Six more weeks to go….
Week 10 is done. 33 miles in the bag. Monday (4), Tuesday (8), Thursday (5), and Saturday (16). No more 4s. From here on out, it’s all 5s and 8s during the week…one more 16…and two 18s. Then a couple weeks of tapering, where the long runs are (ONLY) 8 and 9…and then The Big Day.
I cannot WAIT till it’s over.
I said last week that I’m pretty sure this is the point in the training where a lot of people drop out. It’s easy for me to imagine why. I’ve just done two straight weeks of 30+ miles, and my pastor said that’s “a threshold.” The way he said it, I’ve been waiting for toes to fall off or my lungs to burst out of my chest or something. So far, I seem to be all in one piece. But I’m DEFINITELY at the “WHY am I doing this, again?” part of the program.
Days are getting shorter. I’m running out of light on my evening runs…especially the long Tuesday runs, which take me about an hour and a half. Temps are dropping, too. I’m starting to worry what it’s going to be like from mid-November on, when it’ll be actually COLD instead of just cool…and after we go back to Standard time. I asked my principal on Friday if I could use my afternoon planning period to go run for the next couple weeks, and she said that was totally fine…she knows I put in as much extra time as the next guy. But near as I can figure, November’s going to be a blur, and as hard as it’s been to concentrate on work, it’s going to get even harder.
My main problem, though, is the long runs. It’s not the distance (surprisingly)…it’s how to tackle the distance mentally. Back when a long run was 8-12 miles, it was a long distance, but it was still a range I could get my head around. The end was always in sight…it was only going to be two hours or so (or less), and I felt able to motivate myself to push through moments when my legs were burning and I felt like walking for a minute or two. Though 10 miles was daunting at the time, there was something about it that still felt within the range of possibility. I’m not sure I can explain this, but that’s the best way I can put it.
But now…16 miles…well, it feels like forEVER. Like, it doesn’t even matter whether I’m walking or running because there’s still HOURS left to run (says my brain). I can’t break it up. There’s no end in sight…it’s just overwhelming. My 16 this week didn’t feel very successful. I mean, I DID it…but I didn’t feel proud of it at the end. I finished in 3:19:58…a 12:29 min/mile pace. I’m amazed at the pace…I thought for sure I’d end up in the 13s or 14s. Ugh….
Neither my body nor my mind was up for it yesterday. I hadn’t eaten well the night before, so I ran out of energy pretty quickly. I thought I’d mapped a decently flat route (my roommate dropped me off at the corner of Liberia Avenue and the Prince William Parkway…and I followed the Parkway down to Minnieville, then to Spriggs, then to 234, and from there to Waterway), but it ended up feeling mostly uphill…I ran the first 4 or 5 miles, but after that, couldn’t keep going for more than a few minutes at a time, it seemed, for a big chunk of the middle of the run. At times, I felt like I was doing a 16 mile WALK, punctuated with brief bouts of running. I felt pathetic. I was battling myself the whole way…trying to stay positive and use my mind to trick my body into feeling strong…using the mental tricks the training book taught me…but I kept disintegrating into negativity because I was so disappointed with my lack of energy. I didn’t feel like a marathoner. I didn’t feel like I was on a training run. I felt like I was just muddling about out there on that road…like I had no business calling myself a runner. I was constantly trying to regroup and be my own cheerleader, but I just didn’t have it in me.
Past the halfway point, I stopped at the Sheetz for about 15 minutes for an energy bar and a refill on my water bottles. I had about 7 to go at that point. I felt better once I started again, and resolved to have a far better second half. Once I hit my 5-to-go point, I picked it up, determined to salvage what had felt like a disastrous run, and I think I did…I felt decently well about that part. (And the first 4 was good…so I guess that means the middle 7 were ucky and the “bookends” were decent.)
Sidebar: Highlight of the whole run…down Minnieville past my Starbucks, there was a man in a chicken suit, waving people in to some restaurant…I was having the best stretch of the whole run, and in a moment of levity, as I passed the chicken-man on the corner, I said, “Hi, chicken!” and expected some deep voice to greet me back. Instead, I got a high-pitched, cheerful, “B’ggock!!!” back, and giggled the whole next mile because of it.
One of the best things the book has taught me is the concept of “try easier.” So far, that’s been my best mental trick…the most effective tool I’ve used to regain flagging spirits. They say the temptation when you feel you’re doing poorly is to tell yourself to “try harder,” but that that isn’t the best way to go about improving. I was doing plenty of that already, berating myself for not being stronger, scolding myself for the walking I was doing on the uphills, feeling down on myself for what I perceived as an overall lack of progress in the past few weeks…I didn’t need to be mentally hollering at myself to “TRY HARDER, YOU WIMP!” The book says to try easier instead! After all…this is supposed to be FUN!!
I know…I know…I’m talking about running 16 miles and “FUN” in the same post. But they’re right. I chose to do this because I wanted to give myself something to be proud of myself for. I wanted to see what I was capable of. And it IS, in fact, mind-boggling to think of how recently I couldn’t run a single mile…and then look at what I can do now, no matter how slow I felt I was yesterday. And in a way, that IS fun. And somehow, telling myself, “Loosen up! Try easier! This is supposed to be fun!” ACTUALLY WORKS. I don’t know how, but I loosen up all over when I repeat that to myself, and the whole effort seems just a bit easier.
Nevertheless…Week 11 starts tomorrow. It’s 34 miles. I have a chance to do a better 5 tomorrow than I did on Thursday. I have a chance to do a better 8 on Tuesday than I did last week. Another 5 on Thursday. And this Saturday, I get to take another crack at that 16. The only good thing about feeling so blah about yesterday’s 16 is that it makes me feel confident that I can beat that effort – soundly – six days from now.
I’ve resolved to eat better this week. I’ve already had steak twice this weekend, and I have half of tonight’s ready for tomorrow night. I’m going to bring healthy things for lunch. Eat those apples in my fridge. Make salads. I had almost no coffee last week, and I’m going to try to stay off it this week, too. It’s going to be a hectic, unusually busy week, but I’m going to try to stay focused on good eating habits so I won’t find myself 4 miles into a 16 again, feeling too pooped to go on. I’m sure that inattention to my eating habits caused a great deal of that malaise yesterday…I don’t want to do that again.
I only have a few weeks left before I tackle the marathon. And lately, I don’t even feel like I’m a bona fide trainee. I have got to get my head straight and feel invested in this thing. I wish I had a running buddy, even if only for the long runs. It’s really, really hard to do this alone, but I knew that was what I was signing on for. I’ll just have to dig deep and find that motivation inside me somewhere. ‘Cause come December 4, I’m either running that marathon or I’m on crutches. No in between.
Week 11: Monday (5), Tuesday (8), Thursday (5), Saturday (16).
PS – Marathon God Cousin Jim comes on Friday to run the MCM on Sunday!! Think massively awesome healing thoughts at his ankle!!! He needs it!!!