22 April 2010


Off to bed on the night before traveling to California and the Big Sur International Marathon ...

And reflecting on the week behind me, and the race before me. And the training period.

I had hoped to run at 165 pounds. It looks like I'll still be under 170, but with more discipline, I could have made my goal. Even after it was obvious I wasn't going to get down there (and, frankly, didn't need to) all I needed to do this week was eat wisely. But my eating has been kind of obsessive, even as my running has been limited to the 9 miles of the final taper to the race. That's disappointing. I hope it means stored energy for Sunday!

I hoped to get lots of sleep each night this week. But when I have got to bed at a good time, my mind has been racing "to work when body's work's expired" as the Bard might say. I've also been dreaming - literally, dreaming - of the race. So, even when sleeping, maybe not resting as I might wish. But I've also stayed up too late most nights. (Witness the time stamp of this post.)

And now that so many know that I'm off, it's starting to feel like a more exposed enterprise than I thought. (Only myself to blame for that, as with all the above and below!)

So, off to bed. Tomorrow I sleep in San Jose. The next night in Big Sur, among the redwoods. That is, I hope to actually sleep on Saturday night. This thing is pretty compellingly exciting, and how I just hope to run it well and then enjoy it.

Then I can relax ... and sleep!

18 April 2010

Taper. Is that like Let Down?

It's a curious thing. This week had less than half the running miles as last, and an awfully nice bike ride in it. After the long ramp-up to my 18- and 21-mile runs - after the 52.4 miles last week - it was a curious let-down. Tonight I reviewed what I need to do in the next few days, preparatory to Sunday's Big Sur Marathon. 3 miles, followed by 4 miles, followed by 2. Three days of running, lots of rest.

And I find myself strangely out of sorts. I get that these weeks are recovery weeks. They are days to keep the legs going, but lightly; and to let the body build reserves. A respite to prepare physically and psychologically for an all-out effort. And since I've been saying all along "I am not a runner," I should be glad for this turn to the end of marathon prep.

But I miss it, and can feel that I shall miss it this week. I am thankful to have learned over these weeks, that I am really psychologically a cyclist and not a runner. I look forward to some light, but purposeful, bike rides this week. Next week, after spending a couple of extra days in California, I anticipate putting up the running shoes and keeping my bike always ready to roll. But I am already starting to miss running.

I think I've read enough to get the psychology of this. And having done just a little bit of distance cycling, I can anticipate (to some degree anyway) the ups-and-downs I'll go through on Sunday (no pun intended), and the vows to never do something this stupid again. So, I've stopped saying this is the only marathon I'll ever run. And tonight as I look at my lightest running week since before I began my official training, I am beginning to see that these weeks have shaped me in a way I did not expect.

So my goal this week is to keep with the program, eat wisely, pack early, sleep well, and finish the course. Then see what role running plays as I return to the beloved bike.

10 April 2010


I'm sure they have been around for a long time. But it was only after registering for my first marathon that I began to notice the little car stickers - "26.2"  I don't plan to put one on my car after April 25; I don't put stickers on my cars.

This week, though, as I turn the corner into the "tapering" mode of training, was a banner week. It began with a long run on Monday. The longest run of the training program, it was supposed to be on Saturday. Which was the day before Easter, "Holy Saturday," not normally a day I would get out for a supreme exertion. But especially not last Saturday - rehearsals with Easter musicians at 8:30 and 9:30; an extra choir rehearsal at 11:15 for a memorial service we were to sing at Noon. Cemetery duties and the family lunch. No, it was after 3pm when I got home on this truly Holy Saturday, and even if I had been unwise enough to try a run like this, it couldn't have happened.

So, that bumped the 21-miler to Easter Monday. Now, normally, and that means in the best of times, Easter Monday is my first long bike ride of the season. I have a nice 50-mile ride I enjoy as casual solo ride after a busy season and weekend as a church musician. So, it was hard to pass that up in lieu of this essential piece of the training program. I had been told that if I managed the 18-mile run, the marathon was "in the bag." (No one ever put it that way, but it's what they seemed to mean.) But everyone does the 20-mile run before tapering. 20 miles - that is where I can expect "the wall" on race day. I reasoned that if I could do 21, then psychologically I would have run through that wall already.

We'll see how that strategy works on April 25!

So that is how the week began: 21 miles. Now, the tapering period was to begin on Monday or Tuesday and end today with a 12-mile run. Optimally I would have had 2 rest days following Monday. But I pressed on:
Tuesday, rest day
Wednesday, 5 miles
Thursday, 10 miles
Friday, 4.4 miles
Saturday (today), 12 miles
My math makes that a 52.4 mile week - the equivalent of two marathons in 6 days.

So, now tapering begins in earnest. Today was my last double digit run until the Big Sur. And what a nice run. It was the first time all 4 of us friends doing Big Sur, ran together. It was "slow, soft, and flat." Illinois Prairie Path (flat and soft) east from Wheaton, and a 9:12/mile pace. Sunny, warm, and conversational.

I don't expect to see, much less run with, these guys on race day, but with their help, I am beginning to expect to finish and find them and celebrate.

02 April 2010


Today began with a 10-mile run. So, at this point in my training, 10 miles is fairly easy, and this morning was beautiful - about 60 degrees, light southerly breeze, somewhat hazy sun - enough to warrant sun glasses, but not enough to make things hot too soon. For April 2, a truly dandy morning to run.

My run was a nice 5-mile loop, doubled. The last time I ran this particular routine, was September 3. I had planned to see whether I could handle a 10-miler, before registering for Big Sur. But I panicked and registered on opening day, Sept. 1. So this doubled 5-mile loop was, in a sense, moot. Still, I had to do it; my previous longest run had been 8.2 miles. I ran it, went to work, and seemed fine. So this marathon thing was apparently a wrap.

It was fun to run it again today. I wouldn't say I've had a wide array of running routes in the months since. Through the fall I just worked in 5K or 5M runs where I could (more K than M). A week in Florida in November had the least interesting running, but the nicest weather of the season. I started my Training Program right after Christmas, and the early weeks were indoors. Which kind of depressed me. My first 9-mile run on a treadmill (January 9) was my last long run indoors. Man, that was the worst!

The Morton Arboretum has become my long run of choice, for the opportunity to get some variety in the terrain. I've carved out some shorter runs in a nearby neighborhood with "hills." And I still get my shorter runs in my own and a contiguous neighborhood. Anyway, it was fun today to return to the "test tenner" as I approach my last, longest run before the marathon. Nice morning, nice run.

It was "supposed to be" yesterday morning. But I wasted myself on a 14-mile run Wednesday night. Leaving the office at the end of the day, I completed a long loop home. The route included streets and unpaved path; long stretches of flat, and a long though subtle incline; a hilly neighborhood, and a nice shady long hill approaching mile 12. But it was unseasonably hot (upper 70s), and windy, and turned out to be kind of brutal. In a way my worst run yet. I ended with "black toe nail" (another first for me), and with my Karen wondering how long I intend to keep at this. So I took Thursday off, and this morning enjoyed the wisdom of that.

My final approach to Big Sur is about to begin. About 72 hours after today's finish, I will begin a 21-mile run. The last super effort in training. That is on Easter Monday - a day normally devoted to my first long bike ride of the season. So, there will be just a hint of mourning to the run, I'm sure. But from there, I begin to taper off. The last two "long runs" will be 12 and 8 miles, followed my race week, with just a few short runs early on.

Finally, running on the paths today, I found myself enjoying the run, and envying the cyclists who were out. Yes, that is instructive. My compulsions are still on wheels.