raising the bar

i’ve had a goal all year of running a half marathon in under 2 hours.  i signed up for 5 half-marathons (one in each borough) to give myself 5 chances at the goal.  i also loved running through the 5 boroughs so much last year, during the marathon, that i thought running through them each a little more would be great. 

the first two races were back-to-back, one week apart.  i hated the first as it was just 2+ laps of Central Park, and not very inspiring.  i finished in 2:06, and was happy with it given the freezing temps.  the next weekend in the bronx, i had no thought of making my goal time as i figured i wasn’t recovered enough from the previous week.  i started out fast, and ended up realizing at about mile 9 that i had a shot at making my goal time.  i pushed within an inch of my life, but fell short by 45 seconds.  maddening but i had 3 more chances. 

the next two races i ran with friends.  the bklyn half was really hot, and i worked hard but not too hard, had several annoying pit stops thanks to a bad dinner choice the night before, and ended up with a 2:16 finish.  not too happy but it was a fun run.  i’d hoped to take a stab at my goal again in queens last month, but got stuck by some bad planning on the part of the race staff.  there were not enough shuttle  buses as promised, and despite getting there when they said, my friend and i missed the start of the race by 30 minutes and had to walk 2 miles just to get there.  even though we were fairly timed, i didn’t have the heart to leave my friend to run alone, in her first-ever race, as we were practically running alone.  i let her set the pace, and stuck to her side, ending up with a 2:22.  i wasn’t too happy.

going into yesterday’s race i knew it was my last shot.  i was determined to break 2 hours, but didn’t feel like i’d trained enough.  it requires a 9:15mm pace, when i run a 10mm naturally.  i got there early, stayed relaxed, ate right, and hit the port-a-potties 3x in the last hour just to make sure.  i aimed for a 9mm pace to give myself a wee cushion for water breaks and tiredness.  the first 3 miles clicked off at an 8:45 clip, and while it felt hard i figured i’d rather start strong and fade than try to catch up.  besides, it felt really good to watch the mile markers fly past, rather than slowly hove into view like they had in queens.  every marker, i’d set a mental note for the time +9, and watch for the next one.  the next 3 miles passed, and i had a 2 minute cushion built up. by the time i hit halfway, i knew that even allowing for some fading, i’d break 2 hours.

it was then that my crazy self decided maybe i could raise the bar.  i’d started 4 minutes after the gun, as getting 4,000 people across a starting line takes a few minutes.  the timing clocks at the mile markers were then 4 min ahead of my watch.  i did some more mental math, and thought that maybe i could beat 2 hours by the official clocks, not giving myself credit for the 4 min lag (though they always give you net time, not clock time, when scoring your results).  that kept me going for a few more miles, till about mile 10 i knew that goal was clinched also. 

that apparently wasn’t good enough, because i then decided maybe i could beat the official clocks by as much as 5 minutes.  at this point however i only had 3 miles to do it in, and not that much steam left.  i’d pushed myself a lot harder than in any previous half, and was really feeling it.  i still hoped for it, but didn’t have enough oomph left.  i finished in 1:53:20 by my watch, 1:57 and change by the official clocks, and managed to be very happy but a wee bit disappointed at the same time.  

insanity.  i always raise the bar for myself, no matter what.  if i’m in danger of reaching it, i move it.  my goal was 2 hours, i shattered the goal with a 1:53 and a record pace averaging 8:39mm, and yet i still felt like if i’d tried a bit harder i could have made it 2 minutes faster.  i’m very pleased with what i did, and yet i won’t let myself be 100% happy with it.  what on earth is wrong with my brain that i can’t be satisfied with that?? 

i really don’t know where it comes from.  i’m afraid i sometimes hold my kids to unattainable standards too, which is not cool at all.  i do remember feeling like nothing less than straight A’s was acceptable on my report card, and being asked what i could do to bring B’s up to A’s.  is that enough to make me always move the bar?  i don’t know.  it’s not healthy, it breeds discontent and a lack of satisfaction.  am i afraid of rest and stagnation?  possibly.  i’ve recognized the issue for years, but this race business showed it in it’s full ridiculousness and brought it to mind again.  love to back off on it, but am not sure how.