Way back before the beginning of the year, I set myself a very modest running mileage goal of 730 miles for 2013. When I set that goal, I hadn’t yet decided to train for and run a full marathon, although as I recall the idea was already floating around in my head somewhere.
I blew by the 730 mile mark on September 18. By the time I finished the marathon on October 13, my year-to-date mileage stood at 820.
I told myself I’d give myself a break and stop worrying about weekly mileage between marathon day and the end of 2103.
Oh, the stories we tell ourselves… the promises we make and then break…
Try though I might to give myself a break, it wasn’t long before I was running three to five days a week again, and doing the math in my head. Is 1,000 miles possible? Is it reasonable?
On November 27 I hit 902 miles, and another 98 miles before year-end seemed not only possible but easy.
Then the cold weather hit.
I haven’t run anywhere but on my treadmill since November 27.
Okay, I admit it, I’m a cold weather wimp! We’ve only had a half inch or so of snow so far. But when the temperature doesn’t rise above freezing for a week or more, I just don’t feel like going out there and running in the real world. So the treadmill has become my new best running friend.
The problem, as we runners all know, is that the treadmill is BORING. It’s not only boring, but it can get quite warm even in a relatively cool room, as there’s not a whisper of a breeze to wick away the sweat. What’s more, the motion on a treadmill is more relentlessly repetitive (read: harder on the knees) than real-world running, as it’s more difficult to vary pace and terrain on a treadmill. I simply can’t manage more than 4-5 miles at a stretch on the treadmill.
So I tried running more frequently to offset the reduced mileage on each run. It didn’t take long, however, for me to realize that a “run streak” (daily running of at least a mile per day) wasn’t going to work well for me. It’s that knee thing again. My knees honestly need a day to recover from a run. I can manage running two days in a row now and then, but three days in a row are too many.
Now it’s December 9 and I’m standing at 933 miles. Our streak of unusually cold, dry weather is about to end. The forecast calls for at least five straight days of rain with high temperatures in the mid 40s. Yippee! I can’t wait to get out there and slosh around on the trail again soon. Another 67 miles in the last 22 days of the year? I can do that!
This coming Saturday I’m registered for a local “Reindeer Run” 10K race. It will be only my second 10K race ever; the first one was my very first race way back in May 2009. I hope my Santa hat and jingle bells won’t weigh me down too much, because I’d really love to officially run a sub-60 10K. But no matter how slowly I may splash around and jingle in the rain, I’ll be edging ever closer to that magical 1,000 mile mark for 2013!
I’m going to chase those miles right up to New Year’s Eve if I have to.
I’ve decided that for 2014 I’ll again set a modest running goal… 900 miles. That will leave plenty of room for all the bike riding and hiking I plan to do! With a metric century (62 mile) bike ride or two in the planning works, I have a feeling that my really big mileage numbers are going to be earned on two wheels next year.
Tell me… did you set any running goals for 2013? How are you doing? Or… what are your fitness goals for 2014?
It’s hard for me to believe, but it’s been four weeks since the Victoria marathon. By now the sore muscles are nothing but a distant memory. My left knee and hip are no longer complaining. I really did run a full marathon and live to tell about it!
I haven’t felt much of a sense of urgency around going out to run. I’ve only been out five times in these past four weeks. Mostly I’ve been deliberately slow, but I did challenge myself one time to run a sub-60 minute 10K. I actually set a new PR for that distance — 59:10 — and I was happy to see that I still have some speed after all the months of focusing on mileage rather than pace.
So what’s up ahead for me?
I’m firm in my resolution not to run another full marathon any time soon… at least not until the year that I turn 60 or 65 or 70 or…? That is, not until a year when I’ll be among the youngest in my age group.
I tell myself that this is the fallow time of year, and that it’s the perfect time to back off the weekly miles a bit. But still, a regular 15-20 miles-per-week routine feels about right… and I’ll get back to doing that, soon.
I’m eagerly waiting for registration to open for a local race, the trail half marathon that I want to run in late April. I love the idea of doing an off-pavement race, which I’ve never done before. It’s another guaranteed PR!
