Marathon Monday Reflections

It’s Marathon Monday in Boston, and after yesterday’s grueling training run, I’m feeling all the feels watching interviews with Lelisa Desisa while he enjoys his moment in the spotlight after a hard-fought victory.  With my marathon only 28 days away, it’s different watching Boston this year than in the years past – it feels more inspirational than it already had, and it’s making me reflect a lot on my training up to this point.

April thus far has been an interesting moment in my training, as we inch closer to start line of the Colfax Marathon.  This month has been the peak of my training, so far getting through an 18 miler and a 20 miler (with a 22 miler on its way this Saturday).  It’s also been a great month of focusing on healing and cross-training after what has been a miserable bout of IT band syndrome that culminated with a steroid shot last month at the doctor.  It’s been a month of blood, sweat, and tears – literally – but I feel like I’m starting to finally feel the payoff of a lot of hard work.

2 weeks ago, Kelly & I embarked on our 18 mile training run at 6:45 in the morning on a beautiful Spring Saturday.  That day followed a rough week of work and personal stress that left me feeling exhausted and fired up for any small victory I could take.  It’s been a few weeks since that run, but I can still feel the confidence and excitement I felt as we hit 17 miles and I was feeling ready to tackle just about anything.  As I’ve learned throughout my years as a runner, preparation has always been my strong suit, and this run showed no different.  Proper rest, nutrition, hydration, and mental preparation had me feeling like a beast as we closed in on the end of that run.

After taking our next weekend’s long run down in mileage, Kelly and I committed to doing 20 yesterday, and after my success in our 18’er, I felt like 20 was going to be entirely manageable.  Little did I realize how deeply my lack of preparation for this run would impact my run and my spirit ahead of race day.

I’m fully versed in the occasional phenomenon of having a “bad run” – those days when 2 miles feels like a chore, when a 10:00 pace seems unattainable, when I just can’t get myself in rhythm for the kind of run I want.  But yesterday, I was reminded of why I go to bed early the 2 nights before a long run.  I was reminded of why I have the discipline to skip the wine with dinner, to get enough water in the 3 days leading up to a run, to eat multiple meals a day and get in both carbs and protein.  I’ve always been really good at the ritual of preparation.  Sometimes so good that I drive those close to me a little crazy with my inflexibility.

So this weekend, with the hubby at a bachelor party and me feeling like I wanted a break, I decided to throw caution to the wind, forgo my usual strict weekend ritual, and cut loose.  Now, don’t get me wrong – I had an AWESOME weekend.  I hung out with friends I love, I took a practice GRE that went really well, I ate great food, and I drank (too much) great wine.  I stayed out late Friday (shudder!), I lounged in bed on Saturday (more shudder!), and I didn’t even remember to go to Trader Joe’s to pick up the whole wheat toaster waffles that kick off my pre- long run routine (gasp!).

Yesterday morning, I woke up about an hour before our run.  I heated up leftover pizza (probably my first mistake of the morning) and got ready to go.  As pumped as I was for our run all week, I was struggling from the moment we started.  I felt tired, weak, unprepared, and a little spooked the entire run.  I had a GREAT time running with Kelly – we did our usual hours-long catch up despite having seen each other all weekend long – and it’s always fun to see the city on these runs when it’s quiet and few people are outside quite yet.  But aside from enjoying conversation and scenery, my body was screaming on the inside.  As we looped Wash Park to finish out 17-20, I was convinced a wall was coming, that the dreaded bonk was in my future.  It’s hard for me to imagine now, after finishing that run, that people just tell me the extra 6.2 will come with adrenaline and heart and mental toughness on race day!  At 19 miles, I was feeling it everywhere – but I was largely feeling it mentally, which is pretty unlike me.  It was a tough 4 hours (and 53 seconds), but with a slowed pace and a few stops to re-tie my laces or stretch my legs, Kelly and I managed to push through the pain and finish all 20 miles.

It was my longest run to date and hers too, and my body is certainly reminding me of that today.  And if it wasn’t clear already, I’ll be taking my approach to this weekend’s long run and race day preparation entirely seriously after feeling intimidated by yesterday’s experience.

One major focus of this month for me has consistently been how amazing the spirit and strength of the human body can be.  It was impossible not to watch in awe as Caroline Rotich crossed the finish line this morning (that stride! Damn, girl!).  And I am constantly inspired watching Shalane Flanagan, who, even on a tough day, managed to finish strong.  Clearly, I’m no elite runner, and I would be lucky to ever get to the point of BQ’ing (someday!).  But this marathon training experience has been a necessary reminder to me that my body and my mind can do incredible things.

Last weekend, despite being at a bachelorette party in Arizona, Kel & I still managed to get up at 6:30 to run 5.5 miles on Saturday morning.  For the first mile or 2, I literally felt like I was sweating out the bad decisions of the night before.  When we got to our turnaround point, both of us decided to take off our sweaty tank tops and run in our sports bras and shorts to avoid dying in the heat.  Afterall, we’d literally never see any of these people again – and, more importantly, our bodies are strong.

I’ve come to the conclusion in the last few weeks that, despite days of wanting to trim back and goals of cutting down before MCM, my body is a powerhouse.  I may not always look perfect or feel perfect, I may have great runs and some that suck, but being able to get through marathon training – and enjoy it! – proves how incredible the human body really is.  It wasn’t that long ago I was 25 lbs heavier, on crutches post-surgery, or struggling to get through a 2 mile run.  Even on the tough days like yesterday, where my preparation was lacking and my heart wasn’t fully in the game, I still pulled off 20 miles.  It wasn’t easy, and it certainly hurt, but I did it – and I can do it, which is most important.

On Marathon Monday, I’m feeling inspired, ready to rethink my routine, ready to take on next month’s big race.  One bad run yesterday isn’t going to kill me – because I’m a runner, and I can make it through pretty much anything.

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