Summer Racing Update

As I sit here on my back porch on July 7th, looking out at a cloudless and radiant blue sky, June isn’t the only thing I see in my rear-view mirror.  Although July began just a few days ago, my summer racing schedule can also be found in that same rear-view mirror.  Two races isn’t much of a summer schedule, but I was able to accomplish everything I wanted during my May-June training block and it’s time to make the transition to marathon training.  I am happy to announce that 14 Sundays from now, I will be back in the Windy City on the start line of the Chicago Marathon.

My finish at April’s Boston Marathon changed my perspective of what is possible going forward, and the results from last month’s USA Half Marathon Championships was a reaffirmation that I am on the right track.  Grandma’s Marathon, once again, hosted many of our country’s best half marathoners – almost 170 in total – and their commitment to bringing together such a high-caliber field resulted in probably the deepest US road championships in a long time.  18 men ran 1:04 or faster and 39 men ran under 65-minutes.  I finished 19th overall, and just missed dipping under 64-minutes, with a new half marathon PR of 1:04:01.

A 51-second PR is noteworthy under any circumstance, but this result was especially surprising considering the trouble I went through in the 10 days leading up to race day.  About a week and a half before the race I suffered a very high quad strain – doing what, I have no clue – that forced me to alter my normal training routine.  I had to cancel a few workouts and was limited to very short – and honestly, painful – runs.  After hobbling through the weekend’s runs, the plan was to test it on Monday with a handful of 150m striders after a short run.  It didn’t go well, and I was really concerned about actually being able to start a half marathon 6 days later, let alone finish one.  Luckily, I have access to a fantastic medical team, including a great physical therapist (Robert Wayner) and massage therapist (Michael Donawa) and after treatments on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday the pain had, for the most part, subsided.  A little ultrasound and massage work can do wonders for muscle strains!

I still went to the starting line that Saturday morning with a lot of uncertainty in my mind.  I hadn’t done anything hard, intensity-wise, in more than 10 days, and had no idea how my leg would feel at mile 2…mile 6…mile 10…or at the end – if I was even able to make it that far.  For me, this was a whole new territory.  Despite being clueless as to how I would feel during the race, I made the decision about 10 minutes before the start that I was going to go for it; almost purely because the opportunity to race against such a quality field, under ideal conditions doesn’t happen regularly.  Fortunately, the weather-gods in Duluth blessed us with pretty ideal conditions on the morning of the race: the temperature was in the high-40s and there was a thick layer of fog that made for a very Eugene-like late Spring day.

And went for it, I did.  The pace was quick for the start, with the leaders going through the first mile in the low 4:20s; 4:43 for me.  As the race progressed through the early miles, I found myself running with a group of a dozen or so guys.  We hit the 10k mark in 29:54, which is a 10k road PR for me, and only 5 seconds slower than my 10,000m track PR, I felt surprisingly good and the leg was holding up well.  However, I would be lying if I told you that I wasn’t at least a little concerned that an imminent crash-and-burn was on the horizon because of the fast start.  I hung on to the pack until we hit the hill heading back into Duluth, which is when I found myself trying to plug the proverbial leaking ship over the last 5k.  Despite my best efforts over the last few miles, I just missed finishing under the 64-minute mark, settling for a final time of 64:01.  63 has a much better look to it than 64 – apologies to fans of the number 64!

After the race, I was a little mad at myself for “falling asleep” during the 10th and 11th miles, because that is what ultimately cost me being under 64-minutes, and also for not being able to move with the group I was with, as many of them ran in the mid-63’s.  At the same time, I was pleased that my leg was able to withstand the pounding of a hard 13.1 miles, and I know more is in the tank.  And I know it won’t count for record purposes, but I was also happy about setting a few road PR’s en route to the finish: 29:54 at the 10k and 48:32 for 10 miles, a 42-second improvement.

Needing to make sure my leg was 100% recovered, I spent the next 10 days after the half marathon just doing some easy running.  I hopped into the local 10k race here in Eugene on the 4th of July, the Butte to Butte, and was able to win it for the second straight year.  It’s always fun to be able to sleep in your own bed the night before a race and then run both your warmup and cooldown straight from your house – talk about convenience!  All of that doesn’t compare to doing a race with many of the people you see and interact with on a regular basis.  No matter where I race in this world, nothing beats running in the place you live!

So what’s next?  My marathon training officially starts tomorrow and I’ll focus on that for the next few months – along with enjoying the beautiful Oregon summer that we get spoiled with!  My sabbatical from racing will end on Labor Day, where the plan is to race at the USA 20k Championships in New Haven, CT.  I’ve got a lot of miles to put in between now and then, but I am excited to see where it leads me this fall.

I have long-said that if I could manage to lower my half marathon times some, I would be capable of running even quicker in the marathon.  I am not where I ultimately want to be for 13.1 miles, but I am certain that last month’s race will be a springboard to a fast time in Chicago this fall.  I’ll be bringing my A-game come October!

USA Half Marathon Championship race splits – Powered by Garmin
Mile 1 – 4:43
Mile 2 – 4:45
Mile 3 – 4:45
Mile 4 – 4:53
Mile 5 – 4:58
Mile 6 – 4:44
Mile 7 – 4:54
Mile 8 – 4:55
Mile 9 – 4:52
Mile 10 – 4:58
Mile 11 – 5:02
Mile 12 – 4:57
Mile 13 – 4:53

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    Tony Mollica

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    Congratulations on your new HM PR! Good luck in your training for Chicago!

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