Back into the double digits

The last time I hit double digits was about 2 months ago.  I ran (if you can call it that) 10 miles back on August 11 in 2:07:21.  Given last week’s 9 mile run, I knew that I could beat the August 11 time by a significant amount.  I was excited about it Friday night.  I woke up at 4:30 am and thought about heading out then.  I stayed in bed, though and fell back asleep.  I finally rolled out at 6:00 am.

Fall is finally coming to us here in St. Petersburg.  That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s getting significantly cooler, but the humidity is going down, so at least it’s starting to feel a little cooler.  I donned my Nike long sleeved microfiber running shirt since the cotton T-shirt I wore last week was starting to irritate my nipples.  I was comfortable in this shirt and the temperature was probably in the high 60’s when I walked out the door.  I finished my one mile warm-up walk, and started a slow jog, slightly weary at the amount of time this run will take me.

The cool weather makes me wish I was back in bed, but there isn’t a cloud in the sky and the stars are twinkling above me.  I aim to keep my first mile pace  between 11:30 and 12:00 minute mile pace and it’s coming more naturally now than in past weeks.  The pace is very comfortable and I feel like I can maintain it forever.  I pass the 1 mile mark in 11:20.  Seeing that I’m 50 seconds off my planned pace, I want to speed up, but I remind myself that this is part of the plan and hold back.

My leisurely pace continues through the neighborhood and across the bridge.  I continue along the water, but there’s no sunrise yet.  I’m a little earlier than usual.  There’s no breeze either.  That’s fine because the air is cooler in general and the breeze would be in my face at this point.  I round the corner into the park and cross the 2 mile mark in 22:40.  I’ve lost another 50 seconds.  There are a lot of other runners, walkers and cyclists around, but nothing like the thousands I encountered last week.  I have the sidewalk to myself, except for the occasional fisherman.

I speed up a little bit, trying to remind myself that I’ve got a long way to go.  My pace is uneven at this point as I speed up, then realize it, then slow down again.  I reach the water fountain at the 2.7 mile mark and stop for a drink.  I walk for 1 minute, then start my easy jog again.  I reach the 3 mile mark in 34:05.  I’m 2:35 seconds off my pace now, so I let myself fall into a natural rhythm.  That’s about where I want to be at this point, but I don’t want to fall any further behind.

The sun has risen and the breeze is starting to pick up now.  It manifests itself as a cross wind while I run along the downtown St. Petersburg waterfront.  I wind my way past the Yacht Club, and the municipal airport.  I cross the 4 mile mark in 44:33.  I’ve taken back 2 seconds.  Not much, but I’m shooting to run the next few miles at about my goal pace, so I’m not worried.  I run along the airport fence, cross a street and find myself in the University of South Florida Marine Science complex.  I’ll be defending my dissertation here in a month.  I’m pretty sure the run is more enjoyable than that will be.  I round the peninsula, run past the research vessels Suncoaster and Bellows upon which I spent so much of my early graduate school career and onto the main part of the campus.  I cruise across the campus, past the library and to the Salvidore Dali museum.  This is the 5 mile mark.  I’ve reached it in 57 minutes.  Still 2:30 off my pace.

I quickly turn around and run back to campus where I encounter a water fountain.  I stop for a drink and walk for another mile.  Continuing my run, I retrace my nostalgic steps through the marine science complex and out past the airport.  I’ve tried to speed up a little, but I pass the 6 mile mark in 65:32, thanks to the walk break.  Still over 2:30 off my planned pace, I need to crank things up over the last 4 miles to pull back some time.

I leave the airport behind, pass by the Yacht Club and the famed St. Petersburg Pier.  I’ve upped the pace and I’m still feeling very good.  I pass the 7 mile mark in 75:40.  I’ve pulled back another 20 seconds, but I’ve still got to crank up the speed.  The water fountain is only a quarter mile ahead, so I step things up, hoping to eat up the time I’ll lose on my last walk break before I take it.  I reach the fountain, take a drink and walk for a minute.

A pretty stiff cross breeze has developed as I run along the water.  I pass the 8 mile mark in 85:35.  I’ve got to run around 9:45 minutes per mile for the last 2 miles to make my goal.  As I turn the corner, the breeze turns into a tailwind.  An athletic looking woman is just completing a walk break.  She lets me pass and jogs behind me.  This is disconcerting.  The sun is behind us and I can see her shadow running in front of me.  I can tell she’s right behind and I don’t want her to pass.  I increase my pace to about 8:30.  It’s probably not a good idea, but I’m feeling good and my pride has taken control.  Gradually, I start to see her shadow fall behind until it disappears completely.  I reach the bridge and slow my pace as I climb it.  I’ve taken back a lot of time over the last half mile and I can taste the finish.  My body feels good and my breaths are coming easily.  I don’t slow down and I pass the 9 mile mark in about 94:30 – almost exactly my 9 mile time from last week.  I’m right on my planned pace.  No more time to make up.

The last mile seems short ahead of me.  I’m still feeling good.  My feet are falling in a nice rhythm.  My legs are tired, but they’re moving like a well oiled machine.  I keep moving.  I reach the final half mile and encounter a stop light.  It’s green, but turns yellow as I approach.  I don’t want to stop for traffic, so I kick the pace up a notch and cruise across the intersection before the light turns red.  I hit 10 miles in 1:43:31 – almost 1:30 ahead of my 1:45:00 goal and nearly 25 minutes faster than my last 10 mile run.

Planned workout

1 mile warmup

10 miles at 10:30 pace

1 mile cool down

Actual workout

1 mile warmup

10 miles at 10:21 pace

1 mile cool down

I’m getting pretty good at breaking the distance into 3 parts – a slow first third, the second third at goal pace, and the final third at faster than goal pace.  This, combined with a walk break roughly every 3 miles is working well for me.  Since I’ll be in the back of the pack at the start of the marathon anyway, I’ll probably be forced to jog along at about 12 minute mile pace.  I think that will be a good thing.  It will help keep the pre-race jitters from pushing me out of the gate too fast.

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