Last Checkpoint Race (#3) - The Third and Final Eisbärlauf Half Marathon
One more fitness test before the Boston Marathon, and a little AI help with my pictures!
I had my last "checkpoint" race of the Spring season by returning to the Eisbärlauf (Polar Bear Run) Half Marathon here in Vienna, Austria, for the third and final chapter of the three race series in 2023. Thanks to some unexpected warm weather, we had a really fun and fast day! It was a good way to alleviate a heavy heart, some tired legs, and give a boost of confidence that I’m in good shape for the Boston Marathon in four weeks.
My heavy heart came from some difficult challenges at work two days prior. I only have to write the word “layoff”, and I’m certain that as you read this dreaded word, you are likely conjuring some variation of the emotional cauldron that comes with this reality. No matter how or who it affects, it hits you, deeply and personally. One day your colleagues are there, and the next day, they are not. Capitalism’s inverse Rapture has a nearly infinite blast radius, and my ears were still ringing.
The tired legs come from being deep in the training blocks of triathlon training (goal half Ironman on May 5th), likely also fueled by excess work rage that needs a proper punching bag. The two days prior to this Eisbärlauf had long, hard sessions in the pool and on the bike, and I was feeling it on race morning. But I was also feeling stronger in general - my Functional Threshold Power (FTP) on the bike is up to 260 (+13%), and the swim form is getting more effective. Although I am not in top running form, I am definitely making progress on overall fitness.
Race morning at the Prater was an early gift of Spring (früher Frühling, which is fun to say in German). The trees were still winter bare, but the temperature was a shorts-worthy 11C/53F that brought out ~100 more participants than previous races. We filled up the corral at 10:30am, and were off!
My approach to race pace was the same as the last two…don’t look at the watch, and find a fast and natural pace that gives me just enough to sprint the last 1k. My playlist was set to reggae (always cheers me up), and my adidas Adizero Pro3 shoes were itching to go fast, so the first 7k lap went by quickly.
I found a couple of similarly paced gentleman for the second lap (7k), and it was clear that one of them was pacing the other to specific splits, telling him to slow down coming out of corners, and speed up along the bike paths. Yet another example of how the running clubs of Europe, like LCC-Wien who put on these races, do such a great job pairing up runners to hit their goals. I followed them through the second lap (14k), and got up front of the pack to pull through the headwind for 1k before finding a faster gear.
As the lactic acid built up and my form started to fade in the final km’s, all I could feel was joy. How lucky are us runners? To be fit, and to spend the day outside pushing each other to our limits? We play with pain, rather than fearing it, and laugh at how it takes us down. The latin root for the word competition is “competere”, which translates as “together” (com-) and “to strive” (-petere). I love that, “to strive together”. Sharing goals, high fives for everyone who toed the line…the collegial feeling is palpable and requires no words. I wish I could bottle it up.
I crossed the finish line in 1:27:53 (22nd OA, 2nd AG), a solid 80 seconds faster than the previous month. That was quick! And I could feel it…likely couldn’t get more than another 30 seconds from that effort. This also landed me in 8th place for the three race series, with a nice medal and t-shirt to show it off.
In theory, this result means I’m in sub-3 shape for Boston, should the training continue to be consistent (and the Boston weather angels choose to be nice). It’s nice to think this is still in range in my mid-50’s. But you know what? Sub-3 or not, I am already cherishing this years training journey, grateful for the positivity it adds to my life. I hope you are able to do the same! If so, drop a comment and let me know how it’s going.