Tag Archives: tapering

Never easy

“I just want one thing to be easy.”

I’ve been saying this a lot lately. In the last several weeks, a lot of Hard Things have piled up. Two deaths in March. Major work deadlines, for both Shannon and myself. Running and training rough patches – I’ve had this strange thing going on with my foot (which seems to be managed, though I fully plan on taking a month off post-marathon to let it get to 100%), and Shannon’s work-life balance has been so heavy on the “work” end that running has been a burden more than a release. And we bought our house, a weeks-long buildup of paperwork and endless emails and calls and panic right up until the very last moment: the lender only gave us the information to wire our downpayment to closing about two hours before our closing appointment. And then we didn’t have enough money for the wiring fee (oops). A co-worker saved me, and multiple Bank of America reps were incredibly kind and patient in the final days as we begged them to move money faster, even though they weren’t even our lender.

In the end, closing on the house was easy and relatively painless: the closing attorney was very kind and funny, and explained things to us first-time homeowners very well. And our realtor got us a cutting board as a gift. And, since we bought the house we’ve been renting the last 2+ years, we didn’t even have to move. We were pretty excited to have the whole process complete, to actually own our house.

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So excited that I didn’t notice until later that I had closing-appointment-chocolate-bowl-chocolate in my teeth for this photo.

The last few weeks of training, especially the taper, so often are rocky and fearful. You begin to second-guess everything you’ve been doing leading up to this point. Wondering if you are ready. Wondering if you are fit enough. Wondering if you could have done more, or should have done less. Wondering if that foot is going to behave, or blow up. Wondering if that missed 20-miler, that missed week of training, is going to be make-or-break. Even when you know, logically, that you’re as fit – more fit – than you’ve ever been.

Having a little extra down-time does not negate all the good work leading up to it, and the work after. Sure, things have felt harder, but that’s okay. The first several weeks of training felt so effortless, uncomplicated. Maybe this would have been detrimental. Maybe it would have had me go into the race with too much confidence and not enough respect. The marathon must always be respected. You have to be confident, but you also have to brace yourself. Prepare yourself for the fight.

I ran the Chick-fil-A half at the beginning of this month as part of a 16-mile day, mostly easy/by-feel, but with pace miles at hte end (either up to 5 miles @ MP or 3 miles @ HMP). It ended up being mostly the latter, primarily because the course is just rough. I did a good job really ignoring my watch, occasionally catching a split when I had a Pavlovian response to the sound of my watch beeping. I was mostly hanging in the 8:30s, slowing a bit later as the hills began to stack up. I saw so many friends volunteering and cheering, and it was fun to run an event without having to really suffer and push the whole time. It’s a hilly course, but it also goes through some of the prettiest parts of Athens.

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Around mile 8, during a very short respite from some of the worst hills, I found Margeaux, who had hoped to break 1:40 at this race, but who was having a rough day – similar to the day I had last AthHalf when I thought I could squeak a 1:40 half four weeks after Erie. We pulled each other along up East Campus and cutting through Five Points, and I tried to refocus her energy and thoughts on the pretty course and the gift of running. But it’s hard to pull yourself out of that dark place once you’re in it. I could hear her breathing beginning to relax when the course flattened on Milledge, and as I neared the 10-mile mark and had to pick it up, she told me to go. Shannon found me a few times, and I gave him a huge smile each time. I finished strong and with a big smile. My foot tightened up post-race but I got it to loosen up once more to run a couple cooldown miles with Chrissy (who beasted the course at marathon pace for a 1:38) and Justin (recently post-BQ-marathon and pacing 1:30).

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Probably the most encouraging moment of the last segment of htis training cycle was my last 18-miler, my last real long run. I ran the first 7ish solo and was hyper-focused on my foot: how it felt, whether it was hurting, whether I was altering my gait, how tight my left side felt overall. I linked up with friends for the next four and began to relax, and by the time we go to the Luv Run for Dustin and Catherine, who had just gotten married the night before, and whose marriage we’d be celebrating that night at their party/reception, I was having fun and feeling good. I just had a couple miles left at the very end of the group run to get to 18, and felt strong to the finish.

