Monthly Archives: July 2010

The pain of progression

The past handful of weeks have marked a solid return to dedicated training with mileage consistently in the 90’s and workouts that have pushed me to my threshhold, but I noticed something different in the way I’ve felt this time around. I didn’t hurt. Even when I did 20 miles on a treadmill one night and followed it up with 10 the next day, save a few blisters I was still able to start up fresh. 2 weeks ago I put in 95 miles with some speed, but instead of the difficulty I once had getting out of bed after a week like that, I was still able to hop up and start my day with ease. During the days my legs weren’t tight and restrictive and going up and down stairs all day at work wasn’t problematic at all. I was actually feeling pretty good about all this.

I thought, “Man, I don’t know what is different, but I’m recovering from the efforts like some sort of machine.” I was quite hopeful about the situation and anxious to put more of a load on.

Then I stepped back and thought about what might be going on. Sure, I’ve been eating better and that might be a factor. I’m also working off last year’s base fitness and so my body is probably more accustomed to these stresses as well. I’ve also come off an injury and so getting up to consistent 90 mile weeks is great, but it’s still a slow buildup, letting the body adjust to the efforts and once I settle into that routine I might start feeling the effects. Then with a little less positive spin on things I started to worry, “Wait, what if I’m NOT recovering as well as I’m percieving and actually what is happening is that I’m not TRYING hard enough?” What if I just haven’t been running fast enough to push my body to that point where I’m slowly breaking it down, so that it can build itself up even stronger. That’s the basis of this whole distance running thing anyways, isn’t it?

The last type of runner I want to be is a slow distance runner that can run a marathon every month, or even every week. I’ve come across a number of runners who advertise themselves as superhuman machines because they can perform back to back endurance feats, which certainly is awesome, and although I start to think I might be a less fit runner than them, I then remember that they run significantly slower and in the process don’t stress their bodies enough to bring on the debilatating fatigue. Running back to back marathons is certainly possible for any fit person doing 10:00 minute miles the whole way. Again, I’m not being down on people like that, but just trying to keep perspective for my own purposes.

For suddenly, that machine-like recovery period has now started to disappear for me….and that gives me relief. Slowly, but surely, picking myself off our ground level bed in the morning has taken a bit more effort than in the past few weeks. The stairs at work taunt me as I climb them repeatedly, my legs weakening at the top as if I hit elevation. Specific muscles and joints make their presence known with specific movements I have to make during the day.

All this aching and muscular moaning is a good thing though! This means I’m progressing. It means I’m putting in enough of the efforts to stress my body, to push my systems just enough past their limits to cause temporary breakdowns that will build back up into stronger components. I know it sounds weird, but this how the body develops. In converse to sitting in a la-z-boy letting our bodies sink into a gelatinous mess of fat and apathy, we actually create strain and small tears in our muscles through physical activity that then get repaired bigger and better. It’s why we physically hurt (tolerably, of course) when we exercise after long periods of sedentary living before our bodies adjust and we can take more loads. We know we are progressing when we feel that pain.

So although it’s good to feel strong and recovered all the time, which is why we have “recovery” runs throughout the week, it’s GOOD to hurt. It’s good to feel lasting effects of your workouts so you know your aren’t half-stepping it, so you know you’ve run to your temporary limits previously, so you know you’re moving forward and not back. Just make sure to keep recovery in your plan and don’t push yourself TOO far. It’s a fine line and one to take serious heed of, lest you are relegated to that la-z-boy on terms not of your own.

So if you see me moving slow during the day, unable to bound up and down the stairs, or maybe even with an uneven walk that can’t hide the favoring of a sore leg muscle, don’t be concerned. This is progression!

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Mother nature is a terrorist

I knew I was in trouble the second I walked out the doors and stepped into an air that felt like being bare-hugged by a dirty, morbidly obese uncle (and I don’t even have one of those). Simply my short walk home left me coated in a thin veneer of sweat. This workout was going to be bad….but it must get done regardless.

