10.28.2008

First day back

After an awesome performance at the Breakers Marathon I treated myself to as much chocolate, sugar-laden baked goods as I could find last week. Oh and did I find them. Between leftover lunches at work to cupcakes from a pumpkin carving party, I downed enough baked goodness to last me for a good couple months.

I also treated myself to a full week without a single workout and let myself sleep in everyday. This one kind of backfired because I still woke up automatically at 5:30 anyway AND I didn't end up stretching for a whole week. Now my left knee feels funny--tight IT band type of funny--and I have a nagging burden on my conscience about not recovering well.

So now that all that is done I'm heading back to the gym. Today I did weights for the first time since June. It's only been 15 hours, but I feel the soreness setting in. Tomorrow is going to hurt. Good news is that tomorrow will also be my first run since the Marathon and I'm looking forward to it, even if I won't be training for a race. Too bad it will have to be on the treadmill (it's dipping below freezing at night around here!).

10.27.2008

Greetings from beautiful Newport!

As promised, here are the pictures from Newport and the Breakers Marathon. This is a view of Narragansett Bay from the Pell Bridge. The day was absolutely perfect: blue skies, steady breeze, brilliant sunshine. You can't make this up.






It was the end of the sailing season, but the harbor was full of sailboats. From the very back corner of the harbor, all you could see were masts going on forever.






As we drove the Marathon course we saw on this girl sitting on the seawall strumming a guitar watching the waves come in. The view from Ocean Ave is stunning normally, but that day, it was positively breath-taking.






Moving along Ocean Ave while scouting out the course we saw so many mansions. Each one was bigger and grander than the last. Since we were in the car and there was a line of traffic behind us we didn't want to stop for pictures, but wifey was able to snap this good one of a mansion on the coast.






The building on top of the green hill is St. George's Academy for Boys. Poor guys that got stuck there--I didn't see an all-girl school anyway on the island. You can't make out many of the academic buildings here, but they're all Medieval style like the cathedral tower in the center. To top it off, you could see a soccer game being play on the gran patch to the left of the tower. I think I like this picture so much because it reminds me of Hogwarts from Harry Potter.






Fast forward to race day. Can you see the starting line? No? Well neither could anyone else! No marking whatsoever even though this is shot is point straight at it (the road is immediately behind the wall of runners).






Here I am being cold:






And here I am pretending to ignore it and heading off to the starting line:






Four hours later this was me:






Only because 10 minutes earlier I had done this:



video



At breakfast--does 2pm count as breakfast?--I finished off the meal with an Awful Awful at the Newport Creamery. Sooooo deeeliiiiiiciiiiiooouuussss. Notice how I'm holding onto the cup for dear life.



Master the short game

After writing my War and Peace length Race report for Newport this past week, I've learned one thing about blogging: I need to master the short post.

Wifey's comment when I told her I wrote a seven page race report was, verbatim: "Oh my God, no one is goign to read that." And she's right. Even I don't want to the whole thing. I took 15 minutes just to spell and grammar check it!

It doesn't help that everything surrounding a Marathon tends to be unusually long as well: long playlists, long training schedule, long long runs, long recovery time, etc.. I guess since I'm used to doing everything else running related in a long format the blog entries follow suit. Problem is that it then takes me forever plus a day to get a race report out the door. A really, I was just tired of waiting for me to finish it.

So I'm keeping this one short and promising more shorter ones in the future. Except for Gym Carnies. Those entires can go on forever and still be read word for word.

PS - It's so weird to not flag this post with "Manchester/Newport Training" label

10.26.2008

The run of my life

One of my things is that I like to document as much as possible in a race report. Not only is this reading material for the ones (maybe tens) of people who read this blog, but it's also a log of experiences and lessons learned. So it usually takes a week to crank one of these bad boys out. It doesn't help that this week I've been working 12-hour days left and right.

There are pictures and even a video that I'll get to posting in the next couple of days, so keep an eye out!

Pre-Race
After getting all my pre-race jitters in a post I woke up wifey at 7am. By 7:20 we were out the door and in the cloudy, windy, chilly New England morning--it was torn straight out of a Stephen King novel. The starting line was just far enough away that we wouldn't want to walk there (and I definitely wouldn't want to walk back after the race), so we drove over.