I’m planning to run my local half marathon again next June. For this race I’ll set myself a challenging time goal. This slow happy runner is eager to do some speed work!
I bought the official race photos from Victoria, something I haven’t generally done because I never look like I’m running. This time, I really do look like I’m running! My finish line photos show a very determined yet happy runner, just seconds away from achieving something really big, something that I couldn’t have imagined five years ago — something that even six months ago had seemed a foolish and nearly impossible dream.
Big things are indeed possible, with ample preparation and a willingness to take things one step at a time.
Running guru John Bingham once said, “Some of us have to keep crossing those finish lines to remind us that we can.”
With each finish line I cross, I learn more about who I am, what I’m made of, what I’m capable of doing. Each finish line I cross makes the next one both a little more possible and a little more enticing.
There will definitely be more finish lines for me in the future. It’s likely that one of those finish lines will be more than 26 miles away from the starting line. But I can be content to wait a while before I aim for that one. I’ve got so many other places to go!
Every single milepost up ahead is a finish line of sorts, a finish line that is always out there urging me to do and be a little more, a little better, a little happier.
One step at a time.
I did it!
After all those months of training and planning I actually did it!
I ran the Victoria Marathon this past Sunday. It was my first full marathon and it may be my last, but I did it.
Well, I may do it again sometime, but I’ll do it in a year that my age ends in a 0 or a 5 so I’ll be at the young end of my age group.
Six months ago when I registered, I made a totally wild-ass prediction of my time. I predicted I’d run it in 4:50:00. I ran it in 4:50:21. I’m entirely satisfied with that time!
With an 8:45 AM start, I was up at 4:30. I was a colossal bundle of nerves, but I managed to choke down two pieces of bread, a banana, and a cup of coffee. It was an absolutely perfect day, with hardly a cloud in the sky. Temperature at start time was probably in the high 40s, and it was probably close to 60 when I finished. I was concerned about getting overheated in the full sun, but a light breeze off the water kept it manageable most of the way.
As it was my first marathon, my fundamental goal was to simply finish. I was reasonably confident about that. My “that’ll do” time goal was to break five hours. I figured I’d need a really good day to break 4:50.
I’d pretty much planned to run this race as a large positive split. Having never run more than 21 miles before (and that only once), I figured I’d try to maintain a nice steady pace for as long as possible and then hope I had enough in reserve to keep putting one foot in front of the other until the finish. That’s exactly the way it played out. I ran the first dozen or so miles at a consistent 10:25 to 10:35 pace. I’d estimated I’d hit the 13.1 mile (halfway) mark at 2:18 to 2:20. I hit it at 2:17:55, dead on a 10:30 average pace.
The middle miles of the course (the part I hadn’t seen while running the Victoria half marathon twice before) were a little hillier than I expected or desired, but they were extremely beautiful — wrapping around Oak Bay, through upscale neighborhoods and a golf course. By mile 18 I was starting to get a little tired, but still feeling good.
I took my first walk break at mile 20, and this is where I screwed up a bit and lost some time. I was wearing a long-sleeved shirt (with the sleeves pushed up as far as they would go at this point) under a vest. I was getting a bit warm. I couldn’t remove the vest because I needed the pockets and because my race bib was pinned to it. So I tried to wriggle out of the long-sleeved shirt without removing the vest. This resulted in my right elbow being skewed in a full-on strait-jacket position, with no hope of getting my left arm out of the shirt. I struggled for nearly half a mile, then gave up and managed to shimmy my right arm back into its sleeve again. I got straight back to running but the damage had been done. I “ran” that mile in 14:10. Argh!
From the end of the shirt debacle at 20.5 miles, I ran to 22.2 miles. I hit that point at exactly four hours and realized that I could walk the last 4 miles and still finish in under five hours. So I decided that for the remaining miles I could walk a bit here and there, and that a 12:00 pace in the final miles would suit me just fine. My legs were still behaving remarkably well but the soles of my feet were getting extremely sore. The walk breaks felt really good.
I was still well-focused mentally, but from about mile 25 on I would catch myself sort of wanting to dissolve into tears. I was actually going to do this! The spectators were awesome (as they had been along the entire course). There was music and cheerleaders. There was a short downhill just before the final turn onto Belleville Street on the Inner Harbor waterfront, with the Parliament Building and the Empress Hotel ahead and walls of cheering spectators on both sides of the street.