I put on my shorts, shoes and thinnest socks I could find before heading out the door and up the street. My shoes still held the sweat from my run 2 days ago and would only gather more with each step forward. Not 2 miles into the run and sweat was rolling out from underneath my hair and finding its way into my eyes…and this was just a slow warmup. I always know I’m in trouble with the weather when I get to my five mile warmup completion and my shorts are already saturated with sweat, dripping the excess out the seams down my ankle and pooling into my shoes. Again…this is just the warmup.

I had an interval workout on the log of 8 minutes hard with a 3 minute recovery jog leading into 6 minutes hard, repeating the recovery jog and finishing with 4 minutes hard. I usually look forward to these broken efforts, but I knew from the get go this was going to be a struggle against the atmosphere. I was right.

I paused a couple minutes to psych myself up for the effort and then pulled myself into a quickened pace that felt strong, but within the bounds of control so I could still finish the next two efforts. Of course, 6 minutes in my breath had started to fall out of rythym and I struggled to take in enough dampened oxygen to carry my legs onward. I finished the first rep and savored the recovery, but knew the next 6 wouldn’t be as easy. I kicked right into them and found myself checking my watch far too often as the minutes ticked by slower and slower as the effort went on, like a tractor pull contest getting harder and harder as the finish nears. I drew out the recovery jog even slower and concentrated on breathing slow and trying to get my heart rate down in the suffocating air before the final effort came. I started in on the last 4 minute rep hoping the minutes would fly off my watch, but found the same pattern repeated as I tried to just run continuously over the crushed gravel. Time simply would not fly and I looked at my watch every 30 seconds waiting for the struggle to end. I pushed hard for the last 2 minutes, but my breathing was erratic and I couldn’t bring any strength into my legs. I just fought not to give in to the voice in my head that said, “Cut it short. Blame it on the weather.” The importance of the effort loomed though and I finished the workout off…now I just had to find my way back home with a 5 plus mile “cool down” in the unforgiving humidity.

I drug my legs up the trail and eyed the canal next to me, deeply considering taking a plunge in hopes that my body temperature would drop, but I resisted knowing the general pollution levels of our water bodies in this city. I continued into the surrounding neighborhoods and worked my way towards home, looking for some sort of relief along the way.

I pulled up to a stoplight where an overweight cyclist pulled up along side of me…..NOT dripping (literally) in sweat like myself. I saw rain clouds in the distance and verbally offered, “I wish it would rain. I can’t breathe in this shit.” He nods and grunts out a “Yeah”, before pedaling through a break in traffic. I did the same and turned onto another street a few miles from home, sporadically sheltered by front yard trees. I tried to keep some sort of pace ahead of a desperate foot dragging effort, but even going so slow it was difficult to keep my heart rate from shooting upwards.

I noticed then how desperate I was for relief from the heat and humidity and found myself scanning yards for a sprinkler, but adding insult to injury, any sprinkler system I did find was turned off. I imagined finding a secret switch on the heads poking from the grass like mushrooms that would set the water spraying…but this was merely imagining. I didn’t give up hope though and continued to scan for any unattended sprinkler system…with no luck.

Everything was an insult as plastic water bottles lay in the gutters, drained of every last drop possible. Gatorade containers held only ant-infested lines of baked syrup. I questioned if I found a relatively full bottle of water if I would drink it or not…I didn’t negate the option. To my left I heard a trickling of water and excitedly turned my head to see a dirty birdbath with a mechanical waterfall that was useless for any relief. I half expected to start seeing mirages of enclosed and air-conditioned water fountains flowing freely with gatorade or banana smoothies. Instead I saw a thuggish looking man walking on the sidewalk in front me carrying a newly purchased coke….and a coke has never looked so good. I fleetingly entertained running by and grabbing it in one swift motion, but laughed at the possibility of running any faster, let alone having the strength to twist off the cap. I considered simply asking for it, playing to his deeply veiled compassionate heart, but figured the reality of our relationship would land me with a solid black eye. I kept running. And somehow, without even an iota of relief from the water boarding humidity, I made it home.

