I’ve run 12 out of the last 13 days. That has never happened in the 8 years I have been a runner. I have to admit, when I climbed into bed last night I was very thankful that today, Friday was a rest day. From here on out, until race week at Big Cottonwood on September 14th, Thursday nights are going to be looked forward to.
As I hopped out of bed this morning I do what I always do, I take the first few stiff steps toward the bathroom and I take stock. How do the stems feel today? Any new aches and pains? Any soreness? Tightness?
All I felt this morning is strength and fitness. It is coming back quickly and in fact I am starting to think that our injury in December and subsequently having to pull out of the Houston Marathon was a blessing in disguise. We missed a rather miserable race day in Houston. Cold, windy and rainy – a race where one of my close friends and a runner that I have the utmost respect for not only as a talented athlete, but a determined, tough, gutsy and very strategic road racer took his first DNF (Did Not Finish). If ever there was a race day to miss. January 13th appears to have been that day.
After recovering from the Achilles strain I was able to take a physical and mental break from training non-stop, take a step back, look at my progress over 2012 – which included new PR’s in the 5K, 10K and half-marathon as well as completing our first Half-Ironman and realize that we had one heckuva year last year. It was a strong foundation to build upon and if we were smart and could find new ways to challenge our fitness level and our running talents – we could “next level” this thing. And with most of the year still in front of us we could do it in 2013.
The injury forced me to set the triathlon aside for this summer, we’ll get back on that horse next season, and focus on our run 100%. Something we had not done in about 18 months. It led to deciding after all this time that I would add track work to our training and more importantly a running coach and training partners.
This Wednesday’s workout which had my legs feeling like toast on my Thursday recovery run and all day yesterday clearly is going to force adaptation. I am starting to look forward to June 15th’s 5K in Holland, TX as something a little bit more than just a fun morning running in a small-town festival race.
I am going to look back at the previous 4 years results at Holland and see if we can post a course PR for ourselves. After 6 weeks of training with coach and a couple of track workouts every week, can we shave :05 or so off of our Holland time from 2011? Last year I was about :07 seconds off of that time, but had held back ever so slightly knowing I had the Lake Pflugerville Triathlon the next day – on one of the more taxing race weekends I had ever attempted.
The road to Cottonwood is paved with tough workouts and 17 more “Thursday Nights” before race week. We still have a long way to go, but that is something that has me even more excited. I feel like we could be ready for the marathon in 6-8 weeks right now. Instead we have more than twice that amount of time to sharpen the sword to a razor edge and run right up against it on September 14th.
Initially I thought that we would play it safe at Big Cottonwood – not take too many chances and just lock in with a conservative race plan and run a solid BQ. As I was toiling away on the track on Wednesday, running 100′ after 100′ I started to get that feeling in my stomach that running a conservative race just isn’t my style.
I’m smart enough to know that charging down Cottonwood Canyon :10 seconds faster than goal pace is a recipe for disaster. A mistake that I’ve learned long ago does nothing but make the most difficult 10 kilometers in road racing – the final 10K of a marathon – nothing more than a suffer-fest.
On race day, I will have a specific plan, and I will execute it as close as possible mile after mile.
It is going to be in the setting of that plan that we will be fearless. If my indicators and splits are showing that we are indeed ready for 2:59 in Utah, well then, that is exactly the race we are going to run. If it says 3:01, well then, so be it. But I have a feeling that if we have been close to or ready for 2:59 in the past – this training cycle, this hot Texas summer to train in and this particular marathon and course set things up for us like they never have previously.
All I need is the weather, and if the tailwind is blowing down the canyon that morning like most of the locals claim it does 99% of the time – well then we are going to take no prisoners. It will be strange running a marathon without any crowds around us. In the past I have trained 100% by myself and then on race day had tens of thousands of runners around me when the race started and in the case of Boston 2X, Philadelphia, New York, Pittsburgh 2X even here in Austin I have been in a pack of hundreds throughout the race.
This time we will be training in a crowd, doing workouts with our group – and then on race day less than 2 miles into the race I will be more than likely be running in a group of 6 or less.
By the midpoint, maybe 1 or 2. By mile 20? Alone.
There will be nobody to push with, nobody to chase down, and very likely nobody on our heels. We may have more than 2-3 minutes between us and the nearest competitor in front of us and behind us. There will be no hugs waiting for me at the finish line from Dawn and Landry as they are going to be having a Mommy-Daughter weekend in Austin.
So Dom, this one is going to fall squarely on your shoulders. When things start to get difficult and the downhills have robbed my legs of the juice that they had only a couple of hours earlier I am going to need you. Just remind me how if you had the chance to trade places with me at that moment you would do it in a heartbeat. You would gladly hop right in those race flats to feel that pain, embrace it and channel it because it serves as a reminder just how alive I really am.It will have been three years and 30 days exactly since you passed away Dom and I still think about you on every single run. Some more than others of course, but on race day you always seem to show up just when I need you the most. I’m counting on you for this one Dom.