I jumped right back into training after the Syracuse Half. There was no recovery, just an immediate return to the work/run/eat/sleep/repeat routine. Although the Syracuse PR gave me some much needed confidence, with a mere 6 weeks to go to the New Jersey Marathon, I was beginning to wonder how everything was going to play out.
In those last weeks, the pattern of the Hanson’s program that had already been established kept developing: for every training gain, there seemed to be a corresponding loss. The interval/strength training was incredibly encouraging–every Tuesday night, I was registering some of my best times ever for a 15K, including several times under 85 minutes. On Thursdays, the tempo runs went equally as well, even bringing smiles to my face as I tried to keep myself reined in and get my body to understand the concept of even pacing.
But the long runs on the Saturdays still seemed very slow and labored. I kept trying to remind myself of the Hanson’s cumulative fatigue concept–that on those runs, I wasn’t simulating running the first 16 miles of a marathon, but the last 16. Most of those weeks, I had already accumulated well over a marathon’s distance in mileage by the time I headed out on those chilly mornings–more, I wasn’t exactly watching what I ate and drank the way I would do on the weekend of the real thing. So they weren’t a good indication of how I was going to perform on the day.
Worse, I was starting to develop a nagging injury in my left achilles. At some point in the first half mile of every run, and at uneven intervals after, I got a very sharp pain on heel strike that lasted 4 or 5 strides before going away. At times, the pain was very intense–I suspect it was some form of tendonitis, but I can’t say for sure. Even an enforced layoff over the weekend of week 15 (for a short vacation that had been planned many months prior) didn’t help. It was just another seed of doubt taking root in my mind.
Aside from that week, when mileage was well under the program’s minimum, I stayed with the program pretty closely during those last weeks. But during a high-mileage taper week (21 miles prior to the race, as opposed to 6 on Marathon Rookie), I felt my confidence slipping away. The specter of Toronto, of hitting the wall even after following a program to the letter, was still haunting me. A dream the night before leaving for the race of a Medivac helicopter landing in the street outside my house didn’t help at all, and despite some good friends reminding me to have faith in the program, I left for New Jersey very uncertain as to the race’s outcome.