So I am officially in coast mode. After four months of training (not counting the three months of training for the Urbanathlon) I am finally prepared for the big show. Honestly I wasn’t sure at certain points whether or not I was going to make it. Training for a marathon is hard. Really hard. Way harder than I ever expected. Frankly a half marathon is cake. A walk in the park. I look back at my original marathon training post and think of the crazy goals I set for myself and wonder how I could have thought that was possible. Too much too fast. Eventually those goals would be possible, but I don’t think that four months was realistic at all. I am getting ahead of myself, so let me get you up to speed.
What is so hard? There is this wall at about thirteen miles where I would start to feel tired. By fifteen my quads are burning, my breath is starting to become labored and my form starts to fall apart. Each of these problems reinforces the others until mentally I cannot continue running. For a month each of my long runs hit this wall. I felt defeated. Fifteen is barely over halfway. How was I supposed to go another nine miles?! Fortunately I had an experienced athlete in Dan Corbera to help me out. One cold December morning I drove down to Attleboro for a seventeen mile run with Dan. Previously my longest run had been fifteen and a half. The run started out great and it really helped to have someone to chat with. At the half way point I still felt pretty good. We took a short break at Dans parent’s house and I met his family (who have read my blog!).
The second half started out well, but by that ominous thirteen mile marker the conversation had thinned and it was time to get down to business. True to form at mile fifteen I was really starting to feel it. Fortunately I had Dan to encourage me. Just two more miles, two more miles! I put my head down and trudged on. Keep my breath, keep my form, just – keep – going. Those last two miles were horrendous. I felt terrible. Dan, if you are reading this, the run was actually seventeen and a half miles. That extra half hurt. It made two miles feel interminable! As we coasted into our finish my quads were like jelly. I didn’t even feel like celebrating for finishing. I felt like curling up in a ball and passing out.
My legs were sore for the next three days, however that day was a big break through. I learned a lot from Dan about proper marathon training. Things I wasn’t doing and should have been. For the first time I was eating “gus” while running. These are essentially sugar packets you can eat for energy on the run. Coupled with gatorade I consume about seven hundred calories on a typical long run. I also learned that I needed to eat immediately after exercise to replenish lost calories or my body would burn muscle and the run would be self defeating. I never feel like eating during or after exercise so this probably explained my complete lack of progress from my previous fifteen mile runs.
Since then I have perfected my long run preparation. I eat two dinners the night before. One around six and then a second one around nine or ten. I make sure I eat enough at the second meal that I cause a food induced coma which guarantees a good night of sleep. For breakfast I eat pancakes and waffles with maple syrup. A lot of ‘em! Finally I gu every five miles and make sure I have gatorade for calories while I run. After the run I enjoy yogurt and a PB&J sandwich for some quick sugar calories coupled with some carbs and proteins.
The real part of marathon running is the mental game. My body is constantly asking my brain to just walk for a little bit. Catch my breath and shake out my legs, but my brain can’t listen. I always ask myself – Do I have my breath? Do my legs hurt? If no then there is no excuse for stopping. Just keep those feet moving one after the other. My last long run training session really required some mental toughness. At thirteen miles I was on an 8:45 pace, but I could feel a big blister forming on my left foot. I kept asking myself whether I should head home and call it a day. This was my last chance though. My last big run before I began a rest period for the marathon. I couldn’t quit. At sixteen miles I was still on pace. I pulled my shoe and took a look. Not good. A big blister the size of about a quarter on the inside sole of my foot. Time to quit? No way, time to go. I slowed down to a ten minute mile for the last four miles, but I ran the whole way. This time I did a little sidewalk dance/fist pump to celebrate. Twenty and a half miles in three hours and one minute, just a hair over a nine minute mile.
I’ve set a realistic marathon target of a 9:10 mile which will pull me in at just under four hours. I am ready to rumble. Let’s go Hyannis!