Less than two weeks to go, and I'm now struggling with wanting the summer to last forever, but also kind of looking forward to being back on a regular schedule again.
Luckily, fall in New England can bring some of the most beautiful weather of the year, so the boys will be back in school all day and we'll also (hopefully) still be able to be outside doing all sorts of fun activities on the weekends, so we'll get the best of both worlds.
We're going to eke out every last bit of summer fun that we can in this final week and a half, though. Tomorrow's plan is the Washington County Fair with Grammy and Grampy, which will be a great time, as always.
And today, even though it was cloudy and on the cool side, we went to the beach, and it was one of the most fun beach days we've had all summer. I love how quiet it is on cloudy days - no crowds to deal with, and tons of space for the kids to run around.
There's been a touch of fall in the air on the cooler days we've had lately - especially in the mornings. And I have to admit, I am enjoying the drier air and cooler temps when it comes to running. I know there' will still be more warm and humid air to contend with, but a small respite here and there has been very refreshing.
Those cooler, more comfortable temperatures, combined with me finally (finally!) feeling like I've bounced back from my super hectic month of July racing, has translated into some of the best runs I've had in a long time.
This past weekend's long run was only 13 miles, but at a much faster pace than I'd typically do a long run - 8:39. But I did it, and I felt great - even managed to run 5 seconds per mile faster than planned!
And my last two track workouts have gone really well, too. Last week was 6 x 800, and I was well under my goal pace for all but one of the intervals. Today's workout was 12 x 400, at 1:39, and I was thrilled to be either on or slightly below target for every single one of those 12 intervals.
Nothing like a few really good runs to bring your confidence levels back up!
This marathon training experience has been vastly different from my last one, though. Last time I was training just to complete the distance. It still felt all-consuming, and I still put in the miles, but it was nowhere near as difficult as this plan. Not surprising, given that I'm trying to run those same 26.2 miles a full 35 minutes faster than I did the first time around. Not surprising at all, but still eye-opening.
Physically the workouts are much more challenging, and I've noticed that each time I start a run, I need a few minutes to get warmed up, which is something I've never really felt before. I used to be one of those people who would literally hit the ground running - no warmup needed, no sluggishness to shake off in the first mile.
But I think now that I'm pushing myself so much harder with every run, it's a little bit harder to bounce back and recover from these workouts, and those first few minutes warming up is part of that process.
But way more difficult than the physical challenges are the mental and emotional challenges.
After I ran that first marathon a few years ago, I remember telling people that the training was so much harder than the race itself, and now I stand by that statement more than ever.
I know running the race in October is going to be hard - no doubt about it - but getting through these 16 weeks is so much harder.
I'm approaching the halfway point, and I find myself experiencing so many emotions every time I look at the training plan that's hanging on the fridge.
At times I look at the track workouts and I'm positively frightened. Other times I feel like I can't wait to take on the challenge. Most times I look at the temp runs, I feel a little bit of relief, as those are some of the least stressful ones for me, although still tough. The long runs - when I look at those, I mostly just feel tired.
And at first I was concerned that I was getting too beaten down, too discouraged.
There have been many occasions lately where I've daydreamed about just putting my shoes on and going for a run - just for the sake of running. No Garmin, no goals, no training, no pressure. Just a run.
There are days where I feel like I wish the race was only 2 weeks away, so I could just get it over with.
And there have been days that I think about all the things that could go wrong on race day, rendering all the training irrelevant, because there are so many things that are out of my control, that could potentially go wrong, and could prevent me from running the race that I've trained to run.
At times, it all seems like it's Just. Too. Much.
But I think that's actually pretty normal. These feelings weren't quite as intense when I trained last time around, but they were lurking there below the surface.
And for as many days that I have where I'm feeling discouraged and sick of the grind, there are equally as many that I walk around oozing endorphins as a result of a great workout, and I can see myself celebrating at the finish line in a few months.
It's a lot of ups and downs, to be sure, but I know it's worth it, because this is something that I used to think was impossible, but now I'm on the brink of really making it happen - not through luck, but through hard work and dedication and perseverance.
So I'll continue to work hard, and I'll continue to deal with the emotional ups and downs, and I'll continue to have a smile on my face as I check off each completed workout on the training plan, knowing that I just took a few more steps toward victory.