I arrived super early because I drive really fast. :) I hung out in my car with my music and heat blasting. When Trisha and Darin arrived I was pretty much in my zone and just about ready to warm up. With 30 minutes to go I headed out, stopped for a potty break then started my warm up. I did a comfortable pace for about 15 minutes then added some strides to get things revved up.
We lined up and on the go we headed for our 1.5 out and back. After mile one and comfortably in the groove I felt it was going to be a good day slushy roads and all. Everyone was out fast including me at a 7:04 pace. My goal was to be below 7:20 and I know the pitfalls of going out to fast but I gave myself 2 miles to find myself. Mile 2 was even faster at 7:01 so I thought it would be wise to use my heart rate as a guide. I was running at around 170 beats so I dialed it back to 167-168. This was a comfortable yet strenuous pace. Mile 3 was 7:07. When I clicked my lap button I thought I should bring it down another 2 beats. What I found was 164-166 was an awkward zone for me. My gate was not fluid here. I worked on it focusing and paying attention to everything trying to find my rhythm. Miles 4 and 5 were 7:08 and 7:16. Knowing full well that 7:16 is still under my goal didn't stop me from second guessing myself and forcing my pace. It was as if I had completely forgotten my limits. At this point the race does a loop inside a park so we are seeing the leaders coming back at us. It's always helpful to have other things to focus on. At this point we are fighting a bit of thick slush on the walking path. The roads were much better with traffic spreading the wet thick substance but the walking path only had the runners footsteps to break down the snow. I tucked in behind another person who was blazing a path and just followed. Mile 6 and 7 were 7:16 and 7:15. Seems I have found my pace. My heart rate was at around 167 and I know I have up to 174-176 so at least 1-2 additional gears but Miles 8-10 just sucked. Just one mile ago I thought I had found my groove and now my groove was gone. Oh, how fleating it is. I had taken gels at miles 3 and 6 so I had plenty of fuel but my legs just wouldn't turn any faster. My heart rate also took a dip. Miles 8 and 9 were 7:24! Uhggggggg. I wasn't happy. I felt like I was throwing away my PR. I went back to focusing on my heart rate which was dropping along with my pace. My plan was to do whatever I needed to drive it up to 170. At that rate I should be able to save my PR. Mile 10 = 7:29......are you kidding me. Pulling in my gate and shifting my weight to the front of my body seemed to give me a bit of a lift. With only 3 miles to go I needed to make my pace on these last ones or there would be no new VDOT for me. Mile 11 was 7:26 and mile 12 was 7:23. My cumulative time showed I had 10 minutes to find the finish line and my PR. I felt I could do that. I did pretty much everything I could think of to move my body faster and at mile 13 I found a 7:16. Now with a sprint to the finish I knew I had a PR. 1:35:10 or a 7:16 pace. I was thrilled but have to admit it was hard an I earned it, whewww. Boy that race went from great, to good, to eeeek then got saved in the end. OUCH...that was close.
I was perplexed at how my pace degraded so fast because even though my initial miles were above goal pace they were comfortable. It seemed I couldn't drive my heart rate into threshold today. I simply never saw 174 and I can run a long ways at 174. I also found a week spot in my zone 3B. That 164-166 area needs some time. I will have to incorporate some workouts that force that area to get worked. This race will move me 2 VDOT's. I should be really happy and really scared at the same time. Happy because that shows an increase in fitness and reminds me once again that the training plan does work. But....scared because that means harder M-Pace and T-Pace efforts.
This brings up an interesting question. When does a runner peak out? You hear all sorts of things that determine your limits like years of running and age. Since I have been running races for over 20 years how can I get new PR's. I know it's training, strength and probably a bit of maturity but it begs the question of limits. Knocking on 42 years old I don't feel like I have hit my limits yet. Maybe I am getting stronger but maybe I have just decided the sky is the limit. Hell what do I have to lose by deciding I have more in me......uhhhhh nothing!