Less than 6 weeks to go, and feeling good!

Well, feeling good is relative -- I'm actually pretty achy, tired most of the time, and my hip/lower back have started to hurt.

But, behind all of that, I can feel that my legs are getting fast. It's a really fun feeling, and I can't say I've had it often. Brings a half-smile to my face when I'm out there running & makes me really excited to race on somewhat fresh legs!

This weekend we went down to Rochester for their 20k road race. My training plan had a 19 miler this week, the last 12 miles at marathon pace. It's probably the hardest workout in the entire plan because 1. your legs are already really tired from a big mileage week and 2. mentally, it takes everything you have to both start the workout (yuck) and to continue after 2-3 miles when you're telling yourself you "just" have 9-10 left to go. So, I was super excited to have found a race to help with the workout.

I did 7 miles before the race began, and then began my marathon pace work! Gosh, it's no fun to hold back, though... from the gun two ladies started out really strong. I held to my 6:30s, but in the back of my mind I was wondering, "if I did a few 6:15s now, would it even matter?" :) After a mile, though, I had caught and passed both of them. I was glad for that -- otherwise the whole race I would have been fighting my plan, questioning whether I could go for it, etc :). Just too competitive for my own good!

After that I threw it into auto pilot. I looked at my watch fairly often, but didn't allow myself to react to the times I saw. I was surprised how even I ended up being -- averaged 6:30s exactly throughout the entire race! (that equates to a low 2:50 marathon, which is faster than the real goal, but my college coach suggested I do my marathon pace a little faster than goal so that I have the opportunity to go faster on race day if I'm feeling it)

The race is an equalizer, which is pretty cool. The guys start 12 minutes after the women. At 6 miles I saw the men, and the lead man looked like he was really booking it. Hmm, wonder how soon he'll catch me? At 10 miles, there's another turn around. I see the 2nd woman and think she's pretty close. Then I see the 1st man. Getting a little nervous! There's $150 for the overall winner, which is a huge incentive :). The next water stop one of the volunteers tells me I have the win. All the women I'm passing (they haven't doubled back yet) are cheering, which is pretty cool. It is a pretty big battle of the sexes, after all! So, sweet, I'm thinking to myself... until one man I pass yells, "Don't let her pass you!". Oh, no! Has she really made up that much ground?

I try to find another gear (I told myself before the race started that the last mile I could kick it in), but really couldn't. 6:20 mile pace was all I could get. I ended up finishing first overall (yeah!), about 4 minutes in front of the next woman. I thought about the random guy's cheer: what a cruel thing to say!! Guess it did get me to kick it in, though :)

Overall, a great day. The butt and quad muscles burned 1/2 way through, but with 4 miles to go they found a 2nd wind. Good to practice running through that feeling, sticking on pace, and realizing that sometimes it does get easier. Perfect race simulation.

So now, another 90 mile week. Wow. I think if I wasn't working, 90 miles would be just fine... but when working 2 jobs, 90 miles is a little over-the-top. Good thing it's the last really high week.

On a not as good note, I have been having a little pain in my hip/lower back -- same pain I had before Des Moines when I hit high mileage. Except then I ran through it & it basically took me out for 4 weeks because I wasn't smart about it. I'm getting in on Thursday (hope that's soon enough).

Nichole Porath

Nichole is a blogger, elite level runner, and coach. She ran professionally for Brooks for two years after qualifying for the 2012 US Olympic Marathon Trials. During that time she founded TNC endurance, where she coaches and motivationally speaks to organizations large and small. This blog details her rise to national-level racing, and continues to follow her as she gets back into racing after starting a family. Read on, friends!

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