A week of testing one's limits

This week was a challenge.  The good news is that I survived it and racked up 33.1 miles for a total of 249.3 training miles towards the Chicago Marathon.  And, a monthly mileage total of 112 miles for August.  Whew!  The numbers reflect some hard work this week, but they only tell a part of this week's story.

Today marks five more weeks before the Full and I have to be honest and say, "I think I am ready", but I would be lying if I did not admit to some doubts on whether my fitness/endurance is where I want it to be at this stage.  With two races coming up, followed by a 3-week taper period, there is really not much more I can do from a fitness perspective.  Where I am today is pretty much where I will be in October.  So it better be sufficient.

Why do I still have some nagging thoughts?  Well, the whole asthma attack thing from last week threw me for a loop, and my 18-mile run this morning was 'okay' but I ended up having to take walk breaks totaling 2 miles during the last 7 miles of the run.  Don't get me wrong -- walking is not a bad thing.  I kept myself moving forward towards the finish and I powered through those last 7 miles even though I did not feel very strong.  But 'having' to walk rather than 'choosing' to walk kinda made me wonder about how 26.2 miles will feel like.

I "know" that I can finish 26.2 at this point.  I have walked it before during the AVON Walk.  And I have been consistent with training, and have built up a good base.  So I WILL Finish!  The question is: how will I finish? Will I feel good and strong, or exhausted and dulled.  I want to be excited and happy and smiling when that medal goes around my neck.  So I just need to fine-tune my strategy for running this race to get the outcome I want.

Yeah, I would love to finish in around 5 hours.  Is that going to happen? I am not sure.  So much will depend on race conditions, how I feel, and how healthy and strong my body is on the day.  So for now, my primary goal is to "finish strong" and leave the rest of my other goals as low priority 'seconds'.

On Tuesday, I ran on the TM at LifeTIme and I just did not 'feel it'.  I wasn't in any kind of 'zone' and just couldn't get into rhythm.  It was pretty humid inside and I couldn't feel any breeze from the A/C where I was so that didn't help.  On Wednesday, I decided to redeem myself from my 'asthma attack run' last Friday by going out and running that same path.  And I did!  That 7.8 mile run felt great, and kinda made up for last Friday and the TM run the day before.  On Friday, I decided to change things up and did a speed-walk for 3.5 miles which was quite fun as I got to practice some race-walking techniques I received from a fellow WISH racing team member named Dave.  It was all good!

As I approached my 18-mile run today though, I was still struggling with some doubt.  18 miles is LONG RUN!  The morning temp was already 70F so how would that play into the effort.  And my usual group of 11:30-12:00/mm runners were not there.  Well, I went with a different group of guys and they went out faster than I usually run.

The first 7 miles were fast for me, during a segment with TONS of hills.  Of course, I let my competitiveness get the better of me so instead of running 'my pace', I let them set the pace.  I ran all those hills (which I was proud of).  But later I realized that the combination of all those hills and the increased pace, zapped me of energy later on during the run.  It made my 18-mile run much harder than perhaps it would have been otherwise.  I was the last person to finish the run and I was dead tired.

So of course, my thinking was "If these 18 were that difficult, what will 26.2 feel like? Can I really do this?  What have I gotten myself into!"

Well, after a shower and a meal, I started to put things into perspective.  All runs are learning experiences to help prepare you for the actual race.  My good friend Shari (also a runner) posted on my FB page the following bit of wisdom:

" The long run, when the planets are all aligned and everything is perfect and you think to yourself, "I could've gone even farther" are great, don't get me wrong - but they aren't a major accomplishment. It's the long runs when it takes all you've got to keep going - THEY are the ones that show what you're made of."

Thank you, Shari!  I really needed to hear that.  And you are 'spot on"!  I have been feeling 'tested' over the past few weeks.  It seems that things that could go wrong, went wrong -- asthma, lack of motivation, lack of energy, poor strategy choices, doubts about my fitness, gear issues, you name it.

So what am I going to do about it?  Well I am going to put things into perspective, tackling issues one at a time, refocus on my goals, and stay positive!  I have such to be thankful for, and many accomplishments over this past year that have led me to this point in my running.

  1. I have finished 12 races in 2012 (13 in 2011) and 6 of them have been Half Marathons  I never would have thought I would ever achieve such a feat.
  2. I have lost over 100lbs since last May and have kept it off.  Yes, I still have more to lose but that WILL happen!
  3. I have raised $2500 in the fight to cure breast cancer by participating in the AVON Walk for Breast Cancer.  39.3 miles in two days!
  4. I have eliminated the need to take medications to control my Type 2 Diabetes and am closing in my one-year anniversary 'meds free'.
  5. I have a wonderful network of friends in the running community, who combined with my family and church community, have blessed me with support, love, and friendship that gives me strength to continue my journey.

With all of these wonderul things, I can refocus and see today's training run as a learning opportunity to continue to prepare myself for October.  It reminds me that

  • I need to run "my race" and not try to impress or mimic someone else
  • I need to do more hill work in the next 2-3 weeks
  • I need to work to maintain a more steady, consistent pace focusing on my form
  • I need to develop my race strategy and test it on my next two races:(13.1 & 20 milers)
  • I need to improve my 'mental game' for pushing through the 'hard times'

WIth God's help and your support, I WILL be a Finisher at the Chicago Marathon.

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