I'm not going to pretend that I'll be blogging with any regularity any time soon, but my first marathon since 2014 is right around the corner, and there are a lot of thoughts all jumbled up in my head, and it felt like it might be helpful to jot some of them down, so the blog is temporarily resurrected.
Marathon taper always messes with your head a little, but what's made this 26.2 even more challenging is that I was supposed to run it a month ago. But instead of running the PR (sub-8:00 pace) I had hoped for on April 15 in Newport, I was barely able to eke out 6 miles at an 8:30 pace that weekend, thanks to a rotten respiratory virus that had hit me earlier in the week and just wasn't letting go.
Making the decision not to run the race was really not all that difficult. I felt terrible, and I knew I'd feel awful the whole time I was running, would finish far slower than I had planned, and would feel miserable about the whole experience. Of course there's always the chance that can happen in a marathon even if you're not sick at the start, but it was virtually guaranteed for me this time, so it just didn't make sense to push myself when I knew the outcome would be the complete opposite of what I had been hoping for and had trained for.
If I hadn't gone through what I went through last year with my Boston training, I might have made a different decision. But to watch 4 months of training again be ripped out from under me and basically be a complete waste - I just couldn't go through that for the second year in a row. I was confident I was making the right decision, and three weeks later, I feel the same. I know I did the right thing.
So, it was on to Plan B, which turned out to be the Maine Coast Marathon in Kennebunk. The lure of the beautiful location, plus the fact that I had two friends running the race (one the 39.3 challenge(!!!) and one the half), and the fact that it gave me a month to regroup and get marathon-ready again all seemed to add up, so I went ahead and registered and did my best to cobble together two additional weeks of training.
I did a good job keeping up my mileage, and even got in some mile repeats (in a horrific headwind) and a few tempo runs, and some more goal-marathon-pace miles. A very mild calf strain caused me to downgrade one speed workout from all-out 800s to slightly slower-paced 1,000s, but all-in-all, I got in two more solid weeks, and was more than ready to taper all over again.
Delaying a goal marathon by a month doesn't seem like a lot, but when you've already gone through the entire cycle of training, and gotten over all the mental hurdles, and coasted into the taper and turned your weariness with training into excitement for racing - well, it's kind of hard to restart that process, and to have it all happen in such a condensed schedule.
In a word, it's been kind of weird.
I won't say that it's totally messed with my confidence, but it has shaken it a little. And even before all this happened, I've just felt different about this race than I did during my training for Boston last year. Aside from a few small hiccups, and a handful of missed runs, overall the training has gone very well, and the runs that left me feeling confident and strong far outweighed the runs that left me feeling broken down and defeated. But I wasn't brimming with confidence the way I was last year.
So what I'm working on now is remembering why I should feel confident. Remembering finishing solo 20-milers with negative splits, uphill, in sub-zero temperatures and 20mph winds. Remembering fighting through track workouts that seemed nearly impossible - until I had completed them. Remembering mile after mile after mile run at or below my goal marathon pace - often at the end of a 20-miler - and how that pace came to feel so natural and comfortable, and how once I hit that pace, it felt like everything just clicked.
In my head, I know that I've put in the training necessary to run the race I want to run. I just need to convince myself of that. I've always felt like mental toughness was one of my strengths, and I still feel like it is - it just needs a little boost at the moment.
Throwing another wrench into things, though, is the weather. I've been stalking the forecast since the 10-day mark, and it went back and forth for a while between chance of showers and just cloudy, but now seems to have settled on this -
Not ideal, to say the least. The rain and the colder temps wouldn't be that terrible in and of themselves, but then you throw in winds of 20 - 30 mph (occasionally over 40mph), and things really go downhill.
Of course, it will all depend on whether the wind is in our faces or at our backs, and not knowing the course, I can't really say with any certainty which it will be, so it's definitely more than a little unsettling.
But there's nothing I or anyone else can do about it. Weather is always the great unknown when it comes to marathon day, and all I can do at this point is prepare with the correct gear and with the knowledge that I am going to spend anywhere from 3 1/2 to 4 hours feeling cold and wet.
I feel like my attitude at this point could be summed up with a giant shrug. Whatever will be, will be. I've trained, I'm eating my carbs, I'm hydrating, and I'll be on the starting line at 7:30am Sunday and we'll see what happens.
Which is not to say that I don't intend to give it my all, because I do. But given the forecasted conditions, I have to be prepared for the reality that my all may result in a very different finishing time than I had trained for. And yes, it'll be disappointing if that's the case, but 20, 30, and 40mph winds are out of my control. I'll have to be happy walking away knowing that even if I don't accomplish my goal, I ran the best race possible on the day that I was given.
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little upset, though. Last year's Boston training took a lot out of me - a lot more than the training I did for Philly in 2014. And this year's took even more out of me. Every year that goes by, these long, intense training cycles feel a little bit harder, and require a little bit more TLC and extra recovery. And I don't know how many more of them I have left in me.
I definitely intend to run more marathons (hopefully Boston among them), but training to run a marathon at an easy pace and training to race it are two very different things, and training to race this distance is really taking a toll on me (physically and mentally).
Part of me wonders if the 3:30 at Boston 2013 was it. Maybe I'm just not going to crack that 3:30 mark. Maybe there's some reason it's supposed to be that way. And maybe that's ok - a 3:30 marathon on a really tough course is something to be pretty proud of as an all-time PR. Maybe taper is just making me crazy, and leaving me too much free time to overanalyze things.
Maybe I just need to relax, lace up my shoes, and run my heart out on Sunday.
See you at the finish line.