JUST FOUR WEEKS TO GO UNTIL CHICAGO and my first marathon. With 20 miles still feeling like it’s my physical limit, how I’m going to coax out 6.2 miles more remains a mystery to me. I mentioned this to a friend of mine at Zingerman’s Bakehouse (a great place to go for pastries and running advice), who’s run 18 marathons to date. She’s confident that I will finish, and that the rush from the crowd and the event itself will be a big help.
The rest of my training has not been up to its usual pace. For various reasons (recovery from long runs, trips, work schedule, etc.) I’ve had more rest days than usual. Here’s what’s happening with the rest of my training:
- After nearly two weeks without a bike ride, I got one in tonight. Took a couple of miles to warm up, but after that it felt really good. I stopped at the LBS to drop off the postcard I just got announcing a recall on my new bike. I didn’t even know there were such things as bike recalls, but apparently my fork needs replacing. So they’ll take care of the paperwork and let me know when the new part is in.
- Aikido class restarts next week after several weeks of hiatus. Hope I don’t make a (bigger) fool of myself on the mat on Monday. To add to the excitement, my instructor and his wife are expecting their first child any day now, so it’s not clear who will be teaching the first couple of classes. But it’s a good reminder that I should sign up for the upcoming instructor clinic.
- I’ve missed several conditioning classes lately, and I’m beginning to feel the effects, especially during long runs. Too much is getting sore that hasn’t been sore before. Some of that is likely due to increased distances (18-20 miles), but I’m not bouncing back like I usually do when I work out regularly. The conditioning classes work and stretch the entire body, which keeps me flexible and helps to avoid injury from overstressing unused muscles. And the weights help retain muscle mass, which can actually decrease with heavy aerobic exercise. So back to class it is.
So, have the extra rest days helped, or hindered? I guess I will find out next week.
WITH ONE WEEK TO GO BEFORE CHICAGO, I am officially in tapering mode, reducing effort so I can save up energy for the big event. As my coach explains it, the last couple of weeks before a marathon are about staying in condition, holding gains made during training. Pushing harder or farther right now would only increase my chances of getting hurt. So my assigned distance was only 12 miles as our group headed out for a blustery run Saturday morning.
For much of the summer I have been running 16 to 20 miles on Saturdays, so it felt odd to turn back well before the route’s halfway point as others continued ahead. But I had been clipping along at a fairly fast pace, and I looked forward to a (relatively) easy run back to the store. And some other runners were also turning around with me, so I wouldn’t be finishing the run solo.
Shortly, however, it appeared that both my assumptions would be derailed. The other runners were more seasoned (re: faster) than me, and that combined with a hilly route meant I was tiring quickly and unable to keep pace. I struggled along and managed to catch up with them at the next water stop, but of course they were back running before I could do more than take a quick drink. I checked my watch: three and a half miles to go. What the hell. I sped up and caught up to them again.
I trained all summer so I could be one of the little dots of color in a photo like this next week. (Photo: 2007 Chicago Marathon.)
Something about being with a group usually energizes me late in a run, and even though I was now running faster, I caught a second wind and was able to stay with them until I broke off to complete my distance (they were going 14 miles). As soon as I did so, I got tired and sore again. I’m sure much of this is purely mental, and like many new experiences I’ve had this year, it’s something I will learn from and, hopefully, improve.
So was my run truly in the spirit of tapering? Probably not. But it was within my capabilities, and I will be careful with my workouts this week. I promise, Coach.
HERE I AM IN CHICAGO, getting ready for the big event tomorrow morning. Am I nervous? No way – I am pumped for this! My biggest concern was trying to figure out which trains to take downtown so I could pick up my race packet. It turned out to be easier than I’d thought. The hotel is providing a free shuttle service to and from the Forest Park Blue Line station, and the train got me close enough to the Expo, through the walk through McCormick Place was so long I was tempted to ask for a finisher’s medal just for getting there.
The last few miles were tough, but I made it!
The Expo was mainly booths selling running gear and various energy bars and gels. But what else would you sell at a running expo? Cars? Oh, wait, there were a bunch of Volkswagens on display in the middle of it all. Where the tie-in is to marathons is I’m still not sure.
The Devil wears Prada, but angels prefer Brooks.
The running shoe manufacturers were all very excited to show off their new lightweight, minimalist models. The “barefoot running” movement has really taken off, and the big boys are frantically trying to catch up with Vibram (of the Five Fingers fame). The Saucony Kinvaras I’ve trained with all summer are this type – lightweight, with less support and structure than standard shoes, and they are what I’ll wear tomorrow. I will go back to a sturdier shoe once the snow starts falling, though.
My official running bib. The orange stripe is the D-tag, which goes on the shoe and is used to track my start and finish times, as well as at points throughout the course (so there's no possibility of my pulling a Rosie Ruiz).
My final tune-up run Wednesday night was fantastic; warm evening, flat route, and a body full of energy. I settled into a comfortable 8:00 per mile pace and wound up leading the group most of the way. The faster runners also had upcoming races and weren’t pushing the pace, but I still felt a kind of thrill being out in front. (I’m also glad I didn’t make any wrong turns.) At the end, I told Coach Marie that I felt good enough to run another six miles. “Great,” she said. “Save them for Sunday.” So I did. I get the feeling I’ll need them.
For those of you who are interested, you can track me or other runners through the Chicago Marathon website, or by texting a bib number to 99731.
I HAVE SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETED THE 2011 CHICAGO MARATHON. Time was 4:11:54. Details and many more pictures to follow, but right now I’m heading to bed.