After my miraculously quick recovery from my adductor strain, and the subsequent 20-miler that I was able to run last Sunday, my attitude and outlook completely changed. I had been feeling cautious and nervous and uncertain about whether or not I'd run Philly at all, and thinking that even if I did run it, it would be a slower effort, and I'd have to let go of any time goals and just run for the experience.
But after I pulled off that 20 last Sunday, everything shifted. I allowed myself to get excited again. I allowed myself to look around on the race website and check out the elevation profile and the course map, and confirm my hotel reservations and look into train tickets.
And then I ran again Tuesday, and averaged a 7:47 pace for 8 miles. I can't say it was easy - the 7:47 that would have felt easy a month ago felt pretty challenging - but I did it, and that boosted my confidence even more, so I allowed myself to think that maybe I'd still be able to get BQ for 2016 (I need to run a 3:45).
And then on Thursday, I ran 10 miles at a 7:42 pace, and it felt easier than the Tuesday run. I ran farther and faster, but it felt easier (despite the fact that a few of those miles were run directly int a headwind that was blowing about 25 - 30mph, courtesy of the remnants of a Nor'easter that had come thorugh the night before, causing me to literally hold onto my hat a few times, so it wouldn't blow away).
So then I allowed myself to think that even though I'm certain a PR is still overreaching a bit, I may have a shot at coming at least close to my current PR of 3:30.
And then yesterday, this happened -
20 miles, at an average 7:58 pace. WHAT???
I went into that 20-miler hoping that I could run the 8:04 pace that was on my training schedule. Even though I'm not doing speedwork, I was thinking I'd like to try to at least do the tempo runs and hit the goal paces for the long runs for these final few weeks. And 20 miles at an 8:00 pace is something I've done before, so I felt like I had to get out there and give it my best shot.
Nothing in the world like starting a run at this spot at sunrise - I'll never get tired of it.
I was very careful to start conservatively, and my first mile was in the 8:40s, and the second mile 8:22, but then I quickly dipped down to the low 8s for the remainder of the first half of the run. And I was feeling really good. The weather was perfect, and I ran into a bunch of other runners from the club - always nice to see familiar faces out there when you're running solo - and I was just cruising along and having so much fun.
I ran the first 7 miles as one loop, and after a quick stop at my car, headed back out to run the Gansett Half course (giving myself every advantage to run a faster second half). As soon as I hit mile 10, I started to see the sub-8s on my watch. I worried a little bit about whether or not I'd be able to keep it up for 10 miles, but I knew there was only one way to find out, so I kept at it.
And happily, I was able to keep it up, even running the last 5 miles in 7:48, 7:46, 7:42, 7:44, and 7:32. Those last two miles were challenging, but I also finished feeling like I could have kept going. And I'm only a little embarrassed to admit that I shed a few tears when I finished and looked back at my splits and my overall pace.
To think that 4 weeks ago I was literally limping around my house, and in excrutiating pain every time I stood up from a seated position - and to now find myself able to run the fastest 20-miler of my entire life, and feel GOOD when I finished.... It's way beyond what I imagined I'd be able to do right now, and I was completely overwhelmed with gratitude. And pretty excited, too!
I still have little voices in my head that remind me that despite this amazing 20-miler, my training has been inconsistent, and I've only gotten in 8 weeks of speedwork (and won't be doing anymore), so I'm not in the shape I wanted to be in at this point - but the shape I'm in is pretty damn good, considering what's happened the past few weeks.
I may be slightly off track, but it's not making me doubt my ability to run well - what it's doing is making me even more aware that I need to be cautious and start slow, so that I can finish strong - if I can do that, I feel confident that I can still get out there and run close to the race that I wanted to run.
And I feel like unless I have a meltdown of epic proportions, I should be able to get my third Boston Qualifier. I know full well that I need a few minutes for a cushion if I want to not just qualify, but also get in and run it, but I still feel like I should be able to manage that.
The one thing I know for certain is that I am finally back to being crazy excited to run this race! I had one of those moments last week where it hit me that "oh my god, I'm running another marathon in a few weeks!" The injury rehab has had me so distracted that the weeks have just slipped away, and I'm suddenly finding myself nearly at the point of tapering.
It's good to feel optimistic and confident and happy and excited again. I was keeping all that under wraps the past few weeks, but it's back full force now! Training for and running a marathon never gets old, and it never loses the magic. So glad that I'm going to be able to experience it another time.