Friday, February 17, 2012

The Jump

Somewhere in the middle of the night, in the middle of a nine mile climb up Sugarloaf Mountain, in the middle of the 2011 Ragnar D.C. Relay, it happened. That moment when you’ve been training, faithfully putting in the miles, ticking the boxes off your plan, and waiting for...the jump.

A fog settled on the damp farmland behind the wooden fences lining the road. It was both ghostly and peaceful all at once. I could smell the cows but couldn’t see them. Wringing sweat and breathing hard, I suddenly felt the strength of all those miles settle in, the legs and lungs working together in perfect symmetry, and the breathing even and effortless. I dropped the pace and surged on through the night to the next checkpoint.

On my next run, an easy eight miler two days later, I still felt it. I remember humming along the road, glancing down at my watch and seeing the sub-7 pace. Really? I thought, because I felt like I wasn't working at all. It had finally happened.

I bring this up because on Sunday, I’m lacing up with two of my friends to compete in the GW Marathon Relay. It’s a small race that loops three times around that similar Ragnar leg farmland, and easily boasts one of the greatest race t-shirts out there in addition to a fantastic bowl of chili at the finish.

Last year, this race became my turning point. It was the longest I had run without any knee pain prior to Christmas. And incidentally, I’d like to put an end to this “injured at the beginning of the year” thing pretty quick. It became one of those, “Am I really running this fast?” kind of races. Call it false fitness or extremely well-rested, whatever the case, it all came together.

This Sunday will mark the end of week four of my preparation for the Rock ‘n Roll D.C. Half Marathon coming up in March. It’s exactly half way, and I’m hoping for...the jump.

You certainly can’t force the jump, the same way you can’t force someone to fall in love with you. But, oh how we court both. The jump has to evolve naturally. I hold out hope for this weekend because it’s one of those perfect race environments. I won’t have the weight of four days of hard running to carry on my legs along with five full work days and dwindling sleep. No, I’ll be well-rested, carbed up, and prepared.

I’m still at the point where running “race pace” for 13.1 miles is not a thought I can wrap my head around. And truth be told, I’m not exactly sure what my “race pace” would be given the ankle setback.

So, I’ll approach Sunday the way I plan on approaching the half marathon: whatever will be will be. When I take the handoff, I’ll temper that adrenaline, save it, and try to distribute it evenly through the race and hope that somewhere along those nine miles, I'll find the flow and make...the jump.

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