In case you missed my recent ramblings about my training schedule, I ran 13.1 miles Saturday. It went pretty darn well, all things considered.

First, the important thing. Not only did I finish but I did so in 2:21. So I was slow, but that was expected. I was pleased to break 2:30, although it was another sobering reminder of my age. When I ran a half-marathon 11 years ago with a sore hamstring in pouring rain in hilly Kansas City, I got in in 2:05. The good thing about my time Saturday is I feel like I could have gone a little faster. It’s always better to feel like you could have gone faster than go too fast and limp to the finish.

It was a perfect day for running. Mid-50s when the race began, with a little bit of sun but lots of clouds on the western horizon. The clouds moved in quickly and we were running in rather dreary conditions. At roughly the halfway point it began to drizzle, which turned into a light rain that continued until I finished. If you have to run in rain, this was the kind of rain to run in. No downpours, no gusts of winds. Just a steady rain that kept you cool.

Much like my experience in the Chicago Marathon in 2001, a lot of the Mini Marathon was about dealing with the congestion on the course. With 35,000+ people running, there was never a time when you could just run flat out in a straight line. The first 2-3 miles were especially tough, with lots of people who started before me walking in groups. I had to pass one group of seven people who were walking, stretched across the street. Come on, people!

Perhaps the coolest thing about the Mini is that you get to run a lap at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. You start downtown, run almost six miles to Speedway, cross into the infield, then work your way out to the main track. I have to say, it’s pretty cool. And I was struck, again, by the vastness of the speedway and the narrowness of the racing surface. It’s hard to believe three Indy cars can race side-by-side at 220 MPH on a space that narrow. The other cool thing about the track is, once you exit, you’ve knocked out about 2.5 miles.
I was struggling a little when I got to the track. I had some tightness in the back of one knee and pain in the other knee. But but the time I got through the tunnel and onto the track, everything loosened up and I felt great. I didn’t wear a watch to do splits, but I would imagine I had a few 12 minute miles in the first five and was closer to 10 minute miles from 6-11.

My big worry, of course, was how my training would carry me through race day. Would my muscles and joints rebel at being pushed well past the eight miles I completed on my longest training run? Would I run out of energy? None of that happened. In fact, I felt great in the second half of the race. Lots of energy, legs felt good, and really cruised along. I wanted to run faster but didn’t push it because of the rain, which made the roads slippery, and some slight barks from my hamstrings that I shouldn’t go much faster if I wanted them to cooperate for the rest of the race.

I kicked it in for the last quarter mile, got my medal and bag of food and had my picture taken, then suddenly the sun burst out. It turned into a gorgeous day. S. and two of her sisters came in about half an hour behind me. No injuries in our group. Just some sore muscles and maybe a blister or two. We spent most of the rest of the day on the couch and went to bed early. Sunday I felt better than I felt after my previous two long running events. I remember not being able to walk down stairs after running a full marathon because my quads were so sore. This time, it just felt like I had run hard the day before.

So another entry for the back of my lifetime baseball card. That’s two half marathons, one marathon, two triathlons. What’s next? I thought about running a very nice fall half marathon here in Indy, and in fact this year there are two different ones to choose from. But when I looked at how a training program would line up, I’d pretty much be starting up again right after we get back from our family vacation next month. Suddenly doing a second long race this year didn’t seem nearly as tempting.

Rather than train for a specific event, I think I’m going to begin a 5K training program in early June. I won’t aim for a particular race, but will go through a 12-week program and hope to see some improvements in my speed over shorter distances. I’m not sure what a realistic goal is since I haven’t run a 5K in a few years. Really it’s more about committing to a program so I’m always thinking about what my next run is, instead of just telling myself “OK, I need to run three times this week.” If I’ve learned anything from the past six months, it’s that I need to stick to some kind of cardio program and can’t just rely on going to the gym to burn calories.