It’s not super serious, but with just two weeks until a double-header race season begins, I’ve been sidelined for a few days with a ankle injury. Two weeks AGO I went out and did some wilderness. It was an awesome, single-track trail run, with some challenging terrain. And an hour after completing it I could tell that my ankle had only just barely cooperated. Not rolled. Not sprained. But maybe a little bruised. I didn’t push myself for the rest of the week and it felt pretty much fine. Then I opted in on the group’s nineteen klick long run on this past weekend, and fifteen klicks in I could tell that my ankle was not fully recovered. I limped back to my truck after coffee and it’s been pretty sore since. Well, mostly. Five days later I can still sense that it’s not one hundred percent right, but it’s not hurting nearly as much. So the age-old runners question blossoms once again to the surface: which is more important two weeks prior to a race? The last long training run, or ensuring that an injury is completely mended? I think I just answered my own question.
It’s been a month, almost to the hour, that I stood in the corral of the NYC marathon staring down the forty-two klicks of inevitability that lay out before me.
Two months ago I was in panic mode.
Today I am feeling the weight of the race fading into the rear view, the recovery from the effort simultaneously not nearly as bad as I’d imagined, at least physically, but at the same time like climbing over a mountain of post-marathon motivation drain.
You put your heart into something like a marathon whether you intend to or not. It takes a conscious effort to reach into the future and plan every step, every force of will, every calorie consumed, every invisible wall. And then in a moment, after the most grueling morning of your life, you step across a line painted on asphalt and … it’s done.
You shuffle from the finishing corral, and just as abruptly the thing you have been building towards, yearning to accomplish, aching (literally and spiritually) to complete is just over.
So, your body recovers. Your muscles resume their average workload. Your time is no longer packed with carefully measured distances to accomplish. And rest no longer seems like a dirty word.
But your head is still out there, swirling, fighting to find a sense of that grand importance of accomplishment that you left back there, spread thin across the pavement. That takes, maybe, a bit more than a month.
The funny thing is that I don’t really intend to go that fast.
I got home from work, there was this window of rare opportunity for a run that wasn’t from the rec center or wasn’t sneaked onto the agenda at 9pm (which may as well be midnight). So I laced up, grabbed my music, and figured I’d squeeze in a five klick jog before making dinner.
That turned into eight.
And my pace settled into the low fives.
I suppose that it’s just the result of actually training. Those long, long runs. A tempo here and there. Scattered hills, but hills. The Oxford Step Fitness Program at work (what everyone is now calling the pair of broken escalators leading up to our office that I climb multiple times per day). The fact I haven’t had a respectable drink in two months. Getting to bed on time every night. I’m feeling solid. Tired, yeah. Worn out, definitely. Ready to just run this marathon and be done with it, of course, but solid.
I don’t really intend to go that fast, but then exactly two klicks into my run my watch beeps the lap indicator and my two klick time is a minute and a half faster than it was when I was plodding these same trails in the summer and I tell myself to just keep pushing because wouldn’t it be nice to have a speedy pace logged into Strava in about 20 minutes, and…
Tempo Tuesday.. even if it’s Wednesday evening in the chill of a early October cold spell.
Things sometimes come to strange ends, some predictable & others far less so.
I made a left turn last night as we were heading out for our run and at the last moment chose to go — dutifully? — run some hills rather than take the slightly faster, but less tactically important, ‘easy run’ around the south neighbourhood lake.
The sun now sets between when we start running and when we end. This is even more starkly illustrated while hills are on the agenda. I watch the fading orb bounce with the speed of our 400m hill repeat pace below and above the lip of the far side of the valley. Each time it gaind a little less height on our return climb. Each time it threatens to set permanently on the day.
The temperatures dropped in parallel, and we lolled back to the shed to discuss our mixed reviews of the evening announcements. One day ends. Another one begins. Strange days.
To be clear, I haven’t run a full marathon in almost three years, and since then –or, at least since starting this crazy NYC Marathon training — I haven’t gone much further than a half marathon distance. Or, at all further than a half marathon distance.
So, every time I creep a little closer to forty-two, a little longer on a long run, I’m setting a new recent-memory distance threshold for myself.
I opted to run on Saturday. I had a lot of excuses that I told people, but really it was because I knew I’d want a nap after my long run. Sunday’s schedule was not compatible with that.
Almost thirty-two klicks is, roughly, mathematically, a half marathon plus another half of a half marathon: a three quarter marathon. Jenn joined me for the early first leg, a fifteen and a bit slog around the lower reaches of the southwest city burbs. And then I slogged on alone, running another sixteen and a bit in a long meandering loop closer to home.
The wind didn’t cooperate.
My fuel ran low for the last few klicks.
And my legs resumed their pain of that all-too-familiar memory of lead-filled calves.
But I over-hydrated back at home, ate some food, and yes, took a pleasant nap in the comfy chair.
Another quarter marathon would have nearly killed me, but I’ll creep a little further next time, slog out a few more klicks closer to that final epic distance, and probably make time for a NYC afternoon nap on some Sunday afternoon all too soon.
My shipment of my custom blend electrolyte, run-fuel drink mix arrived.
I’ve been marathon training with this Canadian product called Infinit Nutrition. It’s yet another in-run calorie and chemical blend, but you can customize it to your personal tastes and needs.
So I did.
I won’t call this an endorsement. It’s just me trying it out. But I’ve banked completing the NYC Marathon on this little black bag of drink crystals, so that should say something.
The thing about marathoning, for those who don’t, is that your body invariably hits a wall of energy and nutrient depletion at roughly two hours into any physical activity. Your blood contains enough juice to get you through two hours (plus or minus) and then, well, you’d better either have a plan or a sit down.
