|Heading toward the finish. Photo by: Jim Glickman.|
I could choose to be disappointed about not running faster. I should be able to run faster than that, right? The thing is, I just can't be upset about the race. I placed second overall and won some great prizes. I got to hang out with my cool runner friends before and after the race and experience the great Sacramento running community. I ran 10 miles at about goal marathon pace on tired legs, and there is no better marathon training than GMP on tired legs. I was not at all trashed after the race--in fact, I ran another 6 miles later and did an hour of strength training. I woke up feeling great this morning, too. How can I be disappointed about all of that?
I have a choice in which version of my race story to tell you. I can tell a negative version where I wonder why I am not racing well and why my times are "slow". I can choose to question my training, my fitness, my sanity. That version focuses on the negative of the performance without any context. The one that I chose focuses on the positive that came out of the effort and was put into context. The context is the larger goal--a fast marathon whether that happens in December or some later time.
I mentioned in my last post that I had been going back through my training from 2009 and 2010: the 20-22 weeks of training before the two fastest marathons I've run. While it is interesting to look at those training logs, it does not provide the whole picture of what I did to run those times. To understand what got me to that point, you'd have to go back a lot farther than 22 weeks. You'd have to go back 3-4 years. I had been building my fitness and training for those races for years, not weeks. Everything I did as a runner before those races played a role in getting me across the line fast.
For perspective, I like to think back to a goal I had as a runner in 2005. I wanted to break 3 hours for the marathon. I had run 4 marathons at that point with my fastest being 3:20 in Dec 2005. I trained with the goal pace of 6:52 minutes per mile tattooed on my brain for two more years and 4 marathons before I was able to run that fast. What's more, the first time I broke 3 hours was the first time I didn't have to stop and walk at the end of the marathon! That was more of an accomplishment for me than breaking 3 hours. It then took me another 2 years to get close to 2:50. Neither of these milestones happened incrementally. They happened in big jumps. I ran right around 2:55 for three marathons before I hit 2:50.
My point here is that training builds on previous training. That's why consistency and patience are so important. Sometimes when you think you're plateauing, even though you're putting in a ton of work, something pops and you have a spectacular performance. The key is that you have to keep putting in the work and you have to continue to believe that it will happen.
This has been my secret weapon. I believe I can run a spectacular marathon race even though my training and racing may not indicate that I should be able to run what I do. I may question my ability to run a fast 5k or even a half marathon, but I know, under the right conditions, I can run a great marathon. I prepare myself for it, and I let it happen.
That's not to say that I don't have my share of melt downs before marathons and work myself up unnecessarily. I do! I was pretty worked up before the Eugene Marathon this year because my training was so sketchy. I didn't feel that I had put in the work for the race, and I freaked out about it the week of the race. I especially freaked out the Tuesday before the race when I was out in the field for 18 hours, hiking 10 miles up and down hills all day. I threw my expectations out the window and ran the race by feel. I had done few if any goal marathon pace workouts at the pace I was able to hold in that race.
Experiences like Eugene and the other unexpected performances I've had reinforce in me the belief in the magic of the taper and of race day. You have to be willing to let it happen and trust in your body and mind to get the job done.
I think Journey wrote a song about that, right? Hold on to that feeling. You know you're singing it right now.