Posts Tagged ‘Austin Marathon Training’

Dom –

I am having a very hard time wrapping my head around the fact that we lost you to cancer 4 years ago today.  I can remember the last time we spoke by phone like it was yesterday.  I remember where I was sitting, what I was wearing and what you told me about how amazing it was going to be to be a little girl’s Daddy.  Here we are four years later, Landry is now just about the same age that Sierra was when we last spoke that summer and I have a walking, talking, hugging, smiling and sometimes challenging reminder of everything you told me.  Being a Dad is everything you said it was going to be Dom and more.

You didn’t warn me about the Princess stuff though.  I could have used a few pointers there, but I’ll let that one slide as I know you had a lot going on at that point with your own little girl and your son Nico.

On Sunday I was in the kitchen going through one of my rituals before any training cycle, making gravy.

You know the drill, meatballs, Italian sausage, beef, pork, braciole and enough gravy to last me between 10 and 12 pasta dinners that will take us through all of our long run workouts and race day.

So I’m in the kitchen, stirring the pot to keep the sauce from burning and keeping all the meat and vegetables from sticking to the bottom and Landry comes into the kitchen.  She looks at my shirt and says, “What’s that Daddy” and I was wearing my “Run for Dom” T-shirt that Howie’s company made for us back in 2010.

Where do you start a story like that one I thought.  So I knelt down, gave her a big hug and told her that the shirt reminded me of a good friend of mine who is in Heaven now and that when she got a little older I would tell her stories about him.

I’ve got to tell you Dom, we are still missing you like crazy down here.  I’m still lacing up the shoes in the morning, ticking off the miles and not a single run goes by without me thinking about you.  Wednesday morning a gift showed up on my doorstep with a 66 degree morning, no wind and close to a full moon.  I tacked on an extra mile for you at the end of the run, thinking about 8/15 as well as how much ground we have to cover before we are ready to kick-off Austin Marathon training on October 14.

This morning I was in Atlanta for work and even though it was technically a rest day, I took the stems out for a little tour of downtown Atlanta.

It’s been awhile Dom since I’ve been this excited about a training cycle.

Probably Houston or Big Cottonwood and we know how those races went – or didn’t go actually as we had to pull out due to injury.

But I’ve got a feeling that we’re doing all the right things this time Dom and getting back to basics:

1.  A long base building period.

2.  5 Run days per week, 2 complete rest days.

3.  Quality over quantity like we did for our races in Boston, NYC, Austin and Pittsburgh in previous years.

Come February Dom we are going to be ready to eat lightning and crap thunder.  I learned a lot about myself at Ironman Texas – and most of those lessons spell bad news for the Austin Marathon.

On a day where I feel a little bit lost and the questions far outnumber the answers – it was really nice to have you out there with me as the sun was coming up in Georgia pointing me the way.

Thank you Dom, we love and miss you.

 

 

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It seems like every marathon training cycle there is a run that stands out above all others.

A run where after the first few strides I know that this is going to be a tough one.  But for whatever reason instead of shrinking from it or changing my expectations for that workout I secretly enjoy it.

Whether it is a tough hill run, a 20-mile plus long run, a cold day or an unusually hot one – the run becomes more than just a square to cross off on my training schedule.  The entire training period becomes about that “one run”.

Today was that day.

When I put together this training plan for Austin more than 5 months ago, February 9th was an unsuspecting entry.

6.2 Mile Run – 7:15 pace

A run that I have executed literally close to a thousand times before.

But 11 days from the starting line of the Austin Marathon, somebody upstairs had a little surprise for me and decided to change the degree of difficulty just a bit to keep things interesting. 

I knew that rain was falling as the alarm clock sprung to life at 5:00 a.m. as I could hear it hitting the windows in the bedroom.  I had already laid out my running cap last night as the forecast was calling for rain.  No big deal I thought.

The temperature display on my weather station read 44 degrees.  So I hopped into my running shorts, a long sleeve running shirt, light gloves and was ready to roll.  I fired up the headlamp and blazed out the front door falling quickly into 7:15 min./mile effort.

