I woke up on Sunday morning to the sound of my alarm clock at 5:00 a.m.
I had been traveling since last Monday in a pretty action packed week. 6 flights in 6 days, work meetings, family Thanksgiving Dinner, a 5k race and my 25th High School Reunion on Friday night. That is a whole lot of “action” packed into less than one week.
As I shuffled into the bathroom to get geared up for my Sunday long run I glanced at the thermometer in the window. 42 degrees. Just about perfect weather for running if you ask me. I had a 16 mile long run on the schedule, which would wrap up a pretty heavy week of training.
16 miles on the tri-bike on Monday.
8 miles on the Three Rivers Trail in Pittsburgh Tuesday.
10 miles on the Montour Trail on Wednesday.
The Hopewell Turkey Trot 5K on Thursday.
11.5 miles on the treadmill before my reunion on Friday.
(more on my reunion later this week!)
I had the feeling that I would be “tacking one on” as I had been doing for each of my Sunday long runs the last few weeks. Careful to not increase my weekly mileage vs. the previous week too quickly, I have been smart about my ramp up this training cycle and my legs were feeling fresh. 17 miles felt about right as I was lacing up my shoes, and I had just the route in mind.
I would combine my 12 mile “hill route” with my 5 mile “Boston Course” that features some climbing but also some downhill running. A perfect way to wrap up the week at 49.6 running miles. My highest weekly mileage since ramping up for Pittsburgh in 2009, as last years Run for Dom “Double” came on the heels of a training injury.
I was only able to run four days per week instead of the usual five. I paid the price for that reduction in training miles when I reached the Newton Hills at the Boston Marathon.
This was going to be a “no-look” long run, where I only listen for the beeps on my watch so I know when I reach specific distance points. This allows me to know when to drink and when to take my Clif Shot Bloks for nutrition, but not fixating on every mile split.
Long runs to me are practice runs for the marathon. I rehearse everything about race day, when I get this close to the marathon, I mimic my race-day hydration and nutrition plan exactly.
Locking it in I like to call it.
Water on miles 2, 4, 8, 10, 14, 16
Gatorade on miles 6, 12, 18, 20
Three Clif Shot Bloks (300 calories) at 5, 10, 15, 20
I’ve found that will get me through my 20 and 21 mile training runs feeling hydrated and with enough energy. Come race day I will tack on water and nutrition “as needed” as it is tough to predict exactly how you will feel and what your body will need when you switch from your Glycogen stores over to burning fat.
In Pittsburgh in 2009, I found I needed only water until the end of the race.
In Boston in 2010, I needed just about everything I could get my hands on to make my way past Fenway Park and onto the Boyleston Street finish line.
As I stretched against the garage waiting for my GPS watch to realize I was back home in Austin I caught myself yawning. Never happens.
By the time I am outside I am normally wide awake. The less than 4 hours of sleep I got on Friday night was catching up with me. I thought it wise to shake loose slowly on Sunday. I would have plenty of time to make up for a sluggish start.
I headed uphill away from the house towards Avery Ranch Road and would be making my way six miles out past HWY 183. A lot of climbing over those six miles. At my turnaround it would be time to take a shot of Gatorade and start making my way back to the house.
This will be the start to all of my Sunday long runs throughout this training cycle, letting me get in a decent amount of hill work and drop one of my empty water bottles at the house on the way past at mile 12.
I will then add 5,6,7,8 or 9 miles to the run from there, stretching me out to my longest of long runs at 21 miles for this training cycle.
I managed the first two miles at a nice, smooth and easy pace – 7:32 and 7:35. When I took my first sip of water at the start of mile 3, I gradually started to churn the legs a bit faster and ramped up the pace. By the time I reached the first big climb over mile 4 I was really feeling great.
Before I knew it I was back on Avery Ranch Road headed south into a slight breeze. Free and easy, legs churning back toward home.
12 miles, a little under 1 hour 25 minutes and I had not crossed paths with a single runner. It really was a solo mission on Sunday which gave me a lot of time to think about Austin. I’ve been struggling a bit to “find my pace” for this particular marathon. These Sunday long runs will play a big roll in me “locking it in” a few weeks before race day.
Prior to Pittsburgh in 2009, my goal pace was easy. To qualify for the Boston Marathon I would need to break 3:20:00. 7:38 min./mile pace.
Neat, clean, simple.
This time around I know I am capable of much more. Qualifying for Boston remains my “A Goal”, the goal by which if everything fails to come together I will either claim victory or defeat at the hands of Lady Marathon.
My “B Goal” is also pretty straight forward. PR at Austin.
That means bettering my 3:17:43 from Pittsburgh, 7:31 min./mile pace.
My “C Goal”? That is the one that is up for debate right now. I believe that every marathoner no matter their ability should show up to race day with several goals. They can be as simple as, “Just Finish”, “Don’t Walk” or “Have Fun”.
But to only show up with one goal, specifically one time goal risks disappointment. The marathon is a tricky, tricky race. It exposes the smallest of weaknesses over its 26.2 miles. A small training injury, illness, poor weather and your time goal can fall by the wayside very quickly.
To not have a series of goals for race day that will allow you to “claim victory” even if you miss your “C” goal or “stretch goal” by a handful of seconds or minutes is important in my eyes. Afterall, running a marathon is a tremendous achievement in and of itself. Less than 1% of all those on earth will ever even attempt it.
I think that accomplishment should be celebrated without question.
I decided over the final 6 or 7 miles I would run free and easy and let my body tell me, and most importantly show me, what I am capable of on tired legs.
The miles frankly came very easy on Sunday. As I was running my final mile, I knew that I had put together a tremendous run. Having not looked at my watch for more than thirty minutes – I had no idea what my time would be. I only knew that I easily had another 5 miles or so in me at that effort, which would put me at close to 22 miles. From that point the marathon turns into a guts race. Something we are more than ready for.
As I hit the driveway I glanced down and needed just another 1/10 of a mile to reach my target of 17 miles for the morning. Tacking one on so to speak.
Final time – 2:01:11
7:08 min./mile pace – the fastest 17 miles I had ever run.
Individual mile splites for the run were:
7:32, 7:35, 7:13, 7:11, 7:07, 7:15, 7:14, 7:09, 7:02, 7:05, 7:01, 6:58, 7:04, 6:54, 6:57, 7:00, 6:45.
They are encouraging me to dig deep this training cycle and bring my best to every training run and strength training session.
They know that I am running this marathon for me, but also in memory of Dom.
They want me to push the limits to achieve all that I can on February 20th as do I. Frankly, they think I have more in me than the time above. Me, I’m not so sure.
12 weeks to go until we toe the line on marathon morning. By then, our training will be complete and we will “know” what we are capable of that day.
Right now, I’m just trying to stay in the moment and let this training cycle take me where I am meant to go.