Without stopping for even a minor pause I went straight to the fridge, poured myself a glass of water in the biggest container we have and downed it sloppily, purposely letting the cool liquid spill over my lips and down my body. I followed that by finishing off Noah’s inexplicably untouched smoothie then followed that by another glass of water and another and another, my heart rate and breathing finally relaxing into a manageable state.

Seriously…I’m done with this humidity. The only thing that gets me by is the notion that this is toughening me up, both physically and mentally. It’s one thing to simply run in this mess, but it’s something else entirely to complete workouts and run yourself to near temporary dehydration when it’s probably more advisable to stay home in your air-conditioned luxury. I can only hope that all this effort will pay off when the temperature and subsequent humidity drops to manageable levels. I expect a breakthrough and nothing less. The question is, on both accounts, when is that actually going to happen?

The (re)start line

And here we go again.

It has been too long, FAR too long since I last experienced a stomach inhabited by a butterfly infestation, the previous days meals turned liquid or the spike in my Type A OCD mannerisms leading up the start line of my next race. But as of this morning, it’ll all come back again.

The last race I participated in (noticed I didn’t say “run”) was the Shamrock Shuffle 8k way back in March, where I knew even before the race that my leg was not ok to run on, but did it anyways. Right after that poor performance I went down for months and months with a severely weakened right leg. Since getting back on the path to recovery from that period I’ve been hesitant to commit to doing any races as I know I’m not at the point where I want to be just yet, however, the big show (Chicago) is creeping closer and closer, and with a solid bank of effort in my stride now, I think I’m ready to at least make enough of a showing where I won’t feel completely demoralized afterwards.

In my head I was thinking more and more about seeing how a race performance might play out, so when a race flyer came addressed to me in the mail, the bug was planted. Initially, the flyer that came almost got tossed into the trash immediately, for it was advertising the Circle The City 10k, which was marred by controversy last year when the race director responded to a lot of prize money confusion by making juvenile, racist standards for prize eligibility for his future races. I vowed to never run another race by their management company and have held to that promise since then. So when the flyer came for the controversy-laden race this year, I was ready to throw it in the trash with even more vigor than I do the others, but I couldn’t help look at the specifics to see if they were messing with the bull by offering course record money again….they weren’t. I then looked further and noticed the KLA (the event managers) logos were nowhere to be found. Initially I thought this might be a deliberate attempt to distance themselves from last years problems, but I then considered that maybe they were dropped as organizers (something they have a decent track record for). I read deeper into the fine print and sure enough a new company had taken over the race! I was pretty stoked to see this as I really like races in urban settings, especially when they run through the very streets I’m on day after day. This particular course runs almost directly past my own house as well.

Anyways, I put the flyer aside to register at a later time, but as luck would have it I received a “Groupon” in my email today that allowed me to register for the race for only $12! Double score! I had no choice but to sign up now…and that’s what I did.

So now I’m 2 1/2 weeks out from this race and will be throwing myself back into the competitive mindset deeper and deeper, even if I don’t feel at my racing prime. The downtime I suffered from this injury really took powerful shots at both my fitness and mental game and I’m working hard to get them both back, and although I’d really like to know where I stand on both, the hard part is finding out by experience only…by actually racing. Workout success only means so much when it comes to racing, as everything seems to change when you toe the line. I’m hoping for the best, but I have my worries.

See, last year I had already put down about 4 15k trail races that proved to be pretty brutal efforts and that was on top of consistent training that had started 2 years prior. This time around I’m coming off a 3 month lull in activity and an even longer lull in racing fitness and mentality, so I just don’t know where I stand right now.

I don’t like going into races without a hefty dose of confidence as my base, as I take each and every race, no matter how insignificant, with utmost seriousness. The races are where I really work to prove my abilities and put everything, mentally and physically, on the line. Even in the middle of marathon training I try to prepare for races as if each one was my specific goal. So, this time around I have a lot of ifs I’m taking in. What if I’m not fit enough and completely blow up? What if my mental game is weak and I back off when things get rough? What if I get trounced, my confidence plummets even further, and..and then what?

