solid group of runners early on. There was roughly 5 of us for the first 6 miles. I knew we were running fast, but I was more concerned with sitting in the group and taking my pulls. We went through the 10k in under 35 minutes. Even though I knew we were running a little fast, it felt solid. Stern dropped at the 6 mile mark. Everyone else in the group dropped by 9. I spent the whole day fighting so hard to stay with the group. Now, it was up to me to finish it off.

I hadn't wore a watch for this race, so I wasn't sure about my exact pace. As I literally gave it everything I had, I saw the finish clock tick past 1:14:00. I flipped out in the chute. I couldn't have been more excited to see my finishing time. It was the first time all year that I truly surprised myself. I had raced harder than I thought was possible and I had been rewarded for it. I almost got dropped 10 times during the last 5 miles, but for the first time all year, I stuck. I ran a 1:14:20 half marathon, and I am pretty damn happy with it. This proves to all the overly uptight runners and triathletes, having a little fun doesn't hurt your racing, but not believing in yourself does. I should have realized this a long, long time ago.

Since the race, I've gotten back to enjoying the off season. I've been riding the cross bike, swimming a bunch, staying out "late", and drinking plenty of beers. Life is all about a little balance. It is okay to be disciplined and dedicated to your sport, but it is also okay to relax a little. But, don't let the off season last too long.


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