Monday, November 24, 2008

11/22/08: Pre-marathon musings

Breaking 3 hours in the marathon was one of the first goals I set in running. I start running about 5.5 years ago, and began training for my first marathon 4.5 years ago. I started my marathon training without much of a time goal, but somewhere along the way started to talk myself into thinking I was capable of going under 3 hours.

Ah, the folly of youth (I say at the ripe old age of 25). I ran the New York City marathon 4 years ago and was definitely humbled by the distance. Or perhaps more accurately, I got my ass handed to me.

I ran the first half in 1:30, right on pace. Most people hit “the wall” in a marathon at mile 20. I, however, hit the wall pretty soon after the halfway mark. Not good. I slowed down some and struggled to get to mile 20. After that I basically jogged it in with quite a bit of walking along the way. At one point, medical volunteers ran out onto the course to make sure I was ok. You’ve got to look pretty bad at the end of a marathon for that to happen.

I finished New York in 3:24, pretty far from the 3:00 I had deliriously hoped for. All in all, I still loved every minute of it and was still decently happy with my virgin marathon effort.

It took me a while to recover from New York and 1.5 years to talk myself into doing another marathon. I signed up for the Nashville Marathon and ran it with none other than Dylan Fitz, the outstanding runner and free-style walker with the best fashion sense you could ever find. Let’s just say the ladies loved his marathon outfit.

I had a lot of fun, but the race ended up going even worse than New York. I dropped somewhere around mile 14 and took the shuttle of shame to the finish. Dylan is a man among men and graciously stayed with me to cheer me up. I don’t know if it was me foolishly giving blood the week before or something else, but I just didn’t have it that day.

Well now I was REALLY fired up to kick ass in my next marathon. I quickly signed up for the Philadelphia marathon the following November. I knew it was a fast course that usually had good weather, so I planned to at least qualify for Boston and hopefully break 3 as well.

I trained like an animal. Throughout the DC summer heat, I ran 70 – 85 miles a week and crushed myself with tons of insane workouts. I toed the start line very overtrained and with some nagging pain in my right calf that happened when I ran the Marine Corps marathon as a training run right after an 85 mile week, my highest mileage week every at the time. I was determined though.

I gave it all I had. I again ran the first half right on pace, just under 1:30. I stayed on 3 hour pace until mile 20 this time, but the inevitable slowdown happened again. I held it together much better, though, and still managed to average somewhere around 7:40s in the last 10K to finish in 3:04. Still didn’t hit 3 hours, but I was ecstatic about qualifying for Boston.

I did pay a steep price for the overtraining, though. My calf was in rough shape after the marathon. I took a few months off to give it time to heal, but it wasn’t getting any better. I finally went to an orthopedist and was diagnosed with tendonitis. The good news is that a stiffer pair of insoles was all I needed to do the trick. My doctor told me I also needed to take it easy and not train quite so hard. Naturally I immediately signed up for the JFK 50 miler and started ramping up for that (my orthopedist hates me and actually yells at me when I come in there with some injury from some crazy thing I’ve done recently).

Having finally gotten a time I was pretty happy with in the marathon, I turned my attention towards ultras. It was only when I missed signing up for the JFK 50 before it filled that I thought to run Philly. It had been 2 years since my last marathon, and I’d lost a lot of speed in my ultra training. I also had only a few months to train before the race with a big break for the wedding and honeymoon right in the middle, but I figured why not? I hoped to finally break 3 and figured I’d have a good time even if I didn’t.

This time around I trained smarter and made sure to overtrain/injure myself. I cut back to only do 2 workouts a week, which I did with the DC Road Runners most of the time. Workouts are definitely more fun with company. I was also more flexible with my training and made sure to take days off when I was feeling too sore and tired.

As a result, I felt really good when I started Philly this time around. In my next post I’ll give a much too detailed account of how everything went.

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