The parking lot was dotted with a few other runners. I love that instant camaraderie you have with other runners on race day. You don't need to exchange a single word, but you bond over the fact that you both know what you're about to endure. Even though you've never seen that person before, you know the struggles they've had and sacrifices they've made to get to the starting line. And you both know that in your own ways you are going to do one of the most physically difficult things a human can do. You are already best friends because of the long parallel journeys you have taken and the long race you are about to embark upon.

As we walked over to the starting line I looked at the skies. It was New England gray: perfect for runners, horrible for tourists. There wasn't a chance of direct sunlight for the next couple of hours, but the clouds weren't heavy enough to produce rain. The temperature was crawling toward 55. There was a constant breeze that made my hands icy. I busted out my gray long-sleeve top for this race and God did I need it.

The steady throng of runners walking up and down America's Cup Boulevard made for a bit of a confusing start until we asked someone that told us the starting line had been moved north about four blocks away from the registration tents and baggage check to exactly where we were standing. The only way to know that it was the starting line was the crew laying down the timing mats on the streets--no signs or banners to announce where the starting line was.

I started stretching, did a quick jog up and down the block (about 400 meters). I've ever done a pre-race warm up jog, but it was so cold this time that I had to, I didn't want to have to warm up on the course. It actually helped a lot because it settled my stomach and got all the initial kinks out of my stride.

When I came back to the starting area they called us to the starting line. I wanted to be close to the back of the pack, even though it would mean more bob-and-weaving in the early miles, it would mean I'd be able to keep a slower pace. As I handed my jacket off to wifey I gave her a big kiss and thanked her for being my #1 cheerleader--as she has been for every one of my nine races.

I wove my way into the crowd, replaying my race strategies over and over in my head. I tried to stay warm, but the thin crowd toward the back wasn't holding in any heat. As I checked the volume on Liam and made sure I was in shape to start wifey suddenly came up behind me and handed me my water bottle. I almost left it at the start with her! That thing is my magic feather, I can't run with out it! So I gave wifey another big kiss and a hug--and then bang! The start gun went off with out any warning.

The Race
Everyone was just as surprised by the unannounced start gun. The crowd swelled forward and then paused, as usual when everyone gets too excited to run off at once. As I crossed the mats I hit start on my watch and then play on Liam. "Proud Mary" started to play.

The first mile went through the historic wharf area of Newport. Think bars, restaurants, shops, and very narrow streets. You could only fit about five abreast without spilling onto the cobblestone sidewalks, so there were a lot of frustrated runners that first mile.

Mile 1: 9:36

Looking at the split my first thought was "that was really slow, I have to pick it up." But then I instantly kicked into thinking how the first mile is always the slowest and that my mantra for the first ten miles was to go between 8:50 and 9:00 per mile. 30 seconds was a small sacrifice in the great scheme.

The next stretch of course rounded a peninsula with a historic fort on it. As soon as you entered the fort grounds there were amazing views of Newport harbor, the Pell Bridge, and a handful of the houses Newport is famous for (the mansions would come later). The course skirted the coast of the peninsula before exiting the way we came in.

Then the course snaked it's way through yet more big houses on the way to the of the highlights of the race: Ocean Ave. When you turn the corner onto Ocean Ave it takes your breathe away (as if the running hadn't already). At this point the rolling grassy hills of Aquidneck Island give way the rough stone underneath. The Atlantic Ocean rushes toward the jagged shoreline, with wave upon wave meeting it's spectacular death on the rocky coast. The view goes on for miles and the intricate dance of rock and water is mesmerizing.

Even the Christmas themed water station--replete with Santa, Christmas tree, and elves--wasn't enough to distract from the view.

By the time I finally saw the next mile marker, we had been weaving along the coast, ducking between stunning mansions, for a few miles.

Mile 7: 53:26

Amazingly, I was right on pace and only about a minute faster than a 9:00 pace. And the best thing was that I was feeling fine. I had been concentrating on my breathing the whole time and, true to plan, pausing the music when I thought I was losing control over my breathing or felt the beginnings of a stitch.