When my watch read 26.0 miles I turned on every last remaining ounce of energy I had. At the finish line my watch read 26.40 miles, but races always seem to run long, so I wasn’t surprised about that. I was surprised that I ran that last 4/10ths of a mile in 4:02 — I managed to sprint the last bit to the finish at a 10:05 pace. On the finish line video I actually look like I am running! My 4:50:21 final time was almost exactly an 11:00 average pace. I’d have beaten my really good day goal by 2 minutes if the finish line had actually been at 26.2 miles.
I’m very proud of my accomplishment. I finished 31st out of 47 in my 55-59 age group. My age-graded time (this is a handicap scoring system which takes age into account — I believe it’s based on a reference age of about 30) of 3:39:10 put me 231st out of the 781 female finishers. What really blows my mind is that out of those 781 female finishers, only 39 (including myself) were my age (58) or older. I’m not a young marathoner — certainly not a young first-timer.
I managed to travel the entire distance without stopping — no pit stops! I took five walk breaks totaling about a mile and a half. As for nutrition, I sipped water generally at every other aid station (and by the end of the race I could actually drink while running without choking or getting water up my nose). I started attempting to eat at about the 10 mile mark. I managed to consume six pretzels and three Shot Bloks between there and the finish. My stomach handled that but could not have taken any more. I never felt that I hit THE WALL and wouldn’t be able to run another step, but from about mile 24 I was less interested in running and mostly focused on the fact that I would soon be done.
I was astonished afterwards that I had sore abdominal muscles — at some point I started using my core muscles to keep going. I had almost literally run the last few miles on guts. I think I’ll add some core strength training to my routine in the future!
As for the rest of me, I have sore leg muscles and tender feet, but my knees feel sound and strong. I’ll probably give myself two weeks off from running and then resume, gently, shorter and slower. Meanwhile I have some autumn hiking and bike riding to do.
I had a fabulous support crew in my friend CFL. He brought his bike and pre-plotted out the places that he’d be able to catch up to me. As it turned out, he was able to ride almost the entire course, on the sidewalk away from the runners. While “pacing” with a bicycle is strictly against the rules, no one complained about his discrete presence at a distance — and I certainly wasn’t focused on him! It was nice, though, to glance over occasionally and see him there. He took quite a few photos. Here I am being very relaxed, focused and cheerful, somewhere around mile 10.
And this is me at about mile 25. Running on guts? Yup.
So after the rest and recovery period, what’s next? A rocky, steep trail half marathon next April. CFL and I will do a metric century (62 mile) bike ride together sometime next year. And, to my astonishment, he was so impressed with the camaraderie that he saw out on the course that he’s thinking about walking a full marathon next year. Me? I think 13.1 miles will be plenty for me for a while. But I’ll always get to say that I AM A MARATHONER.
Who would have thought?
One step at a time!
It was five years ago today that I stepped onto my new treadmill for the first time.
The treadmill was sort of a birthday present to myself. It represented a promise to myself to lose the ten pounds I’d gained during my years of graduate school. More important, it was a defiant denial to my physical therapist’s pronouncement that I’d never again walk without pain.
I’d been advised by faculty to set myself a new goal to stave off the possibility of post-PhD depression. So I decided to get back into something resembling physical fitness. But I’ve never been one for small goals, so I set myself a bigger goal than mere fitness: I was going to run a half marathon.
I’ve been a would-be runner since I was a child, but my attention was always so focused on being a good student that I never found time for sports. I admired runners, especially distance runners. I’d watch the Olympic marathons on TV and get choked up with emotion.
When I first moved to Washington eleven years ago I moved into a neighborhood about five miles from downtown. There was this trail — the Olympic Discovery Trail — that skirted my neighborhood. The road into the neighborhood crossed the trail. It was a misty June morning in 2007 when I found myself stopped in traffic at the trail — waiting for a bunch of runners to go by. That was the day I learned there was an annual marathon and half marathon race in my town. I sat there and watched them run by, and I wept.
