29 months ago I was licking my wounds from running the second of two marathons in 13 days for Dom and his battle with cancer.
It seems almost impossible that it has been that long since we came through the chute in Pittsburgh with Dom looking on and Landry still growing in her Mommy’s belly almost 4 months away from making her grand appearance on August 29th. A Sunday. A long run day of course.
At that point I took a step back and tried to really evaluate where I wanted to go from there with respect to running and more specifically the marathon.
I was a 42-year-old marathoner with a 3:17:43 marathon PR that was getting dusty, now exactly 12 months old. If I wanted to continue to ascend as a runner, especially in my early 40’s I was going to have to make some changes to my training. More speed work, more hill work, more racing at the shorter distances to gain valuable race experience and of course more mileage.
To that point I had maxed out my weekly mileage at 55 miles per week and felt like if I pushed any further than that, injury was going to rear it’s ugly head. I needed to keep my Mondays and Fridays as “off-days” from the pounding – which limited the amount of runs and miles I could cover in a week. I would have to get smarter, work harder and I was going to have to find a way to keep pushing.
A few months later on August 15th we lost Dom. It was a dark, dark day. I can’t speak for everyone who knew Dom, his family, friends or acquaintances. I can only speak for myself and when I am completely honest, I have to admit that I lost some faith that day. To that point I believed that if you did the right things, never gave up, battled and persevered – you were to be rewarded. 42 years of growing up a carpenter’s son and member of the Catholic Church had taught me those lessons over and over and over.
And then, it simply didn’t work. Dom, despite all efforts, treatments, procedures, surgeries, prayers and hopes was taken from his family, his wife, his daughter and son before he reached his 40th birthday. Somehow “fair” just didn’t enter into it.
As I was flying back to Austin after Dom’s funeral by myself, (Dawn could not make the trip as she was 8 1/2 months pregnant) – I replayed all of the conversations I had with Dom over the last year and a half. There were times sitting alone on the plane that I laughed out loud, others when I quietly wiped a tear from the corner of my eye, hoping nobody noticed.
But the one conversation that I could not shake was the last one we had in person. We were hugging each other in the finishing chute under the cover of the Convention Center in Pittsburgh when he whispered to me, “I know you couldn’t run these last two marathons the way you wanted to racing for me. Go out and run the next one for you and absolutely crush it.”
That was when I decided that I was done running marathons.
I wanted to race them.
It wasn’t going to be enough to simply survive the race, I wanted to hammer away fearlessly and push the envelope of our talent, training and abilities. I wanted to not leave a single second on the race clock. The same approach I take in a 5K, 10K, 10-miler or half-marathon.
Leave nothing for later.
This week the runner that could not run more than 55 miles a week as a 42-year-old will be running 80 miles this week at age 45 1/2.
18 miles on Tuesday, 12 on Wednesday, 18 on Thursday, 11 on Saturday, 21 on Sunday – 80 miles.
Training for Houston, knowing this is my last planned marathon for quite some time has been challenging. Out of the 495 miles we have logged as of lunchtime on Thursday of this week, 123 of them or 25% have been at marathon goal pace (6:52) or faster. Something we have never done before.
The 80 total miles this week will again be something we have never done.
Next week, another tough mileage week with a 5K race thrown in on tired legs Friday night to make things interesting.
Then our last real test of the training cycle on December 16th at the Shiner Beer Half Marathon.
A final 80 mile week, the week following Shiner and then we will taper this thing up and get ready to race our ass off down in Houston.
I’m not entirely sure how we’ve gotten here. But make no mistake, this is where we are.
After all this hard work there really isn’t a question as to whether we are going to go for it down in Houston and try to accomplish a goal time in the marathon that less than 1% of the 1% of the population that has run a marathon has ever accomplished. Running 26.2 miles at 6:52 pace or faster.
We most certainly are. The question on that day will be how badly do we want to hang on to the pace group when that voice inside our head that keeps saying “I can’t” is replaced by another voice that whispers in my ear for the first time – “I can”.
I’ll recognize that voice when I hear it.
Just when I need it the most. It will be Dom.