A Tale of Two Runs (and other randomness)

Today was a big day: 22 miles.  More significantly, today was the last of the big runs.  Although there are still three weeks until the marathon, from here on out I am tapering my runs — lowering both mileage and intensity each week so that come marathon Sunday I am recovered and rested.  It was a tough run, I felt really good for most of it but somewhere between miles 14 and 15, the cumulative mileage of the last three weeks just kicked my butt.  I still finished the run, in 4:16 — which translates into about an 11:40 mile, which is well under the target pace for long runs and only :40 seconds off my target marathon pace.

Last week, however, I ran 20 miles in 3:43 — an 11:09 mile — and that included a very hilly final 7 miles.  Today I opted for a flatter route and it’s a good thing, I don’t think I would have been able to finish if I had added the hills.  Not that I’m disappointed with today’s run — like the 18-mile Tour de Toilet two weeks ago, even when it’s bad — it’s still pretty good.  I’ve got my hydration and fueling pretty dialed in and my pre-run morning routine is fixed.  I could be getting more rest, but I’ve discovered Gangland and Lockdown on Netflix.  I think what got me today, apart from general fatigue, was the weather.  We had actual autumn-like weather today and I was wearing only my shorts and running singlet so I got a bit chilled, especially during the second half of the run.  Even if I had worn a t-shirt I think I would have been better off.  I’ll have to experiment with long leggings, long sleeves over the next few weeks…just in case.

At this point, my main concern is the mental aspect of the marathon.  Surprisingly, it’s not doubt that I can finish.  When I decided to try a marathon I figured that would be my biggest hurdle, convincing myself that “I can do this.”  Now, I know I can do it — I could have run/walked another 4.2 miles today and finished well under the 7-hour course limit.  I am well-trained….amazingly well trained.

The bigger problem, it turns out, is that from about mile 10 onward I get progressively “loopier.”  By mile 16, I should not operate heavy machinery.  From mile 18, I should not make any financial decisions.  And if you’d like me join your cult or commit a crime for you, hit me up anytime after mile 20.  I’d love to see a neurological study of what happens to the brain during a marathon or other endurance-type sport.  The effects (for me anyway) last well after the run — even now, 8-hours later, I’m still a little fuzzy and slow.  Today I forgot how to stretch after my run, I just kept bending over and crossing my legs even though by now I’ve done my stretching routine a hundred times.  Last week I ran a full mile longer than I needed to because I miscalculated my turnaround point (actually, I just didn’t trust the marked turnaround point and insisted I needed to go further) — even though I’ve run that trail over 40 times in the last 15 weeks and know the mile markers by heart.  I’ve had either Tammy or my friend Diana ride with me for each of the last six long runs, at first it was just to have my own personal domestique — but now it’s really because I need a damn chaperone or God only knows what I’ll do.

So now I have to add another goal to my marathon list.  In addition to finishing, not crying, and not soiling myself I would like to add “not to hallucinate or wander off the course and get lost.”

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