Then again, going into the race without huge expectations and not a lot of confidence behind me does help take some of the edge off the attempt. I’m certainly not expecting a huge breakthrough at this race, but really just want a solid effort where primarily I run smart. I don’t want to go out too fast and I don’t want to have too much left over when I cross the line. I envision a slower than normal start and seeing how much I can pick it up as the race goes on. I certainly won’t be as wired or as ambitious as I was feeling going into the last 8k I did in Chicago. That effort certainly tempered my exuberance, in a good way.

Then again, I have a 32:28 PR at the 10k distance……that is really old. I’m tired of it. I’m a better runner than a 5:13 10k pace and although I wanted to prove that at last year’s race, I was beat down from training at that point and just didn’t have the legs to show it. Right now though, even with the high mileage, I’m feeling good and would like to take that record down if possible, but feeling good and BEING fit are two different things. I’m not convinced I’m better than a 5:13 runner right now….but anything can happen in a race, as long as I start slow and run smart.

And that’s really my goal this time around. I’d like to surpass my 10k pr, but I’m more concerned with determining my pace and progression ahead of time and seeing if I can stick with that….if everything goes well, the PR will follow.

Regardless, it feels good to be back in the thick of it and getting ready to put my race legs on. Starting August 7th I’ll be putting down some serious efforts in the build up to Chicago…let’s hope it’s filled with PR’s.

the secret society of runners

Ocean City, New Jersey is comprised of hordes of people who come to the shore for endlessly varying reasons, but ultimately get lumped into groups that lord over the territory of their respective times of day. With a few grey areas, the tourists, aka “shoobies” (myself included), and locals tend to gravitate towards the time of day that speaks to their interests divided into morning, day, evening and night.

When I was a child the day was certainly mine as I staked my claim on the beach from about 9:00 (my dad would have been there since 8:00) until 5:00 when the sand crabs washed ashore and dug themselves into the sand where the water could reach no further.

As I got older my early beach days began to wither into afternoons and I found myself more excited for night time where I could venture into the parent-less freedom that was the boardwalk night life, looking for spontaneous friends or relationship prospects. It actually worked for me one summer and I began a year and a half long distance relationship that started in a chilly boardwalk night.

Alas, it was inevitable that I would also shed those nightly interests and as I grew and matured the excitement and ego gratification that came with boardwalk nights became less and less..well…exciting. Suddenly, I had grown up.

Then I started running again and where it seemed I had no personal place in the 24 hours of a vacation day, I ran into, quite literally, a secret society just as bonding and defined as the beach days of my youth and the nightlife of my teenage years…the morning. But not just “the morning” that most in this beach town would use to define the start of their day, that early morning sun of 8 am – 11 am when Brown’s wafts their sweet donut aroma onto the boards, the surrey’s begin to flood their lanes, and the rent-a-cop’s start kicking the cyclists back onto the streets at 11 so the day tourists can storm the beaches. No, this is a different morning, where a certain type of vacationer pulls their heavy bodies from their beds to see a part of the day that often goes unrecognized by most. It is the golden hour of the athlete and the fitness-head, which starts sometime around 5 am and ends before the boardwalk is swarmed with recreational users like seagulls to dropped curly fries.

I have shed my urge to sleep in so that I can enjoy both the time of day where the humidity is quelled and the runners lane on the boards is opened enough to ease a quickened pace if necessary. It is a vacation town time of day that hosts a unique breed of person and inherently forms a common bond through our activities. We see a commonality in our absurdity, in getting up at the same time our work day dictates, but to engage in something physical and rewarding instead of the forced march of the bosses.

Our interactions are quick and fleeting, accumulating about 3 full seconds of abbreviated communication each morning, but in repetition throughout the week we form a unique friendship unlike most others. We pass each other 2 to 3 times each run, depending on the miles we have in our log and with a nod, wave, or sometimes an audible “morning”, we come to know each other by not much more than our appearance and speeds.