Mile 8: 8:56

Finally, a real split. And itwas right on target!

There were some easy short uphill throughout the first 17 miles of race. I was trying out a hill strategy of changing my gait and stride, focusing more on the pick-up instead of the push-off. It was working really well because I was able to power over the little hills--which built up my confidence for the bigger hills later in the race.

Mile 9: 8:45

A little faster than my goal, so I tried to slow it down for the last 8:50 mile. But now I could pick up the pace a bit and finally drop the "slow the hell down" mantra.

At this point I started thinking about MY FIRST MARATHON EVER and how at Mile 10 I had gotten a stitch that screwed me over for the rest of the race. But here I was at Mile 10 and feeling great, probably the best I've ever felt on a run. I got an inkling about finishing fast, but quickly pushed it out my head out of superstition (i.e., if you think you're going to finish fast you don't).

Mile 10: 8:50

Ok, so I was a tiny bit speedy on these last two miles.

For the second 10 miles of the race I wanted to pace myself between 8:40 and 8:50 miles. But when I looked at my watch I was constantly surprised that not only was I able to get down to this pace after 10 miles at a slower pace, I was dropping them below my Half-Marathon PR pace of 8:41. It only made me feel better out there.

Mile 11: 8:47

Here we passed by the famous Newport mansions: palatial summer homes built by the Vanderbilts and their set. These houses were just jaw dropping, huge estates with amazing views of the Atlantic Ocean. And they were providing scenery for runners--I loved it.

Mile 12: 8:44

After the mansions there was a long downhill stretch to the halfway mark by the beach. I was feeling great, unbelievably great. I picked up the pace as I got to the timing mats at the halfway point (which was also the finish line). I looked at my time, realizing that I was only two minutes off my Half-Marathon PR. If this was a HM, I would have shattered my record. I was quickly accepting the fact that this would not be a repeat of MY FIRST MARATHON EVER.

Mile 13: 8:32

After the halfway mark we entered a residential section and I really started to pick off other runners (one of the benefits of starting way in the back of the pack). I wasn't even conscientiously doing it. I was just cruising along and the runners in front of me were getting closer.

Mile 14: 8:36

I missed the Mile 15 marker, but that was probably because I got a glimpse of the Mile 25 marker on the other side of the road and I had a minor panic attack. As described on the website, there were challenging hills at the end of race, with a sharp one right before the finish line. I was now coming down the hill and saw was "sharp climb" meant. Yikes! That was not going to be fun.

Mile 16: 17:07

Right about here was when I was really tested. After running on crested streets (is that what it's called when the roads are raised in the middle?) for 16 miles my right knee started to hurt. Not an achy, I'm tired from running kind of hurt. It was a faint pain that reminded me of when my IT band was tight and I couldn't run for more than three miles.

Immediately I thought of what I could do to ease/prevent/fix this while I was running. I moved to the middle of the street where it was most flat (also most dangerous because these streets weren't closed to cars). I also straighted out my back and picked up my heels, trying to fix any slack parts of my form. I turned off the music and just breathed for the next mile.

Mile 17: 8:34

By the Mile 18 marker my knee was feeling better, which was great because this is where the hills started.

Like I had done with the smaller hills earlier in the race, instead of slowing down, hunching over, and huffing through the hills, I was standing tall, picking up my knees, and staring at the crest of the hills. It worked beautifully--even if I was a bit tired after each climb, I would get a major confidence boost from powering through.

Mile 18: 8:45

My splits weren't getting better, but I was still managing to pass people. So I focused on that as an indicator of performance rather than the splits.

Mile 19: 8:45

I'm not sure how this course got so hilly, but I was really starting to feel every little bump and incline. Not to mention that this part of the course was completely rural, complete with vinyards, cows, sheep, and llamas. Sure it was nice and quaint, but it made for some boring miles. If the vinyard was handing out samples it would have gotten a lot more interesting.

Mile 20: 8:55

At the Mile 20 marker I stopped counting up the miles and starting counting down to the finish line. So now at Mile 21 I had only five miles to go. I reminded myself over and over that five miles was just a Wednesday morning recovery run and that I could do the rest of this race in my sleep. I was feeling good, but I just needed the hills to stop.