The next year, in June of 2008, I took a break from dissertation writing for a couple of hours. I walked to the trail and I stood there in the rain watching them run by. That’s when the goal began to form in my mind.
My first day on my new treadmill, I walked six tenths of a mile. It took me fifteen minutes to do it. It took me two and a half weeks to work my way up to two miles. It was more than a month before I ran my first few steps. I did a total of 145 miles on the treadmill over a four month period before I dared to run in the real world for the first time.
My feet hurt too much to wear snugly-fitting running shoes, so I ran in Nike sandals on the treadmill, and in hiking boots on the trail. I’d run nearly 250 miles before I finally got myself properly fitted in a quality pair of running shoes that my feet would accept.
I was r e a l l y slow, took a lot of walk breaks, but was starting to feel better and was losing a little weight.
I was on track in my training to run our local half marathon in June 2009, but I didn’t know how to train properly. I tried to do too much too soon and injured both knees two weeks before the race. I could barely walk for a month, and it was two months before I dared to run again…. very slowly.
I finally ran my first half marathon in February 2010. I haven’t stopped running since then. Gradually I got a little faster. Eventually I stopped taking walk breaks.
Five years ago today I had a big goal. But I never dreamed that five years later, I’d be ready to run my first full marathon.
By one of those numerical coincidences that I love, when I cross the finish line on Sunday I will have run exactly 2,800 miles since that first day.
As every runner learns, not all of those miles have been happy ones. I’ve come to accept that my knees will hurt a bit when I start out, but that everything will settle down and I’ll be comfortable by about mile 3. My knees, hips, ankles and feet have all become much stronger and hence more resistant to injury. Overall, running has made me a happier, healthier, stronger, and more resilient person.
Oh yeah, and I’m about 15 pounds lighter. I’d estimate that I’ve lost about 30 pounds of fat and gained 15 pounds of muscle!
When I finished my last pre-race run on Wednesday, I texted my friend:
“Slow, steady, strong, safe, and sound. Success!”
I think I’ll make that my mantra on Sunday.
See you on the other side of the finish line!
It’s that time again — taper time! For the past couple of weeks I have cut way back on the mileage while trying to stay calm and injury-free. In past pre-race taper periods I have generally overdone the running, as if to try to convince myself that YES I REALLY AM READY to run this race!!! This time, I have not only avoided that temptation but I’m starting to worry that I’ve become too lazy and complacent.
There was the day I didn’t run 12 miles because gosh, it was pouring down rain and I didn’t have anything more to prove in that regard. There was the day I didn’t do my planned 8 mile run because it was my birthday. There was the day I slept in, after dreaming all night of running a marathon, and didn’t do my planned 8 mile run because I just didn’t feel like going out there. Now it’s six days before Victoria and I’m not sure how much more running I want to do between now and then because… what if I did something stupid and injured myself NOW? Certainly a final LONG run is now off the table. Maybe there is still time for one more 8-miler but that’s about it.
Other than dreaming about running (something I actually don’t think I have ever done before), I guess I’m doing okay mentally. I have figured out some goals:
- Simply finish
- A finish time I’ll be satisfied with (I’m not telling!)
- A finish time I’ll be delighted about
I’ve only spent a few hours calculating when I’m likely to see the lead runners (when I’m still outbound at about mile 9 and they are returning at about mile 19.5), and when I’m likely to be at several possible spectator vantage points. And marking up the map for those vantage points and reviewing it with my very patient friend…
I’m trying to eat well and get lots of sleep. I expected to gain a couple of pounds during this time and that hasn’t yet happened, but I’m trying not to freak out about that. I’ve lost some sleep to obsessive “what-if” middle-of-the-night scenarios, but not too much, not yet.
The runs I have actually managed to do have been solid ones, which have reassured me that yes, I really do still know how to run. I just have to keep reminding myself that I know how to do this taper thing, too.
I think I’ll be just fine, but I’m certain that I won’t know for sure until race day.
It’s terrifying and invigorating, expected and worrisome — it’s taper terror!
I’m going to be okay. Oh yes I am. Really I am. Absolutely!
One step at a time.
