July 13, 2008


Ever since my last marathon, I've been somewhat uncommitted to running. Exercise in general, really. The required weekly yoga has become more of an option that we might take. Sometimes I replace it with yoga at work, which is an awesome benefit, but geared toward the whole workplace and so not quite as strenuous as the DVDs we do at home.

Basically, I've been quick to let life get in the way of my scheduled miles and other workouts.

This is rather dim-witted of me, seeing as how I'm scheduled to do The San Francisco Marathon with E2.

We agreed upon a Jeff Galloway-inspired, but built for those who don't have too much time training program. The weekly goals are two medium length runs, one shorter run (ideally, speed training, but it hasn't really happened for me), and a long run-walk of various miles.

I've cut long runs where I'm on my own short by 20%. I've skipped medium length runs. I've replaced speed training with leisurely short jogs. My average pace has declined steadily. In other words, I haven't been training so much as going through the motions.

The week before Ensenada, I did the mortal marathon training sin and skipped my long run because I had too much work to finish before we left for vacation. Between work and packing, I got 3 hours and 20 minutes of sleep the night before our flight and I kept working until the car arrived to take us to the airport. Clearly, there was no time to get up and do the scheduled 13-15 miles.

But then, in Baja, something happened. After a little over 2 months of lackluster commitment to running, on vacation, I rediscovered my love for the pounding feet. Each day, I slept 'til I couldn't anymore (often 10 hours) and then, when I woke, I'd lace up the shoes for a leisurely run along the bay, pounding surf, and dry sunny inlands for a total of 4-5 miles (all but one day with Nish, who I let pick the pace so we could comfortably gossip, chat, and catch up on each other's lives). When we returned home, I was surprised to realize that when given my choice on how to allocate my time without obligations, I'd choose to run for six days straight.

On the Sunday after our return, E2 and I did our scheduled long run of just short of 21 miles. And it hurt. The weekly total was 43.12 (compared with less than 13 the week before). Despite the running, I had brought approximately 5 pounds of Mexico back with me and my body was not too thrilled with the serious increase in loading from all forces (distance and gravity being the frontrunners). Monday, I limped up the stairs at work. Tuesday, I continued to recover.

Wednesday, I acknowledged that the race was less than a month away and if I was going to be in any shape to complete it, I couldn't miss any more miles. So, I forced myself to do 6 after work. It felt good, but labored. Thursday, I went our for a quick 3 only to realize that I am not quick anymore. Friday, despite feeling as if I needed a day off, I forced myself to do another slow 6.

I felt as if I was running because I had to. I had a marathon to run, so I didn't really have a choice.

Saturday, I got up and tried to drive to E2. I got lost. Not once, but twice. I can only assume it was my subconscious self rebelling against the idea of the scheduled 24 miles. I've *never* done 24 miles in prep for a marathon. And, I'd never been this out of shape this close to a marathon. So, I was fairly certain it was going to suck.

Thankfully, the weather cooperated. It was overcast and cool until halfway through, at which point it was gorgeously clear and breezy. We struggled through the 24 miles, run-walking and taking breaks as we felt it was necessary for an average pace of 12:04.

At least once every 5 minutes during the final 10 miles I reminded myself that I should exercise restraint over the next two weeks with respect to eating -- you know, so my knees wouldn't be so fucking pissed at me on the actual race day. And then, finally, yet somehow earlier than either of us expected, it was all over. We'd finished the 24 miles -- the longest training run I'd ever done. We walked to the burrito joint and placed our orders as the stinkiest people in the joint.

I came home sore, with tight and angry hamstrings. After a long shower, I headed to the nail salon for a pedicure (mmm...massage chair, hand-massaged feet and calves).

But, what did I take to read at the salon? The Runner's World from last month that I never got around to reading. I sat there, getting pushed and prodded and kneaded into relaxation and found myself inspired by the stories of Olympic Trial competitors Alicia Shay (widow of Ryan Shay, who died during the Olympic Trials for the men's marathon) and Gabe Jennings, the cocky, complicated renaissance man.

I returned from the salon to look up their results at the trials and was saddened to see that Alicia had pulled out of the trials for her event due to an injury and that Gabe, in typical flamboyant fashion, had captivated hearts with his wins at the quarterfinals and semifinals only to completely lose it and place last with a substantially worse time than either of the prelims in the finals. As my high school gymnastics coach often said, "You never want to win the warmups."

Today, as often happens when I push myself with my runs, my legs woke me before I would have liked -- grumpy, tight, and painful. After a morning of the farmer's market (tomatoes!!!!), dim sum with friends, a visit to the Computer History Museum for the Babbage exhibit, and some gardening, I was exhausted.

So, imagine my surprise when I found myself on the couch, immersed in the second unread issue of Runner's World on our coffee table. I earmarked a few training programs. I started to look at future races and think about the second half of the year and how I wanted to structure my training and racing.

I was shocked to realize that somehow, I'm excited about running again. I can't wait to push myself to regain speed over the taper weeks between now and the marathon. I did a slow 24, so I know we can finish, but just how fast, and how easy it will be on my body is up to me and how I treat myself over the next few weeks. Also, I'm excited about upcoming racing options (my favorite half marathon is every fall) and all of a sudden, I can't wait to start planning.

For my last marathon, I think my mental interest and preparation for racing peaked at the half marathon I ran about a month before the marathon. For each mile of the half I wanted to go faster, I wanted to fly. I had fun running, and I felt strong. But the remainder of my training after that was hard to fit in against life. I found myself getting most of the scheduled mileage under my feet without any specific emotional drive other than commitment to finish what I'd started.

This time, it's the opposite. The first 3/4 of the training was about finishing what I'd committed to do and supporting E2 in training for and running her first marathon. But, now, after two consecutive 40+ mile weeks on a body that's heavier than it ordinarily is, I find myself emotionally driven and committed, which surprises me.

I guess, my friends, this is why I register for races, make a training schedule, and stick to it as best I can. Worst case scenario I'll get in some workouts, possibly even some long runs with friends (which I cherish), and, at a minimum, I should be able to finish the race. But, best case scenario, I just may surprise myself.

So, basically, I'm surprised to realize that I can't wait for fall race season, which thanks to E2's request for a summer marathon training buddy, I'll be in shape for! Yay!

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