Mile 21: 8:57

I missed the Mile 22 marker, but I was trying to distract myself as much as possible. I was singing, I was dancing, I was trying to not thinking about the fact that I was 23 miles into a race and that everything in my body was starting to say: "hey, sRod, are we done yet? 'Cause we're kinda tired of doing this."

Also in this stretch of the race, some very nice people brought out their Halloween candy early and were giving out Snickers and Twix and Tootsie Rolls. I was so hungry at this point, but none of these candies did it for me. I was going to pass until the girl at the end of row shot out her hand with a bag of M&Ms. In a gut reflect (I don't think my brain was involved at all with the motion) I snatched the bag from her and shouted a "Thank You!"

Oh Jesus--chocolate coated in sugar? How did I ever run without this? Food of the running Gods.

Sadly, though, about a minute and three M&Ms later the bag just fell out of my hands. DAMN! I didn't stop to get what was left because I'm sure all the chocolately goodness had spilled all over the place. Sigh. But now I know to look for the M&Ms at race candy tables.

Mile 23: 17:51

I saw the Mile 23 marker, but was late in hitting the button for the split, which is why Mile 24 looks so fast. I didn't suddenly start hauling butt, even though the sign I passed that said "Just 5K Left To Go!" sent me off like a (low-power) rocket.

Most of Mile 24 I was coasting on the long downhill...until I dropped my Clif Bloks. I think this was a clear sign that the wheels were falling off the cart. First I dropped the M&Ms, now the Bloks. My hunger was just getting stronger and the GU packets I had won't cut it, I needed solid food to fool my stomach into believing I was having the Western Omellete and homefries I was fantasizing about. So I stopped, went back for the bag, and kept on running.

Mile 24: 8:15

Mile 25 was a bitch. No, Mile 25 was the crazy ex-girlfriend that took six-months to breakup with and who has now, five years later, suddenly shown up at your wedding and has an all-too-knowing smirk on her face. Yeah...that's what Mile 25 was like.

Here I am, finally recovered from the hills, dead set on the finish line. Everything is tired, but nothing is hurting. Then, BAM! A 125 foot hill that I swear is at a 75 degree angle. I don't know how I got over the hill, but I used my momentum, and I pushed, and I grimaced, and I got my butt over the hill.

The problem was I used all my energy to get over the hill and I still had 1.5 miles left to go. I was telling myself to move and my body would not respond, it would just keep trudging along.

Mile 25: 8:34

Still recovering from that last hill I took a bit of a hit in the final mile, which absolutely sucked. I relish the last miles of the race because I usually pick up the speed really nicely and make a mad dash for the end.

Not so this race. I knew I would be finishing waaaaay under my PR, so I didn't have an incentive to go faster than I was already going. Also, I had to recover from that last hill, so while I was trying to increase my turnover I had no gas in tank to do so. It was so frustrating to have such a great race, a fantastic performance, and then have it halted right before the finish.

Mile 26: 8:47

At the buildings cleared and I saw the final view of the race: the ocean, the blue sky (wait, when did the clouds go away?), the rolling hills in back, and the finish line. I locked onto the finish line and didn't move my eyes. I grimaced, I opened up my stride, I fast forwarded to the last song on my playlist--anything to get a sprint to the finish and end this race. For only a 630 person race the crowds were impressive and loud and full of cow bells.

In the final 100 feet I could see the clock: 3:50. Holy cow. I didn't know what that meant in terms of minutes off my PR at the time, but I knew it was way below four hours and that gave me the final surge over the finish. As I crossed under the banner I leapt and landed with both feet on the timing mat. Done.

.2: 1:31

Gun time: 3:51:01
Watch time: 3:50:25
Net time: 3:50:19
Net pace: 8:48

Post-Race

Since I didn't have any brakes left in me, I hopped after the landing and came to a finish in front of the guy with the medals. He put one over my head and I hobbled my way over to chip removal--discovering that my knees weren't too happy. Wifey immediately found me and was glowing and smiling and all forms of happy. I gave her a big, sweaty hug (fortunately she was wearing a wind breaker) and just stood there in her arms for what felt like an hour--half crying from the accomplishment, half afraid to sit down and experience the pain in my knees.

