I think it’s because, unlike all of my previous marathons with the exception of my first, I really have no clue how I am going to do. This whole training cycle–heck, this whole year–has just been too unpredictable for words. And even though the Runner’s World Predictor has me finishing at a slow, yet respectable, 4:14, I honestly don’t know if that may too slow or too ambitious for my current fitness level.
Something tells me this marathon is going to be even more of an adventure than the previous eight.
Since my last blog, training has gone reasonably well. With the exception of blowing off a couple of easy runs, I have completed all of my workouts and managed to log the equivalent of 50 miles for all but two of the last eight weeks. Tempo run times have progressed, though they have dropped of in the last two weeks.
But I have been doing a lot of cross-training–about a third of my 70-odd workouts so far have been on a stationary or a road bike–and I am still not sure exactly how well it will prepare me for the big day. I am also constantly fatigued, which is fairly normal for this point in the program, but the good news is that the injury to my left leg, which I finally discovered is an IT band issue, is getting better.
To add to the confusion, my warm-up race, the Rochester Half Marathon, was successful, but it didn’t yield the insights or answers I was looking for.
Part of the reason for that involves my … ahem … dubious preparation for the race the day before. (Aspiring half marathoners please note: a 45-mile bicycle ride 24-hours prior to your race WILL affect your performance.) As enjoyable as it was to accompany Tessa around Kueka Lake, riding in the Tour de Teddi to raise money for my good friend Wendy Mervis and Camp Good Days, I knew that I would pay for it the following day.
For one thing, I rode a borrowed hybrid bike for the occasion. It was heavy and not really set up for my size, so I felt like the machine was fighting me rather than helping me every mile of the way. And when we made the turn north out of Hammondsport into a biting headwind, I knew my goose would be cooked for the half. Still, we finished the ride strongly, and I remained optimistic for a sub-two hour finish on the Sunday morning.
That optimism quickly vanished over first three miles of the race, however. I struggled to nail a 9 min/mile pace and could not get any kind of groove going. Even the easy downhill stretch of the Genesee River Trail didn’t help, and as we reached the boardwalk section, I felt like my time was going to suffer accordingly.
Then something unusual happened that probably saved me. The boardwalk–a beautiful mile-long section of the trail that actually goes over the river itself–is only about twelve feet wide, just wide enough for three or four runners to run abreast. When I got there, the four-hour marathon and two-hour half-marathon pace groups who were running just ahead of me bottlenecked the trail, and I was forced to slow my pace and fall in behind them. I fell into their cadence, my heart rate went down, and by the time we picked the paved trail up again, I felt more like my old self.
The Thomas Avenue hill presented no problems after that, and after a quick hug from Tessa I fell in with a runner named Zach who was attempting his first ever full marathon. We chatted for about a mile, and I had fun being the experienced old guy, talking about gels and pacing and all the stuff you can only really learn through experience. He was being sensible conserving energy, and on any other day I would have been more than able to keep up with him, but the Tour de Teddi was taking its toll and we parted ways around mile nine.
From there to the finish line was pretty comfortable. Even the nasty little incline on Brewer Street just before mile twelve came and went without incident, and I finished strongly though just outside my two-hour goal.
Five weeks on, and this afternoon I finished my last hard workout for the program. Same distance, slightly easier route, about a minute faster. The Runner’s Word predictor looks like it is holding true.
It’s going to take everything I’ve got to coax this old body into finishing the year with a sub-four time.
Have you played the Flat-Footed Fox MCM Predictor Challenge yet? It’s easy! Just click on the link, guess my time for the Marine Corps Marathon and if you have the closest guess, you’ll win $50 for the charity of your choice.