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?