I had just read the final chapter of Again to Carthage before leaving the house and was full of marathoner pride.  After this one, just 6 runs remain out of the 95 training runs on the road to Austin. 

Only 26 training miles would be left ironically, before I raced the 26.2 miles at Austin on February 20th.

As I turned right onto Lisa Anne Drive less than 3/10 of a mile from my home it hit me like a ton of bricks.

Wind.

Not a gentle breeze or a rustling movement of air.  But a sustained wind that had to be blowing more than 20 miles an hour.

I caught myself smiling briefly as I made the 7/10 of a mile climb to the top of the hill marking the first mile of my run and thought:

“So, it’s going to be like this today ….”

I picked my way to the top of the hill and made a left turn into the Water’s Edge neighborhood and was hit by an even stronger wind gust.

My shirt was whipping behind me and even though I was now headed downhill to the lowest part of my course I felt like I was standing still.

The wind was getting stronger and the temperature was definitely falling.  All I could think about was how I wished I had worn my tights.

Mile three led me onto the trail system and I splashed out onto the crushed granite of the Brushy Creek Trail.  Cold standing water hit my toes and I knew that this was going to be a cold one.

I had opted for my lightweight running gloves as they did not soak up a lot of water like my heavier pairs, but I was soon regretting this decision also.  I pulled my fingers in from the ends of my gloves and balled my fists up to help them share my body heat.  My fingers started to warm up slightly, but they were by no means “toasty”.

As I reached the top of the hill that leads up and over the dam I knew that I was going to be coming back out from the shelter of the trees.  I would be more than 50 feet above the lake below and back in the wind.

Boom, it hit me right in the chest and blew cold rain into my eyes as I made the turn.  8/10 of a mile straight into the wind and then I would be able to make the wide turn to head back towards home.

I scattered 7 deer as I came off of the dam, two large bucks and 5 doe.  Normally they are still in the middle of the park at this time of morning and I can only see their eyes lit up from my headlamp, but with the changing weather, they too were not quite sure what to make of the conditions.

Once I made the last turn it was just a little over 2 miles back to the house.  I could feel the wind helping me along, wanting to lengthen my stride and start churning my legs faster and faster.

On any other morning I would have let them go.  Dropped the hammer a bit and turned some miles in the 6:40’s.

But with 11 days to go before race day and firmly in the middle of my taper, that was not only unnecessary, it would be reckless and foolish.

I tapped the breaks a bit and just locked into my cruising pace.

The last two miles were wet, cold, windy and tough.

I cherished both of them.  None of this is supposed to be easy I thought.  This is exactly the type of run I needed.  I needed to be reminded that there are going to be difficult stretches on February 20th.  I will need to stay in the moment, run the mile that I am on and not start to feel sorry for myself or fixate on anything negative.  Not worry about how far I have traveled to that point or how much farther I have to go. 

When the time comes I will simply have to “Cowboy Up”.

By the time I had returned the temperature had dropped more than 12 degrees in just 45 minutes.  The front of my shirt and the fingers of my gloves were frozen stiff with ice.

I hit the driveway at the end of 10 Kilometers in 44:52 – 7:14 min./mile pace.

Just :01 seconds per mile off of goal.

We’re ready.

Some of the trail we brought home with us on Wednesday

The alarm clock sounded at 4:15 a.m., waking me for the last “long run” of this marathon training cycle.

Only two weeks remain before I stand amid thousands of runners on Congress Avenue somewhere between 15th and 16th street, waiting for the starter’s gun to fire at 7:00 a.m. on February 20th. 

26.2 miles later, I will take a final stride across a rubberized mat  laying across Congress Avenue at 10th Street and for the fifth time in my life I will be a marathoner.  The question is whether or not I will be the best marathoner I have ever been.

I will be racing the 39-year-old version of myself.  The one who ran Philadelphia on an injured IT Band in only the second road race of my life.

I will be racing the 41-year-old version.  The one who ran a personal best 3:17:43 at Pittsburgh in 2009.  The best I have ever been.

