11 April 2010

The Final Tune-Up

And that’s it. The tune-up is done, it’s in the books, and I couldn’t be happier with the results. Well, of course I could be, but I’d have to be Kenyan or bionic or something. Hey, wait a minute, I am partly bionic.

Saturday marked nine days to Boston, so by my taper formula, that meant a nine-miler, max. OK, we won’t count the warm-up, but the Tri-Valley Front Runners Boston Tune-Up 15K was, just as they advertised, the perfect length for a hard workout, just about the perfect timing before Boston. I’d say it was a perfect day, but it only looked like one. Brilliant sunshine, crisp and cool in the high forties, but a nasty, gusty wind that played tag with us throughout the morning. We’ll settle for close to perfect. During our warm-up we joked that it might be beneficial to turn the race into a 20K and tack, sailboat style, back and forth across the road to catch the crosswinds. Wouldn’t have worked. Those gusts were fickle, hitting us from every angle on every part of the looping, rolling course.

Seeing as the last 15K I’d run, the Boilermaker last summer, clocked in at sixty and a half minutes, I targeted sixty flat for my day’s goal, 6:26 pace. A Second Lap 15K PR was certainly a goal, but since the Boilermaker takes seeding times for corral placement, a solid time would carry double benefit. Of course, not being a GPS kind of guy, and being amidst a quality field not entirely unlike that at Stu’s 30K last month, when we took to the roads I had no idea what pace we were hitting before the first mile split. But I figure a little mystery in life is a good thing. Call me traditional, but there’s got to be at least a little uncertainty or life gets dull quick. Give me a surprise to look forward to. Surprise, we hit the mile in 6:05, a little hot. But the bank account now had a 21 second positive balance, and we were off to the races.

We settled in, moderating the pace a bit on a few rolling hills. A gent named Jason teamed up with me for the first three before he cranked it up at four. But once he left, things got pretty lonely, pretty much just me, the wind, and more than half the race left. And I was already questioning the wisdom of that aggressive start. My lungs were fine but my legs were feeling the pace, growing leaden at the sight of a evil-looking grade looming at four and half. I knew the course turned, but I couldn’t see where the turn was, and as it became apparent that the turn wasn’t before the hill, I hit the mental low point of the morning. Aw, crap, this is going to hurt.

But the cool thing is that it really didn’t. Yes, we had to crank-u-late about two thirds up the hill before the sweet relief of the turn, and yes, it was a laborious crank-u-lation, but once over that hump, the fatigue stabilized, then, to my pleasure, subsided. The human body never ceases to amaze. As I crossed five miles something struck me as familiar, and I later realized I’d hit that mark in exactly my time from the Freezer Five in January. But that was a five mile race, flat out to the finish, and here, I was on that pace with another 4.3 to go, and surviving.

The next few miles held steady a bit under target pace, and just as that tenth Yasso 800’s morphed from impossible to contemplate to a confident breeze last Sunday, the seeming insurmountability of holding pace all the way to 15K melted into the reality that mile eight had arrived, then nine, and I felt strength and a kick and there it was, over the line in 58:31, a kickin’ minute and a half below target. Mental low to spiritual victory in the span of thirty minutes. What’s not to love?

Now, while the goal-crushing PR was intensely satisfying, and the possibility exists, however remote, of a corral bump for this year’s Boilermaker, the interesting technical thing about the day was that while my muscles balked a bit at the pace, aerobically I was feeling strong at the end. And that’s exactly what I need for Boston, where I can slow the pace a few notches to keep the legs happy, but need that aerobic capacity.

Bring it.

One another topic… How remiss of me not to mention that my previous posting was number One Hundred! One hundred articles, all of them somewhere between monotonous and brilliant, you be the judge. For the brave few of you who read regularly or occasionally, I thank you. I do this because I love it, not for the million dollar advance on the book deal I expect any day now. Because I’m sure at least one of you must know a publisher with nothing better to do…

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