January 7, 2007

Marathon: 4 weeks to go

Well, folks, this should be interesting. Today, I did my scheduled 14-mile long run at just slightly slower than my target race pace (I was targeting 10-minute-miles for a pleasant experience in my first marathon, and did today's 14 at a painful 10:12). This was the first long run I'd done at race pace since December 9th. Back then (we shall refer to this as "BA," or before Atlanta), I easily did 15 miles in the hills of San Francisco at a 9:49 pace.

For all the runs between December 9th and now, however, I'd been loafing. And, to be honest, I let the world's worst cold and my laziness combine to the point of not ever getting out the door, so much. So, my weakly (sic) mileage totals in the last three weeks have been between 1.5 to 13 miles short of the already very-light for marathon training goals. This translated into easier and slower long runs over the last 3 weeks in order to ensure I hit the distance goals. I had read enough to know one thing -- the certain way to screw yourself in marathon training is to cheat on your long runs.

Today, I could find no more justifications for taking it easy on my long run. I was home, with no major responsibilities more important than my workout plan. I'd slept 11 hours. It was a gorgeous clear day at 65 degrees. It was a step-back week which meant my long run was shorter than last week's and much shorter than next week's. So I set out with the goal of trying to maintain race pace and using this run to gauge just how far I'd fallen in terms of my training.

Keeping to race pace was DIFFICULT. There was no way I could attain the 11 seconds faster pace I'd set back in early December. The Gu at mile 7 seemed to help, like it usually does, so I did an easy 9:45 and 9:44 mile for 8 and 9. Unfortunately, instead of taking my typical water break 2 miles after the gu, I decided to press on for another .85 because I was behind and I knew there would be a mandatory break in my run at the freeway overpass. Bad idea. Stomach upset!

100 feet before my Garmin beeped mile 14, I had to sprint (Okay, I had to move fast enough that the cars would know I was trying to hustle, but it wasn't even close to a sprint, more like a hobble) across a stoplight before it changed to red.

An eternity later, when the watch beeped mile 14, instead of feeling relief at being done, felt like I needed to puke. Badly. Like I was looking around at my neighbors' yards to find the least noticeable place to do the deed. Also, I was thinking, "holy shit, I think I'm going to do 12 more miles at this pace?"

Thankfully, the cool down walk calmed my stomach and I was too tired to think about the actual distance of a marathon. When I got home, I thought I was in the clear, and made plans to go grab food with E after I got clean. But, I underestimated the effect of the hot shower (okay, I like them scalding...). I was shaky. Much too shaky. No time to condition the hair, I think I'm gonna...

This, my friends, would explain how I found myself, 2 minutes after I started my shower, naked, dripping, and taking deep breaths into my bedroom carpet in child's pose.

Eventually, I was able to stand and collect myself. Shortly thereafter I was able to go to one of the local burrito joints and order carne asada tacos. But, I had to leave when another round of nausea hit as I looked at the various meats in sauces (the same ones that usually make me drool with anticipation). We took our food to go.

I am happy to report that I was able to gobble my food with no problem and have felt fine since. But, just in case, I've been taking it easy on the couch for the rest of the afternoon, with cups of tea, People magazine, and Runner's world. Those loafing instincts from the languid South die hard, I tell you.

What have I learned from today?

1. The whole training and untraining thing isn't a joke.

2. Chocolate Gu is no longer welcome on my long runs. But, a water break for at least the first two 10 minute periods after the gu are.

3. I will more than likely need to set a new race pace goal if I want the Marathon to be a pleasant experience. (More info after next week's 20-miler.)

4. Losing the majority of the weight I gained in Atlanta helped with muscle pain between last week's 16.5 miler and today's 14 miler but the increased speed today caused way more immediate discomfort after the run than the increased weight last week.

5. I re-verified that if I'm just too out of shape to finish my first marathon while enjoying it, I'll drop out, finish the half and do a different one a month later. There are two options and both are still open for registration.

6. Finally, thanks to runner's world, I learned that Lance Armstrong thinks completing a Marathon is 10-times more difficult than riding a Tour de France. Also, his longest long run was 13 miles (not 16, like he told the press) and couldn't complete a 25-minute training run due to shin splints 3 weeks before the race. So, I'm thinking if Lance can pull out a sub-3 NYC marathon, then I may be able to pull it together to just finish sub-5.

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