Sunday, April 10, 2011

The last 20

I ran down the steep hill near the country road and thought about turning right to head back home. But I looked at my GPS and wasn't sure I would have enough to get to 10 miles.
I needed the 10, according to the marathon plan, and I wanted all of it, given that this was the last big weekend before I would start to taper. You gain more in the last mile than you do in the first nine. So I didn't want to leave it, and yet, I also didn't want to run around the block twice to get whatever leftovers I'd need. Making up miles at the end of a run, when your route is finished, is like waiting until 6 a.m. to open Christmas presents, and then your parents walking in your room at 5:59 a.m. and telling you you'll have to wait until 7 a.m.
I wondered what to do.
Then I saw the tree and smiled.
The tree was a marker six or seven years ago. When I began running, I would park my car at the nearby Poudre Learning Center and take off down the Poudre Trail. At the tree, I'd stop and turn around.
The run was, maybe, 20 minutes.
It was enough back then.
It was almost more than enough.
This is not an inspirational story. I didn't have a disease. I wasn't overweight. I was even, by all accounts, in shape, a mountain climber. But I could barely run three miles. I was out of breath as soon as I began. I flopped around like a penguin. I didn't even enjoy it very much.
Yet I always made it out to the tree and back.
Today I got up with the wind blowing. I knew it would be cold and maybe even rainy as the ground was wet. I peeked out my window and wrinkled my nose. This was exactly the kind of day I used to skip. But I had 20 miles to do today. Again, it was my last big day. The 20s are more important than any other run in a marathon plan. They reassure you, more than anything, that it IS possible to cover 26 miles and run for four hours.
Running a marathon is not magic. It merely means doing the miles.
So Saturday I was putting in my last 10 before the 20 the next day. I like running these miles at race pace. It trains you to feel what the pace you want to run, so you're not staring at your stopwatch at the race. You're worried about your hydration, other runners, that spot between your thighs that is starting to chafe, your rumbling tummy (is it hungry, about to explode, or just distressed), your nipples falling off, the heat, the location of the next aid station and how far you've got to go before this fucking thing is over.  You don't need to worry about your pace.
Plus it makes you a bit tired for the next day's 20. That's what you want. That's the only way to try to mimic what the last six feels like during the marathon.
I'm paying for the weekend now. I'm tired. It hurts a bit to get up. My feet are pissed.
But I like that feeling. I'll sleep well tonight. Part of the reason was Saturday I did run out to the tree again. As it turns out, I didn't need it at all. I went over by a mile.
From that intersection, it was about a half-mile to the tree.
I didn't need that mile for my training
It may be crucial for the race.

1 comment:

KenP said...

Live Long(er) and Prosper!