Friday, October 11, 2013

GUEST POST: Mac's Thoughts on Marathon Training

Hello readers of CSmithRun (and do other things with her life). I would venture to guess that most of you have no idea who I am. I’m the guy who has spent his summer trying to convince Colleen of the joys of track work. Subsequently, Colleen has spent the summer trying to convince me of the joys of long, slow distance runs – I don’t think either of us won the other over.  

Actually, I will share a secret as long as no one will admit it to her- I doubt I’d be able to complete this marathon without Colleen’s help. While I complained during and several hours after the two 20 mile runs we completed in one week, I know these will be instrumental tomorrow. This is my first marathon and prior to my half marathon last month, my longest race was a 12k I did in college without any specific training. I am very nervous about what is going to happen starting around 7:30AM on October 13th. But I’m also very excited because I have 26.2 miles of untold possibilities ahead of me. 

I met Colleen during a 14 mile run with the Old St. Pats running group. We broke off from a small group when they stopped to get water and, being the hardcore, never-stop runners that we are, we continued along the path without stopping. I soon convinced her to drive an hour and a half to a track near my apartment once a week to do some terrible type of speed workout that neither of us really wanted to do. As I write this I realize that Colleen then convinced me to drive an hour and a half after work to do speed work on the lake. Well played Colleen…

As I reflect upon a season’s worth of training for my first marathon, I will offer my lessons learned:

You’ll never do enough as you can, but often you’ll do more than you need to.
I think about this a lot and Colleen and I had many conversations about how we could have done more over the past 4 months as the marathon got closer. There are an endless number of things we could of done better: stretched more, eaten better, ran longer, ran faster, iced more, etc. But we didn’t and we don’t need to. Often life gets in the way and since we’re nowhere fast enough to make this our job, other things need to take priority and we must adjust accordingly. There have to be more important things than a fast split. But we’ve done more than we need to – we’ve done many speed workouts and tacked on plenty of miles prior to the marathon. Whether we want to admit it or not, we’re ready. It really comes down to our attitude on the race - is the glass half empty or full? We can look back on how much we didn’t do, or we could look back on how much we HAVE done.

Sometimes you just need to get the job done, no matter how ugly it looks. 
A lot of our runs have not gone as planned. We stopped several times during our runs to get water, stretch it out or just relax for a bit. Lately I don’t think we’ve let ourselves consider any of our runs to be good runs. But those runs were not the race.  We didn’t have to be perfect yet and nor will we ever be. I looked at pictures of my first half marathon and it was easily visible when my form broke down and it took all I could just to keep moving.  It was not pretty, but what mattered is that I got the job done (then proceeded to complain about how much I hate running for the next 3 hours).

It’s not the outcome that matters, but the level of effort. 
My first half was a month ago and I don’t think I’ve ever been in that much pain. I was unhappy with the overall time but I know there wasn’t any faster I could have gone. After we had recovered and I had regained the ability to stand upright, we waited for my friend Bryce to finish the half marathon. As we watched the runners cross the finish line I saw a look in their eyes that said they felt the same way I did. It didn’t matter who finished first or who beat who, but what more important is what level of effort did each give relative to ability. I gained a lot of respect for all runners at that race (especially when that Hailey girl flew past me and I struggled to keep up with a 50+ year old woman towards the end).  

Runners love to talk about running. 
I’m super into something called CrossFit and we get a hard time from outsiders about how much we talk about our sport. But I don’t think it’s anywhere close to how much runners talk about running. There have been several runs where I don’t think Colleen or I said 10 words but our running partner(s) told us every story imaginable of their running history. One woman tried to convince me of 15+ different half or full marathons I need to do. I’m just trying to focus on finishing one. I mean, you think silence is a common social cue for “I don’t want to discuss this subject further” but I guess not. Maybe it’s all them endorphins. Also, in the past 2 weeks leading up the race, I’d say at least 63.4% of my conversations have been running related. 

Everything tastes better after a long run.
Probably because we’re not running anymore, but even a month old banana would taste like …. well, something that tastes really good. After the marathon I plan to go to food with friends and enjoy a huge breakfast with beer and champagne. And more beer. And more champagne. Honestly some days the binge eating after the marathon has been my only motivation.

Tapering is miserable.
One of the biggest reasons I exercise as much as I do is to curb my energy level. I am known for being very excitable and energetic so I use exercise to wear myself out in the morning. Granted this leads to increased energy levels over the long run but it works for me. While tapering, I have significantly lowered my training which has given me much more time and energy. Not a good thing for someone with the attention span of a three year old. I feel like I’m taking crazy pills. 

I’d say the biggest thing I learned is, as cliché as it sounds, anything can be accomplished if you set your mind to it. Back in May I thought I was super tough so I went out and tried to run a solo marathon for Boston. About 15 miles in I started to break down and by mile 20 I couldn’t stand. Thankfully I brought a credit card to get a taxi back to my car. Now I can run 20 twice in a week and pop out of bed the next morning (ok more like fall, but still). I was pretty nervous before we started out on the first 20 miler due to what happened last time and when we went out to do #2, everything was easy. Sometimes we just need a little patience, faith it will happen, and someone to run next to.

So to all those who read this blog I thank you for supporting Colleen because like I said, without her support I wouldn’t be here. This marathon training has been an experience to say the least and I hope to see you out on the course.


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