I ran 21 miles yesterday. In the most surprising and unexpected way, it was a life-changing experience. When I was done, I knew that I had become a marathoner.
Throughout the past four-plus months of training, I have had my doubts and my fears. I have had good runs, and I have had too many bad runs. I embarked on this journey with the presumption that I was probably capable of running a full marathon, with hard work and persistence. Yesterday was the first time that I truly, unreservedly, absolutely KNEW that I could do it. No more having to reassure myself that “I CAN DO IT.” I believe it now. I live it now.
It wasn’t the most auspicious day for my last long training run. There was an 80% chance of rain, and lots of it. But what is rain to a Pacific Northwesterner? I had a long-planned date with the trail!
The sky looked very gloomy as I prepared to leave the house. I gave careful thought to my attire for the day. Although the trail is mostly paved, I expected to encounter puddles and mud so I decided to wear my old trail running shoes, which I figured still had a few good miles left in them. I’ve taken to running in a bike jersey, because they have large, open rear pockets useful for carrying and accessing the running essentials: water, food (pretzels and Shot Bloks), and my trusty iPhone. I don’t know why shirts made for runners don’t have big pockets!! In any case, CFL had bought me this awesome Mirror Pond Pale Ale jersey from the Deschutes Brewery pub when we were in Portland, and it’s now my go-to running shirt. I sort of feel like a triathlete when I’m wearing it! So I put that on, and brought a light rain jacket just in case.
The moment I parked at the trailhead, the sun came out! Suddenly it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day after all. I could have tied the rain jacket around my waist, but I decided to leave it in the car. I figured since my planned route for the day was two long out-and-backs, I could come back for it if necessary.
Off I went, through the trees and down along the waterfront. I hit a little mist at 2 miles or so; no big deal, and it soon stopped. At my first turnaround at City Pier, people were strolling and sitting on benches.
Coming back, still dry, I realized around mile 7 that I was already a little tired. I recalled that I’d run each of my three “short and easy” runs during the week just a bit faster than I’d planned. In other words, I hadn’t even done a mini-taper before this longest-run-of-my-life. I wasn’t as well rested for this run as I should have been.
LESSON LEARNED: the taper really is that important.
As I approached my starting point, I decided that since I was already a little tired, it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to run all the way back to my car. Something about running back to the car makes my mind think that I am done running, and it’s a psychological drag to think about leaving the car again to go off and run some more. The rain was still coming in on-and-off misty showers, so I wasn’t that concerned about needing my jacket. I turned around early to begin my second out-and-back and planned to make up the miles with a double-back somewhere along the trail.
The good news at this point was that I began to feel better. The soreness that was threatening me earlier had vanished, although the soles of my feet were now getting rather achy. I realized that these trail running shoes were done and that I’d need to buy and break in a new pair immediately, just in case it’s rainy on race day.
So I’m now about 11 and a half miles in. It started to rain. Hard. Down along the waterfront the wind was picking up, blowing the rain into my face and pushing the standing water across the trail. There weren’t any more walkers or cyclists out there.
I turned around again at 14 miles and resolved to beat it back to the car as fast as possible. My bike jersey was completely soaked through (despite those claims to “assist in body temperature control by pulling moisture from the inside and pushing it off the outside”). My compression tights were soaked through. My socks were soaked through. You get the idea. What’s more, I was worried about ruining my iPhone — while it was completely encased in its Otterbox, it was sitting in the open rear pocket of my jersey.
Up to this point, I’d only made one on-the-clock pit stop. I’d assumed I’d take a walk break somewhere around 15 miles, but at that point all I wanted to do was get back to the car! At 17 miles, I threw myself into the car, unzipped my jersey (grateful for both that full-length zipper and the fact that my running bra is opaque), and slithered into my rain jacket. I grabbed a blanket and tried to towel myself dry, but it was hopeless. I tossed my bluetooth headset aside and pulled on a knit beanie. It took me all of five on-the-clock minutes, and then I was out of the car and off to run the last four miles!
Two miles out would take me through trees for one mile and then one mile of waterfront, and then I’d return for the last two miles. But after a couple hundred yards of waterfront I was well-soaked again, so I turned around once more and decided to do the rest of my miles going back and forth through the trees.