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Bride and her #BAMFL sisters! She looked so adorable in the Oiselle runaway bride dress! I love these ladies.
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Just a few of the friendly faces at the reception – we all clean up pretty good!

The weekend of this wedding was a whirlwind, since the very next morning, I was up at 6 am to catch a 10:30 flight home to Ohio for Passover. As it turned out, I woke up to a text message from Delta alerting me my flight had been cancelled in the wake of major service disruption from that Wednesday’s storm system. I rebooked on American, with a hop through Philly, had that flight delayed when I got to the gate, rebooked my Philly connection, and rebooked again when I found an earlier flight to a different airport. I was about 5 hours late to arrive in Cleveland based on my original itinerary, but I made it. I saw both of my parents, my 96-year-old grandfather (who still walks almost every morning – he’s my hero), and got in two runs, including a mile repeat workout on the roads and in the rain. I saw three deer during my warmup; they were maybe 10 feet from me, and when I paused my watch to look at them, they looked at me, regarded me a few seconds, then resumed eating, unafraid.

The marathon is never easy. There is no marathon without fear. But I am not doing something new, not doing anything I have not done before. I know what I am capable of. I am aiming for a BQ, but I am a BQ marathoner. That 3:34 was not a fluke, and it’s not gone and done. I need to improve my time, but I already have that capability inside me. I have to reach in and dig it out once more. I have to be ready to fight. I have to be prepared to walk across hot coals for as long as I think I can stand it–and then do it a little more. When workouts felt hard – a half-marathon pace workout a couple weeks ago that felt like hard work, and not the effortless floating of earlier HMP workouts this cycle – I remembered that I learned more from the experience of a workout that feels hard than one that feels easy. Nothing about that last 10K is going to feel easy. But I am ready for it.

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I’ve been lax overall lately about my “check in” entries in my training journal. Plane rides are a good time to write.

Work stress is still swallowing me whole. The Saturday of the Luv Run, I had a 90-minute appointment with my usual massage therapist (I’ve been getting weekly massages to keep my body happy these final weeks, a worthwhile “indulgence” to stay healthy), and two minutes into starting on my back, she remarked, “You are just a ball of stress.” We have a huge research symposium the Tuesday following the marathon. My race week distraction has to be set aside to get everything done that still has to be completed. I’m choosing to believe that focusing on work is helping me to maintain perspective. And I will have perspective on race weekend as well – set aside the work stuff, because it will be all-but-done at that point, and get in race mindset. We had a hectic, social activity filled Easter weekend, and now we’re spending this week as hermits, coming home from work, making and eating dinner, getting our to-do lists done, and relaxing. Quiet is a priority. Sleep is a priority. Wine and chocolate may be assisting a bit as well.

I streamed the Boston Marathon at work yesterday (very distractedly, since, yeah, very busy) and tracked my friends with the BAA app. I was over-the-moon thrilled for them, but my heart hurt. I was not there. I should be there. But the desire is greater. The fire burns hotter. I will be there.

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These ladies ran ridiculously impressive races. I know I can reach within myself to find some of that badassery and toughness.

I will make no excuses. This training cycle has been hard. Life never lets up – it never will. The marathon never lets up – that’s what makes it great. Racing the hot Erie Marathon branded me with a fire I will never lose. And this training cycle toughened me in still more ways. I have a couple more angels running with me this time.

Glass City Marathon: I’m coming for you.

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MCM Training Week 15: Biding my time

Week 15. The hay is in the barn. All that remains is patience, and I have to tell you, I don’t have much of it. I haven’t had a full-on taper tantrum, but I can feel myself freaking out a bit more than I normally would. IT band sore after a run? Oh no, an ITBS flare-up! Eat something spicy 15 days out? I’m going to trash my gut before the race! 10-day forecast shows overnight low of 35*? I’m going to be a popsicle at the start line!

