October 2009 marks my 20th year of military service. My plan was to retire from the military this month since my AF Reserve position was being recycled into a more combat-appropriate function and I really couldn't picture myself retraining into another nose-picker specialty this late in the game. In August, however, I was given the option to stay in my current position in the Reserves out at Travis Air Force Base. Coincident with the news of this position extension was an announcement that the World Military Marathon Championships would be held in Athens, Greece in October 2010. The qualifying race for a berth on the US Team would be the Marine Corps Marathon held on October 25th, 2009 with the top 4 men and women military finishers comprising the US team. Staying in the Reserves was an easy choice for me given the fact that I find the work I do at Travis very fulfilling. Admittedly, the fact that the Championship Race is in Athens may have tipped the scales a tiny bit to the side of further military service. So, the road to Athens required a stop to prove my mettle in Washington DC.
How does a runner train for back-to-back marathons? I'm not sure that there's one right way to go about it, but my coach has put together a plan for me that will help me maintain the high level of fitness I achieved leading up to Twin Cities while allowing my body to recover from a hard marathon race. It is a tricky business since there's a much higher risk of injury and sickness associated with hard training and racing in the weeks following a marathon. I also know that most people shouldn't try this. In fact, when I originally proposed this marathon double to my coach, she replied that I had to go for it given what was at stake. She also said that she wouldn't have advised any other runner to do it. I was an exception given how quickly I recover from my marathons, my history of running injury free and the fact that I listen to and understand my body.
This marathon recovery period has been exceptional thus far in that I feel even better than normal. I had very little soreness in my legs even the second day post marathon with just a bit of calf tightness to contend with. I felt fine during my first run back, which I did yesterday. I was worried about coming down with the flu or a cold especially after receiving a call from my Mom on Monday whose voice was barely recognizable through all of the phlegm she had accumulated after only a single day of viral conquest. For me: so far, so good (knock on wood).
I also have a solid history of success with the marathon double (Effin' J definition of a marathon double: running two marathons within 8 weeks or less of each other). In fact, this will be the 4th time in my short running career that I have pulled a marathon double. My first double was between my 3rd and 4th marathons. I ran the Bizz Johnson Trail Marathon in 3:35 in October 2005 and then went on 7 weeks later to run CIM in 3:20. My next double came in 2006 where I ran the Chicago Marathon in 3:07 in late October and ran CIM 5 weeks later in 3:03. My third double was last year, running Marine Corps in 2:57 and 5 weeks later running CIM in 2:50. There's a pattern that emerges here: I run faster in the second race, but that second race has always been CIM.
How am I training between marathons? In the first 4 days after Twin Cities, I walked my dogs for exercise for a couple of miles each day. My program had the option of pool running on those days, but I have never done pool running so, it would have taken a lot more effort than I wanted to expend to make that happen. Thursday, I spent 60 minutes on the elliptical machine at the gym. Luckily, Sprinkles kept me company, so the time flew by. Yesterday, I ran for 6 easy miles (it was supposed to be 3--I know, bad Effin' J). After the run, I hopped on the elliptical for 74 minutes to get in a total of 2 hours of training between the run and the machine. Part of the reason I ran a little longer was to avoid having to sit on a machine for 90+ minutes. As it turned out, I was able to read a magazine while listening to music and finished up listening to a book on MP3. I was surprised how fast the time went by. I start back to regular running tomorrow, but it is all easy running until the weekend. I'll do a couple rounds of my weight training program next week too and a few days with cross training in addition to the daily running. Next Saturday, I'll do a longer and harder workout and then will begin my taper for the marathon as normal.
I am quite a ways away from predicting what I might shoot for in DC. Right now, I have a range of goals that span the gamut from winning the race (typically the female winner hits the tape between 2:47-3:00 since there's no prize money) to sitting on the tail of the 3rd place military female runner to just barely qualify for the International Military Marathon Team. I will be gauging how my body feels in my runs this week and will test out marathon pace on Saturday. I do like the idea of leaving the whole thing wide open especially given how meticulously I planned my pacing at Twin Cities. The Marine Corps course is relatively slow with some challenging hills and almost no crowd support in the last 10k because you're mostly running on freeway overpasses. Nonetheless, this one will be a race against my fellow military competitors rather than against the clock, and I look forward to watching it unfold in real time. Semper Gumby.