The making of a marathoner ….

Posted: August 27, 2011 in Training
Tags: , ,

Marathon training is a funny thing in that the preparation for the actual race can be very similar to the race itself.

There are going to be miles where you feel invincible followed by others where you feel incredibly vulnerable.

Moments when you feel like you cannot take another stride, followed by times when the miles seem to roll off your back effortlessly.

There are going to be miles when you ask yourself rather seriously, “why am I doing this?” – only to be surprised moments later by a sunrise, a child holding a sign or the cresting of a hill when you know exactly why you are out there.

You also know that this won’t be the last time you take on this challenge as it has come to define you in a way. It is all about the journey. It always has been, never about the destination.

But especially during training for the race there will be one run that you can trace everything back to. One run where for the first time you feel like the training is coming together, that you are indeed going to take this thing to the limits of your capabilities and on Marathon Sunday – it is all going to come together for you.

Saturday was that run for me on my way to NYC.

The training schedule had an innocent number 9 in the box for Saturday. I am at the stage in the training plan where I run approximately 1/2 the distance of my Sunday long run the previous day. But I run those miles at an up-tempo pace. Hoping to bring the run in under 7:00 min./mile pace.

But to really nail this workout it is not enough to just break through the 7:00 minute/mile barrier. I want to run a slow first mile to warm up and then continue to push the pace harder and harder as the run progresses, finishing with the final mile being my fastest. Closing strong on tired legs, pushing through discomfort but not succumbing to it.

It is a run that tests the physical limits of where I am at that point in my training cycle, but also starts to sculpt the marathoner that I want to be on race day – mentally as well as physically.

I like to envision myself as a rectangular block of building clay standing on end at the start of the marathon cycle. Each workout places the chisel, hammer, carving tool and brush against that building block and scrapes a little away.

At the end of 18 weeks what is left is the marathoner.

These Saturday runs are the runs that cut a little bit deeper. They remove more material than any other day of the week, giving me a glimpse of what my goals should be for race day and let me know what I am capable of when I toe the line among the thousands of other runners who have decided to go all in and take on the 26.2 mile course.

These are the workouts that I take a peak behind the curtain to see where we are. Where we need to improve and how far away we are from being a finished product. Some mornings these workouts are humbling, other days they are inspiring. But they are always honest and always true. There is no hiding from up-tempo Saturdays.

As I loaded a water bottle into my hydra-belt I knew it was going to be a tough day. Temperature was already 76 degrees at 5:45 a.m., no breeze and the humidity was hanging around at 70%. A pretty standard summer morning this year, but I was still struggling with this sinus cold/infection I have been dealing with all week.

My flights on Friday were very difficult as the cabin pressure put a lot of force on my sinus cavities. Excruciating pain up, down, up and down making my way back home to Austin. I am having trouble breathing through my nose and had a restless sleep on Friday night. I decided to stick to the schedule and give it my best shot.

After an opening warm-up mile in 7:27 I started to wind the watch a bit and let my legs settle in to a more comfortable pace posting miles 2 and 3 in a pair of identical 7:08’s.

With 6 miles left it was time to go: 6:58, 6:46, 6:51, 6:57, 6:44, 6:43.

Despite the temperature rising with the sun on my back and the sinus discomfort I was able to set all that aside for 1 hour, 2 minutes and 44 seconds to close out the run feeling like I had another 5-6 miles at that pace in me.

It was just one run. One of eighty-nine on the way to the Staten Island Ferry on November 6th, but it was the first run in this training cycle when I could feel the power in all the runs before it to this point.

The tempo runs, hill repeats, marathon pace runs and long runs are doing what they are supposed to be doing. Each one removing just a bit more material. Smoothing out an edge here, carving a line there, molding me into the runner that along with all the other hopefuls in NYC looks to be the best they have ever been at the largest marathon on the continent.

I still haven’t settled on a time goal for NY, we’ll leave that for the flight home from the Denver Rock and Roll Half-Marathon one month before NYC. After that race I should know down to the minute what I feel I am capable of in New York if the weather cooperates. But this Saturday confirmed for me that no matter what, we’ll be looking to PR at New York.

It’s not a matter of if, only of by how much.

  1. Jim in Maine says:

    Finally had a chance to catch up on your bolg Joe – and this entry is just the perfect ending to the catch up. Reading of your progressive build-up and hard consistent work is ceratinly no surprise. Plus they contain numerous bits of knowledge and tips you so freely share. But it is joyful to read of your well earned and much deserved confidence. In your athletic endeavors when you are totally healthy you are always optimistic – as you should be … And on your home course in shorter races you are extermely confident – a confidence earned through repeated successful races and a steady stream of PRs. It is excellent to read the same confidence looking forward to NYC … it is a joyful confidence similar to the pride you often have when writing about Dawn and Landry. It is good sign of great things to come in NYC.

  2. joerunfordom says:

    Jim – Thanks so much for the great message and for taking time to visit. I know things must have been pretty stressful the last couple of days in Maine. So glad that you, Patti and the girls made everything so well.

    What a tremendous storm. Just amazing in size.

    Best to you Jim, you are really looking strong lately, I think when the temperature drops another 10-15 degrees those splits of yours are going to be a good :30-:45 faster as you ramp back up.

    Take good care Jim!

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