I will be racing the 42-year-old Joe.  The one who ran the Boston Marathon and Pittsburgh Marathons last spring just 13 days apart running for Dom.

Sure there will be other runners on Congress Avenue with me in two weeks, but to me they are of little consequence.  There is only one runner I will be racing, and that runner is me.

Before leaving the house on Sunday morning in the wee hours, headlamp shining out in front of me, I had already run 779 and 4/10 miles over the last 18 weeks preparing for the 26.2 mile battle that will be fought on the Austin streets 14 days from now.  Some of those miles were fast, some were slow, some were easy and some were difficult.  But the one commonality between each and every mile I covered whether they were during a race, a training run, a hill repeat or just an “easy day” is that they are all mine.

They are a part of me now. 

I will be able to lean on each and every one of them to prop me up as I chase my dream of a 3 hour marathon.

Snow in Austin this week

I decided to leave my watch right on the kitchen counter in its cradle Sunday morning.  How fast I covered this last long run of my training cycle was irrelevant.  To some extent, how far I traveled was irrelevant as “the hay is in the barn” as marathoners like to say.  Whether I ran 10, 12 or 14 miles on Sunday would have very little if any impact on race day.

The only thing that could have an impact would be going too far or too hard, creating an unnecessary strain or injury with too little time left to recover.

So, I instead decided to play this one straight.  No watch, no music, just me alone with my thoughts, aspirations and dreams for Austin.

A calculated risk for sure with so many things about this particular race still bouncing around in my head.  With no distractions, I could have easily slipped into self-doubting reverie.  Allowing the demons I am trying to overcome take center stage. 

I’ve come to realize that this quest to run Austin in under 3 hours is going to be as much about what I have between my ears as it will be about the power and strength in my legs.

Austin is a hilly course, of that there is no debate.  The middle miles between 9 and 2o carry runners up the equivalent of a 35 story skyscraper, before the final 10 Kilometers allow the runners to plunge back down close to 20 stories in just over 6 miles.  I thought long and hard about what it is going to take to run 26.2 miles at an average pace of just under 6:52 minute/mile pace.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I will need to break the course into several sections and be sure to simply stay in the moment.  Not look too far ahead or count remaining miles.   Focus on running the mile at hand, and not look back or forward more than a few strides.

I will need to manage the slight downhill opening  miles to the base of the hill on South Congress wisely.  I cannot start out too fast only to pay the price later when I need that strength to climb to the top of the course two hours later.

I will need to stay smooth and steady on the 3 mile/300 foot climb straight up South Congress before turning onto Ben White Boulevard and then barreling down the same 300 feet along 1st Avenue reaching mile 9 at what I hope will be approximately 62 minutes.

I will need to trust my training and all of those hill repeats to lock in near 7:00 min./mile pace or just under for 10 miles of steady climbing.  Not worrying if runners are passing me or if I am giving away some time to the clock.  I will need to stay mentally strong here and not get over-anxious.  It is simply too early to deplete our reserves.  Patience is what I need as these next 10 miles take 69 minutes to cover.

One more mile will need to be managed wisely as my legs continue to grow heavy.  My stride will start to waver and play tricks on me, making me feel like I am slowing down, even though I am holding pace.  It is simply starting to hurt a bit.  Nothing more, nothing less.  If we reach mile 20 and glance down at our watch all we can hope for is that we are close to 2:17:30.

If I am able to get there, I will have given myself the only thing that I am asking for on race day.

A chance.

6.2 miles will remain with 42 minutes and 29 seconds to get there.

Can I run a final 10 Kilometers at 6:50 pace after covering 20 miles to that point?  Will my legs, lungs, heart and mind be able to share the remaining load of the race evenly – each one picking up the slack when another begins to give in.

My friend Steve told me that if I can get to that point all I need to do is “prepare for the most difficult 10K of my life”.

I thought about those words a lot on my run on Sunday morning, and I kept coming back to the same thing.

Run the first 20 miles with your head.

Run the last 10 Kilometers with your heart.