This week alone I have befriended a handful of new athletes I look forward to seeing before the rest of the town rises from their passive slumber. There is the tall runner adorned with enough accoutrements (fuel belt, spandex shorts, sleeveless shirt, visor) to give away his ironman ambitions. There is the curiously skinny woman with brightly colored workout clothes seemingly dripping with wealth and makeup, but consistently putting down mile after mile. There is the somewhat chubby younger girl with spiky hair and a spunky smile that leads me to believe she truly enjoys her morning routine…I’ve made the assumption we like the same music. There is the young skinny kid with a gangly stride that at first glance would make any coach cringe at the wasted efficiency, but who continuously keeps one of the faster paces on the boards for extended distances. Watching him run I feel like I’m watching a replay of my earlier running days. Then there are so many more that come and go with the weather or their motivation, but we all comprise a secret culture of athletes that own the boards before anyone else, before the breakfast restaurants open, before the lifeguards take their post and before enough food drops on the ground by distracted tourists to attract the gangs of gulls.

We are a fleeting culture of athletes and although we probably wouldn’t recognize each other during any other time of day (stripped from our superhero outfits), whether on the beach or people watching at night, we all know our routines will hold steady and we can expect to see each other bright and early each morning. This real morning is where I’ve jabbed my flag into the ground and laid claim to a continued tradition of vacationing days, and I look forward to seeing my newfound if fleeting acquaintances every day.

OC training camp

My time in Ocean City, New Jersey has always been reserved for and effectively spent as “a vacation”, but after four days of running and five more days to go I have come to the conclusion this is not a vacation…this is a training camp. It’s a nice training camp with lots of leisure time and alternative activities, but it feels like a training camp none the less.

I guess that’s just how it goes for distance runners with specific goals…there is simply no downtime.

Vacations, for me, are usually marked by one increasingly absent luxury in my life….sleeping in. Ever since I was thrown headfirst into the world of parenting 3 1/2 years ago, there is nothing I miss more than being able to sleep in till my body says “enough”. So when vacation comes around it’s always in the back of my head that, “oh my god….I don’t HAVE to get up…I have NO obligations.” Then I remember then commitment I made to myself…and I get up…at 6 am every morning, no matter what, to go run my ass off. It was a nice thought anyways. And that’s what I do, every morning at 6 I wake up, work myself out the door and begin my run of anywhere between 10 and 21 miles….on my vacation.

I don’t mean to sound so disparaging though, for I actually love it. I’m at my running best in the morning and this is the one time I get to take full advantage of that early running time where I can put in a massive effort without dwelling on it all day long like I do at home. Here I can get it done by 9 am and worry about nothing else for the rest of the day except relaxing, as much as one can as a parent with a toddler surrounded by a beach and amusement rides.

And then there is the beach, just 4 blocks away from where we stay…and I like to look at it as part of my training as well. At home I run my butt off, take a shower and then tend to dinner and whatever else needs to be done around the house. Here though, once I make it down to the sand, set up the beach chairs, poke the umbrella into the sand like a toothpick in a canteloupe, I get to indulge in a post-run act reserved for elites with either time or lifestyle sponsorship…an ice bath. Granted, I’m not sinking into a frigid tub of frozen water, but the ocean water is just cool enough to offer some relief to my weary legs…and so as my toddler splashes around mimicing the surfers beyond the jetty, I let the waves cool and massage my stressed muscles.

And it doesn’t end there. Granted, I don’t indulge in an 11 am wakeup call, but as Michelle and I swap turns keeping Noah from drowning in the undertow, we also swap turns taking much needed power naps on the beach. They aren’t hours long episodes of deep sleep, but they are just enough to keep us going and get us ready for the rest of the day, night and then the next day’s morning. I’ve actually been pretty surprised at how depleted I am at the end of my runs in this suffocating humidity we are experiencing here, but then to find my legs recharged and ready to go the next day like I’ve been on recovery runs all week. Maybe my body is adjusting to the loads right now, or maybe these cool water soaks and intermittent rests are doing what everyone says they’ll do….helping me recover properly.

