Sunday, November 6, 2011

At last!

I found my marathon legs!  I knew they were hiding from me, but I just didn't know when they would make themselves visible this training cycle.  I seem to be suffering from marathon training amnesia this time around.  I have had trouble remembering what I am supposed to feel like during the various stages of my training.  Throw in the fact that I'm training completely differently than I have before, haven't run a marathon in over a year, and have been traveling all over the place these last few weeks, and you get one tired and confused marathoner.

The training plan I'm using calls for high mileage.  I can handle high mileage when I have the time I need to recover.  Take away the recovery, and the girl begins to crumble.  The week before last was a perfect example of this.  I am going to say right now that it will be the hardest week of training I will do this training cycle.  It wasn't the highest mileage and didn't have the hardest workouts: I ran 90 miles and did one 10k-paced long interval workout on the track Thursday and a 20-miler with surges on Sunday.  It was the stuff in between that ate me up.

Duke Forest Trail
I traveled to North Carolina on Tuesday starting at 5:30 a.m. which meant no running before my flight.  I was lucky to be able to fit in a 10-miler in between arriving at Duke University for my meeting and meeting up with my group for evening activities and dinner.  The lovely thing about running at Duke was the forested 5k loop course that started right outside the front door of our hotel.  The bummer was that it was a loop that had 200 feet of elevation change in 3 miles and the changes were not gentle.  Remember that I rarely see 100 feet of elevation change during one of my regular 20 mile runs.  Lovely as the forest was to run through, I knew my legs were going to be messed up.  I tried running around campus one afternoon and that was no better--no way to escape the hills.  In retrospect, I really should have run on the treadmill, but how could I not run on a trail as beautiful as that?

I was reminded of life's fragility when I ran down a side trail and found the Sally Meyerhoff Fitness Loop that connected to the 5k loop I was on.  It was beautiful and inspiring to think of her running along this same trail training for cross country or some other race.  RIP Sally.  

It was nice to have a safe running trail so close to the hotel because I was running in the dark for at least part of every run.  I beat up my running partner on the first evening run, and he had to take a rest after the second day.  My legs were done by the third day of the trip when I had to do my track workout.  I got to do it in Blue Devils' Stadium at least, but it was UGLY!  Ironically, my Garmin reset itself and completely lost the data for that workout--not in the device history or transferred to my computer--irretrievable.  I'm starting to think this was a blessing.

I became a master of the quick shower and change that week--able to go from lobby to room to lobby in under 15 minutes!  My legs were seriously beaten up by the time I arrived home Friday night at near midnight.  I finally got to sleep for more then 5 hours that night, but it didn't really help heal the damage I had done.

That damage lasted into this week where I began feeling a series of strange things in my right calf and gluteal region.  I rolled religiously and worked very hard to get more sleep, but it seemed like I wasn't keeping up.  This week was meant to be another 90 miler, but I gave up on that idea midweek when I had to travel 9 hours roundtrip with an overnight for work.  I was due for a hard workout on Thursday, but I knew it was a bad idea given a sharp pain I was having in my right calf.  I think it is (was?) what I've seen called posterior shin splints on the internets based on the location of the pain and the fact that all pain goes away after I warm up.

I was able to get in my hard workout on Friday without incident, running 2 x 1.5 miles + 2 x 1 mile all @ 10k pace with 4 min rests between each.  That was a tough one and my legs felt fine.  Yesterday, I experienced the return of the calf and hip pain during my 10 miler and became very worried about my prospects for a long run today.

After worrying a fair bit about whether to even attempt a longer run after yesterday's painful run, I was pleasantly surprised to have a fantastic 20 mile run today.  It wasn't my fastest, but it was certainly my strongest so far.   I had no pain in the calf or glute beyond 3 miles.  I am planning to run a total of thirteen, 20 milers this training cycle and I have 5 under my belt already.  They had not been getting easier until today when I felt especially strong the last half of the run.

Today had two bonuses for me during my run: I got to see the amazing migratory phenomenon of salmon returning to the American River for their last dance before death.  I may be a freak, but I tear up when I see them out there building their redds and dancing around one another.  I also had my third sighting of what the Genius and I are now calling Grassquatch.  This started a few weeks ago when I was running along the American River Bike Trail between mile markers 10 and 10.5.   I saw something about 100m ahead out of the corner of my eye that looked like what I would picture a baby Sasquatch would look like.  As I got closer, I noticed a huge mound of dry grass and a pile of leaves get up from the side of the trail, run across the trail and hunch back down.  Good thing I wasn't finishing my run or I would have believed I was hallucinating.  Well, Grassquatch struck again today and (this time) I enjoyed watching the reactions of cyclists and runners that they spooked with their clever trick.    

This next week I have a  half marathon on tap where I plan to run it at goal marathon pace.  This will actually be close to a PR for me if I can manage it.  I'm not planning much of a taper for it, so it will be a good test of my strength too.

Finally, I want to send a shout out to all the runners who completed the NYC Marathon today!  Amazing!    



  1. Great news about the strong 20 miler. The trail looks beautiful - you're right about it being a sin to run inside when you have that out the door. I still think about Sally. She was so personable and full of energy.

    Good luck with the half. I'm sure you'll have a brilliant race!

  2. I just learned about your blog and amazing journey from a fellow running friend....I am so excited to browse through and read about your quest. I'm inspired just by the stats on the side of your page!

    p.s. as a runner, I also have the 15 minute or less shower-to-out-the-door mastered. 10 minutes is doable for me too....