I ran somewhere around 14 miles on Sunday, I’m not really sure to be honest with you how far I went.

I ran it in somewhere around an hour and 45 minutes.  The exact time I will never know.

There is one thing I do know however with great certainty.

All I am really asking for in two weeks is a chance.  If we get to that point in the race we still may very well come up short.  There is no shame in that as long as I do my best. 

But I most certainly wouldn’t bet against me. 

If you are lining Congress Avenue around 10:oo a.m. in two weeks and I am on pace with just a mile to go, keep a close eye out.  You are going to see a runner giving everything that they have to give come thundering down the final stretch testing the limits of their abilities and quite frankly far past whatever “talent” they may or may not have.

Just a chance, that’s all I’m asking for. 

Clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose.

I’m sure you can remember the scene.

Forrest and Bubba have just met Lieutenant Dan at Fort Platoon.

After some small talk about being from Alabama and learning about the importance of changing their socks every time the soldiers stop on a hike, Lieutenant Dan shares the following pearl of wisdom:

“Two standing orders in this platoon.  One.  Take good care of your feet.  Two, try not to do anything stupid.  Like getting yourself killed.”

To which Forrest replies:

“I sure hope I don’t let him down.”

A marathoner is pretty fanatical about taking care of their feet.  So that one to me is really a no-brainer.

But the second standing order is one that I am going to take very, very seriously over the next 18 days and 20 hours and change leading up to the start of the Austin Marathon as of this morning.

After 83 Training runs covering 758 miles, two 5K’s, one 10K, one 10-Mile Race and two half-marathons every last one of them a PR at that distance, I have made it through to the other side.

All that stands between me and race day is the three-week taper.

After this mornings easy 6.2 mile run in some not so “easy” weather battling cold temperatures, rain, 20+ mph winds, I have exactly 95.80 miles left to run.  Less than 100 miles before I come through the chute in Austin with what I hope will be my best ever Marathon time.

The taper is an interesting period for a distance runner.  The principle is pretty straightforward.

To peak for your “A” race, the runner will gradually start dialing back their weekly mileage leading up to race day.  This will allow any of the aches, bumps and bruises that have accumulated during the training cycle to heal, as well as rejuvenate those leg muscles that have been broken down during training.

Any “loss” in fitness by reducing your training during this period is vastly overcompensated by gains in returning to full health.

No mile that I have run since this training cycle started on October 4th will feel as smooth, easy and powerful as the first mile leading out onto the Austin Marathon course.  I will be primed and ready to rock and roll at 7:00 a.m. on February 20th.

Sounds great right?

Well, the physical benefits of the taper come at some physical and emotional costs.  There is no such thing as a free-lunch when it comes to the marathon. 

Every inch gained is an inch you have to fight over, under, around or through something to get there.

Physically some strange things start to happen.  During the first week of the taper I will cut my mileage from its peak of approximately 60 miles to about 75% or just 40 miles.  The following week I will cut that mileage down another 25% to about 30 miles, just 50% of what we were running at our peak.

During race week, an even greater reduction with a short 3 mile run on Tuesday, 4 easy miles on Wednesday and a 2 mile shakeout the morning before the marathon.

While your workload is reduced your body is working hard to repair all of the small micro-tears that your muscles have experienced during training.  This causes some odd “feelings” to occur.  Marathoners will refer to these as phantom pains, they are little aches, jabs and sometimes sharp pains that may strike a calf muscle, an ankle or a knee.

The first time you experience these pains they can really shake your confidence. 

“How can I possibly be getting an injury now?  I only have X Days to race day!”

The good news is of course that you are not injured.  It is just your body healing itself.

Which leads to the second challenge of the taper, the mental tricks that begin to occur.

Doubt.  Perhaps the single worst thing a marathoner can have prior to race day.

“Did I train hard enough?”

“Could I have done more?”

“Maybe I should just go out and run one more really long run, just to prove to myself that I am ready ….”

No, no, no, no, NO!

There is absolutely nothing that can be gained at this point.  All of the hard work has already been put in.  It is simply time to let the body heal and load up for race day.

