I did everything I could to run slowly this morning. I lined up at the back of the corral, I consciously avoided team runners I knew would pull me along, and (most importantly) I ran in plain white shirt; I knew I would feel compelled to race if I was wearing the VCTC team singlet.
I started the race at a VERY measured pace. I'm generally lousy at following all the collected race wisdom and coaching to start slowly, but today it was no problem. I rather enjoyed hearing the huffing and puffing around me as I breathed easy and cruised over the rolling hills up the west side of the park. My goal today was to run a progression. Not a strict time progression, but an effort progression that was based on the feel of my breathing and heart rate.
I ran the first mile in 6:35, about 5 seconds over my planned half-marathon pace for next weekend and 50 seconds (or so) slower than my typical 10k first mile. No problems here, although running slow never turned anyone on (I'd guess...). I did my second mile in 6:34 and was feeling strong (and bored) as we chugged up the hill at the northwest edge of the park. More of the same for the third mile, although I allowed the descents to pull me faster than seemed prudent. I felt steady and again skipped the water station as we headed to the east side and started to climb back out of the big dipper at the north end of the park. Mile four took a bite out of my me (as it always does on this course), but today I just went with it. I let my heart rate increase as I chugged up the hill but stayed aware on my overall breathing and heart rate as I held onto a 6:41 split.
Here, with 2.2 miles to go, I allowed myself to stretch out a little. I'd been following a nice pack of steady runners and decided to see if any of them wanted to run. I moved around them on the inside, leaned into a descent, and markedly increased my pace. They all stayed put. I pulled up next to someone who offered me advice on running faster (really dude? really?) and then, annoyed at his presumptuous chatter, picked it up again for a 6:18 fifth mile. With a little more than a mile to go, I felt strong and energetic. I held my pace until I saw the 800m to go sign and began my final push into the finish.
Mile six came in at a reasonable but steady 6:14. As usual, I ran the final 300 meters or so with a vigorous burst in 5:30. I crossed the finish line at 40:44 feeling fairly fresh and relaxed. Nothing like the exhaustion I felt last week in the Bronx. I truly don't know how fast I could have run today, but my energy reserves sure made me wonder. I'm confident I could have run close to 38:00 and certain I could have broken 39:00.
And what was with all this control and measured racing, anyway? Why bother? Next Saturday morning at 7:00 the horn sounds on the Brooklyn Half Marathon, a race I've been gunning for since January. I know I have a long way to go in my training to hit my goal time/pace, but next Saturday will truly be the measure of the work I've done this year.