The New York Half is in two days and somehow I still have no game plan. Despite the countless demi-marathons I’ve run over the years and having run the race last year, I just don’t have a good feel for Sunday. The fact that I’m returning from injury and have only been training for 5 weeks with limited mileage is the first question mark. I’ve been hitting my paces on the intervals and tempos, but I do feel like my speed over distance suffered a bit with the time off for the stress fracture. I’ve been putting in more training hours in the past few months than I ever have, but the bulk have been swimming, biking, and strength training. Post-injury I’m still limiting my mileage only to the ‘quality runs,’ so my monthly totals are looking more like my weeklies were last year. I feel like the change in training approach along with the added strength sessions has definitely made me leaner and given me more power in my legs, but the past few weeks have been almost like getting used to running in new body.
To top all of that off, I got hit with a cold this week, so my running didn’t so much taper as drop off a steep cliff. I’ve been (for once) erring on the side of extra rest, so I did a short interval session Tuesday morning before the cold really set in, a brisk 3 miles Wednesday night in an attempt to shake the congestion loose, and another easy 3 on Thursday morning. My last strength session was Monday and I’ve done no swimming or cycling this week. I’m still feeling a little stuffy, but my five pronged defense of hot tea, Echinacea, vitamin C, bone broth, and frequent use of the neti pot seems to be working.
Still, the pacing question remains. My last long run was an 8-miler, which I ran at 8:15 pace. It felt quick, but not bad. The half marathon A goal this season is sub 1:45, which basically means running 8 flats. My gut tells me that’s probably a little too fast to sustain right now, but part of me wants to just go out like a Kenyan and let the chips fall where they may. The course is fast—all the hills are in the first 5-6 miles through Central Park, and then it’s pretty much a gradual downhill to Battery Park. That said, if I plan to negative split I’ll need to allow a little extra time for the terrain at the beginning and then really book it at sub-8 pace for the second half. The Central Park hills aren’t that bad, but I know from experience that they can take their toll if you go out too fast. My worry is that if I get caught up in the moment and take off at near 8’s through the park I’ll end up nursing a side stitch for the rest of the race.
So the real question is, how much can I actually handle right now? How fast is too fast in the park? To add to the fun, thanks to my Garmin’s altoceloraphobia, last year I lost satellites for most of the stretch through Midtown, so I can’t really plan on reliable pacing once I hit the flat anyway. In the end this race may be more of an exercise in just going with the flow. Given the head cold and that it’s my first real race back since my injury, I think I’d be happy to run close to a PR (1:50:44), and then gun for 1:45 next month in the Women’s Half. Still, the weather is looking pretty ideal—mid 40’s with some clouds, and I want to do my best and start the season on a high note. This should be my first run in ages not done on tired legs, so maybe there’s still hope for some race day magic.