I’ve been wanting to post and wanting to post and totally intending to post…and then…nothing. It’s daunting. I want this to be a legit blog and I want a place to talk about running. But then I think about the less fun parts of that, like feeling pressure to add a bunch of pictures to posts, because god forbid people just read a big long section of text. Gotta add pictures to keep things interesting.
Anyway, but here we are. Less than a week from my first marathon. And there’s a lot I want to say about it! So here we go!
The last time I posted was a race recap in…November. Yikes. At my own defense, my man friend came home shortly after that and since he’s frequently out on the road for long stretches at a time, I’ve been spending as much time with him as I can before he jets off again next month (for 6 weeks!! Ahhhh!).
Marathon training has been… a lot of things. Exhausting. Renewing. Discouraging. Encouraging. Overwhelming. Affirming. It’s had its ups and downs. But here we are, less than a week away and I just feel so ready. I feel prepared and confident. I remember months ago being legitimately scared about the race. I had read too many running blogs and too many horror stories. It’s amazing how few marathon recaps you can find where it actually sounds like an enjoyable and fulfilling experience (I mean, yes, you’re running 26.2 miles, but there has to be some enjoyment or what’s the point?). I read about someone’s kidneys shutting down once because they didn’t properly fuel/hydrate and that about scarred me for life.
At first, the long runs were getting to me. I faced almost every Saturday with fear at the beginning because the long runs were mentally AND, of course, physically challenging. It seemed like the first few miles of every long run were just misery. I think it was the knowledge that I still had so far to go in those beginning miles. It was just getting to me. I managed to find my way out of that, though, and by the end of marathon training, my long runs are my best and absolutely most motivating/rejuvenating/affirming runs. What helped? Well, a couple of things stick out in my head:
- I remember reading once about how much harder marathons are than half marathons and feeling a bit indignant internally because, hello, running 13.1 miles is no joke. But here’s the thing: marathons ARE a lot harder than half marathons in some obvious ways. Like, you know, distance and endurance and mental toughness. Half marathons are a great balance, in my opinion, because you can really focus on both endurance and speed. The speed thing is harder for the marathon because it’s a whole new pacing strategy and the increased mileage wears the body down much more.
- I honestly just had to keep trucking through. That’s the hard part-it would be easy to quit (except I’m an extreme type A perfectionist so quitting is not something I generally let myself do) during those first few weeks where the long runs are building. It’s an adjustment. You’re building your base. You’re getting your body used to it. Sometimes it kind of sucks. Stick it out. If you keep plugging away and getting your weekly mileage in too, it will pay off.
Let go of the numbers
- Then, I got a Garmin watch. This was a blessing for many reasons-it’ll give me an easy way to pace myself during the marathon (instead of craning my neck trying to see the numbers on the Nike+ app on my phone, not so conveniently strapped to my arm). It also gave me a chance to do heart rate training and really take those recovery runs seriously.
- However, the Garmin watch led to a bit of numbers obsessing. Particularly because every single run on the Garmin was shorter than Nike+. I felt deceived! I felt ashamed! I wasn’t as fast as I thought I was! Shit!
- A few weeks ago, I turned off the voice feedback on my Nike+ app. I had thought I’d do it just for one particular workout that I was struggling with mentally (12 miles on a Wednesday morning before work is intense and tough to prepare for mentally). I haven’t turned it back on since. When I feel like knowing my pace, I can look at my watch. But it’s given me such freedom and I think it’s made a big difference in the last few weeks of marathon training.
- Moral of the story is: if this is your first marathon or even if it’s not but you find yourself discouraged: let go of the numbers. Give yourself a break. You’re training for a f**ing marathon, okay? You kick ass. Whether you run a 12 minute mile or a 5 minute mile (asshole…just kidding…), you still kick ass. 26.2 miles is NO freaking joke.
So, following along that same path, I was discouraged for awhile during marathon training. I thought I was losing speed. I actually felt sometimes like I was somehow losing fitness despite running 50+ miles a week, every week. That was complete and utter bullshit and if I had really let myself off the hook and thought about it more, I would’ve come to this conclusion: I was running 5 days a week, over 50 miles a week. I was also continuing my strength training routine of 2 days a week, an hour each time. I was putting enormous amounts of stress on my body and not always (ever) getting 8 hours of sleep at night (hard to do that when you’re waking at 5 to go running!). My body needed to ease off the speed and just adjust to the increased load. Of course I slowed down! Of course.
Since turning off the voice feedback AND starting taper, my speed has come back. All of a sudden, all at once. A month ago, a 7:30 pace was feeling HARD. It was tough to sustain. I’m back to feeling like that’s a more comfortable zone for me. Hallelujah!
My long runs have vastly improved. After struggling with the long runs, I finally got a place where I was enjoying them and feeling mentally strong. Then, the weekly mileage started to get me down. A typical week might look something like this during the peak of training:
Monday: Run 8 miles before work
1 mile on treadmill before Sculpt
Sculpt (1 hour total body strength training class…intense)
Tuesday: Recovery run, usually 5-7 miles
Wednesday: Medium long run of the week, usually 11-12 miles
Thursday: Speed work, usually 6-8 miles, before work
1 mile on treadmill before Sculpt
Saturday: Long run (shortest was 12 on a recovery week, longest was 22)
I was running so many miles during the week and so many days in a row that I was just totally exhausted. I like to run first thing in the morning but waking up early enough to fit the longer runs in meant I wasn’t getting enough sleep. And I was stubbornly sticking to Friday as a rest day although it probably would’ve been smarter to switch the rest day around to break some of that up.
Anyway-eventually it all started to fall into place. If you read much about marathon training, you’ve probably seen people say that when you finally feel like you’re hitting your stride and you can handle it all, it’s time to taper. That definitely happened to me. It was all clicking and then it was time to cut back.
It’s been a seemingly long journey. I’ve worked my ass off. It’s been incredibly difficult but so so affirming. The last several long runs I did were so great for my confidence. I coached myself through them. Gave myself pep talks. “This is a journey. You’re gonna be running for 3 hours. There’s no way around that. Might as well chill.” Every long run is almost like a little journey itself, as corny as that sounds. It has its own ups and downs. I started to recognize that. Before, I’d panic when I hit a bad spot. I’d freak out and worry the rest of the run was going to suck and “oh god, I have 10 miles to go, can I handle the suck for 10 more miles?” I started to tell myself, “this is a bad patch. You’ll get through it. You always do.” And you know what? It worked!
So here we are. Less than a week until the race. I thought I’d be terrified. But I feel so ready! I’m excited! I want to call myself a marathoner! Of course, I’m trying to remind myself it’s still 26.2 miles. The furthest I’ve gone is 22. Those last 4 miles will be uncharted territory. I have to be smart. I need to pace well. Not go out too fast. Hydrate enough. Fuel properly. There are a lot of variables to consider. But after months of trials and setbacks and triumphs, it’s almost time. I kind of can’t believe it’s almost really here. I’ll let y’all know how it goes…