Sunday, February 21, 2010

Racing For Fun

When is a race not really a race? Well, I guess that depends on who you are, what you consider racing and what your goals are for that event.

Today, I did something I never did before. I raced without really racing. What I mean is this; I participated in the Hampton 1/2 Marathon with my mind set on running "easy". I know when some people read this, they will interpret my "easy" as fast. However, it's all relative.

Like many triathletes, I use many running races to gauge fitness level and current ability. It is an easy way to see how the body will respond to race-like conditions before, during and after an event.

However, today I decided to run comfortably for 13.1 miles. The challenges were going to be a bit different. First, I had to mentally make sure I stayed at a comfortable pace. Second, I had to control my competitive instincts. This means that I would have to run against myself and not worry about who was passing me or finishing ahead of me. Finally, I wanted to finish this race without getting hurt. Training has been very limited and I haven't run more than 20 miles in a week so I was a bit worried.

With a time goal of 1:44:00 or 8:00/mile pace, I felt I could accomplish my above mentioned concerns. This is usually my training pace so I had a good idea on how to pace myself. The weather was perfect for a February day in New Hampshire, although a bit windy at times.

On to the race. I must say, it went perfectly. I felt so at ease and so comfortable on the course that it was scary. No mental stress. No physical stress. No worries. The miles just clicked away. Never have I felt so at ease running 13.1 miles, let alone any race.

Here are the miles and pace:

*Mile 1: 7:42
*Mile 2: 7:36
*Mile 3: 7:39
*Mile 4: 7:43
*Mile 5: 7:44
*Mile 6: 7:36
*Mile 7: 6:58 (I think this mile was short)
*Mile 8: 7:53 (I think this mile was long)
*Mile 9: 7:40
*Mile 10: 7:31
*Mile 11: 7:47
*Mile 12: 7:49
*Mile 13.1: 7:52

As you can see, with a flat course, I stayed pretty consistent. I was amazed at how good I felt from mile to mile. I was amazed how easy each mile felt. I was happy with how everything fell into place.

Having never really run a race for fun, the most difficult thing for me was feeling really good and NOT pushing myself out of my comfort level. My heart rate felt great. My legs stayed with me. And I enjoyed the run. Hmmm, maybe I have something here.

Anyway, I can't say I am going to keep "racing" this way but it was a positive change for me. I ate like a horse after the race and began to work on my nutrition for the upcoming season. All in all, a very good day.

In closing, I figured that sometimes it is better to go a bit slower and to take it all in. Enjoy the day, the scenery, the people around you. I still got my medal and race shirt, so who really cares. RIGHT???

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