Sunday, September 28, 2008

Race Week: Twin Cities Marathon. Into the Unknown.

Well, it's upon us - finally. One week to gametime. The last time I ran a marathon (that wasn't part of Ironman) was in 2005. That was my first marathon, and the goal was just to finish - to develop some psychology for Ironman that yes, I can do go this distance. I finished in something just under 5 hours, limping into the finish line, my feet feeling like they'd exploded around mile 23. I lost 3 toenails the following week.

A lot has changed since then, of course, and this race is to be my other A race of the year, after July's Half Ironman. Instead of "can I finish", the theme of this entire season has changed to, "what's really possible?" I've had an extraordinary season. I've surpassed almost every expectation I've had of myself. I've trained smart, busted my ass, been consistent, and had a ton of fun.

But, here we are a week away, and this time I am limping to the starting gun. It's said that the most important part of race day is arriving healthy, and I agree. But facts are facts, and that's just not the case this time out.

I've struggled since August with Achilles tendinitis. It was bad for several weeks, requiring some significant changes to training. Then I got things to a workable level for several weeks, and had some critical long runs go really well, demonstrating that the training is there to go 4 hours or possibly under - my goal for this race, which is, for me, very ambitious. But in the last 10-14 days or so, the Achilles has flared back up. I don't know what exacerbates it, except probably speed workouts. In any case, I haven't had a decent run since I started taper. I've cut short almost every long run to lay off my leg, and my tempo and interval runs have felt slow and sluggish.

This has had a compounding effect. First, my confidence is crap. I feel like if I can get just one good run - it doesn't need to be fast, just consistent and most of all relatively pain free - it would go a long way for me mentally. But the last two times I've set out precisely for that last good run, I've walked home. While on my run, then, I'm spending too much mental energy on the damn ankle. Wondering if after 3 miles I'll still feel good at 4. Then 5. And so on. It's too long, and too hard a race, to spend precious energy - mental or physical - on anything other than just going the distance.

I can hardly walk in the mornings, when I wake up. I haven't mentioned it because it just adds to the drama, but my left foot isn't doing so great either. I have significant pain right in the arch - I don't know what that means, maybe plantar fasciitis? But I have to wear shoes constantly - at least flip flops. If I go barefoot, with no arch support, I can honestly hardly walk on either leg. My feet are making me feel like I'm 80 years old. It'd be no great wonder if the pain in the left foot is due to compensating for the weakness in the right ankle, careful as I've been to try not to do that. I admit that I'm excited to cross that finish line maybe foremost because it means I can heal.

Super funtime post so far, eh?

Much as it sounds like it, I promise I'm not over here feeling somehow sorry for myself. I'm just stating, honestly I think for my own evaluation, what is the reality going into this race. The lay of the land, as it were. I'm not 100%. I'm not even 85%. No attitude adjustment can change that. It is what it is. I think laying that truth out there, facing it and acknowledging it, allows me to then set it aside. This is that exercise. Exorcise.

So: To business. I will do everything required of me this week to go into the weekend healthy. I haven't run since Thursday, and shifted today's 8 miler to tomorrow, which I'll cut to 6. No tempo runs this week - after tomorrow, maybe one or two more 2-3 mile runs. I can't be sure if I've lost any fitness in taper for my abbreviated runs - I'm notoriously miserable during taper in any state - but I can't do anything about it at this point anyway. So I won't worry about those things I can't control.

I will race as hard as I'm able. I will start with my sub 4 hour goal as the objective, and I think I'll know in the first 6-8 miles how the ankle will hold up - that's usually the case. If my goals need to shift mid-course, so be it, but again - I'm not going to make plans for that, or worry about it. I'll stretch and ice this week, and I'll eat right and hydrate, and I will line up at the Metrodome in Minneapolis fully prepared to pick it up and set it down.

There is something important, and valuable, about facing myself like this. It is one thing to learn to face the monumental mental challenges these long-distance events present. I, at least, am continually trying to master that. But it is a whole other dragon to face when, physically, one is feeling affected. It is useful to Becoming Ironman - which is ever only a vessel for Becoming a Better Me, to have to learn to succeed with hindrance. To define success under such conditions. So is it in life, no? Sometimes there is a price to pay for what we do, and it's just part of the game. It's inevitable that we will, sometimes, approach The Moment at less than 100%, despite how hard we've worked. Sometimes, then, you just have to let it play itself out. Sometimes you ride the wind, sometimes the wind rides you.

So: Bring it, fates. If I'm required to personify this bum right wheel into some mind of antagonist in order to persevere, I will. Because I'm coming for you. I have busted my ass to get here this year. I won't be deterred. I won't be turned away. Sometimes it hurts. Well, no shit, did you think it wouldn't? That's what I signed up for, isn't it?

Game is on. Bring on 26.2.


IronMin said...

You are so strong...dealing with these issues as you focus on your goal. I am sending good thoughts your way for next weekend. Run the absolute best race you can on that day. That's all anyone can do on any given day. You are tough.

Borsch said...

I'm with are strong! Good luck this week!

Pharmie said...

At least you'll have some crazy farm animals out there to take your mind off the race for a minute or two! Can't wait to see you in a couple of days. I'll email you later...

RobbyB said...

Get a massage, stretch, relax and I'll see you at the finish line.

Alili said...

Run the race you are meant to run on that day, whatever that may be. You've done the work, but the time and effort in-now go out there and make it happen.

KodaFit said...

Good Luck this coming weekend!!

Anonymous said...

I agree with the self-diagnosis of plantar fasciitis. Sounds just what I struggle with. Do what you can, knowing that this is it - you can have a LONG break from running after this. Good luck. Look forward to hearing how you did.

richvans said...

Good luck this weekend. Rest Rest Rest that achilles - you've put in the miles, you've got the fitness. Not running at all between now and the race might be better than getting in a 6 miler. Trust your training.

Erin said...

Ouch. I know the hobbling of which you speak, and it isn't fun. But I give you major props for getting yourself to this place without blowing up, injury-wise. Good luck out there, and race smart.

Damn these marathons are tough, no?!