I grabbed a mylar blanket and some nice guy took the chip off my shoe and then retied my laces. I sat on the curb of the sidewalk. My knees were hurting. They felt inflamed, as if someone had injected them each with half a gallon of liquid. Everything else felt fine, but my knees, they were demanding some down time.

Five minutes later I was able to get up and get some water and Gatorade. Wifey busted out a jacket, a dry t-shirt, and a pair of crocs to change into--talk about an amazing wife!!! We got on the shuttle bus and headed back to the starting line, everyone on the bus exchanging stories along the way.

I was just beaming. I couldn't be happier knowing that I had just completed my most perfect run ever, and it wasn't an easy course, and I was able to premp stitches and IT band issues, and I did this all--ALL--in 20 less minutes than the previous time. I knew it was possible, but didn't think it was probable. But, it wasn't until later in the day, while I was eating the most delicious Mahi Mahi tacos known to man, I realized perhaps the greatest thing that happened (or didn't happen) during this race. I turned to wifey and said: "Oh my God! I didn't have to poop during the race!"

10.18.2008

The perfect run

Peoples: I'm too tired to write an entire post right now, but let me just say this--

I JUST SCHOOLED THE BREAKERS MARATHON in 3:50:25

Ahem, that's more than 19 minutes off my PR. Hills? Plenty. Headwind? Throughout the race. Rockstar? You're reading his blog.

I had that Awful Awful; as promised it was an awful lot and awful good. And now I'm going to eat to my stomach's content at Christie's. A great running and great food. Oh Jesus, this is heaven.

Abundantly detailed race report to come....

Counting down the seconds

The race will start in less than 90 minutes and I'm a ball of nerves right now.

Didn't sleep great last night, but got at least a solid 4 or 5 hours. I'm finishing off some food right now: peanut butter on a Portugese roll. Can I tell you this is one of the best combinations of bread and peanut butter I've ever had?

A million thoughts are swimming through my head:

I'm trying to nail down my game plan as such: 10 miles between 9:00 and 8:50, 10 miles between 8:50 and 8:40, 6.2 miles at whatever I have left. Although that is really just some arbitrary math---there is no science to it.

I have two mantras for this race. Number 1: "Slow the hell down--" this will not be a repeat of MY FIRST MARATHON EVER where I ended up running the race like a Half-Marathon and appropriately ran out of steam halfway through. Number 2: "Breathe in, breathe out." I've relearned that if I absolutely focus on my breathing, that I can overcome and prevent stitches.

The race course is spectacular. The sceneray is jaw-dropping with the rocky Rhode Island shore line and the opulent mansions dotting it.

There are only 10 water stops and that worries me. There should be at least one every other mile.

Wifey and I drove the course yesterday. The hills aren't that bad, but they come very late in the race. First big climb of the race (200 ft) is just after mile marker 17 (ala Heartbreak Hill). The only other hill that bothers me is the 100ft one at mile 25.5. The uphill will suck balls, the downhill will make for a nice sprint to the end.

I'm worried that music might be the cause of my stitiches because I end up listening tot he best of the song instead of my internal rhythm. I used to be able to overcome this, but I guess i lost it some time over the past year. I'll be taking Liam on the race course today, but I won't be afraid to pause him from time to time to make sure that I'm running within my abilities.

I am going to enjoy this race...I just hope I don't forget that while I'm out there.

If nothing else, I know that at the end of this race an Awfle Awfle awaits for me at the end.

10.14.2008

The music post

I feel like I just went through this process—mostly because I did just 45 days ago.

After about three hours of work, I've finished the playlist for the Breakers Marathon in Newport. I’m keeping with the methodology from last time: going from slow songs to fast songs, holding the gravvy songs for the end. I just have a few thoughts before getting onto the “short” list.

First, I haven't added much music to the library since Manchester, so overall it sounds very similar. Second, I'm trying to keep the music as slow as possible for the first half of the race in order to not have a repeat of MY FIRST MARATHON ever. Third, I'm starting to rethink the role of music in running and that I might actually not have the iPod playing the whole time during the race--I'm going to let my body call those shots.

