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Monday, May 2, 2011

gearing up

Last weekend was the pinnacle run of my marathon training: the 22 miler.

Both marathon running training schedules I have followed had the longest long run at 20 miles.  I have seen many that go to 22.  I decided this time I would forge ahead with the extra 2 mostly because I liked the idea of closing a 4.2 mile gap rather than a 6.2 mile gap on race day.

I ran with Emilie, running the 2 miles to her house and then 20 with her. I ran the loop I had run for the 20 miler I did solo because it is in the country and rolls over picturesque farmland. It is also very hilly which I tend to embrace with a head bent down in the wind and go for it sort of attitude. I figure it can only help to train on hills.

I was hoping for a feeling such as I could squeak out 4 more miles if I HAD to.

The feeling I had was more along the lines of  please, please make this stop and for the love of everything holy, when am I going to see Emilie's house- did she move while we were running?

There are countless benefits to running with a good friend:  talking is optional, can begin spontaneously, stop abruptly and resume an hour later with no preamble, you can accidentally wear a matching outfit, when it's time for music no one feels excluded and, somehow a 20 mile burden is lessened when split across 2 pairs of quadriceps instead of 1.  My favorite part of the run was submitting (yes that is the proper word) the largest hill on the course and turning to see Emilie just behind me, backlit by blazing sunshine, the effort written on her face in a way that inspired me and reminded me just what we were doing out there.

We could have been sitting at Starbucks drinking coffee and instead we were out there hand in hand (not literally, of course, it would be hard to run that way) challenging our bodies and minds in a most amazing way.  The end of the run was very hard for both of us and left me gasping a bit in terror at tackling the marathon distance in a couple of weeks. 

There are some things that I learned on this run:

- while running 20 miles is certainly no breeze, the real challenge is piggy backing it with 6 more miles.  This is why the marathon distance is such a beast. I recently read an article in Runner's World about how those last 6 miles really are the defining factor of the challenge.
- I do better to break a long run down by hours rather than miles. 

-chafing is a VERY bad thing and any and all actions to prevent it must be taken. A new sports bra and the liberal application of Body Glide in addition to Chamois Butt'r seem to have rectified this problem this past weekend on my 16 mile run.  No chafing and no feeling like someone was pouring battery acid on my skin what those open areas hit the hot water of my (well-deserved) shower.

- that there is almost assuredly a part of the marathon that will feel like total darkness, where I will dream about walking, finishing, stopping and will need to keep running on rebelling legs. 

In fact, I think one of the best mental preparations I could do for this race would be to embrace that I will feel that way and form a mental practice of staying calm despite it. The mind tells you all sorts of lies when cornered.  As much as I need powerful quadriceps to propel me 26 miles, I need a mind that can deflect the bullying doubts that will set in as the fatigue does.

I'm all for listening to my body, and think I do at least a mediocre job most of the time, but when you run a marathon you have to kindly say, "Yes, body, I realize you are requesting a hot tub, a foot massage and a loaf of bread slathered in peanut butter but for now you must keep running."

I guess running a marathon is a lot like managing a toddler.  Yes, I hear you, but for the 500th time, the answer is no.

It stands to reason I should be pretty good at this, then.
This past weekend, on a gorgeous Saturday that heralded the real turn into Spring, Emilie and Susan and I went out for the last of the long runs- a 16 miler that took us past roaring streams, daffodil spotted GREEN lawns, country roads and city streets.  I felt the way anyone 2 weeks away from a marathon would pay to feel- calm, relaxed, strong, capable, prepared and, most importantly, like I could have gone 10 more miles if I needed to.

Exactly how I want to feel on race day. 

As much as possible, I want to enjoy it. I don't want to go out there just to clock miles. I don't want to start the race and think, only 25 miles to go.  I want to smile, to remember how privileged I am to be out there on my feet, with my friends, living a dream. 

My mantra: lucky me

My other when when I need more fire:  Go get it.

So now I'm on a 2 week taper.  This week I am to run 18 miles, down from the 35 to 40 I've been running,  I will use my "extra" time to clean out the closets from the long winter, polish off my marathon running mix, stock up on GU and visualize a mentally and physically strong race.  One in which I DO NOT beg Sandi to take me back to the condo at mile 22.

After Emilie and I ran that brutal end of the 22 miles, we did finally sit, later that afternoon, drinking coffee.  We basked in the sun on Adirondack chairs in my backyard, tucked into blankets to stay warm, the kids running circles around us, as we conducted a post-mortem of our run.  How we felt, when break-down started, what strategies we can utilize to stave off panic when the long miles hit our tired bodies.  Every time one of our children would need something that would require us to get up, we would wince as we watched the other move in slow motion to rise from sitting.

We contemplated snorting Ibuprofen and then settled into the fact that we were proud to hurt.

And a mere 4 hours after such dark moments of physical and psychological decline, we were back on the wagon of thinking what a great idea this whole marathoning thing is.  I swear it is just like childbirth but the amnesia sets in much sooner.  A few good laughs about our pitiful levels of desperation, an overly graphic description of just how badly I chafed r-rated parts of my body and we are good to go for the big day.

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