By that time I was running pretty slowly. I figure I was carrying at least a half pound of rain water. But I was still running! I hadn’t taken a single walk break, and suddenly I realized that I wasn’t going to. I was going to run all 21 miles. I’d had enough of being out in the downpour and I wanted to be done. I especially wanted to be done when I saw a couple of large falling tree branches. Enough was enough!
So I finished the 21 miles in just over 3:52, which is just over an 11 minute pace. A little slower than I’d hoped, but all things considered, it was an awesome run. I’ll try to avoid losing five minutes changing clothes during the race.
LESSON LEARNED: a lot can happen with the PNW weather over five hours. If there is any chance of rain on race day, I’ll tie my danged rain jacket around my waist! And I’ll wear that new pair of trail running shoes that I’m going to buy.
I didn’t bother to stretch afterward. I got in the car, turned up the heat, and beat it for my warm dry house and the promise of a hot shower.
Driving home I was overcome by a quiet elation. I’ve done it! I completed my last long training run under hellacious conditions. The hard work is now all behind me. It’s TAPER TIME! And I now fully appreciate what that means!
With respect to my what-to-eat-on-the-run dilemma, I still don’t have that dialed in. During yesterday’s run I took exactly one sip of water (consuming additional water was completely unnecessary!) and ate two pretzels and one Shot Blok. I had done an outstanding job of carb loading the day before, and I never got hungry. I never felt weak from lack of nutrients. There was no wall for me.
Could I have run another 5.2 miles yesterday? I wouldn’t have liked it, but I think I could have done it. At this point I have every reason to believe that on race day the adrenaline and crowd support are going to carry me through just fine.
I’m going to run my first marathon, and I’m going to do myself proud on race day. Knowing that is so surprising and so very wonderful.
One step at a time!
Wow! The days are really flying by now, and so are the training miles. My 16.3 mile run last weekend went as well as I could have hoped. I ran it nearly non-stop and at a comfortable pace, finishing in “well under three hours” exactly as planned. The miles just kept ticking by, surprising me once or twice with how quickly they’d pass. I was very much in a flow state, just rolling along feeling strong. I could have run another few miles, but I prudently stuck to my plan.
The only thing I didn’t do as planned was nutrition. I was supposed to practice eating and drinking at regular intervals during my run, but I simply wasn’t hungry out there. On a cool day it’s not that difficult to do double-digit milage on nothing but a few sips of water. I finally made myself eat some pretzels at 15 miles, but I know I’ll need to eat more than that if I’m going to be out there for 26.2 miles and nearly five hours.
This Sunday is the biggie — 21 miles! I’ve had the date on my calendar for months. There will be no postponements and no excuses. My two planned runs between now and Sunday are of the “short and easy” variety. Meanwhile, I’m trying to eat well, get plenty of sleep, and in general treat this week as a dress rehearsal for race week.
I think this will be my first and last marathon — at least the last one for the next few years. It would be fun to win my age group when I’m 80. When I signed up for this, I didn’t appreciate (couldn’t possibly know) how much more of a physical, mental, and time commitment training for a full marathon is, compared to a half marathon. I’ll be honest and confess that I will welcome a much reduced running schedule after October 13 and heading into the winter months.
I’m not saying that I regret the decision to tackle this distance — not at all! I have grown so much as a runner: gained strength, resilience, and discipline that I never dreamed could be mine to claim. In the future it will seem much easier to train for and run a “mere” half marathon, while still having time and energy to hike, bike, brew, travel, and write!
I think I’ll do a trail half marathon sometime next spring. That would be a new kind of race for me, one in which I could be really slow and still set a personal record.
But for now, I’m totally focused on the last few weeks before this race. Now it’s all about staying strong and injury-free, nailing the remaining training runs, and — on race day — arriving at the start and finish lines healthy and happy.
One step at a time!
With less than five weeks now before the Victoria marathon, my training continues in my usual good day/ bad day kind of way. I continue to waiver and second-guess myself. Do I keep pushing and planning for a sub-5 hour time, or do I decide to go out with the start-before-dawn crowd — to slow down, simply enjoy the experience, and shoot a lot of photos along the way?
