I’ve started to view marathon training as a bank account or better yet, an investment portfolio.
With an eye toward the future you make your daily and weekly deposits. Sometimes those deposits are large, other times they are small. There are times when making that deposit feels great, sometimes they hurt just a bit.
You do it because you know that down the line there is going to be a payoff. When you need it most those deposits are going to have built upon one another and “matured”. When you go to make that withdrawal, you will be amazed at just how much all those individual contributions have grown.
Sunday was our final large, tough deposit.
With three weeks left until the gun fires on the Verrazzano Bridge signaling the start of the 2011 New York City Marathon I went out and ran every single hill I could find for 22 miles.
I searched them out like I was looking for punishment because in a way, I was.
After last weekend’s half-marathon in Denver I dove right back into the peak week of our training plan, 8.3 miles on Tuesday, 12 miles of hills on Wednesday, 10X Hill Repeats on Thursday for another 10.2 miles a 12-mile hilly run on Saturday and then with less than 24 hours rest our final 22-mile long run of the training plan.
With an extra tenth of a mile here, two-tenths of a mile there we totaled 65.09 miles for the week, climbing 1,956 feet of hills, burning up 7,024 calories running for 8 hours, 11 minutes and 3 seconds. All 5-day run week records.
But Sunday’s workout was special, just like all of the final long-runs of marathon training cycles past. I take this one particular run very seriously, make sure that I eat well the night before, take my energy gels every 5-miles just like I plan to do on race day and drink water on every even mile, Gatorade at mile 5, 11, 15, 19 and 21. On Marathon day we’ll take one last 100 Calorie dose of our Clif Shot Bloks at mile 24 and drink as needed through to the finish.
The last thing I want to do on race day is experiment with new socks, new shoes or a new hydration and nutrition plan. Nothing new on race day is possibly the best “marathon rule” that there is. Sunday’s run was essentially a dress rehearsal. The only differences were my heavy training shoes on my feet and my own water supply strapped into my hydrabelt. Everything else was exactly as it will be in three weeks in New York.
As I ticked off the miles on Sunday I reflected on the last 17 weeks. All of those runs that took place in the hottest conditions I can remember here in Austin. Socks squishing in my running shoes by mile 8 or 9, I would continue to fight on, knowing that while those training runs were not a whole lot of fun, they were making me stronger.
I thought about Dawn and how lucky I am that she gets me. She understands what this race means to me as I now have just two chances left at New York City and Boston this April to slay the dragon which is a sub-3 hour marathon.
After these next two races I am going to redefine what running is for me, find new goals to chase, but ones that allow me to have more time to spend with my family and not be out on Sunday morning at 4:45 a.m. looking for every single hill along a 22-mile run. There will be other dreams to chase after Boston – they will just be different dreams, with a little smiley faced daughter who has taken up making pig noises as her latest past-time ….
But I digress.
When I passed the house and switched out my water bottles on Sunday at mile 16 I had two choices to make. I could run the 6-mile loop that would take me downhill over mile 20 and drop me back onto the trail with 2 flat miles to go or I could circle back around and take on the hill up and over the dam and around the lake. It would add more climbing to my run, but I would be able to lap the lake one more time where all of this seemed to begin a couple of years ago when I decided to run those two marathons back to back for Dom.
The choice wasn’t difficult. It wasn’t really a choice even. I just powered up the hill out of the neighborhood and made the left turn into Water’s Edge like I had hundreds and hundreds of times. I powered up and over the dam, lapped the lake and ran my two fastest miles of the morning over miles 21 and 22 back to the house at 7:25 and 7:17 pace.
I took stock at the start of mile 22 and asked myself if I had 4 more miles in me if I needed them. Without a doubt I thought, I’ve got 4 more in me.
Whatever it takes.
It was a perfect punctuation to this training cycle. Next weekend I’ll play it by ear a bit. If I feel rested I might run another 20-miler just to cap things off. If I’m still nicked up, I may cut it short to 16-18 miles and start tapering things up a bit.
But three weeks from now in New York City in what will be the largest footrace I have ever taken part in – I know exactly what I need to do. Simply put:
Whatever it takes.