My best hope for a marathon time is somewhere up in the four plus hour range. If you’re smarter than a bag of drink crystals at math, you’ve already worked out that I have a two plus hour window of calorie depletion to consider. I’ve worked out my personal fit and figure that I need to carry about 600 calories per hour of activity past the two hour mark.
Or, 1500 calories, to be safe.
Or, about 5 cups of this drink mixture.
My new blend arrived and the big step, prior to my weekend long run, was to work out what kind of concentration I could handle… y’know, taste-wise. So I blended it up per the instructions and took a one-cupper out for a short run. It was a bit of a test-drive.
A fresh pair of runners that are probably going to be my trusty companions through 42.2 km of New York asphalt.
Considering that Tuesday eves still seem like an unofficial run club night, it admittedly still surprises me that so many people show up. I always deep down expect that I’ll get there… and then find myself standing around looking lonely and forlorn, before striking out on my own for some ‘well-I-AM-already-dressed’ self-pity klicks. I even brought a pair of headphones, y’know, just in case.
There were about a dozen people ready to run this Tuesday evening, everyone with slightly different goals because not many of us are targeting to be running the same races anymore. Some people doing local halves. Others traveling afar for similar or even longer distances, your’s truly included. Still others are pretty much just done for the season and phoning it in… but at least they’re making the call.
So, I didn’t actually have a plan.
Well, not a writ-in-stone plan. Not a hell-or-high-water plan. Just an if-stars-happen-maybe-perhaps-to-align plan. And that plan, yeah, was to run some tempo. But –> ugh. I was still achy, grumbly, grumpy, tired from the weekend. And as we set out I wasn’t really feeling it, and deep down was submitting to the simpler reality of instead clocking some steady, easy mileage.
And then I warmed up. A few hundred steps into the jog, I warmed up and then clipped ahead at a strong pace. One klick. Look back. Almost two klicks, look back: and as I turned back to join the group on what would have been our first walk break, Ron, still pushing it, passed me face-to-face and barked that “there’s no walking!” So, my primal brain locked onto that motivational gauntlet toss and I cranked it back up. We sped off, and onward, forward, and fast-ward.
Six and some klicks later we were giving it, all-out, pushing and driving with a quick-step strong pace, and I was pushing my cadence up and down to a speedy, sub-tempo average, not-quite wheezily exhausting, but damn close.
Unexpectedly, despite my reluctant unplanning, we did tempos anyways.
Ok, so I’ve been really bad at tracking my runs this summer.
Work, stress, marathon training, life, and a big whippet-shaped hole in my heart. What do you want from a poor guy?
But run club started this week. No, not my run club. That started ages ago and (thankfully, and despite random setbacks and the occasional broken spirits) is a timeless rock in my flailing life. The run club that started this week was the elementary school club where Miss C has entered her second year of competition in the track-and-field division of the running-through-the-hallways-counts-as-training class of fourth grade extra curricular.
Wednesday was their first meet: a thousand kids, give or take, descending on Laurier Park for one-ish klick sprint races.
Last year, Miss C hobbled in near the back of the pack, more interested in the pre-race snacks than actually making a showing for herself.
But it was almost exactly a month ago when she bombed her first triathlon. Finished. Barely. Indifference followed by sullen disappointment.
I didn’t have much chance for a pre-race pep talk on this the first of the mass-start kid runs, but afterwards, after a finish so strong I almost missed the photo op because I didn’t expect her to come pounding around that corner at a full-on sprint towards the finish, she told me that she had actually, factually, indeed… ily set herself a goal. She pumped it up inside her head. She didn’t really even tell anyone, but then primed her little heart towards the effort, and… sub-100th… or a damn-spot better than she ever showed in her short life previously. She was proud. Dad was proud. Everyone was proud.
I let that pride bubble over and dragged my reluctant butt out for a late-evening run, pushed my own speed a bit faster than I felt like so near to bedtime, and figured I may as well start blogging these runs again.
A little kid-spiration for a chilly September night.
I’ve settled on my fuel plan for New York. I’ve been training with this product called Infinit Nutrition, trying out a couple of their sport drink blends on my longer runs (which are now consistently up in the high twenties for distance.) My completely unscientific assessment is that (a) I’m feeling better between runs (recovery) than I remember feeling between runs last time and (b) they don’t give me the gurgles in my tum-tum. On that anecdotal evidence alone, I ordered a customized formula from their website, tweaking the mix to what I think I need to balance out the last few nagging doubts in my training for the home stretch, and bring it home to the NYC finish line in November. The only thing that’s got me worried now is what kind of documentation I might need to carry a small bag of white powder across the border later this year. It’s sports drink. No… really.
I don’t know what it says about my training, or what it leaves out, but y’know how I track my annual goal distance for running each year and keep apprised of if I’m ahead or behind? Well, simply, I’m ahead. And officially, if I check forward a couple months (because I AM a couple months ahead) technically… just merely technically… I could skip any and all runs between now and New York, and (assuming I could still run NYC) never dip into the red on my annual tally. It’s just math, but that’s a comfortable mental space to be training in at the moment.
It felt like a good training weekend. I have been looking down the barrel at this approaching marathon –just over two months to go– and realizing that I need to start, actually start not just plan to start, cranking up my distance. So I went out on Friday morning (day off) and planning to run about 15 klicks, detoured and ended with a sprint a few blocks from my house at a solid twenty-one point one. Sunday, I was anticipating a bunch of post-marathon washouts from my crew, but Mary followed me for a mid-distance adventure and we trolled a half dozen bridges and clocked a solid twenty-three (though my watch blipped and erased the last three hundred meters!) Two halves, made for just over a full marathon over the weekend. Central Park in November doesn’t feel quite as unreachable this morning.