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DNS: Did Not Start

I had imagined all sorts of race scenarios for the Victoria marathon, but I never saw this coming.

Friday morning I woke up feeling ever so slightly congested. No big deal, and I felt better soon after breakfast.

Saturday CFL and I got up early to catch the morning ferry to Victoria. I had a sore throat. We walked downtown to the ferry. We found seats and I soon dozed off. No worries, I’d had a short night, right? A nap should fix everything.

We docked in Victoria, walked to the race expo, and picked up our race bibs and shirts (CFL was walking the half marathon). We walked to our favorite deli for an early lunch. We walked to our motel.

It was barely past noon, but we figured we could drop off our bags, and then check in later in the afternoon. But I was tired, and my throat was getting very sore. I asked if we could check in early so I could take a nap. They had a room ready for us.

I went to bed and slept soundly until about 3:30. I had planned all along to eat an early dinner so I could get to bed early and try to get a halfway decent night’s sleep before the marathon. So I got up and we walked to our favorite place for pre-race dinner.

After I’d eaten, I felt a bit better, but I was beginning to realize that I’d need a miraculous overnight improvement if I was going to run 26.2 miles.

I was back in bed before 8:00.

The full wrath of the virus from hell hit overnight. For hours I struggled to breathe. My head felt like it weighed 5,000 pounds and was going to explode any minute.

Still, it was not until 3:30 AM that I fully accepted that no way, no how was I going to run a marathon that day.

I vaguely remember CFL getting up and going out to walk his half marathon.

I didn’t get out of bed until noon.

From that point, I began to feel better. I was able to get up, walk around, eat, sleep another night, and get myself back to the ferry and home on Monday.

I’m still tired, but essentially I “only” have a heavy cold now. I’ll feel a lot better in a few more days.

I spent some time last night looking for another suitable marathon between now and the end of the year, but there isn’t anything that would tempt me to travel to run. So I’ll just put all those weeks of training on the shelf. I’ll decide, probably around the first of next year, whether I want to train for another full marathon. I probably will. I still want to do it. But right now I am so, so disappointed.

There were 21 people in my age/gender group. Had I run the race I’d hoped to run (basically, I figured I could do the 4:50 I ran two years ago, plus or minus 2 minutes), I would have finished in the top ten. I guess that’s enough to keep me motivated.

Until next time, I guess!

Marathon mania!

I’m into the final countdown. By this time five days from now, I’ll be into the last few miles of the Victoria Marathon. I’ll probably hurt. I’ll probably berate myself for not being as well prepared as I should be. I’ll probably fight back tears now and again. I’ll get it done, one way or another. And I’ll look forward to feeling both proud and very relieved at the finish line.

My taper has gone well enough. I’ve backed off the distance and the speed, and focused purely on running a steady pace. My feet have not given me any problems.

Over the past couple of days I’ve found myself wishing that I had three or four more weeks to train… but not merely to be more race-ready than I am. Rather, I’ve finally gotten into the rhythm and the mindset of the training… and I enjoy it. Running for hours on end has its rewards. I sleep soundly and long. I eat well and with relish. I feel healthy and happy. It’s a great feeling.

I have a time goal, but as usual I’m not telling. Actually I’m predicting that I’ll finish somewhere within a rather broad time range, and I’m telling myself that I’ll be happy with wherever I end up within that range. Nah, I really do have a specific time goal… and I’m still not telling.

I’ve had a few running dreams. I’m pleased to report that all of them have been happy dreams in which I finish feeling triumphant and spectacular.

I have one more run planned. I’ll do 6.6 miles on Thursday, steady and easy. I’ll get out early to simulate the 8:45 race start. It will rain, as it’s forecast to do on Sunday. Thanks to our great summer, I haven’t had any opportunity to train in the rain, so I’m looking forward to rain-testing the clothes I plan to wear on race day.

Beyond that, there isn’t anything more I can do to be any more ready than I am. The clock is ticking — I’m really going to do this.

One step at a time!

Marathon training is not easy

Don’t ever think that marathon training might be easy, or maybe a fun thing to try. It’s not something to undertake on a whim, and it’s not possible to shortcut the process. Marathon training is hard physical and mental work, involving many hours over many days and weeks, out there by yourself with lots of time to wonder why the heck you are running all those miles and hours.

