Wednesday, August 27, 2008

This just in: Training for a marathon is hard

I had a mostly-solid-really-ugly-last-2-miles 15 mile run last weekend. My ankle felt better than I expected it would (more on that in a minute), but I still stopped 3 times just to stretch. It wasn't the leg that made me crash the last 2 miles, but rather just a classic bonk - I'd been drinking Gatorade okay, but had just a single gel. I also subscribed to the same strategy I'd worked for the half marathon - just run comfortable. This 15 miler was, I think, as far as I've run since Ironman in 2006. And I remembered that - hello - you kind of need to strategize about that kind of distance. You have to eat now for later. You have to go slow now to maintain pace later. Somehow I'd just sort of not taken that part seriously until the bonk painfully reminded me of it. Sounds like a pretty rookie thing to do, but really, this is the first marathon I'm intentional about. The first marathon I ran, in 2005, was to psychologically prove to myself that I could go the distance for Ironman in '06. The marathon at Ironman is a whole other thing in itself. So this is kind of my first real approach to the race to not just try, or see if I can, but really execute something. It's hard work.

Today I had a 6 mile easy run with a goal pace of 8:47/mile. I covered it in 8:21/mi, and felt stronger than I have in many weeks. I'm wearing a brace on my right ankle called an AirHeel, made by AirCast. I wore it for my long run last weekend, too, and I think it's offering some of the stability that I mentioned in the last post I was lacking - how I just don't have the strength to push off. It's actually pretty ingenious - there are two air bladders, one that's immediately under your arch, and the other that wraps around the back of your ankle, precisely around the Achilles tendon. When you put your foot down, the air in the bottom chamber pushes towards the back chamber, offering support and stability and compression to the Achilles - where I need it most during the foot strike. When I lift my leg, the air returns from the Achilles area back to bottom of my foot, offering an instant of stability and cushioning to the arch when I strike, before sending the air back to the Achilles. I wondered if it would feel awkward or annoy me, but it doesn't - it's present, but not distracting. Today's run was as good as I've felt in a long time - I didn't have to stop and stretch, I didn't have any of the sharp pains that race up my calf, and I was able to keep a bit higher pace, with better consistency, than I've been able to in a long time. This was all extremely encouraging. I have a light load this week - a series of 6-milers, including my long run, before I go 18 for my long run next weekend. I hate to say it too loudly, but it could be that my concoction of treatments and contingencies around the Achilles could be seeing some progress.

However, an intriguing thing happened near the end of today's run. I was thinking, just generally, of what might happen at the marathon - I have several long training runs yet before I'll have an understanding of what feels like a realistic race goal with all this Achilles drama for the last month. I was wondering if my original goal of sub 4:00 was still possible - and I still don't know if it is - or what else maybe would be more realistic. When I got home I saw my buddy RobbyB's last Twitter post, where he said about his last long run, "Long run: schd 15mi @8:20. Actual: 15 @8:25. Hurt me good. Long day of travel & dehydration. Need mental toughness & less excuses." (hope it's okay I'm sharing your world at my blog, RB). And it got me thinking - I've kind of developed an attitude of hey, I'm a little bit hurt, I won't push myself, I'll just get through it. And to an extent I kind of have to go with what I'm capable of, and if that's a bit diminished from the norm, then I have to work with it. But that's a physical challenge. I've been allowing that to influence me mentally. I think I've been settling for "well that wasn't too bad" lately. I wonder if I've allowed this stupid Achilles thing to be an excuse of some kind. Because it's hard. And sometimes I suffer. And that's just part of the game I signed up for.

So hey - no more talk about the Achilles, except where mentioning it clarifies the situation. This isn't going to be a "yeah, but that was the year I was hurt" kind of marathon. This isn't going to be a "if only I wasn't hobbled" kind of race. I've fallen into a shade of funk over here with it, and I'm calling an official end to that. I'm going to do my best. No excuses. Time to pick it up and set it down. This is, after all, Becoming Ironman.


richvans said...

based upon that picture - I'd say you need to get some running shoes. Oh wait, that's probably a stock photo and not your actual leg in court shoes and crew socks.

Borsch said...

IT sounds like you are out of your 'funk'.

I'll see you at Twin Cities!

KodaFit said...

Glad to hear the achilles is doing better. And thanks for the pep talk - maybe not intentional but it had that effect of me. I've got my first marathon on October and have an 18 miler this weekend as well - As masochistic as this sounds, I'm looking forward to it!

Jason said...

Yeah, marathon training is tough. I'm doing my second this fall. Just laid down 18 today....ugh.