After this past Sunday’s strong 18.43 mile run, I’m leaning again toward giving it everything I have to give it on race day… and gambling that what I have to give that day is good enough to beat the finish line deadline.
My biggest struggle with the really long runs has been heat. I define a “hot” day as anything over 65 degrees. I know, I know — I’m a spoiled Pacific Northwesterner. But I really work hard out there in the later miles on a warm sunny day. Lately, therefore, I have returned to running along the waterfront. This time of year it is usually foggy along the strait, even on those days when a mile away it’s too warm to think about running. The waterfront section of the trail is only five miles long, so I do multiple out-and-back legs from the car. I’m seeing the same section of trail over and over and over again, but at least it’s relatively cool out there. In addition, I see the usual scenic distractions — harbor seals, various waterbirds, and the occasional family of deer keeping pace with me on the trail. When I need a little more direct inspiration, I can look north across the water toward Victoria, and I can visualize those final miles along their waterfront.
I have two more long runs to do before taper time. This weekend I’m aiming for 16.3 miles — that’s 26.2 kilometers — 62% of a full marathon (I really enjoy these mental math tricks). If I can do that in well under three hours — which is quite doable — then I’ve got a great chance of finishing 26.2 miles in under five hours.
The following weekend I’ll do 21 miles — that’s 80% of a full marathon, and per every training plan I’ve ever seen that’s as much as anyone needs to run before a full marathon. It will also give me a very good idea of whether I’ll finish the full 26.2 in less than or more than five hours.
After that — hurrah!! — the hardest work will be behind me. I’ll back off the miles for the final three weeks and set myself up to arrive at the starting line well rested and raring to go.
That’s the plan anyway.
At this point all the signs are positive! I’ve come this far without injury — not just without injury — I feel immensely stronger now than I did on April 19, the day I signed on to this lunacy. I’ve run over 400 miles since that day! I’ve retired two pairs of running shoes since that day.
I’ve come this far without injury, accident, or mistake. I can run another 120 miles or so, safely and sanely, between now and race day.
I know I can make it the rest of the way from here to there. I may be slow, but I’m gonna do it.
One step at a time!
I’ve been reflecting on what I wrote the other day:
“As I go longer, I (necessarily) get slower — and that messes with my head.”
I wonder whether I’ve got that backwards.
Is it really necessary (inevitable?) to slow down SO much merely because I’m going long? Am I messing with my own head before I even take the first steps of my long runs?
Whenever I set out to run longer than ten miles, I tell myself at the start to slow down and focus on maintaining a steady pace. For me right now, that translates to about 10:15 per mile. Yet as I approach that 10 mile mark, I find myself getting tired. I don’t seem to be able to maintain that pace beyond ten miles, although in the recent past I’ve run several half marathons at faster than a 10:15 average pace.
So today I decided to find out whether I’m still able to run any faster than this snail’s pace I’ve settled into lately.
Actually, I set out with the intention to simply run 6 miles and enjoy it, but I felt so strong at the start that I decided to push just a little bit and see what might happen.
Well, I can’t call it “official” because I stopped twice — once to give directions to a lost cyclist and once to chat with a friend that I met along the way. But I ran 6.2 miles in 59:19. Woohoo! Another formerly-impossible sub-60 minute 10K! Not only that, but I ran mile 6 in 8:56 — my first sub-9 minute mile ever! I was still picking up speed on that last two/tenths of a mile.
I finished feeling a bit tired (it was warm out there) but very strong. I could have run much further today, although I’m not sure I could have sustained that pace much longer today.
In any case, I feel like I’ve hit the reset button and recalibrated everything. “Slow” is a relative term. I haven’t actually lost any speed — in fact I’ve gotten faster, when speed is the primary objective.
I’ve learned that I need to stop telling myself to run slowly!
Obviously I still need to do the long runs. But I can shift my perspective on those long runs. I can just run them and enjoy them. That seems like a far more positive approach than starting out already thinking, “OMG I’m going XX miles today and I’ve never run that far before!”
One step at a time. One foot in front of the other.
