Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A hard road ahead, Part II

Sure enough, the miles took hold.
Don't you just love the day before a cold or flu or stomach bug takes hold? You can feel it coming, in a way. Your nose tickles. Your ears seem to wiggle when you run. You're tired, and not in that blissful, I-just-ran-15 sort of way. It's more feeling like you're just worn down, like after five days of heavy drinking.
Well, the crud hit, but it didn't hit hard, and after these last few days, I feel like I'm in a boxing match with a toddler. But the match never ends. Eventually, even punches from a toddler have to hurt if you're in the ring long enough, and I've fought this, whatever it is, for almost a week now.
Of course, I probably WOULD have fought it off long ago, if I wasn't running every day, and especially if I hadn't of run 8 and then 17 miles when I felt it coming on. That's what I meant by the miles taking hold. It stretches out illnesses, keeps you tired and a bit worn down and makes you a little sorer than normal.
Running is hard enough. When I wake up, it shouldn't take me a half-hour to clear the crap from my nose and chest, get my bearings and feel halfway like a human being before I go out for a run.
On most days, I've still ran and ran well. When I get out there, the cold wimpers in the corner, afraid to challenge the beast. But when I'm done, and my immune system takes a bit of a hit, the cold strikes back and waits for the evening, when I finally go to bed at, say, 9:30 p.m. and makes pus all night.
Today I ran intervals, some 800s, and they were terrible. I've felt strong lately but not today. I felt weak, worn down and completely unmotivated to run hard and fast. I hated every second of them. I quit early.
Last year I was sick more often than I wasn't while training for the marathon. I truly hope I've dodged most of those bullets. I think I have. But then again, the 20-milers start next week, and I'll just have to see how the miles take hold.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A hard road ahead

In these last few weeks, I felt as good as I've ever felt in my life.
I dropped five-six pounds, and thought I didn't necessarily need to lose the weight, I felt light, almost springy, when I ran.
I had no lingering injuries. When you're a runner, aches and pains are a part of your life (that's probably true for lots of sports). But my troublesome hamstrings felt loose and free. My back didn't bitch. Hell I hadn't had as much as a blister in months.
As a result, I was running faster than ever. I PRd by a stupid amount in November and just PRd again at altitude in a 5K a couple weeks ago at the Super Bowl Run (and I keep those records separate because altitude makes such a big difference; running at sea level is a pure treat, something I rarely get, sort of like a Ghirardelli sundae in Vegas). At that Super Bowl Run, I ran 21:25, and it was almost effortless, like it was suddenly EASY to run the second-fastest race I've ever run in my life and float along at a 6:53 pace.
Well, those days are over.
Training for the marathon started in earnest this week.
I've been on the plan since Jan. 1, but it's a long plan, 18 weeks, and so the first third of it wasn't really much different than what I'd done most of the year. The long runs didn't go beyond a dozen miles, and I can run 12 these days without being tired at all. I didn't eclipse 35 miles a week. I wasn't doing speed work every week, and breaks from those torture sessions always leave me refreshed.
Well, this week I ran 43 miles. Friday we ran 8 at marathon pace (which I hope this year to be 8:30 per mile), and Saturday we ran 16 miles. I felt OK after those 16 - good, even - but it wasn't easy, and Sunday, when I got up, those familiar aches and pains were back. My 3-mile run that day, just to loosen up, was brutal.
It's going to be this way for a while. Weeks, actually. I've got 8 to do Thursday and 17 Friday, then Saturday will give me a much-needed day off. I don't have many tough runs the rest of this week until then - I just have 6 tomorrow and 3 on Wednesday - so that will help, but I would imagine by the time I'm done with Friday's run, I'll be ready to stash my shoes in the closet and never see them again.
Fortunately I do have a down week coming after that, but just as quickly, I've got a 19-miler and then the dreaded 20 a week later.
Running a marathon is pretty damn hard, but putting in the miles and, therefore, putting up with all the aches and pains that accompany them is the toughest part, I think. In fact completing a training plan without getting hurt is an accomplishment in its own right. It almost killed me last year. I got sick several times, was going to bed by 9 p.m. some nights and rarely drank. I faithfully did the 20s and enjoyed them, but it seemed to take me the whole week to recover from them, and I relied heavily on those fallback weeks in order to do so.
Now my back hurts a bit, and I'm as tight as a yo-yo string, and even today, when I pulled off a hard tempo run, it was tougher than it should have been.
When you cross the finish line in a marathon, the race is when you cover the distance. But now, when the training is at its toughest, is when you earn it.

Monday, February 07, 2011


The wind rattled against the car doors as I pulled into the parking lot and shut the engine off. I pulled my hat over my exposed ears as tightly as I could, trying in vain to reach every inch of exposed flesh that I knew would suffer against the icy wind.
I know many who can handle the cold. I'm one of them. I know a few others who not only can deal with the cold but enjoy it. Sometimes that's me too. But I don't know anyone who likes the wind. It is an insistent, nagging, even painful reminder of winter's chill. And I hate the wind.
You would think I'd get used to the wind, with as many mountains as I've climbed, given that a day above treeline without it is rare, almost unheard of. But I never do. Getting used to the wind, in my mind, is like getting used to traffic. Even if you could, would you really want to accept it as just a fact of life?
On days like these, getting out of the car and running - in this case running a race, a 5K - is the toughest part of the run. I've said it before, and that's a fairly common mantra among runners. And yet I think I struggle with it even more than most.
I do not like leaving my cocoon of comfort.
Now one of the things I truly love about situations like these, about running and mountaineering in crappy weather, is it makes you appreciate your cocoons more than most. You just don't take a hot shower for granted after you've been out in a bluster that's rated at 0 degrees.
The thing is, I REALLY like my hot showers. It's going to be tough when the kids get older because I hog as much hot water as a teenager, my normally environmentally conscious mind be dammed. I like my bed and its cozy flannel sheets. I even like my car, with (currently) Mastodon blasting through the speakers and the heater on high.
I am a wuss at heart, in other words, so the wuss side of me is in constant combat with my tougher badass side. Only, as you might expect, the wuss side is, well, a wuss, so he loses to the badass side all the time.
He does eventually, anyway. He hangs on like the entrenched Japanese (that may not be the most PC comparison but I just saw "The Pacific" and believe me, it's an apt one), whispering to me to stay in the car and maybe just go home and forget this stupid race because it's windy and cold and running 5Ks the way they are supposed to be run hurts.
The wuss whispers to me during the race, too, for me to slow down, just relax and enjoy it, why even bother running this hard in a stupid little event before the Super Bowl. I used to call this the troll, but I've learned to silence the troll for the most part, and now that is just a tiny little voice suggesting it every once in a while rather than insisting. Now it's the wuss.
The wuss is what keeps me from being better, getting out there and achieving PRs, like the one I ran Sunday (21:25 for a non-sea-level 5K). It's a constant struggle, but I'm learning to enjoy leaving my cocoon, spreading my wings and flying.