But as you decrease the amount of running that you are doing, the endorphins that have become such a daily source of energy and confidence are decreasing as well.

You begin to feel like you are not in the shape you were just two weeks ago.  You may even be gaining a bit of weight as you reduce your running miles, so eating smart becomes important to maintain your race weight.

Stress starts to build and doubt creeps in.  It happens to everyone.

But this time I know that I have trained well.

I know that with the exception of those two miles I had to drop two Sunday’s ago while I battled through 18 miles with the stomach flu, I ran ever single workout on the schedule.  I did not miss a single day.  Not a single workout.  In fact I tacked on a mile here and a mile there to my runs and even ran my first 22 miler as part of my marathon training.

I’m as ready as I am going to be.  So these next three weeks I will let the magical healing powers of the taper do their thing.  I will run the remaining 12 workouts as they were written more than 20 weeks ago.

No more, no less.

And most importantly, I’m going to try my best not to do anything stupid and get ready to run a great, great race in Dom’s memory.

I sure hope I don’t let him down.

60 years ago today a baby boy was welcomed into the world. 

Steve Roland Prefontaine.

Born into a blue-collar family in the blue-collar town of Coos Bay Oregon, in just 24 years Pre would develop into perhaps the finest American born distance runner of his generation.  Because of a tragic and rather foolish accident in 1975 we were all robbed of the chance to see just the kind of impact on the running world Pre would have made during the running boom of the 1980’s.

At one time Pre held every American distance record from the mile up through 6 miles.

In fact for five years no American runner ever beat him in a race over a mile in length.

For Five Years.

Never.

For not having won an Olympic medal or holding a world record why do so many still remember Pre?  In fact, some of his greatest accomplishments were achieved at yard distances that are no long run. 

His story however is more than just a talented athlete who died too young.

Unfortunately there are far too many of those stories.

In the case of Pre there is a rather mystical element surrounding his accomplishments on and off the track.  Many University of Oregon graduates recall that the sun always seemed to break through the clouds whenever he first stepped onto the Hayward Field Track.

They talk about how Pre wore a black singlet in a race for the very first time in his career on the night he died.

How at the 1976 Olympics, which would have been Pre’s second Olympiad, just then entering his peak years, two torch bearers by complete coincidence had the name Stephen Prefontaine.

Or how a young female runner named Mary Slaney who Pre took an interest in coaching when she was just 15 years old would go on to become one of the most successful American Distance Runners of all time.  On May 30, 1986 ten years to the day of Pre’s death, Mary Slaney and her husband became parents of a baby girl.

For all of us out there with a pair of Nikes lying around the house, Pre was a driving force behind that Corporate Colossus ever taking flight. 

Pre ran with courage and determination that very few runners have demonstrated either before or after his death.

His goal was not just to win, but to truly run his best. 

Always.  Every time.

Losing to a runner who went out and simply beat him was acceptable, as long as the race unfolded as it should.  Pre detested the races where runners hung back, took it easy and kicked to the end.  He went hard from the start and carried other runners along with him.  If you were going to beat him, you were going to have to earn it. 

Automatically you have to admire someone like that.

As I prepare to race this weekend and again at the Austin Marathon in a little less than 4 weeks I find myself thinking a lot about another scrappy “little kid” from a blue-collar family in a blue-collar town.  Dom was the same kind of guy Pre was.  he was small in stature, but huge in heart.

Never the most talented athlete, he was willing to work hard to achieve all that he could.

Anyone who ever met Dom remembers him.  He simply had a way about him that made an impression.  He was 100% real and genuine.  No false pretenses.  What you saw was what you got.  Those of us who knew Dom were also cheated by a life cut far too short.  There is no telling how much more an impact Dom would have made had he survived his cancer.

Sadly, we’ll never know.

So as I got back to it on Tuesday morning, still licking my wounds from Sunday’s failed attempt at my final 20-mile training run for Austin – it seemed a fitting day for a run.

8 miles on the schedule, 8 in the books.  Nothing fancy, just a recovery run as we get ready for Sunday’s 3M half-marathon.

