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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

NYC marathon-the build!

   Marathon weekend has come and gone, so where to start?  Well, I think the logical place for me (and my inability to ever stay within page limits), is with a little reflection on my training approach heading into the race.  When I originally signed up for this race, I think I only had my first marathon under my belt, had gotten shut out of Boston, and wanted to run a big city marathon.  I knew NYC wasn't the fastest marathon course ever, but after watching the likes of Kara Goucher and Shalane Flanagan on TV coverage over the past couple of years, I was intrigued more by the experience than the actual thought of running a good marathon.  Then, in early February, the Tallahassee marathon happened, which just turned out to be one of those races where absolutely everything goes perfectly- 45 degrees at the race start with no wind to speak of, a flat, fast course, a well-executed taper, good pacing, and just overall feeling strong.  Heading into that race, I had a marathon pr of 3:10, which made 3:00 seem like a reach.  I had trained a little unconventionally (marathon-wise)- two runs a week (one long run, one treadmill workout), only one run over 20 miles, and lots of supplemental long bike trainer sessions.  I erred on the conservative side in training, as too long of a run too close to the race had done me in during my first marathon.  But, as a result, I came out of that race with a negative-splitted 2:54, a time that I never would have dreamed I would be capable of, and something I feared I never would approach again.  With a marathon pr I was more than satisfied with, I turned my focus to the triathlon world for the summer.

  Fast forward seven months, and NYC had really only crossed my mind as something I'd casually mention I was running here and there.  I really didn't focus on it or think about it much over the summer; I was too engrossed with 70.3 Worlds.  Then, before I knew it, worlds were over, and the marathon was less than two months away.  I hadn't run over 15 miles since Tallahassee.  I doubted I could approach what I'd run there.  After Worlds, I felt like I was risking letdown in my next big event.  So, I did what any obsessive endurance athlete does: I crammed.  I'd been conservative heading into Tallahassee, so I decided to push the envelope a bit coming into NY.  Part of it was just that I felt like I had to validate my previous marathon to myself- after that race, I had kept checking back to the race website, expecting to see some message that the course had been mismeasured and was short or something.  So, I started running 4-5 times/week, up to 60 miles, with some swimming and biking- a mileage amount that's still very low for traditional marathon training standards, but was still higher than I'd been able to run consistently since, well, my first stress fracture six years ago.  My sub-18 quest sort of developed, as well, so pretty much every run was long, intense, or both.  I also had picked up more hours at work in order to cover for a coworker on maternity leave, so I spent most of October sore, tired, and borderline cranky.  But, somehow, I was still feeling pretty decent during runs, and somewhere in there, a switch turned on, and the fire was lit- I didn't want to run NY as a spectator, I wanted to run it as a competitor (well, competitive for me, at least).  I never really knew how to answer the "time goal" question- I felt I was fit enough for another sub-3, and hopefully better than that, but I had no idea how the hills and crowds of NY would play in.

    Then, a week and a half weeks before the race, less than two weeks after I'd reveled in how great my quads had felt during a 21 miler and several days after a 16 miler had been a struggle, I had my first ominous sign.  With one mile repeat on the track left to go, my quads gave me a twinge of the feeling I fear.  They were nearing their limits with the increased run distance, frequency, intensity, and general abuse I'd been putting on them.  I semi-expected it; I knew I'd been walking a fine line with what I'd been asking of my body.  As I've learned on several occasions, my quads are my weak link, my wall, whatever I want to call them.  At mile 10 of my first marathon, they'd started to go on me.  The best way as I can describe what it felt like was when I would load the bar for the last set of squats during college lifting and severely struggle through the final rep.  It was that kind of muscular failure pain, the sharp, something's punching me, I hope my legs don't give out feeling with every step of that race.  So, despite starting to feel a twinge of that, I finished the last mile of my workout, jogged home, and hoped that no damage was done.  Still, though, I kept feeling little twinges, even at rest, in the quads for the next week, with some discomfort towards the end of my subsequent runs.  I tried not to obsess, but being me, I'm sure I did a bit.

  But, despite the questionable quads, I began to feel more rested day by day, until Friday, when I woke up with a sore throat, headache, and general gross feeling.  Wonderful.  I spent the day fairly upset at work, debating if I just wanted to scratch the NY plan and run the Harrisburg Marathon the next weekend instead, given that Dave was already registered.  Still, I sucked down Coldeeze, enjoyed some sinus rinse (hate that thing!  At least my swim that morning had prepared me for the feeling of water up the nose), and kept my fingers crossed that I could fight it off adequately in time.  With that, we enjoyed some tasty dinner with my family Friday night, and after a short flight and a long airtrain/subway ride, we were in NY.  Dave and I stayed with former college teammate Jess Schultz, who so generously donated her apartment/bed/city knowledge to us all weekend- saving us hundreds of dollars and making the entire experience much more enjoyable; plus, it was great to catch up!  Saturday involved feeling very slightly better, although my throat remained raw and head somewhat uncomfortable.  After a stale-feeling shakeout jog, Dave and I made a contingency plan- aka, where he and Jess would be on the race course in case I needed to bail- 64th St and 5th, just after the Queensboro bridge.  Ironically, we spent so much time developing that plan, that we didn't realize until just before bedtime on Saturday where I'd meet Dave in the event that I did finish the race- oops!  I actually had begun to feel better throughout the day, too, and by bedtime, my "let's do this!" attitude was returning (not to mention, if I didn't finish, I'd have no reason to excuse the massive amounts of food I'd consumed that day).  With my race day goods ready to go, I was off to bed for a sleep-disturbed night, another sign my mind was back in the game.  And so that brings us to race day- which I'll tackle on another post!


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