I know how to do this, so I’m going to go out there and do it!
Wow! Almost a month has passed since I did that first 14+ mile run back in late July. While I’ve been busy with cycling, traveling, brewing, and the bits of hiking that I’ve managed to fit into our short summer, the weeks have gone by and the Victoria Marathon is now only 53 days away.
Despite my mighty intentions, I haven’t been able to sustain the 3-4 days a week of running that I’d planned. I’m averaging closer to two days a week right now. This week I might squeeze in three runs, between the three days when I’ll be working as a volunteer marmot counter in Olympic National Park. The marmot-counting was too wonderful an opportunity to miss, and I will be hiking on those days… so I tell myself that it’s an acceptable cross-training activity.
Oh, the stories we tell ourselves!
Actually, the cycling has been a rather awesome cross-training activity. You can read about CFL’s and my day at the Providence Bridge Pedal in Portland here. It has been gratifying to go from wobbling my way for half a dozen miles on a flat trail, to braving a 33-mile mass bike ride over ten of Portland’s finest bridges. I’ve learned that running and cycling require slightly different muscles, and I’m convinced that strengthening my cycling muscles will make me a better and stronger runner overall.
But what about those long runs that marathon training demands?
I followed up that 14-miler with Sunday long runs of 10, 15, and 12 miles before heading down to Portland for the Bridge Pedal. Since we got back, I’ve done long runs of 11 and 16 miles. I came home from that 16-miler yesterday a little tired and expecting to be sore… but this morning, I wasn’t sore. I slept well and woke up feeling great.
The 6 mile run I have planned for tomorrow is going to feel like (and I’ll probably treat it like) a sprint. Then on Sunday, another 14-miler.
I’m pretty much on schedule as far as what the various marathon training plans say I should be doing in terms of weekly long run distances, seven weeks before race day. But I know I’m making things more difficult for myself if I can only manage to run 2-3 days a week. It’s not only the long runs, but the total weekly mileage, that I need to be ramping up week by week.
Nor has everything with my running been rosy. As I go longer, I (necessarily) get slower — and that messes with my head. From about mile 10 on, all sorts of dire thoughts start to surface. I’m also having problems coming up with a fueling strategy that works. The Clif Shot Bloks were working pretty well for a while, but my stomach protested quite a bit during my last long run. I may be forced to try sports drinks, or maybe I’ll revert to using pretzels.
All these logistical details are one thing, but the thing I’m most concerned about is finish time. I know, I know — as a first-time marathoner I should not be thinking at all about time. The only thing that I should be caring about is developing the physical and mental endurance to simply finish. But I chose a big city race for my first marathon. I chose a race that has strict finish time cutoffs. All of those online race time calculators tell me that based on my half marathon times, I should finish a full marathon in about 4:45. That would put me comfortably ahead of the 5:30 deadline to finish at Victoria. That means I should go out at the main start time, as opposed to the early start time for those who expect to be slower than 5:15.
If I go out with the main group and have a terrible day, I won’t be allowed to finish. If I go out with the early group and have a great day, I’ll have to stall somewhere along the course to avoid finishing too early and being disqualified.
Fortunately I still have seven weeks to figure this out! I’ll have a much better idea of my likely finish time once I’ve done a couple of 18+ milers. I shouldn’t be worrying about this at all right now. But those dire thoughts still keep popping up each time I slog through the last few miles of each new personal distance record.
So I know there are other runners out there reading this blog. You must have had your moments of self-doubt and self-sabotage along the road to your first full marathon. How did you get through all that and survive to and through race day? How realistic is it to try to accurately predict your finish time for a distance you’ve never attempted?
And how do you do all this and have a life? Sometimes it seems like all I ever do is run, think about running, or recover from a run. I had no idea how many hours this would take out of my busy schedule. I can’t imagine doing all this and working full time, parenting full time, or both.
Every day, it seems, I ask myself to do the nearly impossible. And maybe… that’s the answer. You go out there day after day (running or hiking or cycling or working or a crazy mix of all of the above), doing what’s nearly impossible on any given day. And then, on race day, you go out there and do something just a little bit closer to impossible… and you just do it.
Is that what it’s like?