Friday, October 31, 2014

As I finish training

Marathon training is complete - Now there are only 8 days and 26.2 miles until I am a marathon finisher.

Spreading Halloween cheer in the first mile
Today I ran my last long training run. I expected it to be awesome like my last long run, and I was humbled. It was tough. I thought I had my act together, but I really did not fuel the right way the night before, so I felt like I was dragging through the entire 17 mile run.  The upshot is that I know I can make it through when I feel like there isn't anything in the tank, which I suspect will be the final 6 miles or so.

Today's run felt like what I was expecting with my previous 17 miler - tired, achy, and pushing to get through. But that's not what I experienced last time, so I know that if I prepare properly, it doesn't have to be like that. And I don't expect that it will. I know to fuel properly in the days preceding the race, and I will be pumped up by the energy of the event and running with others, so I am not worried.

I wish that today's run had been more exhilarating, but it was a fresh, cool day, and as I traveled to and from the park where I ran, I was moved by the fading fall scenery. The variations between the brown stark trees high on the hills and the deep yellow leaves still clinging to trees at lower elevations were dramatic. The ridges themselves loomed up so impressively that as I drove by farms in the valley, I wanted to pull over and take a picture. And at one point, on a high hill driving north, I was shocked to see tall mountain peaks rising in layers on the horizon. I've looked at a topography map, and although they seem impossibly far away, I can only conclude that those peaks were the Catskills (which, as the crow flies, are much closer than I thought).

And so, even though it wasn't the best run of my training cycle, I changed, ate, stretched, and smiled. I'm almost there!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Just run

I'd been worried about my ability to finish the upcoming Stone Cat Trail Marathon. My left knee had been hurting for 3 months, and most of that time had been spent cycling instead of running. 26.2 was very daunting, especially when I knew that I'd have to let go of the goals I had envisioned when I first signed up for the race.

I set out for a 17-mile trail run last Sunday knowing how important it was to get some long miles in, and I intended to do them whether my knee hurt or not. I knew the route I was going to take, and I just went out and ran.

What happened out there was the restoration of my confidence. I had a rough half hour or so with cramps and nausea, during which I slowed down and walked a bit, but that did not greatly affect the rest of the run. I kept going, and my knees did not hurt. I wasn't thinking about pace and route and whether or not I'd come across any bears. I was just running, and that was so comfortable.

The farthest I had ever run thus far had been 13 miles, and the farthest I had hiked was 15. The 15-mile mark in this run was on a dirt road lined with trees that still held onto some brightly colored leaves. It was late in the afternoon, and the sun was shining through the leaves illuminating the colors. And then I did it - I crossed an imaginary line representing the farthest distance I had ever traveled, and it was an exhilarated jaunt back to the parking lot from there for a total of 17 miles in 3 hours and 23 minutes.

Feeling good after 15 miles!
After this run, I know that I will be able to finish the marathon. It may not be as comfortable as this run was, but I know that there's a rhythm that my legs will fall into, and I just have to run, and it will be good.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Spots of Time

There are in our existence spots of time,
That with distinct pre-eminence retain
A renovating virtue, whence--depressed
By false opinion and contentious thought,
Or aught of heavier or more deadly weight,
In trivial occupations, and the round
Of ordinary intercourse--our minds
Are nourished and invisibly repaired;
A virtue, by which pleasure is enhanced,
That penetrates, enables us to mount,
When high, more high, and lifts us up when fallen
~William Wordsworth 

 One of the most valuable takeaways so far from my marathon training is all of the times when I found myself completely immersed in the moment. When, cycling up a hill on a foggy morning, I'd look up and see the yellow-gold soybean fields stretch down in neat rows into a foggy cloud where barn roofs and a silo rise up out of the mist in front of a backdrop of green hills. Or hiking through the woods I'd feel myself moving through a bright cathedral of leaves, the overhead branches arching above the trail, and nothing else exists but the sound of my breath and the steady footsteps through the sanctuary. At those times, mundane or weighty thoughts are far away, and I can be fully present. And those times stick with me. Those are the spots of time that Wordsworth mentions in "The Prelude", the memories of which come back and lift us up when we are feeling troubled.

The MRI results for my knee showed signs of tendonitis. Now a couple of weeks after that diagnosis, I'll be starting physical therapy today, and hopefully I will be on my way to an injury-free marathon next month. Still, I feel that this is all a little too late. I expected to have been much farther along in my training by now, and even though I'll most likely be able to finish the marathon, I will not be able to pull off the performance I had imagined I could.

I will see what the physical therapist has to say about it. No matter what, I am so grateful to feel so fit and strong. I want to always feel so healthy. And when I think back to all of those amazing experiences I've had along the way, the fears about this one race seem pretty trivial, and I feel better about the situation, because it really is passing, but those experiences stick.