On Sunday 15 Feb, I ran my 9th marathon. I was originally signed up for the Myrtle Beach Marathon but earlier last week decided to bag that race because I didn't feel like driving for 8 hours to get to the race - too much homework to be spending that amount of time in the car! So the Washington's Birthday Marathon is a small, low-key race held up in Greenbelt, MD on the same weekend - it never seems to fill up so I just registered for that instead... it was cheap too - $37.50 - sometimes you can't even find a 10K with registration that cheap! And this was my kind of race - small with no fanfare - it was like a training run with built-in waterstops and porto-johns! And a section of cheering Team Z'rs of course! The race started at 10:30 (yay for sleeping in!) I had a bagel for breakfast, plus a powerbar later on in the morning as well as water. Anyways, the race started at the top of a small hill in a neighborhood, I think they drew a chalk line or something to mark the start line. A guy got on the loudspeaker and was just like, "hmm, my watch says 10:31, and go!" and we were off. I had heard that the race course was difficult, with a total of 18 hills (you do a 7.5 mile loop three times, plus a little extra to get out to the loop and then back to the finish) and was told to add at least 15 minutes to my expected time. I had been training for this race, but I didn't feel mentally prepared and Boston is more of a priority for me, so I was just looking at this as a good training run for Boston, I didn't really want to get my hopes up for a PR. I decided early on that I would stay in mid-Zone 3 (around a heartrate of 155 or so) because I was pretty sure I could sustain that for the majority of the race. I started eating my honey stinger snacks early on so I wouldn't crash and burn later and I also drank water at some of the water stops early on. But I tried not to have too much, because I don't normally eat or drink a ton during my training runs and I didn't want to make the same mistake I made at Mooseman by going overboard with nutrition and fluids. The weather was perfect running weather, people spread out quickly, and the course (especially the first half of the 7.5 mile loop) was really pretty with very little traffic. I was very good and consistently stayed within my heartrate zone, I would go a little outside of it on some of the uphills, but nothing terrible. I was surprised that I stayed at a consistent 7:46 average pace for the first 15 miles without a problem. I made it to the 13.1 mile mark in 1:41, which was right about where I had hoped to be. I did have a goal to negative split the race, but I was off by a few minutes on the second half. I slowed to about a 7:49 average pace by the end, but never went over that 7:50 mark - hooray! I felt really good during the whole race, my legs felt fresh and strong (I am attributing that to the Zoot RX active compression tights - Thank you Lauvers!), my attitude was positive, and around mile 20 I really thought that I might break my previous best time of 3:28. I knew for sure that would happen after I made it up the killer hill at mile 25 (a cruel, cruel joke), and crossed the finish line in 3:26:22, a PR by two minutes for me! And I felt like I could've kept going (though I was very, very glad to be done). I wasn't terribly sore, I didn't feel like I had laid it all out there, it felt like a strong training run. The good news is that I am qualified for Boston 2010 (so no pressure at this year's race - yay!) and I got second place overall for women (another reason why I love small races). My plaque is sitting proudly on our bookshelf in the bedroom. This was the first time that I really noticed what an improvement the heartrate zone training has done to my fitness. I raced in zone 3, felt good during the whole race, and felt like I ran a smart, relatively conservative race. I now have the not-so-secret hope of breaking 3:25 at Boston this year. I need to get mentally prepared, do all of my training runs, plus not miss any bike or swim workouts - I think those really help too!
I have really fallen behind on my blog - will try to do better (I know, I say this every time). I REALLY need to get my Beach2Battleship race report up, it's been 3.5 months and I'm starting to forget some of the details - yikes!