I’ve now completed my 21 mile run, which was the longest and final long run I’d planned to do before the Victoria Marathon on October 11. I’m now officially into the taper stage. I wish I could say that everything had gone according to plan and I’m comfortably optimistic about race day. But that simply isn’t true.

Things went great and I was on schedule with my plan, until the day of my 18-miler back on September 7. On that day, everything got weird. Even during the first few miles when I was fresh, I couldn’t seem to summon any speed. Then about 7 miles in, my right foot decided to spasm, over and over again. It didn’t really hurt, but it felt like my foot was collapsing under me. I’d take a walk break, settle down, and resume running. All would be well for a few minutes, and then ZAP — all over again. I finished the 18 miles, but soon regretted having tried to push through it. My hips, thighs, and knees were very sore for a couple of days. I could only figure that I’d tensed up all over, fearing the spasm, and actually injured myself with an overly-stiff stride.

I took a few days off to rest, recover, try to figure out what had gone wrong, and correct that. The first part of my solution was to buy a new pair of shoes, even though I only had about 150 miles on the pair I’ve been wearing. When I’d bought that pair, the same size I’d always worn had felt small, so I went up half a size. However, my new shoes had always felt a bit loose. I thought that maybe my feet were moving around too much inside my shoes and that the spasm was the result of that movement. So I bought another pair, going back to the old size.

The second part of my solution was to buy a new pair of compression tights. I was running in tights that were almost four years old and, frankly, weren’t giving my knees and hips all that much support anymore.

Five days after that disastrous 18-miler, I ran 7 miles in my new shoes and new tights. Everything went great! Problem solved!

Or so it seemed.

Back to my planned long runs, only four days behind schedule. I did my 16.3 mile run a little slower than I’d hoped, but in relative comfort. I had a couple of foot spasms in the later miles, but they weren’t worrisome.

So on September 24 I did the 21-miler. Everything went great through the first 15 miles. Then  my right foot began to spasm occasionally. Then it progressed to a sharp pain with every footfall. Needless to say, that pain necessitated an immediate walk break.

I’d walk a bit and feel better, so I’d try running again. Everything would be fine, and then the pain would return.

All the rest of me — knees, hips, heart, lungs, brains — kept going along just fine and feeling great. I felt physically and mentally strong and focused. I asked myself what a stress fracture might feel like, and if this could be one. But every time I resumed running, it would feel fine — right up until the next stab of pain.

I ended up walking a good portion of the last 3 miles. Even so, I finished within the time I’d predicted at the start, and only a couple of minutes slower than the 21-miler I’d done during my last marathon training two years ago.

My feet had no bruising, no swelling, no sign of anything resembling a fracture, neither immediately after finishing nor over the next few days. I really wasn’t sore anywhere; the new shoes and tights have fixed that.

The problem with my foot shows up in the later miles of a run. Upon reflection, I’ve become convinced that it’s due to the relatively short time (less than 9 weeks) that I gave myself to train for this marathon. I simply haven’t given my feet enough time and miles to gain strength and toughness. My feet get tired, and when they get tired they hurt.

I’m now officially in taper mode. Yesterday I ran 6.6 miles, strong and steady, no issues. I’m planning three to four more easy runs of 6-9 miles over the remaining twelve days before the race. I’ve committed myself to walking a few miles every day that I don’t run — anything to try to firm up the feet.

I don’t feel optimistic about a great performance at Victoria. I know that I’ll complete the race, but I expect to need walk breaks, and I expect to do some hurting in the last few miles. I don’t anticipate a PR — but it will be a PR for me in my new age group! If I ever run another full marathon (and I’m sure I will), I’ll give myself a lot more time to train.

I’ll get it done, but it won’t be easy.

One step at a time!

Do the miles. Finish healthy.

Earlier this year, when I registered for a half marathon in June, a 6-day, 400-mile bike ride in August, and a full marathon in October, that combination of events seemed obviously doable. I’d focus on running (with a bit of bike riding) in the spring, switch to intense cycling training (while continuing to run 2-3 times a week) through early August, and then ramp up the running in the latter part of the summer. I’d only have about 9 weeks of serious marathon training, but I’d have a solid baseline of running and cardiovascular fitness that would allow me to quickly work up to a 20+ mile long run.

That was the plan.

