A Beautiful Day In Rotterdam
Sunday, April 10th was a beautiful day in Rotterdam. It was mostly sunny, and about 50 degrees. Fortunately, then, that Rotterdam had designated that date for the 41st Rotterdam Marathon. Maybe a tad sunny for my liking -- I spend my winters running happily in the pitch-black pre-dawn, and my summers waking up even earlier to escape the light -- but any marathoner will tell you that it doesn't get much better that that. I ran a 2:22:38 with a negative split, my best time and easily my best performance to date.
I stopped blogging many months ago, after I ran the virtual Boston Marathon. After that, I spent a year working on COVID projects for the State of New Mexico and losing fitness. In January, I snagged an entry for the 2021 Rotterdam Marathon off the secondhand marketplace, hopeful that vaccine would roll out (thanks to my 90-hour workweeks) and the whole thing would be finished in time for me to jet off to the Netherlands in March. That dream quickly faded, but I signed up for Boston's only-ever October edition, and focused on training as COVID work slowed down.
I had a few good weeks of training, but nothing that gave me real confidence. In September I ran 70:01 at a half marathon in Albuquerque, the same time I had run before my 2:26 in Chicago. I thought that might mean I was in similar shape, but I ended up running a slogging, painful 2:32:XX (I don't even remember my time because I was so unimpressed). But I had been working so much and running so little that I wasn't surprised. I signed up for Rotterdam, and I would be ready for this one.
In a lot of ways, I don't think I deserved the time that I ran. I did not have a consistent training block. I dragged my feet for most of October and November, and sort of got into gear in January. I think I only ran four weeks over 100 miles, each separated by a few 60 70-mile weeks. I did one repeat workout and strides maybe three times. Other than that, I did 20-24 mile long runs on Sundays averaging around 6:15 per mile, with the last 5 anywhere from 5:00 to 6:00 per mile. There was nothing impressive about any individual week of training. However, when I looked back at my year-to-date stats on Strava, I found that from January 1st through the end of March, I ran an average of 84 miles per week, at an average pace of 6:43 per mile.
In February, I traveled out to Phoenix with a few friends for the Sprouts Mesa Half Marathon. I ran an easy 67:34, just one second off my time from the same race two years earlier (just before Boston was cancelled and the world shut down). Since my training had been unfocused and inconsistent, I was a little surprised, but it gave me confidence that I was gaining back some of the fitness I lost over the two previous years.
I eventually lined up on Sunday with a goal of 2:25. The gun went off, and I found a nice rhythm running with a pack of 2:25 hopefuls. After 10k, I threw in a two-mile surge to catch up to the next pack, which was Nienke Brinkman's 2:23:30, national-record pack. I hung with them until about 15 miles, and then decided I felt comfortable enough to push forward on my own. It was a bit frightening -- I had made a similar move in Chicago, when I tried to drop Emma Bates' pack and got gobbled up again in the last 5k. This time was different. I threw in a four-mile surge at under 5:20 pace, and then faded to a respectable 5:20-5:25 to bring it home.
This has easily been my most positive marathon experience to date. I'm hoping to follow it up with a win at my hometown Duke City Marathon, followed by a November/December destination marathon -- New York if they'll let me in, and probably CIM otherwise.