Semper Currens XII: Roc’ing and Rolling

Week Eleven Training Wrap-Up

Despite the craziness, the first part of the week went better than I had anticipated. An unexpected, yet lovely, eight-mile run on the Schuylkill River Trail in Philadelphia while waiting for Tessa to be discharged from hospital on Tuesday morning,

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and a hastily rescheduled sixteen-mile long run along the Erie Canal in Rochester on Wednesday formed the bulk of my mileage during the week. When added to Sunday’s Rochester Half Marathon, which I write about below, I came close to fifty miles for the week. I may have missed my total mileage goal by eleven miles, but I wasn’t too unhappy about the way things turned out.

The Week Ahead

No trips. No craziness. Work, run, eat, sleep, repeat. In other words, business as usual.

Feature o’ the Week: The 2015 Rochester Half Marathon

Everything was in my favor for this one. The sticky weather cleared out the night before, leaving a cool, clear, perfect running day behind. And this was Rochester, where I always seem to bring my A-game–it was here that I ran my first ever sub-four-hour marathon at the Rochester Marathon in 2013 and where I set my current half-marathon PB of 1:48:30 this spring at the Flower City Half.

But I would have to bring my A-game and then some if I was to hit my target time of 1:45. Aside from a new PB for the distance, this would tell me if a sub-3:40 Marine Corps finish was within reach.

All I had to do was hit 8-minute miles for 13.1 miles on a new and mostly unfamiliar course.

Right from the gun, however, my body told me this was going to be a stretch. I trailed the 1:45 pace group successfully for the first three miles, but they went out too fast for me, and by mile four I was struggling.

Then, it happened. On the gentle downhill along the Genesee Riverway Trail heading north into Charlotte, I felt nature’s call.

Or should I say nature’s roar.

I hung in along the beautiful boardwalk section of the trail–the absence of portapotties left me no choice–but once we got back onto terra firma, I made my break from the pack and found a place off the trail to … umm … take care of business.

Two minutes gone. The 1:45 group lost in the distance. I had dug a big hole, and getting out of it was not going to be easy.

Fortunately, I quickly got my mojo back and made it up the first, short elevation and over the Patrick O’Rorke Bridge. But I knew that the hard work was ahead, and that, with the exception of a couple of short downhills, from here to the finish was all uphill. I shared a joke with a small group of spectators at the bottom of Thomas Avenue (“Which one of you lot put this hill here?”), then put on my game face and got to work.

Rather than crushing the hill, I kept a steady pace to save myself for the second half of the course, all the while knowing I was losing lost more time in the process. But even at the midpoint, during the long slog down St. Paul Boulevard, I felt I could still come in under my PB, especially as the spectators kept the energy levels up and I was still feeling strong.

It was then that the reality check came. Just before the turn back onto the Riverway Trail, around mile nine, I heard a spectator say that the 3:50 marathon group was right behind me, and sure as anything, I looked round to see them hard on my tail. I knew they were running somewhere in the vicinity of an 8:46 pace, so the fact that they could now pass me was a real blow to my ego.

The moment to dig deep had come.

I quickened my pace and started to pull away. Then, as luck would have it, the next part of the course featured a short descent back onto the trail, and I let gravity pull me downhill and managed put some real daylight between us.

It was to be my last sub-eight-minute split for the race. Now we were back on the west bank of the river, back where we had descended an hour ago.

What goes down must come up. The combination of that elevation, and a short, sharp ascent back onto St. Paul on the other side of the river, were pretty much the last nails in my coffin.

It was survival time. The last mile of the run–past the Genesee Brewery, over the Pont de Rennes Bridge and into the High Falls district–was just a blur. But finally, there was the finish line and the welcome sight of Tessa encouraging me on.

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1:51:02–a far cry from my PB from earlier this year and a farther cry from my 1:45 goal. But it was still my second-fastest half marathon. And, if course difficulty and the disastrous mile five were factored in, possibly one of the best runs I’ve had over the distance.

But what was the lesson? What was the take away? My preparation had been the same as usual–the same training and nutrition beforehand, the same hydration and energy gels on the course. The weather had been more than cooperative. So was it the difficulty of the new course? Was it the stress of the previous week and all the traveling and worry about Tessa’s surgery? Or was it simply a bad day at the office?

All I know is, I spent the rest of Sunday exhausted and searching for answers.

Team Fox Update

This week, the good people at Team Fox have issued a challenge to all the participants running in the Marine Corps Marathon and 10K, so this would be a great time to contribute. Please go to my fundraising page and make a donation to the Michael J. Fox Foundation and help eliminate Parkinson’s!

Have you done a tune-up race recently? How did you do? And what did you learn? Leave a comment here, or send me a photo, and I’ll feature it in the next Semper Currens.

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About Bruce Pegg

I write about running, music and spirituality.
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