These are the runs I think about when it comes to “putting in the work” to prepare for race day.  No hoopla, no attaboys or congratulations.  Just the runner, alone, feet crushing stone along a running trail two hours before sunrise.  The only person in the world who would know whether those 8 miles were covered this morning or not is the runner himself.

A blue-collar run on a blue-collar day.

It felt great to be back out there.

Go Pre.

Everytime I think that I have this marathon thing figured out, it seems like a new challenge rears its head.

After a great run on Saturday, 11 miles at 6:53 pace all that was left on the schedule was my final 20-mile training run.

After that workout we would be taking it easy this week leading up to next Sunday’s 3M Half-Marathon and then a three-week taper to race day at Austin on February 20th.

I hydrated well after my run on Saturday, took it easy hanging around the house with Dawn, Kayla and Landry, made a nice dinner and got to bed early.  I couldn’t wait for that alarm to sound at 4:30 a.m.  The start of the last real test of this training cycle.

To be honest 20-milers do not put the fear in me like they did when I first started running marathons.  A few years ago each 20-mile run was more or less like its own race day.

In hindsight, I really was making too much out of them.  17,18,19,20 – after a certain point they are all pretty much the same.  But we love round numbers as runners and there is something special about the 20-miler from a mental standpoint when training for a marathon.  Ironically if I were a marathoner in Canada or Internationally, 20-miles would not mean a thing.

I would be running kilometers instead of miles.  Topping out at perhaps an entirely different “round number”.  30 Kilometers perhaps?  18.6 miles.  Or perhaps a long run of 35 Kilometers or 21.7 miles.

At around 2:30 a.m. I woke up to some tummy troubles.  Just a lot of gas or discomfort I thought.  I would be fine as soon as I got out there for my final tough training run.

Wrong.

I went through my morning ritual of stretching, dressing for the elements, loaded up my hydra-belt with water and Gatorade and packed my nutrition for the run.  Two packages of Clif Shot Bloks.  I strapped my Garmin to my wrist, fired up my headlamp and hit the road.  In 2 1/2 hours or so we would be pulling up to the house a “fully trained” marathoner.

I struggled to find my grove almost immediately and even though I ran my opening mile at exactly the pace I was hoping for, down to the very last second in fact, I knew my body was not in good shape.  Something was going on with my gastrointestinal tract and I had no idea how I was going to make it through 19 more miles.

I have been in tough spots before and have always found a way to press on.  In fact I take great pride in the fact that I have never walked off of a race course or a training run.

Never.

At mile 2 last night’s dinner made a return appearance.  The remainder of it would show up at mile 8.  I kept holding out hope that the worst was behind me and that I would be able to tough it out and complete my 20 mile run.  But one of the things that I am most proud of over the past year plus is being in tune with my body.

I know when I can push, when I have to back off and how to stay healthy and injury free.

As the miles continued to tick slowly by I could not bring myself to take any of my gels.  Just the thought of doing so made me feel incredibly nauseous.

I rallied a bit at mile 16 feeling as if I can do anything for 4 miles, but as mile 18 approached I was done.

My form was starting to fall off and I simply was not well.  Time to punt.

I slowed to a walk and wrapped up the run at 18 miles.  2 hours, 19 minutes, 11 seconds.

I can’t tell you what hurt worse.  The pain in my abdomen or the fact that I had given up.

Afterall, I would be the first one to tell you that I am a firm believer in the axiom Pain is temporary, quitting is forever.

To make matters even a bit worse I am reading a book right now about Steve Roland Prefontaine – titled simply “Pre”.

I have long admired Pre’s tenacity and competitiveness as a distance runner.  One of my favorite running shirts is adorned with a long ago recited quote from Pre that reads:

“I am going to work so that it’s a pure guts race. In the end, if it is, I’m the only one that can win it”.

Ironically Tuesday morning would be Pre’s 60th birthday.  It is hard to escape the irony of the situation as I train to run the best marathon I have ever run before in memory of Dom and his fight against cancer, that I had to give up just two miles short on my final training run.

