Tuesday, March 22, 2011

2009 - another comeback, or maybe not.

Towards the end of 2007, I had really made a strong comeback to running. But other priorities were weighing on my mind, namely the idea of expanding our family. I have never been one to listen too carefully to the ticking of my biological clock, but on the other hand I had always wanted 2 children and I figured, why not get it all over with sooner rather than later??

The first thing this meant was running less. I somewhat reluctantly eased back on the mileage during November and December, and was rewarded in January (on the day before my birthday) with a positive pregnancy test that heralded the September arrival of our small daughter. As with my first pregnancy, I ran most days right up to the end. In fact, I was only dissuaded from running in a local 6 mile fun run the day before my scheduled C-section by the horrified look my obstetrician gave me when I mentioned that I might do it. I did run 10km - privately - that day just to make my point that it would have been fine!

For various reasons I decided not to push the running until I was done with breastfeeding this time around, and of course small daughter decided that bottles were just too YUCK to be tolerated, so this put me out of racing for a full 12 months after she was born.

Because I'm me, though, I did enter and train for (in a haphazard sort of fashion) the Blackmores Sydney Half-Marathon in September 2009. Before my injury and for my return to racing in 2007, I had never followed a proper training plan and really hadn't bothered to run particularly long runs during training. I had just done whatever I felt like on the day, covered a variety of distances, and had never formally done any speedwork. Somehow this had never seemed to hold me back......until now.

The day of the race was bright and clear. I had travelled up to Sydney the night before the race, my first night away from the children in, um, ever. But despite the lack of disturbance - or perhaps because of it - I had an awful night's sleep before the race. And I was still coughing a bit from a cold that had gone on most of the winter, on and off, courtesy of my germ vector son. But I thought, whatever, I'll be fine. The 2007 race had been the scene of my PR since returning to racing, so I was confident I could run a similar time. Or so I thought.

The start was self-seeded (which I always hate) and although I lined up in the appropriate place, I was there with many over-optimistic runners who made the first mile or so an obstacle course for those who belonged up the front. Never mind, by the time we were heading across the Harbour Bridge the crowd had thinned somewhat and I was hitting my stride.

I ran the first 5km in 20:14 and the next in 20:43, putting myself on pace for a sub 1:28 finish. So far, all seemed to be going excellently well.....but then the wheels began to threaten to fall off.

By the 15km mark I had slowed to a 21:55 split. I held myself on the same pace (around 6:55 min/mile) for a 21:40 split at the 20km mark, but then the unthinkable happened. I got passed by the 90 minute pacers. SHOCK HORROR!

Even if I hadn't just taken a major hit on my confidence, I had nothing left in my legs to go after them. In fact, my pace over the final 1.2km took a nosedive down to 4:40 min/km (7:27 min/mile) from my initial 4:02 (6:28 min/mile). Crossing the finish line, my legs almost went from under me and in the video footage - which I am not going to share - I can be seen wavering off to one side, unable to even walk in a straight line. Needless to say, a major re-think of my training strategy appeared to be in order.

My official finish time was 1:30:39, good enough for 8th in my AG and 26th female overall. But for me, to have lost 3 minutes in speed over only 2 years - after losing just 90 seconds between 2001 and 2007 - was a huge blow. Whether it was the after-effects of another pregnancy, the lingering cold or just a sign that I was now 2 years closer to middle age, I will never know. Off I went home, to think about things and plot my next move. Pretty soon it was obvious: 2010 was going to be The Year of The Plan.

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