Roadkill Racing was out in full force at the Flower City Half Marathon. There were many great performances by our runners, which I will post in detail in a day or two. This post, however, is about just one Roadkill Racer: my wife Lisa Perks.
Before Lisa and I started dating we used to go on runs together. Lisa had kept up her running post high school and I was just getting back into it, so we could run comfortably together. We even traveled to the Runner’s World Half Marathon as a non-couple in May of 2003. I ran 1:19:34. Lisa ran 1:38:43. The next year we went back as a couple: Lisa ran her then PR of 1:38:25, and I regressed a few minutes to 1:21:33.
A lot has obviously happened to both of us in the last 11 years. I have spend many of those 11 years training hard and racing hard. Lisa has always maintained some level of running fitness but several injuries and two pregnancies had prevented her from training as much and as hard as she might have liked. It wasn’t until last spring that Lisa was really able to train how she wanted. I like to think the formation of the women’s team was a motivating factor, but also the timing was just right from a family standpoint and she was fully healthy.
The McMullen Mile was her first big race post pregnancy, and she laid down a 6:16 on just 14 miles a week. After than came a string of consecutively faster 5k’s and a great cross country season. At the conclusion of the PGXC series Lisa signed up for the Flower City Half and we got to work on a training plan.
I need to say a few words here about telling your spouse what to do. Lisa and I have an agreement when we golf together: I don’t say a word unless she specifically asks me for advice. Occasionally I’ll chime in on with my opinions on gardening; this doesn’t go over well. I hate it when Lisa points out the many writing errors on this blog. In short, giving unsolicited advice to your spouse doesn’t always go over well. Luckily I know much more about running than I do about golf or gardening, and Lisa was an eager student.
We set a goal pace of 7:30 per mile which would put her at 1:38 and beat her current PR. I wrote out a training plan I thought was tough but reasonable. Then the worst winter ever in the history of the world set in. Lisa plugged away doing her workouts on the treadmill when necessary and more often than not in the freezing cold and wind. As the weeks passed and the workouts progressed, doubt started to set it. 7:25 felt pretty hard even during shorter intervals, she ran that PR over 10 years ago, work is crazy busy, she couldn’t hit the easy paces. Still, she stuck with the plan, gradually increasing her weekly long runs and doing harder and longer workouts. Many nights our pillow talk turned to foam rollers, easy days, interval paces and recovery duration.
Finally the long winter began to fade, and the workouts started feeling more manageable. A final hard effort about 10 days out (3×2 mile at half marathon pace) went very well and Lisa felt like she could PR come Flower City. Nothing was left to do but for her to sharpen up for the race, and for me to begin to worry. All through the training I had been the one reassuring her that she could manage the pace and would do great come race day. All those times I told her it was a process and she would be ready come race day. But now with the work done I was the one full of doubt. What if she didn’t do enough speed work? What if she didn’t do enough tempo? What if I send her out on a pace that is too fast and she blows up and it is all my fault?! In some ways it is much easier to be the athlete than the coach. The athlete gets to go out and focus on the race; all the coach can do is sit back and worry.
All my worry was for nothing. Race day came and it was perfect: 40 degrees with a bit of sun and just a touch of breeze. Lisa made her way around the course like an old pro. She started at a quick but controlled effort slightly faster than goal pace before backing off and rolling through the hilly middle of the course.
The kids and I saw her run by between the top of the Highland hill and Mount Hope. She seemed relaxed and was happy enough to wave and blow a kiss at the girls.
Lisa saved enough to make a final push to the finish, dropping her per mile pace into the 7:10’s the last few miles. As she passed the 13th mile marker, I knew she was going to beat her goal; I just didn’t know by how much. I’ve been telling everyone she ran 1:35, and she has been telling everyone she ran 1:35.59.16 (7:19 pace). However you want to say it, she ran a great race and beat her 23-year-old self by several minutes.
I’m so proud of all the hard work she put into this race. All the times there were good excuses not to run: when it would have been easier to say “I’ll make it up tomorrow,” through piles of grading, to kids not sleeping at night, and late night flights she found the time and the energy to put in the miles. I’m so fortunate to have such a hard working and loving wife. She sets an amazing example for our two daughters, who I can only hope grow up to have her passion and dedication in all that they do.
Happy Early Mother’s Day Lisa! (Don’t worry, you still get a card.)