Monday, August 11, 2014

My Holy Shit Training Moment

"Holy shit, I get it!"

I admit those words came sputtering out of my mouth just after mile 7 of my 10 mile long run today. I repeated them several times too. I have just finished week 3 of my training for the Philadelphia Marathon and it is finally sinking in just how serious of a plan I have chosen. The concept is cumulative fatigue - designed to prepare you fully for the rigors of the marathon - and today for the first time in the training program I really really got it.

Yesterday, after just two weeks of following the Hansons Marathon Method I finally managed to defeat my nemesis and knock 8 seconds off my 5k time. I've been chasing a PR in that distance ever since I ran my 23:29 in Philly last September. I've watched as the minutes have fallen off all of my other distances, but in the 5k I had remained stuck. Until yesterday morning in Asbury Park. I didn't shatter my time, but 8 seconds was enough to make me feel like I had done something substantial. On a much hotter day and in certainly more humid conditions, I mailed in a 23:21 and kissed that Philly time goodbye. It felt so good.

After completing the Asbury Park 5k on Saturday, 8/9/14
Official Time: 23:21, 7:31/mile
Being stuck at 23:29 was part mental - I had some emotional ties to that race and I think for awhile I was having difficulty dealing with those. But it was also physical. I just needed to get faster and stronger. I can already feel that happening and it's amazing.

Today my plan called for a 10 mile long run. From reading the strategy behind the plan I know that it is designed so that the long runs begin to simulate the final miles of the marathon. You are running on tired legs from all the work done during the week. For some unknown, God-forsaken reason today I decided to run at 4pm along a hilly route with not so much shade. Yes, in August. It sounded much better in my head.

I felt great for the first 3 miles. See, life has been good these last few weeks and these last few days especially. Running is my thinking time and right about now thinking is good. I have a lot to look forward to over the coming weeks and months. Songs like "On Top of the World" and "Happy" which are currently on my running playlist don't seem to do it justice. Perhaps soon there will be a blog post about some of these things, but for right now they will just remain nebulous. Let's just say that vacation is coming up, dating is great, preseason football is on, and the Afghan Whigs are about to be back in the States. (And did I mention that I finally got a new PR in the 5k?)

So, I had a lot of good things to think about for the first few miles of this long run. And then I started to realize that my hip hurt a little. And my legs felt like lead. And I really would just rather be taking a nap. And who picked such a hilly freaking route to run on for 10 miles?! The internal debate began. I'll just do the one loop and then the second time I will take the shorter loop and then run around close to my car until I hit 10. As I debated, I slowed down.

Then, I said...really? You are going to run past your car again and just keep running around randomly until you hit 10 miles? Dumbest. Idea. Ever. Do the full second loop (with all the hills included) and do a cool down walk back to the car when you hit 10. Full 10 miles. Full challenge. No cop out. So, that's what I did.

And as I came up on mile 7 and my "holy shit" moment I realized that not only was this run training my body for the marathon, it was also training my mind. Here I was coming up to the end. What was I going to do?

By the time I got to mile 8 1/2, I remember thinking, here you are. It's the last mile and a half of the marathon. Are you going to treat it the same way you have treated your first two and survive through it? Plod across the finish line and feel like you barely made it.

Or are you going to dig deep and run so you leave it all on the road? Force those tired legs to perform like you know they can. Get your BQ or pass out at the finish line trying. From somewhere I found it. And those tired legs worked because I willed them to work. And I learned two important lessons today: 1) what I do in training is what I will do on race day, and 2) when I think I can't, I can.

Perhaps good for life too, but that's probably another blog post.

After my 10 mile Long Run on Sunday, 8/10/14