That’s enough of that.

Monday I wound up taking totally off. I had arrived back to my mom’s house in Cleveland after our trip to New York pretty late Sunday night, and given I had a deadline at work, wanted to get started pretty early. Nothing wrong with a little extra rest during the taper.

On Tuesday, we had an easy 6 in the morning – during which I hammered up Forbes hill (a little to NF’s dismay, I think, since it occurred to him halfway through the run that he had not really eaten dinner the night before – whoops). That evening, I made it to Pilates, where she told is to go get the pump bars to add a little stabilization for some standing squats. Oh, okay. Just some stabilization.

Then she had us use them for extra resistance during sidelying series near the end of class and as my hips and glutes were screaming for mercy, I knew I was right not to trust her. 😉

Wednesday I made it to spin for the first time in WEEKS. I got stuck on a squeaky bike, but it was a good class – a good amount of sprinting, plus a ton of hills.

It was tempo time on Thursday, or first “real” tempo run in a while (since my last one was progressive given I had been fighting a head cold), and “only” 6 miles (1-4-1 tempo). I was actually pretty psyched for this. I decided to ignore my watch as much as possible, and just went by feel and caught my splits. 7:18. Okay, I’ll slow down probably. 7:17. Guess I”m feeling pretty good! But seriously, I’ll ease off the gas. 7:17. This is getting ridiculous – okay let’s check my lap pace on this last one since it’s all uphill until the last maybe two-tenths of a mile. 7:15.

I almost did a fist pump and happy dance as I slowed into the cooldown, and I got my breath back quickly, having to force myself to really ease off during the last mile, since I was still clocking around 8:30s for a bit (it was a little downhill). I came up tot he apartment, where NF had been stretching for a couple minutes, and we shared our tempo successes, feeling really, really good. It was quite honestly my only good tempo of the training cycle, despite stellar race times, so it was a boost I really needed.

On Friday we shook it out with an easy 4-miler that included running up part of Shady.  That night we had our (very belated) house warming party, and pretty much our last food splurge until the race. Mmm, alcohol. Mmm, chips and salsa. Mmm, cookies. Mmm, buffalo chicken dip and buffalo cheese fries (I made the latter).

We recuperated on Saturday, detoxing with green smoothies for breakfast. We also both got haircuts so we can be stealth on race day (kidding – sort of). I was just kind of over having long hair, and it turns out this isn’t so bad (so far) for dealing with while running, especially now that it’s getting to be headband/hat weather anyway.

Frumpy before picture on the left – after on the right, natch

Sunday morning we had a double run date with our pals and former Ragnar teammates, Tim and Alys. They live in an apartment building that has part of the Steel Valley trail right behind it – right along the river. Serious jealousy. I used the cold weather as an opportunity to test run my charity singlet. Have I mentioned how I’m running MCM for ZEROCancer, raising money for prostate cancer research?

New hair, new pullover, dead eyes.

It was maybe in the high 30s that morning, but really sunny and pretty out. We stayed at a reasonably relaxed pace, though Alys likes to push it a bit, and my competitive edge gets the best of me and I follow her. But we stayed chatting almost the whole time, so the pace was still very doable. We stopped a couple times for things like potty breaks, but otherwise just kept on at a good clip for our 8 mile “long” run (only in quotes because 8 feels like a blip at this point in training).

We warmed up at their apartment with pumpkin spice coffee, pancakes, fried cinnamon apples, and apple chicken sausage. And pumpkin biscotti from Trader Joe’s – which is dangerous to know of it’s existence.

Now we’re in the final week. We have a short track workout tomorrow morning – just 2×1600, confidence-boosting, rust-shaking workout. Otherwise it’s all patience and biding our time and stretching and foam rolling and carbo-loading and SLEEPING until race day.

Taking lessons from the master

I’ll hopefully update once more before we head to D.C. I still have a race plan to concoct!