Less than 2 weeks away from Chicago. That’s it, just 2 weeks. The countdown on the Chicago site says 12 days and change to be exact, but who’s counting? (I am!) For those that know about my training and racing, the questions have started to come in.
“Are you excited?”
“Are you nervous?”
“Are you ready?”
Truthfully, I’m all those and then some. I’m a cornucopia of emotions that battle each other for center stage continuously. Is this what menopause might feel like? For those that ask me any questions about how I’m feeling regarding the race, depending on what minute of what hour it is, they’ll probably get any of a 100 different responses.
Part of the reason for this is that we’ve just entered the tapering phase of training. Where for the past 4 – 5 months I’ve been consistently running anywhere between 80 – 100 miles a week, most often in the 90’s, this week we take a drop and max out at 70 miles, then next week drop even further in preparation for Sunday the 10th. For some, they can handle the scaling back, the feelings of rejuvenation and boosted energy, but for others, the taper is excruciating as they become engulfed with a sense of power and strength that has sat somewhere deep within them for the past 5 months, crushed beneath the weight of so many miles and effort. They have so much strength, but must make a concerted and focus effort not to use it, but to let it slowly rise up and peak on the long-awaited race day.
Me? I’m cool with it. I remember what these two weeks felt like last year as suddenly I had so much energy that I could bounce around my work all day without thinking twice about it. I did have to remind myself to calm down every once in awhile, but I never let myself get out of control. I just enjoyed the feeling. And that’s what I plan on doing this year too….just taking it easy at every chance I can get, letting my body heal the little aches and pains that have developed over the past couple of months and get mentally ready for the race…..trying to keep my ever-shifting emotions at a nuetral level.
I’m not all cool and calm, of course. As a matter of fact, I’m often in complete freak out mode. “Nervous” doesn’t explain it…”deathly afraid” comes a little closer. That’s usually my response if someone asks how I’m feeling. I think I’m justified in this feeling. It’s not just the beast that 26.2 miles is, the undeniable toll it takes on the body, the increasingly difficult effort it takes to get to the finish, the so many miles of unknowns that lay ahead….it’s also the goal. If I was coming to Chicago with no expectations except to run a solid marathon, I’d be nothing but excited. I’d be ecstatic to get out there and push, knowing that when things get hard, I’m still in contention to run a solid time….but that’s not my goal. My goal is not just a race against my own comfort levels, but a race against a very definitive and definable opponent…the clock. I need to go sub 2:19. And that scares the shit out of me.
It scares me because for me to run 2:19 right now, I feel like I need to run outside of myself. I need to find some way to overcome my own fitness, my own fatigue, my own training. I’m just not yet convinced that I’m ready to run sub 2:19, fortunately, I’m also aware that when it comes to the marathon not many people are ever convinced they are ready to run their stated goal times. That’s just part of the game. I wasn’t ready to run 2:25 last year, but I did it. And I don’t feel like I’m ready to run 2:19 this year….but I’m sure going to try. And that scares me.
That scares me because I know what happens when you try to run outside of yourself and fail….you explode. You don’t just tire. You don’t just call off the attack and revert back to a pace you can handle. No, when you run so hard that your efforts require deep reserves of strength, when you must scrape the bottom of your fitness well, if you then fail to sustain those efforts at such a high capacity, you can then only hope to drag yourself to the finish remaining upright, the pendulum of time swingingly drasticallly in the opposite direction.
These are the two most likely scenarios for my attept to qualify for the US Olympic Trials next Sunday. I have an awesome day, run my ass off and either qualify for the trials or at least come real close….or I cross the threshold of sustainability and come crawling into the finish somewhere back in the upper 2:20’s or 2:30’s. I would prefer the former, but often it’s either 2:19 or 2:29….maybe even 2:39. So I feel justified in my fear, my concern that for the past year, my efforts will fall short of my goals. Will it be a waste? Of course not, but it sure will be a massive disappointment.
Or maybe all this fear is just part of my preparation, to make sure I’m doing every little thing right leading up to the 10th. For some days I have no doubts in the world. Some days I KNOW I’m going to run 2:19. Some days I just FEEL it. There isn’t a second for concern and I get so excited thinking about it that I feel like I’ve already run the race. But, of course, I haven’t.
The final question then remains…”Are you ready?”
Well…I have no choice. I have to be. I’ve put in all the work I ever could. The months of training are over. I’ve got 2 weeks ahead of me consisting of smaller mileage and less intense workouts. Now it’s just down to the details. Heck, I even have my soundtrack already completed (post to come soon). Now it’s just making sure I don’t roll my ankle on anymore wayward walnuts that are starting to spot my training paths. It’s the little things like that I have to deal with now. The hay is in the barn as they say. Deathly afraid or overly optimistic…..ready or not……