Sunday, September 14, 2008

Twenty-Two

I headed out this morning for 22 miles in a steady rain. Last week I stayed consistently around 9:00/mi. for 16 miles, then tried to open it up a bit for 4 miles to finish up with 20, but ended up slowing considerably. I decided to revise that strategy a bit and go slower for longer - sticking to around 9:00/mi or under for 18 miles, and then open it up - figuring I might have a better opportunity for net gain, there, than in fading at mile 21 or 22 if I try to open it up at 16 miles.

The goals of the day then were twofold, and important: First, practice this strategy in hopes I can deploy it on race day. But second, and most importantly, know that this run would be the litmus test for just what, exactly, I can say my training has prepared me for come race day - the goal being a marathon time of 3:59:59 or better.

My running of those 22 miles today totally exceeded my expectations, and I feel like now the objective evidence is there to say the training is there to go under 4 hours. Maybe several minute under. I ran 22 miles in an 8:46/mi pace, a huge improvement from just last weekend - and I fought hard for last weekend's 8:58/mi average, but didn't have to fight so hard today. I still slowed when I tried to open it up - I finished my last 4 miles in 8:56/mi - but it's worthwhile to note that that pace, too, if faster than the 4 miles I ran at the end last week, and that today those miles came after 18 miles instead of just 16. I flew up hills today, having no problem at all and keeping pace where just a few weeks ago some of those hills knocked me to around 10 minute miles. I felt fresh and strong mostly all day, and really only felt serious fatigue after mile 20. Today, 20 miles didn't feel like such a long damn ways. But perhaps most encouraging, is that conditions today were crap. There was a steady drizzle of water coming off the brim of my cap all day. By those last 4 miles, where I slowed, my feet were so water-logged that it was like hauling hammers underneath me. God knows the conditions could be crap on race day - been there, done that - so I'm encouraged that I can force out a solid gameplan even if that's the case. If the weather is half-way decent...well, it might just be game on. If I can lurk around 8:50-9:00/mi through 18, and then have anything left to push where I can maintain that pace, or even juice it up a bit to the finish line, well hell. I feel like I'm in that sweet spot that I love to be in, the place that only hard work and discipline and determination and mile after mile after mile get you - where your training has you ready to accomplish your goals, leaving it just to execution. That's some sweet music right there.

Regardless of what happens race day, I felt really positive just about going those 22 miles with a sub 8:50 pace today. Without intending for any self-congratulation, I'm objectively a little stunned that it's become possible. I've said before - I have very little natural ability here with any of this. I'm not saying I'm some useless hack or something, but other people, God bless 'em, are built the right way, or have the right genes, or weigh 155 pounds with a sick power-to-weight ratio, or swam in high school, or can clock out sub 6:00 miles in a 5k. I am not that guy, I never have been. Every inch of improvement I get is because I had to bust my ass to get it, and that's the one thing I suppose I can feel some self-assurance of - I am willing to bust my ass. I am willing to be sick determined, to be fiercely disciplined to at least try, to at least push the limits of what I may be capable of. I'm not saying sub 9:00/mi is very fast, but a few years ago if I cracked a 10 minute mile at any distance over 13 miles it was jubilation (my 2005 Twin Cities marathon pace was 11:38/mi). For me, to have been able to consistently this season exceed my own reasonable expectations, to have actually become faster, and consistently so, to have actually redefined some of what my future expectations will be...well I have to say, that feels pretty good. To approach marathon distance with sub 4 hours realistically in sight would have, not long ago, not seemed at all possible. Wouldn't have even been part of the conversation at all.

Okay, that was a shade self-congratulatory. So be it. But let's hold off on the marching bands and confetti just yet, there's a marathon to shred in a few weeks.

So - commence taper. I'm racing a tiny local 5k next weekend for a speed workout, I think, and then I'll rock 13 easy miles next Sunday. Still a serious tempo run this week, and I'm not on cruise control or anything. But I'll start to shift gears now as Oct. 5th approaches. Good to have that last long run behind me. Good even that it was in tough conditions today. All of this, no microcosm - these miles are part of the further forging. It is, after all, only 364 more shopping days until game time.

4 comments:

TriSaraTops said...

You always seem to say just what I'm thinking.

Gotta feeling we're both gonna have good days...and it feels good, don't it?

:)

Borsch said...

Wow....you are totally kicking training's ass!

You have put in the work and are going to crack that 4 hour mark! I'll be 20-30 min behind you!

Anonymous said...

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Diddy

galeano said...

Hey Chris

Hello from OZ - great reports and I'm thinking of Wiscosin in 2009 but I am afraid that Barbara isn't.

We are now talking of IM NZ or China in 2010 as my next and fifth. In the meantime a half IM looms on 5 Oct on the Gold Coast, Noosa Tri the month after and the Tri season is then in full swing right through until February.

Stay safe, train hard and enjoy life

Richard G