It’s not all sitting in beach chairs and waiting till our biological cooking timers go off though (as it seems most vacationers around here do), as I do get some adult playtime in the ocean for body surfing or just getting cooled off by the waves. I suppose I could stretch that perception and look at it as strength training, but I think I’ll just take that for what it is…playing, which I suppose is important in the long run.

In all, I could never complain about this set up. Yeah, I’d like to sleep in, but I make up for that on the beach. Yeah, I’d like to lay around sometimes, but there is something incredibly rejuvenating about jumping into the waves like a little kid again, sometimes getting pummeled by the weight of the ocean. And yeah, I’d like to take leisurely morning bike rides on the boardwalk like most people, but there is something undeniably awesome about seeing everyone’s stunned faces as you run by again and again and again, getting increasingly sweatier each time, as they gorge on their grease and fat soaked breakfasts and you put down mile after humid mile with the ocean to your side and the sun just barely lifting the blanket of dark from the ground.

So when the week is done, the miles and effort are put in, and the appropriate rest and recovery is taken, I can….sort of…say this was a vacation. But to be more realistic, this is more of a beautiful, intensive training camp where I get to indulge in the luxuries of all the downtime the top elite runners get to experience every day.

Until this whole competitive running thing succombs to the limits of my physical body and I’m left to cook in the sun and nothing else….I’ll take it.

Our little secret

There’s something funny about being a competitive distance runner of a pretty decent caliber….no one cares. Well, I guess it’s not that no one cares, but rather no one knows. And why would they? Distance runners don’t get the sort of air time that other sports do, nor do we carry the same sort of prestige as other professional sports backed by huge corporations and media outlets. That’s ok really, we thrive on being underdogs. We are the nobody’s of the sports world and we do this for the love of the experience if nothing else.

Granted, there are some of us who make an attempt to advertise ourselves and our exploits, which should be obvious considering you are reading this blog. Some of us turn ourselves into media machines while others attach causes or issues to our running. Then some of us just run and worry about nothing else. I tend to lean towards merely running, but it’s hard not to share my experiences in one way or another. What I find amusing is just how few people know what I’m trying to do right now. Good friends, ex-housemates, etc., have no clue how much I run or where I’m trying to take this, while facebook friends and blog readers have more insight into my daily activities than do family and friends. Again, that’s ok.

I like having a secret. A superman underneath a Clark Kent facade. Short of running t-shirts or hats, I don’t advertise my running on a face to face basis. If the subject comes up, I just talk about it normally and usually only relent to detailing my efforts if Michelle calls me out, as she tends to do frequently. “Oh, just tell them your times. Tell them what you’re training for.” Somewhat unwillingly, somewhat proudly, I do.

It’s interesting to be good at a sport that no one really cares about or understands, to be attempting to become one of the best marathoners in the country, and know that it means nothing on a daily basis. I don’t ever expect to be recognized as “the runner” in public (it has only happened in relation to this blog really), but that only serves the fun of having a little secret to myself.

“Yes, I’d like an Iced Soy Latte (and by the way, I can run 10 miles at 5:18 a mile and still have plenty more to go).”

“No, I don’t need a receipt with that (but I might finish in the top 20 at this years Chicago marathon).”

It’s ridiculous, I know, but it’s still fun. In the end though, this has little to do with others and is primarily about achieving something for myself and something for my son to be proud of. Still, I don’t mind dabbling in a bit of secretive ego-gratification every once in awhile. There’s no harm in that as long as it doesn’t get in the way of the drive to continue forward.

—————

Speaking of forward…starting tomorrow I’ll be heading out to Ocean City, New Jersey for a 10 day vacation, which means all my running will be on the boardwalk in what is often a sun-blasted and humid environment. My performances always vary out there, but it’s always a great environment to run in with hundreds of other beach goers on bikes, walking or running. I’m really looking forward to doing two 20 milers on the boards in the morning and a couple speed workouts on the track or elsewhere.

And when I’m thoroughly exhausted from a hard morning run, I get to treat myself to the awesomeness that is Bashful Banana – a health food deli with lots of vegan items and their signature Whip-a-lope, 1/2 a cantaloupe filled with banana ice cream (frozen bananas run through a juicer) then topped with fresh fruit. Good heavens, it’s what I live for every summer. Join me won’t you?!

