I’m at that point in my taper where I can count the number of days until my marathon on one hand, and I wanted to write one last pre-marathon post so I could record my thoughts about this training cycle without having them be influenced by the outcome of my marathon.
For those of you who are not hanging onto my every status update and blog post with bated breath, the quick recap is that I running the Clearwater Marathon this Sunday. It will be my fourth marathon and my third attempt at breaking four hours – my next stop on the way to BQ-ville – and I’ve decided to try to do so by employing the Hansons Marathon Method, mainly because I heard so many people say the training plan worked well for them, so I figured hey, why not. (I do this a lot. It’s almost like it’s my life motto or something.)
My PR is 4:08, and really, the only reason I didn’t break four hours that time is because the clouds parted and the sun shot rays of 80-degree sunlight straight at my sweaty head for the last six miles of my marathon and I basically melted into a puddle on the street leading into Nassau. I think I have a good shot at doing it this time, because a) temperatures are supposed to be a hell of a lot cooler and b) I actually stepped up my training even more this time.
When I checked in at the halfway point, I expressed some reservations about the Hansons method, mainly that it had me running so much that I didn’t have the time or energy to keep up with my swimming, my cycling or my weight training. At the time I considered this a mark against the training program, and I still don’t think it is well-suited for a multisport athlete. That said, my attitude has evolved, particularly since I’ve seen how a steady diet of 45-50 mile weeks with regular tempo runs and speed work has transformed me as a runner.
First, I want to make the point that it’s not like I was a total slouch as a runner before. I’m one of those runners who is usually at the front of the middle of the pack, and my PRs are respectable. I mean, I’m still slower than your average cross-country athlete, but I do okay. But over the course of the last several months, I’ve noticed that I’ve become more efficient as a runner. Here are a few ways in which I’ve seen that:
- I made an effort to start moving my arms parallel to each other instead of letting them cross in front of me, which in turn opened up my chest and improved my posture and made me feel more energetic almost right away. This is now pretty much habit.
- I’ve also found that I no longer need to take fuel for runs that are between seven and ten miles in length, because my body does just fine with whatever I’ve got on board for those distances. (This is probably helped in large part by the fact that I have made a real effort to eat almost immediately after running so my glycogen stores are all happy and topped off and shit.)
- I land a lot lighter on my feet, which seems to have reduced the cumulative impact inflicted on my body by thousands of footfalls over several hours per week. I wish I could tell you what I did to make this happen but I have no clue, it just seemed to happen.
- I focus a lot more on my run as it’s happening instead of trying to distract myself from it, which means that when I get tired and my form starts to fall apart, I notice right away and pull myself back together pretty quickly.
Every time I’ve gone for a run with Brian, he’s always like, “You’re a total beast.” (In a good way, of course.) And I don’t necessarily see this as something that will hurt me when it comes time to return to triathlon, because it’s not like my development as a runner will just evaporate. At least it better not, or I’ll be pissed.
None of this is to say that my path to this point has been flawless. (I woke up like this.) (I have been dying for a way to work that into a post.) For one, I did experience a bout of mystery knee pain that kept me from running for about a week in December. That sucked. I also missed nearly a week of taper because I was sick with some sort of weird sinus situation that turned my nose into a geyser of snot and made my ears pop like I was on a freaking airplane for three days straight. That also sucked.
But because I am not an omghardcore! runner and instead prefer to be an omgsmart! runner, I took time off in both instances and did what I needed to do to take care of myself. And sure enough, the knee pain went away and I am no longer sick. I’ve decided the knee pain was just my knee, which has already been wonky since high school, freaking out and saying, “WHAT’S GOING ON? WHY ARE WE RUNNING ALL THE TIME? GUYS, THIS IS SCARY. GUYS?” (It’s even more accurate if you imagine my knee saying this in Jim Gaffigan’s voice.)
I know that runners have a tendency to act like we can just run through whatever shit is going on with our bodies. I myself have done this in the past, and I have learned that it never works out that way, and in fact it usually backfires and turns what should have been a three-day break into a three-week break. And let’s be realistic, missing one tempo run and two easy runs is not going to make or break me as a four-hour marathoner. And let’s be even MORE realistic – I’m a freaking hobby jogger. I’d love to make my goal but if I don’t, it’s no big deal. It’s not like I’m going to starve and lose sponsorships because I was slightly more average than I had hoped I’d be, you know?
I will also cop to feeling frustrated that I’ve lost some of my upper body muscle, even though I made a point to lift at least twice a week and to increase my caloric intake to compensate for the calories burned off by my runs. In fact, I ended up actually losing weight, which is basically unheard of during marathon training. The fact that this happened has led me to another realization, which is that while I really love and admire well-developed upper bodies and would love to have one of my own, I have come to the realization that I am not one of those people whose bodies can accommodate a lot of running AND have big, beautiful muscles. So I am still focused on lifting, but it’s also with the understanding that I might not have gorgeous muscles to go along with the strength I build. *sad trombone*
(Also I am aware of the fact that I am exhibiting a severe case of “grass is greener” syndrome in the previous paragraph. I am working hard to deal with that, because body acceptance, and also because it is dumb.)
So that’s where I am. I’m feeling optimistic, I’m trusting in my training, I’m excited to see how it all plays out.