Feeling especially sorry for myself I crawled back into bed when another wave of whatever is wrong with me washed over me.  A final (I hope) trip to the bathroom made me feel just a bit better ironically.  I’m not sure that I should be too hard on myself after everything that I dealt with this morning.

Perhaps this was just the reminder that I needed that none of this is supposed to be easy.  It’s the “hard” that makes it great.

Dom, I’m sorry buddy.  I told myself and you that I would run each and every mile of this training program like I would never run again.  That I would leave nothing to chance.  That come February 20, 2011 we would be as sharp as ever.  Ready to run a tremendous race in your honor.

Fact is I owe you those two miles.  I’ll be sure to make that deposit before race day.

I arrived in New Orleans on Monday afternoon for a couple of days of meetings with my operations team from work.  Typically we get together as a group each January, recap the year that was and look ahead to our initiatives for the coming year.

What we did well, areas of improvement and opportunities for new challenges and initiatives.  Sometimes the most useful part of the meeting(s) are simply getting the entire group together in one place and clearly defining our goals for the year.

What we are going to set out to do and how we are going to get there.

It is one thing to have aspirations, but without a concrete plan of attack and a “hard work” approach to chasing down those goals, I feel like you are simply setting yourself up for disappointment and failure.

Kind of reminds me of a certain sport I know of … I just can’t place it.

Ironically my final “hard week” of marathon training coincides with this retreat in a town many refer to as “The Big Easy”.  There are quite a few theories as to how New Orleans came to be referred to in this way.

Some believe it has to do with the rich musical heritage of the city and how there were many ways for local musicians to make a living playing in New Orleans while also studying music.  Another theory has to do with the relaxed attitude toward alcohol consumption, even during the days or prohibition, found in and around the city.

Still another possibility has to do with the relatively low cost of living compared to other American cities. 

Whatever the reason the film The Big Easy released in 1987 etched the nickname in stone and it will remain as part of our national vocabulary for some time.

As I looked at this week of training, the irony of my location was not lost on me.  There is nothing “easy” about this week.  In fact the 58 or so miles on the schedule will be some of the most difficult this marathoner has had on his plate in more than two years.

These training plans are designed to slowly build in intensity and volume.  You don’t really notice it at first as a few miles are added here, another few there.  A long run moves from 18 to 19 to 20 all the way to 22 miles on a given Sunday.

I can feel myself tiring even though my times and my runs seem to be improving.  If not improving, I am at least holding my own.  But there are aches in my muscles now.  My left Achilles tendon is a bit sore, my right calf muscle just a bit tight.

It is my body starting to fight back, to let me know that it has been pushed hard and is in a state or rebellion.

The good news is, it is working.  I am growing stronger even when I feel a bit weaker.  I am having to push just a little bit harder through these workouts to hold pace, to stay on target.  Again, that is a good thing.

Just 5 more runs this week.  8 miles, 10 miles, 10 miles, 10 miles and a final 20 miler.  Then it is time to taper down for the 3M half marathon and enter our 3 week marathon taper.

Let the body recover, heal and grow strong for race day.

34 days until go time.

34 days until we put it all out there one more time for Dom.

Less than 5 weeks to go and we’ll be standing among thousands of runners all with dreams of marathon glory.  There will be a lot of runners on Congress Avenue more talented than I am.  Some will be younger, some older, some stronger, some definitely faster.

In the end none of that is going to matter.  It is going to be me, my Brooks ST4 Racers and the clock.

I’m still on the fence as to whether we are truly ready to make the leap to a 3 hour marathon.  It may very well be up to the conditions of my body and the weather that day.  But just to have the 3 hour mark in the conversation as we zero in on our race goal is a huge accomplishment.  That would mean taking more than 22 minutes off of our Boston time less than one year ago.

I’m not sure exactly how this one is going to turn out Dom, I’ve got to be honest. 

But if you’re not too busy up there on February 20th, celebrating another Steeler Superbowl victory, I sure would appreciate you stopping by to look in on me.

You’re not going to want to miss this one.