In My Head
There's a lot of weird thinking that goes on before a race, even if you know that you're a middle-aged, middle-of-the-pack sort. For a long time, heading into a race I thought my result would largely be determined by my effort. Wait—that's not quite what I mean. What I mean is, heading into a race, about the only think I'd think about was giving a hard effort. Wait! Again that's not it. Not a hard effort—a courageous effort, a monstrous effort that threw off the shackles of pain and misery—utterly ignored them!—and delivered me the triumph I needed. This mindset revealed my tendency to be irrational in pursuit of validating success, naïve regarding the limitations of fitness and just generally not nearly as rigorous as I like to believe I am in looking at the world.
Well I'm over all that. It's been a long process, a gradual one, and now I get it. And what that means is I have no illusions that I'll bust an hour and a half in the half marathon tomorrow. Someday I might. But three months into six months of training for a completely different sort of race, with no taper, and being just two months removed from a long break from running to let my body heal? Uh, no. There will be no stunning breakthrough tomorrow. I cannot make it happen by being a superman. I cannot make everything great by trying impossibly hard (if that makes sense). In Year 8 of Doing This Stuff—not as seriously as many but pretty steadfastly—I'm not letting myself slide into that thinking.
Instead, rational and studied and careful analysis says that I'll run around 1:35 tomorrow, well off my result (and PR) from last year of 1:31:49, and an eternity off the magic 90-minute mark I dream about. I know this because while I am rounding into shape, I just haven't put in the required miles in the last four or five months. Not enough tempo runs, not enough long runs. Hey, I've been swimming and cycling, and raising a son, and holding down a job (and eating too much crap, and drinking too much wine, and sometimes just being a slacker).
This isn't to say I won't run my guts out tomorrow. See, that's the irony of the whole deal. I pretty much always run my guts out. So whatever my finishing time is, you can trust that will be true. And so can I.