We stop for nothing…

…almost.

With my “injury” subsiding more and more everyday my ability to train has followed suit and my miles and intensity have skyrocketed. I have my routine back and without fail I get out and run each and every day. Easy 8 milers, long 20 milers, fast 14 milers, no matter. I get out there and do what needs to be done.

It has been a part of my life for so long that I don’t even really need to plan for the run, as it’s either there the second I’m free from work or it’s waiting as soon as my alarm goes off on the weekends. Running and training is part of my daily routine, even with the hectic schedule Michelle and I have to accomodate sometimes. With her unscripted photography meetings, my full day of work and a toddler to juggle, sometimes things can get a bit crazy. But we manage to work it all out in the end.

Every once in awhile though, there are enough obstacles to really necessitate more focused planning to get in a run, often not in the most ideal conditions.

For instance, this week was a scheduled visit with my son in North Carolina. Michelle and I, sans Noah, were staying in a hotel and I knew I was going to have to fit in a run sometime late in the evening. Turns out, I couldn’t start my runs any earlier than 8 pm. I was holding onto the hope that I might be able to find some open roads nearby to train on, but I quickly realized we were surrounded by heavily trafficked, multi-lane thoroughfares and ominously large corporate box stores. We were effectively marooned on a hotel island in the middle of shark infested capitalist waters, with nowhere to run.

All was not lost though. There was a fitness room in the hotel, and on the chance that I had no where to run, I made sure the hotel had a treadmill before I booked our stay. So the treadmill it was.

I wasn’t thrilled about it, but nothing can get in the way really. So Wednesday night I knocked out 8 mind-numbingly boring miles before turning in for the night. Then came Thursday where I had 14 miles total with 8 miles of marathon goal pace scheduled and although I was fearing the ability to keep up with the hamster wheel, somehow I managed and had a killer sub-mgp workout. My confidence soared. It was then I realized that with our checkout time, I wasn’t going to get my long run in on Saturday and actually had to reschedule it for Friday. So it goes.

And yes, that means I had to do 20 miles on the treadmill. Honestly, I’m quite surprised how I managed to handle it mentally and made it through all 20 unscathed, well, except for a number of pretty gnarly blisters on my sweat-soaked toes. Those closet-sized fitness rooms get hot!

Finally, I knocked out one more 8 mile run the very next morning (So, 28 miles in less than how many hours?) and, quite frankly, I’d be glad to never set foot on a treadmill again. But I know that won’t be the case. So why do I do this really?

Two words: 3 miles. Not just 3 miles….THE three miles…the LAST three miles of a marathon, which, if my fitness develops properly, will be the make or break three miles to qualify for the US Olympic marathon trials. I can run fast for 13.1 miles and I can keep running fast into 18. I  know the last 10k is supposed to be brutal, but I also think I can make it well into that before things start to get ugly. It’s those last three miles that are going to cause me problems and how I handle those problems is going to determine if I make the trials or not. That’s why I’ll run 20 miles on a treadmill If I have to, because I simply can’t afford to miss the necessary training. I’ll suffer now so I can mitigate deeper suffering when it really counts.

There is room for compromise though…to a degree. I have to run every single chance I get and I’ll make every effort to create those chances, but sometimes there are other adventures to be had. Like tomorrow, I won’t be running as I head off into the woods outside of Asheville, NC to tackle the summit of Mt. Mitchell, a 12 mile hike one way, so 24 in two days, over some pretty gnarly terrain. I’m writing this one off as strength training and considering I only had 6 recovery miles  on the training log anyways….I think I’m covered.

These sorts of breaks are few and far between though. To run 26.2 miles at 5:18 a mile takes a sort of dedication that can’t waver or fluxuate too often, lest those pace per miles do the same.

When Michelle told a friend recently that I had to get to the hotel (at 9 at night) to get a run in, the friend responded, “That’s some dedication.” In my head I replied, “It’s not really dedication as it is a demand…of those last 3 miles.”