The big question: Have I fallen off a cliff? No.

This morning’s Manhattan Half was a personal worst by 6 minutes. But it served its purposes and, like Ryan Hall in Arizona, I’m not particularly concerned about a sub-par performance. And thanks to Erin C.; someone shouted my name in the fourth mile and I had no idea who it was. But when she appeared in the eighth mile — lying by saying I looked good — I realized it was her. She’s a former and current teammate (and the person who got me into the 2006 NYC Marathon).

Race Report: As noted yesterday, the plan was to go out easy. The course was unusual. Start at about the 26 mile mark of the Marathon and head counterclockwise for 2+ laps, finishing at the 72nd Street Transverse. Fabio had picked up my number, etc., and I met him with time to spare, although things were close because I just missed a subway. First corral, no hassle, no pushing. (Saw Herb C. as we went into the corral, but I lost him as I moved towards the front.)

Horn goes and I don’t know where my head was but it sure wasn’t in Central Park at 8am. Good thing about race no. 1: the need to get mentally accustomed to racing. So I decided to just relax, and came through one at 6:14. (NYRR now has clocks at every mile; given the course, this led to having, e.g., the 13-mile clock about 10 yards after the 7-mile clock about 10 yards after the 1-mile marker.)

Up Cat Hill, with a wave to the cat. 6:28. My that was slow, even with the hill. I wasn’t tired or breathing hard and my form felt smooth. But Oakland-like, there was no there there. So the splits are 6:20, 6:32, 6:31, 6:20 through 6. On the lower loop, my left Achilles tendon suddenly acted up. After about a quarter, I pulled over to the left. (Afterward, Robert told me he passed me here; he ran wonderfully, getting a nice PR.) Try again, still hurt.

Then I decided, what the hell., just go. One of my objectives was to get a qualifier for the NY Marathon and for the NYC Half, and a 1:40 would do that. So I had plenty of time. Plus it’s not good to stop when you can go.

So back in it. I don’t know what the mile 7 split was (I stopped my watch), but that started the final lap. Up Cat Hill again — Hi Cat! — and still running smoothly, if slowly. While I’m generally passing people now, I’m being passed as well. When I’m running well, I don’t get passed in the latter stages of an HM. But I’m concentrating on keeping it smooth. 6:26, 6:19, 6:39 after climbing the Harlem Hills. I was fine going up, but then felt dead at the top. As Cher would say, “Snap out of it.”

Relax and finish. 6:28, 6:18, 6:21, 39. Final numbers: 1:25:28, 193rd O/A, 8th AG, 80.3 AG.

These race reports are inevitably self-indulgent. I haven’t had a decent one in quite a while. From this one, I learn that I can’t call things in. Work must be done, and the two areas lacking are decent mileage (and especially a decent long run) and speed.

Mileage. It’s early days yet, and I’ve begun regular runs with Warren Street on Saturdays. Two weeks ago it was 1:20 when my longest run before that was just an hour. Last Saturday was 1:34, which nearly killed me. A couple of years back when I ran very well, I had a few 2 hour runs in my pocket before I raced, and that’s what I’ll need again. My regular run is up to an hour, a bit over 8. So it’s not a surprise that I fell short today from that perspective.

Speed. I felt fine and smooth. But with only 2 bits of tempo work under my belt, I understand that I’m just not able to generate the turn-over I need to go fast. 6:20 hurts, but I can’t get it down to, say, 6:05.

I know I can get things going again. I’m leaning towards giving the NYC Half a shot, even if it is primo pricey. And I got a time that gets me into that race (and into NYC 2011 if I want to go there). It’s not like I’m at zero. I have a decent, if slight, base for target races in May. Get in the miles, get in the speed. I’ll be fine.