And now the "short" list:
  • Proud Mary; Tina
  • Matches; The Format
  • Boston; Augustana (I see this as the mood setter for the race)
  • One Last Time; The Kooks
  • Stuttering; Ben's Brother
  • P.D.A.; John Legend
  • Pasos de Gigante; Bacilos (after getting grief from my sister that I didn't have Spanish music in my last playlist--even though I did!--I made a concerted effort to up the Spanish portion of my music collection)
  • The World At Large; Modest Mouse (I go through my phases with Modest Mouse, sometimes they're perfect, sometimes they're annoying)
  • I Feel It All; Feist
  • Paradise; Ana Serrano
  • You Only Live Once; The Strokes
  • Sway; The Kooks
  • Tiny Little Fractures; Snow Patrol
  • Shake Me Baby; Junior Senior
  • American Boy; Estelle
  • Wow; Snow Patrol
  • Detriot; Black Gold
  • The Hardest Button To Button; The White Stripes
  • Sister Jack; Spoon
  • Razor Blade; The Strokes
  • Mr. Maker; The Kooks
  • La Mexicana; Bacilos
  • Roxanne; The Police
  • Dog Problem; The Format
  • Float On; Modest Mouse
  • Santo Santo; Gloria Estefan
  • Down To The Market; The Kooks
  • Viva La Vida; Coldplay
  • If Work Permits; The Format
  • I Saw It On Your Keyboard; Hellogoodbye (not entirely sure about this one, it may change)
  • What Ever Happened?; The Strokes
  • Are You Gonna Go My Way; Lenny Kravitz
  • The Phrase That Pays; The Academy Is
  • Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough; Michael Jackson
  • I Can't Win; The Strokes (bad name, good song)
  • Out of Control; Kenna
  • Always Where I Need To Be; The Kooks
  • Classifieds; The Academy Is
  • Fergalicious; Fergie (I'll need a distraction by this point in the race, this song is such an oddball to the mix that it'll definitly take my mind elsewhere)
  • Tears Dry On Their Own; Amy Winehouse (oh, and there will be tears by this point)
  • Vision Of Division; The Strokes
  • Tres Deseos; Gloria Estefan
  • Blinded By The Light; Manfred Mann's Earth Band (I love this song, I don't know why I never bought it earlier)
  • All Time Lows; Hellogoodbye (another poor choice for a title)
  • Shake Your Coconuts; Junior Senior
  • For Reasons Unknown; The Killers
  • One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces; Ben Folds Five
  • H.A.P.P.Y. Radio; Edwin Starr (Why? A generous serving of cowbell 40 seconds into the song)
  • I Don't Have A Dancing Problem; Marathon (first words of this song: "F!ck this I'm going dancing." Awesome.)
  • Flagpole Sitta; Magnificent Tracers
  • This Ain't A Scene, It's An Arms Race; Fall Out Boy
  • Steven's Last Night In Town; Ben Folds Five
  • Attention; The Academy Is
  • Jolly Roger; Marathon
  • Filthy Gorgeous; Scissor Sisters
  • Reptilia; The Strokes
  • Quimbara; Celia Cruz
  • I Kissed A Girl; Katy Perry
  • Time Like These; Foo Fighters
  • Why Do I Keep Counting?; The Killers
  • 25 Miles; Edwin Starr (awesome song for the last few miles of the race)
  • Juicebox, The Strokes (aka "the passing song" because the chorus has the lyric "why don't you come over here?")
  • Let's Dance To Joy Division; The Wombats (still love this song)
  • Shockwave; Black Tide
  • The Pretender; Foo Fighters
  • Move Along; The All-American Rejects
And now back to checking weather.com for hourly updates on the forecast for this weekend.

10.10.2008

I'm not dead!

