Five days until marathon number three. (wait, what?)

Somehow I blinked and the last month of training went by. – well, no, that’s not entirely true; there were the usual moments where I thought the slog would never end, punctuated by another gust of wind, another half-foot of snow, another exhausted step followed by another exhausted step. It’s funny, now that I’m in the final week, I look back on all those times I wished training would be over, and now I think: as sick as this is, I’m going to miss this. I’m going to miss running on empty streets under a clear, starry, cold sky, I’m going to miss the delightful ache in my legs as I waddle to catch the bus, I’m going to miss that feeling of oh yeah! when I totally own a run.

And yet here I am, in the taper week, not quite able to believe that a) I have arrived at the end of this journey and b) in a few days, it will be over. It didn’t seem real the first two times I did it, and it feels even less so this time, possibly because this is a much smaller race than my first two, and it’s very much no-frills, you-just-kinda-show-up-and-run-a-marathon sort of vibe. No cool videos or flashy emails to pump you up or give you last-minute info (the race website is almost literally text-only); no maps for negotiating packet pickup (you’re told to go to X hotel and ask for the race director’s room); no tech tees or finisher’s medals (you get an apparently awesome paperweight instead).

Having run two big, flashy marathons, I’m totally OK with this scaled-down, hands-off approach, because I think it’s done me the favor of forcing me to turn inwards for my motivation when the going gets tough. I’ve had a lot more “why the hell am I doing this?” moments during this cycle than the previous two training cycles, and the introspection has done my mental state a world of good. Not to mention that running through this ridiculous winter – full of relentless snow, ice, sleet, and more sub-zero-temperature runs than I care to recall – has toughened me up nicely, to the point where I laugh at myself from a mere 2 years ago who would dive inside for the treadmill at the first hint of rain. I’ll run through just about anything, at any time of day, and not complain too much about it. 🙂 I also know that I’ve had good runs, and bad runs, and everything balances out, and that when it’s bad, I have the mental fortitude to push through it instead of giving up. Part of me wonders if I haven’t subconsciously gotten tougher because I know it’s going to be a fairly isolated race experience; there will be volunteers and spectators, sure, but for the most part it’s going to be me, the course, and whoever of the 100 runners happens to be in my vicinity at a given time (and Saint, at intervals, of course).

So, yeah. I feel more than prepared, and even though I haven’t gotten into the rest-day part of the taper so I haven’t yet experienced the taper crazies, I’m glad I decided on a two-week taper this time instead of a three-week taper like I did for my first two marathons. I was going a little nuts running only 4 miles this morning and last Saturday, and 12 miles went by in the freaking blink of an eye on Sunday (not literally, but I swear I just lost two hours and was suddenly done), so I know I’ll be good and rested and ready come Sunday morning. And then, Monday morning…. sleep. Bliss. I plan to take two weeks off from any sort of hard running; I’ll commit to a week for sure, and then see how I feel the weekend after the race. I get to give blood again, about two weeks after the race, so I’m happy about that as well.

There is the tiny voice in the back of my head that says “you don’t have another race scheduled for the rest of this year; now what are you going to do?” – and I am doing my best to tell that voice to stuff it already and just enjoy the rest of this week and, more importantly, the race itself. And then, after that, enjoy sleeping in and take things one day at a time: reconnect with the world that isn’t running every weekend day at 8am, meet friends for coffee, go hiking, go on a bike ride, zone out on the elliptical for an hour if that’s what I want to do. Another tiny voice tells me I’m going to miss running and possibly even get a bit sad or upset because I’ll no longer have it as an organizing force in my life, but I have to tell that voice to give it time to work itself out, and that in any event, the next few months will be rather quite busy as it is anyway.

One thing I DO want to do, regardless of how I fit running back into my life eventually, is volunteer a whole heck of a lot more so I can still participate without necessarily pushing myself. Because the forces of the universe conspire against me, our local 10-miler is ONCE AGAIN the day before a goal race for me this year; it’s being run on Saturday, so I’m volunteering at packet pickup on Friday and early Saturday morning before I leave town for the marathon. I want to do more of that, especially when I move in the summer and join a running group in my new hometown (exciting things, but stuff I’ll save for a later post).

By the way, I think I said at some point late in 2013 that I’d like to run 2000+ miles this year. Given that this training cycle will push me over 1000 miles for the year thus far – I ran nearly 600 miles training for this race. Six hundred! All for a measly 26.2 at one time! 🙂 – and I’ve now realized that I’d probably have to keep up the 35- to 40-mile weeks to achieve that goal, I think I might go out on a limb and say: probably isn’t going to happen, especially if I don’t train for another distance race for the rest of the year. I’m pretty OK with that, actually, and I’d be OK with just beating the leading NFL rusher this year. My more important goals are threefold: 1) set a marathon PR on Sunday (but no pressure, self!); 2) volunteer in more races than I run; 3) rest and recover like it’s my job after this marathon, and rediscover the joys of other activities and make running not such the center of my life for at least a little while.

So, this is likely my last post until after the marathon. Wish me luck; I’ll be sure to check back in with the tale of how I destroyed my Marine Corps time. 🙂 Cheers!

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