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.