...but my internet connection at home is. So while that's being fixed here's a brief update from work:
  • Seven days and 14 hours until the Breakers Marathon--woo hoo! Get you smell the excitement??
  • My last long run I had a bit of a breakthrough. In the first mile I got teases of a stitch--and in mile one of a 13 mile run I can't be getting no stitches. So I lowered it down to first gear and concentrated hard on my breathing. I got into a comfortable breathing pattern of three breathes in, three breathes out, all the while forcing my abdomen to push air out and suck air in. It worked after a while and successfully got rid of the stitch, but the forced breathing sounding like I was saying "hap-pen-stance, cir-cum-stance" over and over--weird.
  • I have two weeks work of runs saved on my watch that I can't log because of my internet being out at home (I log my stuff at MapMyRun.com). Grrrr.
  • I may be getting the Chicken Pox, again. Mysterious small itchy bumps are forming on random parts of my body. Mostly on my hands and arms. I have no idea what it is and I'm just hoping that if it is something serious it holds off until 10/19.
  • Since we're in the final days before the race all my running neuroses are starting to show. I've been checking the race web site daily. I've studied the course backwards and forwards. This weekend I'll put together the playlist (so look out for that post) and start packing bags for the trip. Oh boy! It's like Christmas!

10.01.2008

Taperitis

Peak week is over.

On Sunday I went out in the heavy overcast for 20 miles. This was my second run at this distance during this training season--the first attempt kinda fizzled and died at the 19 mile mark.

I was going really strong through mile 13 when I came across a stretch with a few bathrooms. I had the brilliant idea to take a "preemptive poop" since my stomach wasn't bothering me yet and I thought to take this opportunity to thwart it before it had a chance to go bonkers.

I do my business in the bathroom and then I hear it. The sound no one--particularly a runner--wants to hear: the sound of the last piece of toilet paper ripping off the cardboard tube. It was an "oh shit" most deserving of that phrase. I did what I could with the shred of single-ply toilet paper and crossed my fingers that I would make it to the next bathroom about .2 miles down the route.

Fortunately, I made it to the next bathroom without incident and it had ample amounts of TP, and I was all wiped up in no time. (God, can I write a post not about poop for once?) Unfortunately, the 10 minutes of down time killed my mojo and my time.

The last six miles were rough. I was doing surprisingly well as I rounded the tip of Manhattan and saw my finish line across the harbor in Brooklyn. The last big hurdle was the Brooklyn Bridge, which did me in. The stitches I managed to fight off for 18 miles finally achieved full force and stopped me as I reached City Hall and the base of the bridge. The last two-miles were painful, unglamourous, and wet (oh yeah, the rains from Saturday actually came on Sunday), but I finished in 3:11. Not pretty, but it's done.

Now comes the part of training that I loathe: the taper.

I hate tapering. Give me back-to-back 20-milers. Give me speed workouts that make me vomit. Give me hill repeats that cause quarter-sized blisters to form on my feet. Give me anything but a taper.

Why the hatred?

For starters, I don't agree with the rationale behind tapering. I understand it's something that all runners must do, that it's a way to give the body a break before the ultimate exertion during a race. But the way I see it you slowly ramp up the training, max out at a certain point, ease off, then do the hardest thing you've done, and then relax. That doesn't make sense to me. Why shouldn't I gradually build up to the race, have a climactic run, and then enjoy the post-race peace? My way is more balanced, more symmetrical, and, let's be honest, more elegant. But I taper anyway because I know I should.

Then, there are the psychological difficulties of tapering. From what I read everyone else becomes some caged up animal when they taper. They feel incomplete when they run the shorter runs. They feel like they need to go faster, harder, hillier than the reduced schedule calls for.

I, however, sit on the other end of spectrum. Once I run that magical last 20-miler, that's it, something inside of me checks out and I'm done with it. I lose all will-power and mojo and have the hardest time squeezing out even the easiest run. The stores of energy I used to have during runs suddenly go missing. Instead of a caged animal I become more like the tiger that has just feasted and needs to nap.

And this happens without fail during every training season. The taper begins and the running badass who's been waking up at 5:15 for 80-minute runs, the guy who flaunts his double-digit distance runs around the office, suddenly has trouble even getting a four mile easy run out the door.

And then, to make it all worse, the week of race day I feel so unprepared, so far removed from rigorous training, that I'm a nervous wreck at the starting line.

Such is the personal hell that I'm going through right now and that I will continue to spiral through over the next 17 days.