Tomorrow morning , a mere 15 hours from now, is the Palos Verdes Half Marathon. This will be my fourth half, exactly one year after running my first on a horribly cold and rainy morning in Cleveland. I remember the buildup for Cleveland - I had never run 13.1 miles in a race before and I was terrified and excited at the same time. It was all I could talk about with family, friends, and coworkers, and of course the question always was, "What's your goal?" I had decided that I should be able to match race pace of a hilly 15k that I had run in late March, 8:20/mile, so this was my answer. But by mile 8 I was hurting, the dreaded side cramp. I stopped to walk for a few seconds, and then ran again, but slower, and walked painfully slowly through a water stop near mile 10 or 11. The thought of having to tell everyone who asked that, no, in fact I wasn't able to hit my goal, was unbearable. I decided at that moment, leaving the water stop and turning onto the bridge to head back toward downtown, that I wouldn't do it. Give up on my goal, that is. Thank God for the quarter mile downhill to the finish line! I had done it, averaging 8:16/mile. Monday I hobbled around, more sore than I'd ever been (maybe I should have spent more time stretching and less time celebrating at Winking Lizard post race), but I was proud of my accomplishment.
Back to Palos Verdes. In contrast to a year ago, I now know that in addition to a simple overall average pace, I need a race plan. I need to study the course, understand each mile, each climb, and know where each water stop is located. I need to refuel, at least once, maybe twice, on the course, preferably about a tenth of a mile before a water stop. Instead of trying to bank time early, causing myself to run the last miles slowly, I need to conserve energy, watch my heart rate, get through the final hill at mile 9, and leave it all out there on miles 10 through 13, which are downhill. What thought will keep me going tomorrow? The desire to PR, and prove to myself that with of of my training I'll be able to PR at the Missoula Marathon in July.