Monday, March 31, 2008

Ups and downs

It's safe to say that my running life has had its ups and downs this past few months. This week is one of the down ones. With 4 weeks to go until the Big Sur Marathon, on a perfectly flat and easy stretch of paved path, 8.5 miles into a run, I went from fine one step to limping with a calf injury the next.

I'm hoping the fact that I wasn't doing anything too dramatic at the time means I'll be better in time for the marathon, but who knows. Somehow I suspect another sucky cross-training filled taper and an injury re-occurrence in the marathon, because that's what happened last time. But I guess we'll see.

Obviously, I've decided to take the early taper option, what miles are in the bank are in the bank. So, I present, the bank:
This graph starts in September last year and runs through to last Saturday's ill fated long run. But I'll start with last August, the month following my last marathon. With a marathon IT band problem, and outside foot trouble, plus fatigue, running never got off the ground. Every run would end within a mile with flashbacks to the last few miles of the marathon.

But things slowly improved. I started being able to run around the track, slowly. I remember how exciting it was to make it my first mile without any pain. But the reality was, after a month of not running, I lost a huge amount of fitness.
September I started to put some miles together and eventually we set our sights on the Big Sur Half Marathon. We drove down to Monterey to check out the course and also the full marathon course, just for the fun of it. As we drove the mountainous route of the marathon I remember thinking: "if this is a marathon I'm ever going to do, it won't be anytime soon." I started to think about Napa Valley instead. It looked much flatter.
In November we ran our half marathon and it was a complete success. We were still feeling a little under-trained for it, and I felt like I faded a little towards the end, but it was a PR by 9 minutes over our previous best, so it wasn't all bad. The scenery was spectacular and the organization fantastic.

Following the Half we started to build our long run, and although our mid-week miles never really got up there, we were cruising along pretty well and running lots of hills, doing pace runs, etc. We did multiple 18 milers, mostly on a tough trail course and did a 20 miler on the pavement that went really well. Things were all set for Napa Valley, except for one thing. We decided to do a 30K trail run instead.
While that race went well, and in the post race euphoria we signed up for the 99% full Big Sur Marathon, we were more beaten up from it than we realized and our miles dropped right back to get some quality recovery in. Since then we've put in a couple of okay long runs and more substantial week mileage. It feels like we were ready to go a month ago, and since then we've been trying to put together something that feels like a proper marathon build up.
I know what it takes to run 26.1 miles. I've been there worse prepared and arguably more injured than this time. Even on Saturday I was strong on the hills and could run through the calf thing. But somehow I had hoped that this had gone a little better. Maybe one always feels that way.

Or perhaps if you feel that way then the reality of the non-perfect marathon will be a shock, because anything can happen. Despite a perfect build up where you did every run on the plan, and they all felt great, there are so many things that can go wrong. IT pain when you never had IT pain before, hot conditions when you were expecting cool, you catch the flu the week before, or for unknown reasons you're just having a bad day. Who knows?
But I think that's part of what makes the marathon interesting. You can't control it, you can only overcome it. Marathons, like my build up, and life, have their ups and downs. You just have to do what you can.

(ups and downs at Big Sur)

1 comment:

Julianne said...

hi peter and patty! i stumbled upon your blog from the complete running network. i've really enjoyed reading your race reports and analysis. wow! i've also looked into running the pacific coast trail runs but wasn't sure what they were like... until i read your post. maybe i'll try the one in angel island! keep up the good writing.