The reality was this: After the half marathon in June, I traveled to California for two weeks, where I spent time in air conditioned rooms in the close company of a few thousand other people. I came home with a heavy cold, and couldn’t get excited about either running or cycling until well into July. I then realized that I wouldn’t have time to get properly prepared for the bike ride while also running 2-3 days a week. I had to let go of the running. As of the end of July, therefore, I had run a mere 28 miles since the half marathon.

We did the bike ride, and had a wonderful time. CFL and I were among the slowest riders, but mattered was that we had trained well enough to finish the ride.

When we got home from that, I was fairly exhausted, but there was no time to lose. Let the marathon training begin!

Google “marathon training plan” and you’ll see that there are a lot of them out there. Most of them assume a duration of 16-18 weeks, although you can find 12-week plans.

I had eight and a half weeks.

The only 8-week plans I found assume you are ready to do a 16-mile long run in week 1. In other words, it’s a 16-week schedule with the first half cut off.

Clearly, I’d have to design my own plan. I’d have to focus on quality versus quantity. What’s the least number of miles I can run and still be somewhat ready on race day? And I’d have to center my training on the long runs, working everything else around them.

I developed two simple principles:

  1. Do the miles.
  2. Finish healthy.

I would run 3 times a week. The long runs would follow a simple progression: 12, 14, 16, 18, 16.3 (the psychologically important 26.2 kilometer race simulation run), and 21 miles, followed by a 2-week taper. The mid-week runs would rotate between steady-pace, fast-finish, and rolling-hill runs. There would be no procrastination, no postponements. I’d do whatever it takes to get through the long runs — rest stops, walk breaks, whatever — but I’d always do the miles. And I’d finish each run healthy, with enough in reserve to know that I’d be ready to do the next one.

When I went out for my first serious run on August 12, I’d done so little recent running that I’d actually lost the calluses on my feet. My soles were sore after only five miles. I realized that it would not be enough just to do the running miles. I’d also need to spend easy miles on my feet, walking or hiking, on the non-running days. So I sadly turned away from my bike and committed to doing the miles.

I’m now at the end of week 3. I’ve done the 12-miler and the 14-miler. I’ve done all of my planned shorter mid-week runs so far. On nearly all of the non-running days, I’ve walked — typically 4-6 miles. Today I’ll go out and run 16 miles.

Do the miles. Finish healthy.

Honestly, come race day, the same principles will apply. Do the miles. Finish healthy. If I have a good day, I’ll be a few minutes faster than I was two years ago when I ran my first full marathon. If I’m slower, I’ll still have run a full marathon at age 60 — a feat I couldn’t have imagined at age 50. Either way, I can’t lose!

All I need to do?

Do the miles. Finish healthy.

One step at a time!

The marathon is calling and I must go

I could feel it calling me while I was in Victoria enjoying the afterglow of having completed a very satisfying half marathon. I kept watching the people who had run the full marathon (identifiable by their very stylish jackets) and envying them.

After I ran the full marathon last year in Victoria, I told myself I wouldn’t run another full until a time that my age ended in “0” or “5” — so that I’d be among the youngest people in my age group. Well, next year’s Victoria marathon is scheduled to take place just days after I celebrate a birthday that ends in “0.” What better way to recognize a milestone birthday than to run a marathon?

My plan gets a little more ambitious than that, however. I couldn’t help but notice that the Victoria race takes place the same day as a much bigger and better-known marathon: Chicago! So I’ve been online busily researching what it will take to earn myself a spot in that world-class marathon.

Many of the race spots are awarded by lottery, so all I have to do is put my name in and hope that I’m one of the lucky ones drawn. If I get picked, then I’ll be enjoying a very big October vacation. And if I don’t? I’ll be thrilled to run again in Victoria!

I don’t expect to be competitive in my age group, even with the advantage of being one of the youngest. Just as I was last year, I’ll be happy to train safely, run strongly, and finish. But I get shivers every time I think about running 26.2 miles with 40,000 or so fellow runners.

Between now and then, I’ll maintain a fitness baseline over the winter, running 15-20 easy miles per week in all sorts of nasty weather, before starting to amp up the running intensity once again for the North Olympic Discovery half marathon in early June. By the beginning of July, I’ll move into serious marathon training.

I suppose it’s a sickness, wanting so badly to again go out and do a thing so demanding, so consuming of time and energy. But once I recognized that I really, honestly want to do this again, there was simply nothing to do but yield to the clarion call.

With apologies to John Muir, then:

The marathon is calling and I must go!